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View Candice Bergen Profile
CPC (MB)
View Candice Bergen Profile
2019-02-28 18:32 [p.25957]
moved:
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.
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2019-02-28 18:43 [p.25958]
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Portage—Lisgar for commencing this debate, as it is indeed an important debate to have. It is very critical because Canadians are asking questions through their parliamentarians about this very significant issue.
It was refreshing to see the former minister speak and to have privilege waived so that she was able to speak yesterday.
I want to underscore the important testimony she gave. Some of that testimony was recounted by the member opposite, although not in its entirety.
First, the former attorney general stated that the Prime Minister told her it was her decision to make. Second, she noted that the PMO staff said they did not want to cross any lines. Third, she said that it was appropriate to discuss job impacts. Fourth, she said that nothing that occurred was unlawful. Fifth, she said she was never directed. Sixth, and perhaps most importantly, she indicated that the state of our institutions and the independence of our processes is indeed strong.
Given the record of what we heard, does the member opposite think it is important to allow the committee to continue its important work? It has called at least four witnesses thus far, excluding the academic witnesses. Just today, it decided that it will also call the former principal secretary and will ask the deputy minister and the Clerk of the Privy Council to return.
View Candice Bergen Profile
CPC (MB)
View Candice Bergen Profile
2019-02-28 18:44 [p.25958]
Madam Speaker, this is the problem we have. Anyone who watched the testimony would never characterize it in the way the member opposite characterized it. His characterization was that she said there was no problem, the Prime Minister said it was her decision, the staff members were not trying to pressure her and that everything was good. That was not the testimony I heard.
Members can bet it was her decision. She said to the Prime Minister and his people a number of times that it was her decision to make and she had made it. She basically said, “The lady's not for turning”. Then the Prime Minister's staff members said that they did not want to impose political pressure.
The PMO and the Prime Minister are very good at saying one thing and doing another. I have no doubt that is what the Prime Minister was trying to pull with her, but it was not about to work.
Her testimony was not refreshing. It was disturbing. It was sad. It was appalling. We do not need to hear words like “refreshing”, “wonderful” and “perspective”. We have a government that is being deceptive and that is not owning up to what it has done. This goes to the very heart of who we are as Canadians and of our democracy.
Could we establish right now—
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
View Charlie Angus Profile
2019-02-28 18:45 [p.25959]
Madam Speaker, the issue before us tonight cuts to the very heart of the independence of the judicial system in our country. The sustained interference and undermining by the key members of the Prime Minister's Office at the direction of the Prime Minister crossed a line and went much beyond it.
I want to bring my colleagues' attention to some of the most shocking news, which is the threats that were made by the Clerk of the Privy Council, who is supposed to be the independent, non-partisan voice.
I asked the former minister if she felt threatened. She said he threatened her three times and that she was “waiting for the other shoe to drop”. She referenced the Saturday night massacre, when Richard Nixon fired his special counsel. She was then removed from her post. She said that the clerk phoned her former deputy and said they would put the new minister in and that the first order of business would be to get the SNC deal.
The current Attorney General must come clean. What conversations were had with him to force this deferred prosecution agreement? Was the prosecution agreement part of the reason he was put in as the new Attorney General?
View Candice Bergen Profile
CPC (MB)
View Candice Bergen Profile
2019-02-28 18:47 [p.25959]
Madam Speaker, I very much appreciate my colleague's question and the work he has done on this.
There are still so many questions that have to be answered. Certainly the former attorney general wants to talk about why she resigned. She wants to talk about discussions that she had with the Prime Minister subsequent to her being the veterans affairs minister. I think what my colleague is talking about, the threats, is very important. We also have to talk about why the Clerk of the Privy Council referenced board meetings that SNC-Lavalin was going to be having and that they were connected to why they needed to get the deal.
We need to hear how in the world the current Attorney General can have any credibility, which I do not believe he has. I believe he needs to resign because he has already stated he believes whatever the Prime Minister says and he has already, from the testimony we heard yesterday, been instructed on what he needs to do on this deal. There are a lot of questions that have to be answered.
View Michael Chong Profile
CPC (ON)
Madam Speaker, I do not know where to begin tonight. What we heard yesterday was truly shocking, and shook me to my core. We have in front of us a crisis.
Every government has scandals. Every government has issues and mistakes it has to deal with. That is true of the previous government. It is also true of the current government. However, what we have in front of us today is a constitutional crisis that strikes at the very heart of our institutions and the principles on which they are based. It is a crisis about the division of powers in the country; the long held and sacred principles on which these divisions of powers are based; the division of power between the judicial and executive branches of government; and the principles that are enshrined in our Constitution, written and unwritten. They are enshrined in our statutes, like the justice act, and other acts of Parliament.
It is also a crisis about the rule of law, a foundational principle on which the country is based. In fact, it is so foundational that when we repatriated the Constitution in 1982 and when we adopted the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, that part of the Constitution led with the words that Canada was founded on the principles of a belief in the supremacy of God and the rule of law. If we do not consider this as a House of Commons, as committees of the House, as institutions of state, to be a crisis, then we have an even bigger problem: institutions that are incapable of regulating power and regulating abuses of power.
