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View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
It reads, first, that the committee invite the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion to present his findings of the “Trudeau II Report”, which I think has been cancelled out by the committee vote.
Therefore, I move:
That the Committee invite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister of Finance Bill Morneau, and senior adviser to the Prime Minister and former Chief of Staff to the Minister of Finance, Ben Chin, on account of their intimate connection to the matters at the heart of the report; And that the Committee invite the Clerk of the Privy Council to appear to explain his decision to not share critical Cabinet confidences with the Commissioner, who felt that his investigation was hampered by the refusal.
Why is this important? It's because we saw throughout this whole scandal the Liberals shut down the justice committee and not hear from other witnesses. They shut down the ethics committee and the Prime Minister stood in the House day after day and stated that they were going to work with and trust the Ethics Commissioner. What we've learned from this report is very disturbing because we actually now know that this plan to tailor-make a law.... Now, Mr. Erskine-Smith is a lawyer and I didn't go to law school, but from watching all of my law shows on TV, can you write your own laws if you're the defendant? Well, apparently if you're really powerful, yes, you can.
Who fixes it for you? According to the evidence Mr. Dion has brought forward, very early on in the new government the Prime Minister met with the CEO of SNC-Lavalin and they discussed writing a law to get them a get-out-of-jail card. It was the Prime Minister who began the direction. That's one of the reasons we need to hear from Prime Minister Trudeau. Why is that important? It is because the Liberal line out there is, “Hey, it hasn't hurt us in the polls, so who cares?” Well, I hear from people all the time about this, people who are appalled that the Prime Minister could break his word so easily to Canadians.
The Prime Minister said he was going to be open and transparent. I think of the promise the Prime Minister made to the people of Grassy Narrows. I've been in Grassy Narrows. I've seen children suffering from Minamata disease and I saw the Prime Minister say that his government would clean that up once and for all—and he did squat. Actually, he did something else. He made fun of Grassy Narrows at a gathering of his rich, elite friends. Now if only Grassy Narrows had lobbyists, they could say, “We want this fixed”. How much would fixing the health centre at Grassy Narrows cost a government that is this powerful? It's chump change, it's peanuts, yet in four years he couldn't move to help children suffering from mercury contamination.
However, after the CEO of SNC-Lavalin said, “Hey, we want a get-out-of-jail card”, the Liberals over there now have the gall to tell us that he only ever cared about the public interest, that he only cared about jobs, that there were 9,000 jobs at stake. When we look at the report, we would think that it was the responsibility of the finance minister of this country, Bill Morneau from the famous Morneau Shepell. If they cared about jobs, they would have cared about Sears workers, but no, the Sears workers are now being looked after by the family company Morneau Shepell.
If it were 9,000 jobs, you would have thought they would have done due diligence. This is what shocked me. With Bill Morneau, I thought, “Okay, the guy wears very expensive suits and surely to God he knows how to run a business if he's really concerned about 9,000 jobs.” They wouldn't pull that number out of thin air, and yet the report shows that they had done nothing to prove this. My Liberal colleagues say it is actually the role of the justice department, that it should have been Jody Wilson-Raybould who undertook an assessment of the impacts.
Again, I didn't go to law school so I ask, when you're the defendant, do you expect the prosecutor to have the responsibility of figuring out what it's going to cost if you get charged and convicted? What's the cost to the economy? Say you're a businessman and you're a corrupt businessman, is it the responsibility of the Attorney General to do a cost analysis? Well, I guess it only is if you're powerful enough to have the law written for you.
Let's just go through some of the questions that were really concerning.
Why do we need Bill Morneau here? I know I've been sort of picking on Bill, but what really shocks me is that Bill Morneau flies to Davos, Switzerland to meet with the head of SNC-Lavalin—a week after the so-called public consultation period on the SNC deferred prosecution agreement, a specific get out of jail card is given—and Bill Morneau tells the Ethics Commissioner he doesn't remember what they talked about. He doesn't remember that he flew to Davos, Switzerland to see the head of SNC-Lavalin and doesn't remember what they talked about. That's a month before this get out of jail card was slipped into an omnibus piece of legislation, and Bill Morneau doesn't remember that. This is what we're talking about here—the fact that they were able to write a law, a specific law, to help SNC in a specific case to get off its charges.
