Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to this opposition day motion from my colleagues down the way.
I will review a bit, some of what is worth reviewing. It is important for people to understand what we are talking about, especially when there has been a pause for question period in the debate. The motions says:
That, given the recent sworn statements by RCMP Corporal Greg Horton, which revealed that: (i) on February 21, 2013, the Prime Minister’s Office had agreed that, with regard to Mike Duffy's controversial expenses, the Conservative Party of Canada would “keep him whole on the repayment”; (ii) on February 22, 2013, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff wanted to “speak to the PM before everything is considered final”; (iii) later on February 22, 2013, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff confirmed “We are good to go from the PM once Ben has his confirmation from Payne”; (iv) an agreement was reached between Benjamin Perrin and Janice Payne, counsels for the Prime Minister and Mike Duffy; (v) the amount to keep Mike Duffy whole was calculated to be higher than first determined, requiring a changed source of funds from Conservative Party funds to Nigel Wright’s personal funds, after which the arrangement proceeded and Duffy's expenses were re-paid; and (vi) subsequently, the Prime Minister's Office engaged in the obstruction of a Deloitte audit and a whitewash of a Senate report; the House condemn the deeply disappointing actions of the Prime Minister's Office in devising, organizing and participating in an arrangement that the RCMP believes violated sections 119, 121 and 122 of the Criminal Code of Canada...
It reminds the Prime Minister of his own code of conduct for ministers, which surely applies to him. It states on page 28 that “Ministers and Ministers of State are personally responsible for the conduct and operation of their offices and the exempt staff in their employ”.
The Prime Minister is a minister. He is one of the ministers to whom that rule ought to apply, so it is hard to understand how he could think he should not take responsibility for the actions of his own staff if it were the case that we were to believe he did not know what was going on, which is a little hard to believe in his case. Therefore, the cover-up continues.
The Prime Minister's Office fraud squad have really been the authors of a scheme whereby we have seen the bribing of a sitting senator and seen it swept under the rug until the truth leaked out by CTV's Robert Fife.
I see across from me the cowering Conservative caucus members. The silence from that side today has been deafening when only one of them stood to speak to the motion. It is a remarkable thing. Aside from vitriol from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, no one else on that side has deigned to make a speech on this all day long.
An hon. member: It is not true.
Hon. Geoff Regan: One of them said it is not true. If that is not true, let us hear those members speak. There is a lot of time this afternoon. I hope we will hear from a number of them. They can speak on this and tell us what they really think, because we know some of them are telling the media what they think, although they are doing it anonymously. They are saying that they are concerned about this. They are not happy with the Prime Minister's actions or his office, and the way this has been handled, in their view, has been slipshod. Why do they not get up now in the House this afternoon and talk about that?
It is a sad day for democracy and accountability. Canadians who I have talked to in recent weeks have been shocked to see the level the government will go to cover up its misdeeds.
Canadian taxpayers also want to know who will take responsibility for the ethical rot that has beset the Conservative government. Let us think about that. Who should take responsibility? Should it be perhaps the person who appointed Senator Duffy? Should it be perhaps the person who hired Nigel Wright to be his chief of staff? Should it be the person who promoted the other key players involved in this corrupt scheme to seniors jobs in ministers' offices?
Sadly, the person, and we all know who we are talking about, refuses to accept any responsibility and comes up with story after story. It is an ever-changing story.
It is a sad day when even Mayor Ford is more open and honest about his behaviour than his fishing buddy, the Prime Minister. Of course, Mayor Ford was caught and admitted it after he was caught.
The fact is that nobody on the other side of the House wants to defend this ethical rot. It is clear that even Conservative backbenchers recognize that what started out as a Senate scandal has spread well beyond Duffy and Wright and has now engulfed about a dozen senior Conservatives and even the Prime Minister himself. It is clear, as more and more Conservative members are saying in private, that the strategy of crisis management from the Prime Minister's Office has been a disaster from day one.
Let me turn to something I found in this week's The Hill Times, which quotes senior Conservatives as saying:
Everybody needs people who will ask you the questions that you don’t necessarily want to be asked. Everybody needs to be challenged a bit. It makes you think better.
These senior Conservatives were talking about the Prime Minister and the fact that a prime minister needs people in his or her office who challenge him or her.
Could any of us in the country really imagine that from the current Prime Minister, that he would want to have that? We have a Prime Minister who has such determined control not only over his own office, but over his ministers and what they are allowed to say and even what the backbenchers are allowed to say. Everything has to be approved by the PMO.
It is clear to me that the Prime Minister is not interested in having the kind of people in his office that these senior Conservatives are suggesting he ought to have. Apparently he knows better than anybody else and does not need to have anybody's advice or anyone really challenging him. That is not good enough.
There is another angle to this that we have not heard a lot about. That is how what we had here last winter was a problem for the Conservative Party. It was a Conservative Party political PR problem. What was it solved with? It was solved with a $90,000 contribution. Of course, any individual in Canada can make a maximum contribution to a political party of $1,200, so we know that $90,000 is an illegal contribution. That is in addition to the other aspects of this in terms of making payment to a senator to make some kind of a deal.
Let us go through the record, which clearly shows that the Prime Minister is not being completely open and honest with Canadians about his involvement in this corrupt cover-up scheme. The Prime Minister says that he never knew anything. He heard no evil, saw no evil and spoke no evil. Nigel Wright's own words show that this is unbelievable.