What we heard yesterday at the justice committee was truly shocking, and shook me to my core. We heard casual and flip comments that certain laws were not as important because they were passed under a previous government. We heard casual comments that we should not concern ourselves about the legalities of a situation. We heard comments that we were not going to relent and let up on the interference.
It was clear through yesterday's testimony in front of the justice committee that there was a prolonged and sustained campaign to convince the most senior law officer of Canada, the attorney general, to change her mind in respect to a decision she had already taken, to put pressure on her in a sustained and prolonged fashion to change her mind and to interfere in a criminal prosecution.
This is so shocking it is hard to know where to begin. Our country is founded on these divisions of powers, and not just Canada. All western democracies, for a very long time, have been founded on the concept that we have three branches of the state, executive, legislative and judicial, and that these three branches are independent of each other and should hold each other in check and balance. What we saw yesterday was a complete violation of that fundamental principle in a way that was so casual and so flip that it shook me to my core.
What we also saw yesterday was a government that did not even seem to understand the principle of the rule of law, the idea that every person in our country is to be treated equally under the law and is to be afforded the same rights under the law.
I would like to say a few words in French to my francophone constituents.
Today's debate is about fundamental constitutional principles, such as the rule of law and the independence of our justice system. These principles are more important than any company or individual. They are fundamental. They are so important that they are enshrined in our Constitution, written and unwritten. In fact, part 1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms begins with the following words:
...Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law...
Our Constitution also protects the language rights of francophones across Canada. That is why we need to fight to ensure that the law and the independence of our justice system are respected and to meet our obligations to francophones across the country, both in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada. If we dilute the rule of law and the independence of our justice system, we are also threatening the other rights set out in the Canadian Constitution, rights that protect minorities and francophones across Canada.
That is why I am so shook to my core. What we heard yesterday is going to take some time to digest, but I know one thing beyond a shadow of a doubt. I have no confidence in the Prime Minister or the government.
My hope is that the institutions of our state, both judicial and legislative, can get to the bottom of this matter and hold people accountable for these abuses of power. Our institutions of state must be able to do that. They must be able to hold the Prime Minister accountable for what we heard yesterday. In our recognized parties of the chamber, in our committees of the chamber, on the floor of the chamber, he must be held accountable.
Our independent judicial system must also do its work. Otherwise I worry about the institutions that we will pass on to our children and grandchildren.
I implore all members of the House to work hard to ensure we uphold these fundamental constitutional principles about the divisions of power between the executive and legislative branches of government, that we uphold the principle of the rule of law, that we do our work here in the chamber and in its committees and that we hold the government accountable for its actions and not let it get away with these abuses of power. Otherwise, I truly fear for the institutions that we will pass on to our children and our grandchildren.
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2019-02-28 18:57 [p.25960]
Madam Speaker, I have a lot of respect for the member opposite for his contributions to improving parliamentary democracy throughout his career.
As a lawyer, as someone who practised constitutional law for 14 years, I share a concern about the primacy of the rule of law. It is absolutely fundamental.
What I would put for the member is that we heard from two witnesses about this very issue, and I want to quote what they said.
One said, “I do not want members of this committee or Canadians to think that the integrity of our institutions has somehow evaporated. The integrity of our justice system, the integrity of the Director of Public Prosecutions and prosecutors is intact.”
The second person said, “I think Canadians should feel assured that they work in a democracy under the rule of law....Canadians need to be assured that their police and investigators with the power of the state operate independently and that the prosecution service, the state charging people with offences, are completely independent.”
The former quote was from the former minister of justice, who testified yesterday, and the latter quote was from the Clerk of the Privy Council.
Given that testimonial record, is it clear by the tenor of what we have heard today that if we want our institutions, as he said, to get to the bottom of this and to do their work, that perhaps the best institution to do this in a non-partisan, apolitical manner is the ethics investigator who has more robust powers than the powers—
View Michael Chong Profile
CPC (ON)
Madam Speaker, I agree that the Ethics Commissioner should continue his work, but the Ethics Commissioner can only look at a violation in respect of someone furthering a private interest. He cannot broaden his scope to include the broader constitutional principles at play here, principles concerning the rule of law and the division of power between the judicial and executive branches of government. Therefore, this chamber is the one that ought to hold the Prime Minister accountable.
I have truly lost confidence in the Prime Minister and in the government. I have been shaken to my core about what I heard yesterday at the justice committee. It is almost too much to digest in a 24-hour period, but I know one thing. The Prime Minister should resign.
View Linda Duncan Profile
NDP (AB)
View Linda Duncan Profile
2019-02-28 18:59 [p.25960]
Madam Speaker, I am participating in a committee review of how Canada can better share with the world, how it can deliver democracy, rule of law and human rights in a better way. Right now, we are listed among the top countries in upholding those. We are about to put a shadow over our reputation. I wonder if the hon. member could speak to that.
I have heard him share my view. As a woman who has legal training, who has been one of the most senior enforcement officers in the federal government, it was a privilege to hear such a clear testimony on the role of the attorney general and the responsibilities for upholding the rule of law. It was painful to hear the former attorney general's repeated attempts to try to explain that to the Prime Minister, to the Clerk of the Privy Council and to all their officials.