Now, we learn from this report that once this law was put in, Ms. Wilson-Raybould was very concerned as the Attorney General that this law had been rushed because it was a law for one company for one case. She tried to distance herself from it. Why? She felt it would compromise her. I would love to have heard from Mr. Dion about this, but obviously we're not going to be allowed. The fact is that the Attorney General had raised concerns that a law was being implemented without proper due regard for the fact that a law must represent the interests of all Canadians. It cannot be written tailor-made for the defendant.
Mr. Morneau again appears to interfere in this process when Ben Chin starts calling the Attorney General's office. Ben Chin says that the company's perception is that the process of negotiating a remediation agreement is taking too long. Oh my God, it must be really hard to be so powerful as to be able to write your own laws and then say, hey, how come we're not off the hook yet? So they phone the Attorney General's office to say, speed it up. Jessica Prince responds to Ben Chin that he is really close to being far over the line on the improper interference in the independence of the judiciary. That report is made available to Bill Morneau, and Bill Morneau tells the Ethics Commissioner that he doesn't remember seeing it. I mean, poor Bill. How could you have such a dodgy memory if you have to have so many facts and numbers and jobs? You can't remember that you've been told by your chief of staff that you are improperly interfering in an independent prosecution investigation. You know, when you speak to the Ethics Commissioner, you are under oath.
Is Bill Morneau truthful that he doesn't remember the key meeting in Davos, Switzerland, that he doesn't remember what they talked about, that he doesn't remember receiving that email from his chief of staff that he was improperly advising? I can't believe that Bill Morneau didn't know that this concern had been raised. I would like to ask Bill Morneau why he told the Ethics Commissioner he never read it. It says one of two things: either Mr. Morneau is incompetent, or Mr. Morneau is not telling the truth to the Ethics Commissioner. Each of those is very troubling.
We know the Liberals have told us that they got a report from Anne McLellan and everything would be rosy if we just followed that. Well, everything would be rosy as is, because you don't have to change the rules to stop interference in the independent prosecution; you just have to respect the rules. That's what the Liberals don't understand. Justin Trudeau doesn't believe the law of the land applies to him. We don't need a new report to say anything about the independence of the prosecutorial system in our country. It is established. It is based on a principle, and that principle is that you don't cross that line.
I'm amazed at how many people were involved in this. This is where Ben Chin needs to talk. Why in God's name was Ben Chin calling the Attorney General's office demanding that they start to move more quickly on getting their pals at SNC-Lavalin off the hook? Who gave him that authority? They were discussing this agreement with industry, the Treasury Board, procurement, and not once with the Attorney General's office, so when Ms. Wilson-Raybould read the report, she said she was very surprised at the extent of the interference. There was a whole pattern, of everybody. It was all hands on deck in the Liberal Party. They all knew. They were all involved, and they were all breaking the law of Canada because Justin Trudeau told them to break the law, because Justin Trudeau said, “Hey, I'm the MP for Papineau and there's going to be an election soon.” Bouchard said, “Yeah, laws are great, but we have to get re-elected.”
We have my Liberal colleagues putting the falsehood out that he was concerned about jobs. I think Mr. Erskine-Smith, whom I have great respect for—I don't like his shoes, but everything else I have great respect for—just told us that it was perfectly okay for the MP for Papineau to stand up for his region, just like Mr. Erskine-Smith would stand up for issues in his region and just like I stand up for jobs in my region. The difference is that I am a single member of Parliament, a backbencher. I am not the Prime Minister of this country, so I can stand up and say, hey, I need to help jobs in my riding. That's part of my job. That's part of Mr. Erskine-Smith's job, but the Prime Minister can't say, “I have an election up ahead. I have to get re-elected, and you have to rewrite me a law.”
