That the House do now adjourn.
She said: Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Wellington—Halton Hills.
We are currently facing an unprecedented crisis that strikes at the very heart of Canadian democracy and the rule of law. That is why Conservatives have called for an emergency debate tonight and why we are seized with this matter.
This is not a debate about remediation agreements; this is a debate about the very essence and the core of our democracy and the integrity of the Prime Minister's Office, the integrity of the Clerk of the Privy Council and the integrity of the finance minister.
Yesterday at the justice committee, we heard clear, concise, meticulously documented and detailed accounts of unwanted, sustained and coordinated pressure by the Prime Minister, the Clerk of the Privy Council, the finance minister and their staff on the former attorney general to give SNC-Lavalin a special deal. It was shocking testimony. It was riveting and believable. Let me, for a moment, recount some of the things that the former attorney general told us yesterday.
She said, “I experienced a consistent and sustained effort by many people within the government to seek to politically interfere in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion.... I spoke to [the Minister of Finance] on this matter...and...I told him that engagements from his office to mine on SNC had to stop—that they were inappropriate. ... They did not stop.”
She went on to say, “Various officials also urged me to take partisan political considerations into account—which was clearly improper for me to do.” She told us that Gerry Butts, who was then the chief adviser to the Prime Minister, said to her, “there is no solution here that doesn't involve some interference.” Katie Telford said, “We don't want to debate legalities anymore.” PCO clerk Michael Wernick said of the Prime Minister, “I think he is gonna find a way to get it done one way or another.” The former attorney general said, “these events constituted pressure to intervene in a matter, and that this pressure...was not appropriate.”
Where did this all begin? From our knowledge, it began about four weeks ago, February 7, when a story broke in The Globe and Mail about allegations that the Prime Minister and his office had exerted pressure on the former attorney general to give a special deal to SNC-Lavalin.
There were questions asked of the Prime Minister immediately. The media asked the Prime Minister what the former attorney general was talking about. Was there pressure applied to her? Of course the Prime Minister, in his typical way, said there was nothing to see here. In fact, what he said was, “The allegations in the Globe story this morning are false. Neither the current nor the previous attorney general was ever directed by me, or by anyone in my office, to take a decision in this matter.” He then went on, as we will all recall, to blame the former attorney general. He said she had a different perspective. He said that if Scott Brison had not left, then none of this would have happened. His story changed over a number of weeks.
While the media and members in the House of Commons were trying to get answers form the Prime Minister, in parallel, Conservatives and NDP were also trying to get the justice committee to immediately undertake hearings on this issue so that answers could be found out immediately, and we were stonewalled.
First, we had to force the justice committee to meet. Then it did not want to call witnesses. Then it wanted to change the scope of what was being looked at. By the way, the Liberals on the justice committee were being directed by the House leader's office and the Prime Minister's Office, but after they were basically forced, kicking and screaming, into having these meetings, we then had to pressure them to invite witnesses who needed to be heard from, including the former attorney general.
On one hand, the Prime Minister was denying that anything happened, saying that there was no pressure applied, that she was mistaken, that she should have gone to him, that it was all her fault for not telling him she felt pressured. Simultaneously, we were trying to get answers from the justice committee and trying to have the former attorney general attend and give full testimony.
This all culminated in what happened yesterday, where the former attorney general did appear. She was able to give a limited amount of testimony. She was able to speak up until the point when she was fired from her position as Attorney General and became the veterans affairs minister.
She was very clear, not yesterday but the day before, that she needed to be able to speak about what happened after she became veterans affairs minister, during the time when she and the Prime Minister spoke in Vancouver, and about why she resigned. When asked yesterday, she indicated there was additional information that needed to be provided.
This is where we find ourselves today. The Prime Minister is being accused of very serious things. We have a former attorney general who, may I remind everyone, is the Attorney General who was duly elected to this place and comes with a very impressive and solid career as a prosecutor. She was appointed by the Prime Minister because he had such faith and trust in her. Although we certainly did not agree with her politics, we would all be able to say that she certainly was a cabinet minister appointed on merit and is certainly an individual who, when she provides testimony and speaks, is incredibly believable.
However, we have a Prime Minister who even just yesterday said, “There are disagreements in perspective on this, but I can reassure Canadians that we were doing our job”. He quite likes the word “perspective”. He went on to say, “I completely disagree with the characterization of the former attorney general about these events.” In other words, she is lying.
I have to pause now, because it seems to be a pattern for this Prime Minister. When people, and it seems especially women, say no to him, there seems to be a pattern to his attack on them and then his patronizing characterization of what they recollect.
I want to remind everyone of what happened this past summer, when the allegation and story came out that, 18 years prior, the Prime Minister, who was a young man, an almost 30-year-old man, had groped a woman in the Kokanees at a festival. When this story was brought to light just this summer, he was asked about it. What was the first thing he said on July 1? He said that it did not happen. He said, “I remember that day” and “I don't remember any negative interactions that day at all.” A few days later, he was pressed further, so then he said that often a man experiences interactions differently that may be inappropriate, but that we have to respect that and reflect.
A few days later, the Prime Minister goes on again and starts his social thought process. He said, “I think people understand that every situation is different and we have to reflect and take seriously every situation on a case-by-case basis.” It is just a lot of word salad. What he never says is that he did it, he was wrong and he apologizes because it was the wrong thing to do. That seemed to be what his take was on that. The woman in that scenario was not interested in talking. I think she had had about enough of that Prime Minister.
Although we find ourselves in a somewhat similar situation today, we have a woman who is not going to back down and will have her story heard. She will speak truth to power. However, we certainly are seeing the same type of approach from the Prime Minister to what are not just allegations but to what are very credible recollections, which we have seen from the testimony.
First of all, the Prime Minister says that it did not happen. He then, in a roundabout way, degrades her and patronizingly says that it was just her perspective. What he does not do is take responsibility, clearly and openly and transparently take responsibility. If we line up everything we have heard the Prime Minister say to date against what we heard the former attorney general say, we have one individual, the former attorney general, who was clear, documented and kept records. When talking with this woman, people better know she is clearly somebody who is not thinking about something else. She is keeping track of what people are saying. People should not think for one minute that they are going to fool her or get past anything she is involved with. That was very clear yesterday.
Then we have a Prime Minister who is evasive every time he is asked a question, uses three or four words that are very legally precise and is far from transparent.
Where does this leave us? This leaves us at a crisis. We have a Prime Minister who cannot admit that he has done something wrong and cannot take responsibility for it. He should own up to it, say it was wrong and change it, although at this point that would be too little, too late. However, if we do not have a Prime Minister who can be truthful, we cannot trust him to get to the bottom of this.
There has been some discussion about having an inquiry. Frankly, I do not trust the Prime Minister to call one. I do not trust the Prime Minister to allow the right witnesses to appear.
This is why we are in a crisis at the very heart of our democracy. The Prime Minister does not have the moral authority to continue. He must resign.