Surely there are only two things that could have occurred. Either the government of the day does not understand the role and mandate of the Attorney General and the discretion of prosecution or it is blatantly disregarding it.
View Michael Chong Profile
CPC (ON)
Madam Speaker, one of the things that has disturbed us all is the casualness of the remarks as retold by the former attorney general at the justice committee yesterday, casual remarks concerning some very sacred and foundational principles of the country.
We cannot always assume that this institution will stay here as strong as it has been in the past. It is only as strong as the occupants who stand in it and it is only as strong as the principles we uphold. If we fail to pursue justice in this case on the floor of the House of Commons, in its recognized parties and its committees, we will be passing along to our children a much weakened constitutional order and a much weakened Parliament.
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2019-02-28 19:02 [p.25961]
Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by reiterating our respect for and our confidence in the two independent processes that are currently under way. Members are already well aware that the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights is holding hearings on the issue and the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner's investigation will provide a non-partisan perspective.
At the outset, the member for Vancouver Granville has served her constituents and the country with distinction in her role now and also in her role as minister of veterans affairs and formerly as attorney general of Canada.
With respect to the two processes, we firmly believe that these processes will be thoroughly and fairly conducted and that they will allow facts and multiple perspectives to be shared. The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada already appeared voluntarily before the committee on Thursday, February 21, and he will continue to offer his full co-operation with that committee. We also know that these processes will ensure that Canadians get the answers and information they seek.
As we have seen, committee work provides detailed information to parliamentarians on issues of concern to the electorate and often provokes important public debate.
In addition, because committees interact directly with the public, they provide an immediate and visible conduit between elected representatives and Canadians. Committees can gather the information necessary for their studies in a number of ways. Most often, committees gather information on a particular subject by hearing from witnesses, as we saw with the meetings of February 21, 25 and 27, and accepting briefs and written opinions.
As we know, the committee in this case has already held three meetings on the subject of remediation agreements, the Shawcross doctrine and discussions between the office of the Attorney General and government colleagues. If I may, parenthetically, as a constitutional lawyer, to hear such robust discussion here in this chamber and at committee about such a hitherto relatively unknown doctrine as the Shawcross doctrine has indeed warmed the cockles of my heart.
On Thursday, February 21, the committee heard from the current Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada; the deputy minister of justice and deputy attorney general of Canada, Madame Nathalie Drouin; and the Clerk of the Privy Council, Mr. Michael Wernick.
On February 25, the committee heard from Mary G. Condon, interim dean of Osgoode Hall Law School, not my law school but a good law school in Toronto nonetheless; Maxime St-Hilaire, associate professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Sherbrooke; Wendy Berman, lawyer and partner at Cassels Brock & Blackwell; Kenneth Jull, lawyer at Gardiner Roberts; and academic Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, senior associate counsel at Woodward & Company and professor at the Peter A. Allard School of Law at UBC.
On February 27, the committee heard from the former attorney general of Canada herself.
The committee has indicated that it is prepared to hear from more witnesses should that be deemed necessary, and just today, it made a determination, which is important, to recall Mr. Wernick and Madame Drouin and to call for the first time, the former principal secretary to the Prime Minister, Mr. Gerald Butts.
The witnesses have, to date, provided helpful information to assist the committee and Canadians generally to understand remediation agreements, the Shawcross doctrine, as I mentioned, and the discussions between the office of the Attorney General of Canada and government colleagues, in addition to the roles and responsibilities of the Attorney General of Canada.
The Attorney General, for example, stated that it would be appropriate for the Prime Minister and officials to discuss the SNC-Lavalin case with the former attorney general and for her to discuss the matter with cabinet colleagues.
In her testimony, Nathalie Drouin explained that the director of public prosecutions is responsible for initiating and conducting federal criminal prosecutions on behalf of the Crown.
She added that while the director of public prosecutions is responsible for conducting federal criminal prosecutions, she can support the Attorney General and provide him with legal advice in exercising his powers under the Director of Public Prosecutions Act. In her role as a public servant and lawyer, she supports her department and strives to provide government decision-makers with all of the professional and non-partisan advice they need to carry out their duties.
Ms. Drouin also explained that her role is to provide legal advice on any acts, and she can provide legal advice to the Attorney General to make sure that he understands how the DPP operates and also give him advice if he decides to exercise one of his rights.
At the committee, Mary Condon, another witness, helpfully added, “It is now established by constitutional convention that the attorney general will make an independent decision to prosecute or not to prosecute. This requires making a two-step determination”, which we heard about but bears underscoring, “about, first, the sufficiency of the evidence and, second, whether the prosecution is in the public interest. Because of the necessity to consider the public interest, commentators often say that the prosecutorial decisions made by an attorney general are at the intersection of law and politics....
“As Professor Edwards argues in his book, 'The task of the attorney general or [the director of public prosecutions] is a difficult exercise of weighing a number of competing considerations.' It's is in this context that the Shawcross Doctrine becomes relevant.”