Correct me if I'm wrong, but when Jim Flaherty was the finance minister, I think I was the one who went after him over the fact that he had written a letter in support of a business while he was finance minister. Mr. Flaherty said he was acting as a local MP and that was his job. They ruled that you cannot do that as a finance minister, because you have so much extra power, a power that Mr. Erskine-Smith or Madame Fortier or I don't have. That's the difference.
That's what the Conflict of Interest Act is based on. The higher up you are in terms of political power, the more responsibilities you have. So when Justin Trudeau says that he is the MP for Papineau and has to defend his patch, he is already breaking the Conflict of Interest Act and furthering someone else's interest.
Having been on this committee for a number of years, I note Mr. Erskine-Smith's belief that you can only claim that financial interest is a personal financial interest—that if someone gives you money, you are advancing their interest. This has been a long-standing debate in terms of the role of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner—what defines interest. Mary Dawson, our previous one, was much more vague about this, and certainly when there were issues of people paying money into a riding association, she was saying, is that direct or indirect?
Mr. Dion has given us a ruling, and that ruling is that the Prime Minister was furthering the financial interest of SNC-Lavalin, not furthering the interest of thousands of jobs and not furthering the interest of the Canadian people. If the Liberals believed he was wrong, they would have let him speak, but they're not letting him speak. They have shut him down. They have shut down our committee. They've obstructed the work of our committee, so we have to go to other witnesses, which is another reason why Mr. Trudeau is very essential to this.
One of the most staggering statements I found in Mr. Dion's report is that we have an SNC lawyer, Mr. Prichard, talking to the former president of the Treasury Board about the case that Ms. Wilson-Raybould was overseeing. Mr. Prichard states:
We are also considering other ways to make it easier for the Minister to engage and reverse the [Director of Public Prosecutions'] decision. In the end, however, it will take a deliberate decision from the center....
That there, my friends, is collusion. That there is conspiracy, and that there is the lawyer for SNC-Lavalin phoning the head of the Treasury Board and saying they are going to corrupt the decision of the Attorney General and “make it easier” for them to overturn this, but it's going to come from the centre. Who is the centre? The centre is the Prime Minister of this country, Justin Trudeau, who in that moment is involved in the collusion and conspiracy to undermine the rule of law in this country. That's why the Liberals voted against Mr. Dion presenting his report, because once that's on the record, all other questions become much less important.
Then out of this is that Ms. Wilson-Raybould seems to have done her job. She was told that it would be extraordinary, unprecedented for her to bring other people in. The idea that Beverley McLachlin should be brought in was cooked up by SNC's lawyer, who is a former Supreme Court justice, who then reached out to another former Supreme Court justice to get an opinion.
In Canada, we trust the independence of the Supreme Court. We believe these people are representing our interests, but when you're SNC-Lavalin, you can hire someone from the Supreme Court and he'll phone one of his buddies on the Supreme Court and they'll get you a tailor-made opinion, and then they'll go to Beverley McLachlin. Did anyone tell Beverley McLachlin, “Listen, Jody Wilson's not playing ball here. We need you to give us something so that we can put pressure on her”? As I said, this lady was not for turning. She did not give into it because, knowing that the law had been written specifically for SNC, she was concerned that if she acted, it would have compromised her role as the Attorney General of this country. That was what she said, which leads me to the other reason we need to hear from Justin Trudeau.
Mr. Dion's report states that when Mr. Trudeau's attempt was thwarted, he set out to professionally discredit the Attorney General of Canada. We know this from seeing how, when this became public, one story after another was leaked by the Liberal war machine painting Ms. Wilson-Raybould as troublesome and as taking orders from her father. What a diminution of the role of a woman attorney general. There was one attack after another. They actually lined up a whole bunch of the Liberal caucus to go out to the cameras and trash Jody Wilson's reputation, to blame her, to say that she was a troublemaker, that she didn't play well with others, that she wasn't good enough because she wouldn't go along.