On February 22, an email, let us call it email the first one on that day, went from Mr. Wright. He said he wanted to “speak to the PM before everything is considered final”. An hour later or thereabouts, we had a second email. He said “We are good to go with the PM”.
Most Canadians and most sensible people would say that he must have spoken to the PM during that hour. There must have been a conversation between Nigel Wright and the Prime Minister between those two emails. It sure sounds like the Prime Minister gave the okay.
The Prime Minister claims that all he ever said was that Mr. Duffy had to make the repayment himself. If that were the case, surely he had been saying that for days and even weeks before February 22. Surely he had made that very clear already, so why would Nigel Wright have to go to him to get him to approve what he had already been saying had to happen? That does not make much sense.
The only thing that really makes sense is that Nigel Wright went to the Prime Minister, told him, it seems, that the Conservative Party was prepared to pay $30,000 at that point to pay off Mr. Duffy's debt, which would be equally improper. It would appear the Prime Minister thought that was okay. It was good to go. The Prime Minister gave the thumbs up.
That is certainly the interpretation that most sensible people would take from those two emails. It is hard to imagine any other conceivable interpretation. Talk about a smoking gun.
What about Nigel Wright's statement to the RCMP? He said, “The PM knows, in broad terms only, that I personally assisted Duffy when I was getting him to agree to repay the expenses”.
That one statement makes it crystal clear that the Prime Minister knew that Wright personally assisted Duffy. It leaves not a lot of doubt. It is clear that, as the RCMP alleges, Conservative operatives in the Prime Minister's Office and the Prime Minister's hand-picked Senate leaders either broke the law or took part in a cover-up designed to make the scandal go away. That is shameful.
The Prime Minister's story regarding the PMO ethics scandal has fallen apart. This is obviously a very serious issue, and hence the motion today, which is very appropriate. Today's motion talks about the PMO fraud squad's potential and criminal cover-up in a series of events that the RCMP believes may have violated three sections of the Criminal Code, not to mention the Elections Act in terms of election spending or donations to political parties, which effectively this was.
Today's motion also talks about the role of senior Conservative operatives and senior senators, hand-picked by the Prime Minister., who participated in a whitewash of a Senate report and apparently attempted to influence an independent audit being conducted by Deloitte. The record is pretty clear on that as well. We have seen lots of reports on this in the media. They come directly from the documents obtained by the RCMP.
The list of suspects in this caper is indeed long and probably going to grow. On the Senate side there are Senators Carolyn Stewart Olsen, Marjory LeBreton, David Tkachuk, Irving Gerstein, and, of course, former Conservative poster boy Mike Duffy. In the Prime Minister.r's Office, either now or formerly, we have Nigel Wright, Benjamin Perrin, Ray Novak, Chris Woodcock, Patrick Rogers, and David van Hemmen. A bunch of them have been promoted since this all took place.
It is quite a twisted story, with a lot of conflicting accounts that need to be cleared up so that Canadians can have confidence in Parliament. That is why there ought to be hearings on this and testimony from people such as the Prime Minister.
For instance, Senator Duffy said in a statement from the Senate that the Prime Minister's former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, had provided assurances to him that his behaviour was acceptable and that he would give him a $90,000 cheque to cover the Prime Minister's tracks. Senator Duffy also confirmed that he was told to take the $90,000, keep his mouth shut, and go along with the cover-up or the Conservatives would kick him out of the Senate. That is the threat that he alluded to.
We are here today pushing for more transparency. We have been pushing the Conservatives for that for quite a while. We are here today trying to get to the truth for Canadians.
Of course, there are many other things we ought to be discussing in the House of Commons. Canadians have many other concerns, such as job creation; youth unemployment; the environment; pipeline issues; the debt loads of individual Canadians, which are very high; the cost of post-secondary education; the situation in Syria; and the new agreement with Iran and the government's attitude toward it. There are these things and many others. The Auditor General's report released today expresses concern about the basic safety measures that are supposed to be overseen by the government, especially when it comes to rail and food safety. We have seen things like the listeriosis crisis.
However, instead of talking about these important things, we are mired in this scandal. Why are we still talking about this scandal? Why are we mired as we are? It is because the Prime Minister refuses to answer questions. He refuses to come clean. He refuses to allow the House to hold a hearing and to testify under oath about what he knew and did not know and what happened here.
That is all he has to do: testify. It is time for the Prime Minister to speak under oath and tell the truth. That would get us on to other things, I would hope.
The Prime Minister's parliamentary secretary has been here today showing contempt for hard-working Canadian taxpayers, as he has shown, unfortunately, in question period for weeks. Really, he and the Prime Minister are showing contempt for the values their party once prided itself on and on values the Reform Party also prided itself on.
Of course, the parliamentary secretary has memorized the words that the kids in short pants in the Prime Minister's Office have given him to say. He has memorized them very well, and the Prime Minister and his parliamentary secretary would like nothing more than to sweep this whole affair under the rug. That, of course, was the original idea when Nigel Wright and others in the PMO were overseeing what was happening in the Senate and trying to manage this whole thing so that it not only would not come out in the Deloitte report but also so that the Senate committee, they hoped, would whitewash it after Deloitte had done so. Thankfully, in the end that did not happen.
It is clear that this scandal falls squarely on the shoulders of the Prime Minister. It is time that he and his parliamentary secretary stopped stonewalling. It is time they stopped trying to cover up. It is time they were held accountable to Canadians for what has occurred on their watch.