With respect to what the Clerk of the Privy Council has said, during his testimony, Mr. Michael Wernick explained, “If you boil it down for Canadians as to what is going on here with the facts that we have and all of the facts that I know from my participation in meetings and conversations, we are discussing lawful advocacy.”
He went on to say, “I can tell you my view very firmly is that [the conversations with the former minister of justice and attorney general] were entirely appropriate, lawful, legal.”
In order to facilitate the work of ongoing investigations, we announced an unprecedented waiver that is intended to fully sweep away obstacles. The exceptional waiver, which was passed by an order in council, addresses cabinet confidentiality, solicitor-client privilege and any other duties of confidentiality, to the extent that they apply. That waiver should remove any doubt as to the ability of any person who engaged in discussions on this matter to fully participate in the committee process.
We took this step because we know that it was important for Canadians that the former attorney general be able to speak openly at the justice committee. Importantly, that waiver also empowers others who had discussions on the subject matter, such as former principal secretary Mr. Butts.
As we have said many times, solicitor-client privilege is an important part of the Canadian legal system and should only be waived in the appropriate circumstances. It is an important protection that allows lawyers across the country to engage on the toughest issues and provide their clients with candid advice. That includes the Attorney General of Canada, who is the government's lawyer. As the former attorney general has stated, the issue of solicitor-client privilege is complex and layered.
That being said, our government has been clear from the outset that we have been seeking to provide the utmost transparency in this matter without jeopardizing active court cases, of which there are two. Let me underscore: there is the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, and there is secondarily a judicial review, which has been initiated by SNC-Lavalin. Two cases are currently before the courts in this country at this time.
We have delivered on our commitment by providing Canadians with the transparency they deserve and fairness to the former attorney general in a way that preserves, rather than undermines, solicitor-client privilege, the right to a fair hearing in cases that are currently active, the integrity of the position of the director of public prosecutions and the rule of law in our country more generally.
The integrity of judicial proceedings is a priority for our government, as it should be for any government. That is why the waiver does not cover any information shared by the director of public prosecutions with the former minister in relation to SNC.
Let us talk about the committee. This has already been the subject of some of the opening interventions in the House.
Committees of the House do very good work. In this case, the justice committee has heard from numerous witnesses. Just yesterday, it heard over four hours of testimony from the former attorney general herself, where not only the three recognized parties were able to participate but the Bloc Québécois participated, the Green Party participated, and even the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation of Canada participated in questions. That is a good day for parliamentary democracy.
The committee has indicated that it is prepared to hear from more witnesses, and indeed, it has already taken that step. I refute outright the opening statement made by the member for Portage—Lisgar in which she stated that the committee was somehow coerced into calling witnesses.
At its opening meeting, the committee decided to call three witnesses. At its second meeting, it added to the witness list. At its third meeting, today, on procedural matters, it added a further three witnesses. What she said is simply wrong and needs to be refuted on the record.
We on this side of the House have confidence in the committee process. That is why we have empowered committee members. That is why we have resourced committees. We are confident that the committee hearings, at both this committee and other committees, will continue to be thoroughly and fairly conducted, and we will provide Canadians with the answers and the information they seek.
What I need to say at this point is that in the meantime, while the committee is undertaking this important work, we as a government remain keenly focused on Canadians and addressing their needs. I will cite just one example. We heard this week the numbers from Statistics Canada about who is living in poverty and who has been extracted from poverty in Canada. According to Statistics Canada, 825,000 Canadians have been lifted out of poverty since we took office, including 283,000 children. Those include children in my riding of Parkdale—High Park, where $3.5 million is delivered tax free every month to 10,520 children to help them and their families pay for basic necessities. Those are some of the things we are focused on, in terms of Canadians' needs, while the committee undertakes its important work.
Let us talk briefly about the roles and responsibilities of the director of public prosecutions and prosecutors that are authorized to act on that director's behalf, which is set out in the Director of Public Prosecutions Act.
The Public Prosecution Service of Canada, the PPSC, fulfills the responsibilities of the Attorney General of Canada in the discharge of the Attorney General's criminal law mandate by prosecuting offences that fall within federal jurisdiction, criminal offences, and by contributing to strengthening the criminal justice system. The creation of the PPSC reflected the decision to make transparent the principle of prosecutorial independence, free from any improper influence.
To that end, in a statement published on February 12, 2019, in relation to a different matter, the prosecution of Mark Norman, the director of public prosecutions, Madame Kathleen Roussel, stated, “I am confident that our prosecutors, in this and every other case, exercised their discretion independently and free from any political or partisan consideration.”
Under the Department of Justice Act, the Attorney General is responsible for the regulation of the conduct of all litigation for or against the Crown or any department. In the conduct of civil litigation, the Attorney General does not have exclusive decision-making power over litigation positions. In civil litigation, it is often very difficult to sift through the available and viable legal arguments to determine what position needs to be taken in a given case. In that sense, civil litigation is markedly different from criminal litigation. The work of identifying those who need to be prosecuted for a given crime, deciding whether proceedings should be initiated, and determining sentences needs to be based on the evidence alone, to ensure that criminal justice is properly administered.