The Prime Minister has said it's really important to be open and to be feminist, but you have to play ball. She didn't play ball, and it says here in the report that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attempted to discredit her. I think it's staggering that if you're standing up for the rule of law in this country, they will orchestrate a campaign to trash your reputation. That needs accountability.
I would have preferred to ask Mr. Dion about this directly, because Mr. Dion is not making these statements out of thin air. He's making them on the evidence he found, and we don't have access to him to hear him speak because the Liberals are obstructing this, just as they obstructed everything else. That is what got them into trouble, but we could ask Mr. Trudeau.
Finally, Mr. Chair, I just want to end on the issue of obstruction, which we've seen today and which has been the pattern, as everybody in the media has been saying would happen because you can see the pattern of obstruction. What's very shocking is that nine witnesses were blocked from giving testimony, nine witnesses were denied having access to speak to the Ethics Commissioner. The Ethics Commissioner should have been allowed to come to our committee because it is our job to be the oversight committee for the Ethics Commissioner, and if someone is interfering with the work of an ethics investigation, that needs to be reported to Parliament. The problem is that it's the Prime Minister of the country who is being investigated. As I said earlier, the principle of the Conflict of Interest Act and the code and the lobbying code is that the more powerful you are, the higher your standard of ethical accountability must be.
You can be a newbie MP and make a mistake and you can get into trouble, but there's a difference when you're the Prime Minister of this country. Why did they interfere? They claim cabinet confidence. Well, obviously cabinet confidence didn't mean all that much when Jody Wilson-Raybould was meeting Gerry Butts and SNC was pretty much sitting under the table and listening in. They didn't seem to think cabinet confidence meant diddly-squat then. They silenced Ms. Wilson-Raybould. They silenced Jane Philpott's ability to speak. They've attempted to use cabinet confidence to interfere with the work of the Ethics Commissioner. If this stands, then what the Prime Minister's Office is saying is that he is above the law of the land because the only law that applies to the Prime Minister is the Conflict of Interest Act. If you're going to use the power of the Prime Minister's Office to forbid the Ethics Commissioner from gathering evidence, then he can't do his job.
We need to find out. I would like to ask Justin Trudeau what he meant when he said, well, we don't want to create any “troublesome” precedents. Well, yeah, I bet. When you're under investigation, it's troublesome. It's the same when you're the defendant—and my colleague Mr. Erskine-Smith can correct me if I'm wrong because I did not go to law school—because my understanding is that generally the defendant doesn't get to write the law. The defendant doesn't get to call the prosecutor's office and say, “Hey, speed it up and get me off the hook. I'm important”. That's not how it works.
SNC, as the defendant, should not be allowed to write its own laws. And the Prime Minister, as the person under investigation, does not and should not have the right to obstruct the investigation because he finds it troublesome.
Since they're so concerned about Mr. Dion being able to testify about what he found, I would say that if we are not allowed to hear from the commissioner who reports to our committee and we're being obstructed on this, then the reasonable thing would be to have Mr. Chin come, because he got promoted, didn't he? For all his interference with the independence of the prosecution, he got promoted.
Gerry Butts is back on the campaign bus, so obviously they're all laughing and slapping each other on the back, because breaking laws is what Liberals are doing and they're getting away with it.
The Prime Minister needs to come because he's the one who said, “Yes, thanks for the report finding me guilty, but whatever, I'm carrying on”, as should Bill Morneau, the man with the amazing disappearing memory. On that, I do remember that Bill Morneau forgot he owned a villa in the south of France, so I guess it's possible. Who among us has not forgotten that we own a villa in the south of France?
Frank, I know, a couple of times you just dropped it and never even mentioned it, and then it was like, “Oh yes, geez, I can't remember where I put my keys.” So maybe he flew to Davos to meet with the head of SNC-Lavalin just prior to this omnibus legislation and maybe he forgot. But maybe he didn't, and that's why Mr. Morneau needs to testify before our committee.
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