However, it is always advisable for the Attorney General to be informed of the relevant context, including the potential consequences of a given prosecution. As we know, the Attorney General can issue directives to the director of public prosecutions that may be general or pertain to specific prosecutions. When a directive is issued, it is issued through a totally transparent process. It is published in the Canada Gazette and accessible to all Canadians. What is more, a general directive must be preceded by a consultation with the director of public prosecutions.
The Attorney General may, after consulting the director of public prosecutions, assume conduct of the prosecution. This is also done through a transparent process in which the Attorney General must publish a notice of intent to assume conduct of a prosecution in the Canada Gazette.
With respect to third-party involvement, it is quite appropriate for the Attorney General to consult with cabinet colleagues before exercising his or her power to issue directives or initiate prosecutions under the Director of Public Prosecutions Act. Consultations are often important, since the Attorney General must hear perspectives that go beyond a particular case.
If the Attorney General decides to issue a directive or to assume conduct of the prosecution, he or she must make the final decision. It is important to note that the Attorney General has the final say.
To maintain the director's independence, all of the Attorney General's instructions must be in writing and published in the Canada Gazette.
The director must inform the Attorney General of any prosecution, or intervention that the director intends to make, that raises important questions of general interest. This gives the Attorney General the opportunity to intervene in proceedings or to assume conduct of a prosecution.
Furthermore, the Public Prosecution Service of Canada must provide an annual report to the Attorney General to be tabled in Parliament.
Prosecutorial independence is truly the cornerstone of our democracy, as shown by the relationship between the Attorney General of Canada and the director of public prosecutions. This builds confidence in the justice system and guarantees that prosecutions will not be perceived as being unduly influenced by politics. Instead, federal offences are prosecuted by experienced, qualified prosecutors across the country.
I would like to refer to some of the testimony that we heard before the standing committee. First is testimony is from the former attorney general, who testified yesterday. What she said specifically is that “I do not want members of this committee or Canadians to think that the integrity of our institutions has somehow evaporated. The integrity of our justice system, the integrity of the director of public prosecutions and prosecutors is intact.” That is a quote from the member for Vancouver Granville directly, from yesterday's testimony.
A second quote from a different witness reiterated the exact same point, saying “I think Canadians should feel assured that they work in a democracy under the rule of law.” The witness continued, “I think Canadians need to be assured that their police and investigators with the power of the state operate independently and that the prosecution service and the state charging people with offences are completely independent. There is a legislative and statutory shield around that which demonstrably is working.” That was the Clerk of the Privy Council.
That is important testimony, because it underscores the very important point that was introduced into this debate by the hon. member for Wellington—Halton Hills.
Our government is unwavering in its commitment to maintaining public confidence in the administration of justice and in the independence of the judiciary. The Prime Minister strongly maintains, as he has from the beginning, that he and his team acted appropriately and professionally. Our government completely disagrees with the former attorney general's characterization of events.
We will always stand up for Canadian workers and the importance of the rule of law. Here I want to just underscore the statutory basis for standing up for those workers. The statutory basis is in the Criminal Code itself. I am going to read into the record paragraph 715.3(1)(f) of the Criminal Code of Canada, which refers to the remediation agreement that we are speaking about tonight in this emergency debate. This paragraph talks about the purpose of remediation agreements, and it says their purpose is:
(f) to reduce the negative consequences of the wrongdoing for persons — employees, customers, pensioners and others — who did not engage in the wrongdoing, while holding responsible those individuals who did engage in that wrongdoing.
That is the point of these kinds of agreements. It is not some sort of laissez-passer for individuals. It is about holding corporate leaders responsible for their activities, making sure they are held accountable, but not de facto or actually in fact holding responsible workers on the front lines, pensioners who rely upon that corporation for their pensions, for actions that were not taken by them and decisions that were not made by them. They should not be the sacrificial lambs for this kind of policy.
That is what we are debating here today. That is what we are standing up for.
As I mentioned in the statement, and I will conclude on this point, on February 12 the director of public prosecutions stated, “I am confident that our prosecutors, in this and every...case, exercise their discretion independently and free from any political or partisan consideration.”
That directly responds to the concerns about the rule of law, the independence of our processes and the independence of the judiciary. Those are important points that all 338 of us must share and do share. That is not being encroached upon here. What is being discussed is a specific case that does not touch upon the rule of law, which remains intact, thankfully, in this country.
An hon. member: Does he not need to pay attention to the rules?
View Michael Barrett Profile
CPC (ON)
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the attempt at education for my hon. colleague.
I would also like to read something into the record: the witnesses whom we have attempted to have appear at the justice committee but who have been blocked by the Liberal majority They include the director of public prosecutions; the senior adviser to the Prime Minister, Mathieu Bouchard; the senior adviser to the Prime Minister, Elder C. Marques, and the former chief of staff—
An hon. member: Oh, oh!
Mr. Michael Barrett: Is there a point of privilege? My hon. colleague seems concerned about the information that I am reading, but it comes from a notice of motion filed by my hon. colleague, the vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, on February 15, which was not an in camera meeting, so I think we are all set there.
The Liberal majority on that committee has attempted to block the public airing of this issue. Canadians are rightly concerned about the administration of justice and they have lost confidence in the Prime Minister. Does the member opposite have confidence in the Prime Minister?
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2019-02-28 19:24 [p.25964]
Madam Speaker, what I would respond with is twofold. One is that in direct response to the member opposite, the witness list was not closed and has not been closed since the outset of this process. In that original Wednesday meeting during that constituency week, the decision was made to call three witnesses and to determine if other witnesses would be necessary. As I referenced in my opening comments, since that time, on two different occasions, including today, the witness list has indeed been expanded.
Also, I take issue with the member's suggestion that somehow on this side of the House we are not embracing the committee process. To the contrary, we are empowering committees, we are resourcing committees and we are ensuring that parliamentary secretaries do not whip committees.
What we are not doing is what the previous government did in the past, when the Conservatives actually issued a rule book to committee chairs to instruct them on how to obstruct the committee process in 2006, which was then leaked to Don Martin at CTV, who exposed it for the nation to observe.
That is not our behaviour or our approach at committees. We believe in empowering committees, not undermining them.
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2019-02-28 19:25 [p.25964]
Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to the parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice, and I wonder if people who might be watching this debate recognize what has happened.
First he talked about process and then he talked about poverty, but he never really talked about substance.
The process, he said, was that it is a great day for parliamentary democracy, and then he talked about poverty and what is going on in his riding. What he did not talk about is the testimony of the former attorney general. I never heard him once say that he did not believe her.
I was there. I am the vice-chair of the committee, and I say to Canadians to watch it and believe it.
What she said, among other things, was that people in the Prime Minister's Office do not believe that politically interfering is a problem and that there may be solutions and that although they are not lawyers, there has to be one—in other words, if the rule of law was not applied.
As a fellow graduate of the same law school, is the member not ashamed of what he saw yesterday?
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2019-02-28 19:26 [p.25965]
Madam Speaker, I will respond directly to the member for Victoria and say that I was actually quite saddened to learn that he will not be running again. He has made tremendous contributions to this House as a parliamentarian, and we are all better for having him here.
In direct response to what he said, yes, we do share the same alma mater, which is the U of T law school, and I was very interested in what I heard yesterday, but I was not ashamed by what I heard yesterday, because what I heard is: The Prime Minister instructed the former attorney general that it was her decision to take. I heard that the PMO staff said that they did not want to cross any lines. I heard the former attorney general say that it is appropriate to discuss job impacts. I heard her say that nothing unlawful occurred. I heard her say that she was never directed. Most importantly—and I will return to this again and again—she said that the state of our institutions, the rule of law and the independence of prosecutions are intact.
View Pierre Paul-Hus Profile
CPC (QC)
Madam Speaker, my colleague talked about remediation agreements and their provisions. The order in council currently prevents the former attorney general from talking about the discussions she had with the director of public prosecutions.
That is the crux of the matter. We do not know why the director of public prosecutions refused to grant SNC-Lavalin a remediation agreement.
Can my colleague tell us why?
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2019-02-28 19:27 [p.25965]
Madam Speaker, the member raised a very important point.
Cabinet confidentiality is similar to solicitor-client privilege. It is crucial to our democracy and to our parliamentary process.
Waiving this privilege so that we may have a fuller discussion and hear testimony on this matter is extremely important. It is historic. The reason it remains limited is because there are two court cases currently under way. Like all members, the members opposite know very well that it is very important not to influence any matters before the courts.
View Francis Scarpaleggia Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Francis Scarpaleggia Profile
2019-02-28 19:29 [p.25965]
Madam Speaker, at the very beginning of this debate, it was mentioned by the opposition that this debate is not at all about deferred prosecution agreements, which I was surprised to hear, because, as the parliamentary secretary mentioned, deferred prosecution agreements require that public interest factors be taken into account. That is not the case in a normal court case, where we focus very narrowly on specific issues.
Points of view about the public interest are communicated in a democracy through democratic institutions, including through the Council of Ministers. Could the hon. parliamentary secretary tell me why he would agree or disagree that deferred prosecution agreements are very much at the heart of this debate?
An hon. member: Oh, come on—
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2019-02-28 19:30 [p.25965]
Madam Speaker, deferred prosecution agreements or, as they are known, remediation agreements in Canada are central to this debate because they focus on exactly what the member has just mentioned, the public interest. That is not a concept that has been picked up in Canada alone. Five members of the G7 now have this regime in their countries: France, Japan, the United States, the U.K. and now Canada.
This is important because, as I mentioned in my opening comments, it ensures that corporate leaders are held responsible for their behaviour and that unwitting and innocent employees and pensioners are not. It does so by requiring them to forfeit assets. It requires them to admit their guilt. It requires them to participate in investigations to show responsibility for their actions.
Those are important aspects that have not been underscored in this debate, and need to be, because the rhetoric from the other side is that some corporate leaders are being let off. That is exactly contrary to what the law says in section 715.31 of the code.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
View Charlie Angus Profile
2019-02-28 19:31 [p.25965]
Madam Speaker, the member said that she faced sustained pressure and threats. She said that. What she also said is that Gerry Butts told her that nothing could be done without interference, and Katie Telford then said that she was not interested in legalities.
Therefore, either the former minister lied to the committee or we are confronted with the fact that the two key people around the Prime Minister are not interested in the rule of law. It is one or the other. Either the former minister lied or Katie Telford says she is not interested in legalities and Gerry Butts said interference was necessary.
He is gone. Why is she still in the Prime Minister's Office if she has such a disregard for the rule of law?
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2019-02-28 19:32 [p.25965]
Madam Speaker, the rule of law is sacrosanct, as it must be for all parliamentarians. The rule of law is the foundation of what defines us and separates us from other countries on this planet.
What we have is demonstrable respect for the rule of law in terms of what we have done to empower the committee process: to waive privilege to the fullest extent possible so that the committee can do its work and to participate fully, as the Prime Minister and all relevant parties have indicated they will, with the ethics investigation process. That is as much a part of the rule of law as the committee process, because that is part of the institutions mentioned by the member for Wellington—Halton Hills that make this democracy what it is: a vibrant one, a democratic one and one that respects our institutions.
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2019-02-28 19:33 [p.25966]
Madam Speaker, I wish I could say I was happy to be here tonight but I am not. I am very disturbed and Canadians should be as well.
What are we talking about? There is a motion on the floor that we invite the Prime Minister to come to justice committee and answer questions under oath about this entire affair.
We just heard the parliamentary secretary in his attempt to defend the indefensible. How did he do that? He first talked about what a great day it was for parliamentary democracy yesterday. If anybody watched the same show I watched, if everybody attended the same hearing I did, I do not know how anyone could ever conclude that.
He did not talk about substance. He was happy to talk about process. Then he did something we have all seen before, it is called the Liberal change the channel. He talked about poverty in his riding and so forth. What he did not talk about was what was on display for all to see, which was an attempt by an obviously credible witness, a person who took copious notes, texts and emails and demonstrated through careful, thoughtful, measured testimony that everyone would know to be credible, that an attempt was made at the highest level of our system of government to interfere with the decision of an independent attorney general.
My friend opposite talks about his interest in constitutional law. He talks about the rule of law. This is not a rhetorical statement rule of law. This is the foundation of our democracy. What we heard, if it is to be believed, and I say for the record with absolutely clarity that I believe her, was that an attempt was made at the highest level after she had made her final decision on a particular matter to try to get her to change her mind.
Let me be clear. There is nothing wrong with the Prime Minister changing his cabinet. That is his role and his prerogative. Therefore, getting rid of her as the attorney general is fully his responsibility. There is also nothing wrong with her as the minister of justice talking among her colleagues about the economic, political and other ramifications, even partisan ramifications, concerning a particular decision.
I have just been reminded, Madam Speaker, that I have the good fortune of sharing my time with the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay.
What we heard should shake Canadians' faith in our system. We should be concerned, and that is why we need to get to the bottom of this, and we will.
My friend had two defences when he did talk about substance ever so briefly. The first was that we had a process at justice committee, and I will come back to that. The other one, which we have heard the Prime Minister use in one of his many excuses, was that we had another process, which is the independent Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. He told us not to worry as a complaint was made by my hon. friend.
All of a sudden we are supposed to think that is a great institution, except for one thing. There is not a chance that the institution is going to find there is a problem here because it does not have jurisdiction over the issue at question.
Section 9, which is the basis of the complaint, goes like this, that public officers are prohibited from seeking to influence a decision of another person so as to improperly further another person's private interests. Guess what. The former Commissioner, Mary Dawson, made clear on I do not know how many cases that this only included economic interests, money, not private political interests. This smokescreen surely will not work, but it was a good try.
Let us talk about justice committee on which I am honoured to be vice chair. I want to say at the outset that I have enormous respect for that committee and particularly the Chair. I admire the way in which the hon. member for Mount Royal has conducted our hearings. He has done so in a very fair manner in very difficult circumstances, and that is not a surprise. He is a very intelligent, well-meaning individual who has led us to unanimous reports on just about everything we have done in the years I have been on that committee. Canadians who watch and think we do not always get along and scrap and so forth would not understand that we have done some great work.
However, I have to say this. What I experienced at committee the other day was very disturbing. The hon. parliamentary secretary says that it is great that we have a process whereby we will hear from the former attorney general and then a couple of other witnesses will be dribbled out and maybe if we need them, we will get to the others.
How can a person listen to what the former attorney general said yesterday and not cry out for those 11 people she named to be put on the stand and be cross-examined? How can we not hear them? Maybe we will, and we should not worry. That is not good enough.
The Prime Minister made a great deal of waiving the so-called solicitor-client privilege. The lawyers I have talked to have great doubts whether that even applies. Let us say it does. Certainly, cabinet confidentiality applies.
What the Prime Minister did was quite interesting. He said that he was going to waive it up until that magic moment when she was removed as attorney general. Everything after that, we could not go there. What happened after that? She resigned. Listening to her testimony yesterday, she was very careful to not tell us why.
We saw the principal secretary of the Prime Minister, Mr. Butts, tender a letter of resignation and mysteriously reference the former attorney general. Why? We cannot go there. We are not going to be allowed to know anything about what happened after she was removed from her job as the Attorney General of Canada. Why? Maybe someday the Liberals will waive it. I asked that yesterday at committee. Members may have heard that. The Liberals, to a person, voted me down.
I stood in the House today and asked the government if it would change that and allow us to get to the truth, so Canadians watching, who are concerned about our democracy, would have the opportunity to see it all, to learn it all and to hear the whole story. I am sad to say that was also refused.
Therefore, we have a Conflict of Interest Commissioner who has no ability to get at this at all. We have a justice committee that seems to want to vote against any effort to get at the truth. What are we left with? We are left with the imperative to have a judicial inquiry into this.
The Prime Minister has said that the best disinfectant is sunlight. People may remember, with sadness I hope, what happened when the Gomery inquiry shone a light into what happened in the sponsorship scandal. The government changed as a result because Canadians got to understand corruption at the highest level. We had the Charbonneau Commission. People were riveted to that because we got to understand how that system worked. We have had inquiries in my fair province of British Columbia, which I am not very proud of as well, about corruption over the years.
If we cannot get these institutions to do their jobs, the Conflict of Interest Commissioner or the justice committee, because the government will vote with the majority to swat down our efforts to get to the truth, then we need to have a public inquiry. There is no other way around it. Canadians deserve it.
Again, if Canadians did not watch the testimony of the former attorney general yesterday, they must. They must hear her devastating, chronological, careful, sophisticated account of what she experienced. Among the things she experienced was an attempt to browbeat her to change her mind.
I said earlier and will say again. No one sang, “Please don't remind us that somehow it's not appropriate to talk in cabinet about the economic and political ramifications of a decision.” The Shawcross principle, which we have learned so much about, says that once a decision is made, that is it. The former attorney general said as clearly and as often as she could that she would not interfere with her independent director of public prosecutions. She should have said, “What part of no don't you understand?” when the Clerk of the Privy Council threatened her. There were veiled threats, not just once, twice, but three times in one day she told us.
We have a sad story for which Canadians deserve to get an answer.
Do we live in a democracy, which I have been proud of all my life to be part of, where the rule of law means something, where we do not have politicians telling our law enforcement community what to do, or do we live in a system like in some other fledgling democracies in other parts of the world where politicians call the shots?
A line was crossed here, if one believes even a little of what the former attorney general had to say. We have to hear from the Prime Minister. I support this motion. Canadians deserve to know what happened.
View Fayçal El-Khoury Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Fayçal El-Khoury Profile
2019-02-28 19:43 [p.25967]
Madam Speaker, as a father figure to all Canadians, it is the duty of any prime minister to find jobs for Canadians and to do everything in his power to protect and maintain those jobs, while obeying the law and protecting the independence of our justice system.
What our friends on the other side are doing is applying the principle exactly. They do not care about the thousands of people losing their jobs. They do not care about the thousands of pensioners who rely on this corporation for their pension in their senior days. This is a worthy company and we are proud to have it in order to do the impossible, which is to keep these people's jobs.
My question to the member on the other side is this. If he has a wife, kids, a house, a mortgage and has to pay school fees for his children, will he stand now and have the courage to say the truth, that he will support the government in doing the right thing to protect the jobs of Canadians?
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2019-02-28 19:44 [p.25967]
Madam Speaker, when the government passed the law called the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act, it made it clear that we could not look at the national economic interest of Canada. Why? Because if one is bribing people in another country, in this case $48 million to Libyan dictators, one cannot go home and say that it will shut down our economy if we do something about it. Not surprisingly, that is part of our law, so it is not relevant.
The current government loves to talk about coming to the aid of all the workers and so forth. I did not see that with respect to General Motors in particular. I did not see it with Rona. I did not see it with Davie shipyard. I have not seen it do anything with respect to the pensioners from Sears who have been ripped off. Therefore, I do not want to hear any lessons with respect to that.
View Todd Doherty Profile
CPC (BC)
View Todd Doherty Profile
2019-02-28 19:45 [p.25967]
Madam Speaker, I honestly think that our colleague across the way, and I cannot even say “honourable” right now, should be ashamed of himself. This is a company that is not accused of but paid $30,000 for prostitutes for Gadhafi's son and he is okay with that. It is disgraceful.
Our hon. colleague down the way gave a great intervention. I too was saddened by the testimony yesterday. It was a sad day for Canada. As a matter of fact, that date will go down in history. It will be one of those days where the question will be asked, “Where were you when...?”
I want to ask this to our hon. colleague, who represented all of us on the opposite side so extraordinarily. Could he elaborate on what his feelings are regarding the testimony we heard, how stoic our former attorney general was and how wrong our colleague across the way is?
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2019-02-28 19:47 [p.25968]
Madam Speaker, I said this at the committee hearing and I will say it again. I taught constitutional and public law for almost a generation of students. I have been a lawyer for 40 years. When he said that people are going to ask, “Where were you when...?”, regarding yesterday's testimony, I will always remember what I heard, because I was shaken to my core.
I cannot understand the spin operation on the other side of the House, acting as if there is nothing here so we should drive on. It is astounding. Why do the Liberals not fess up and understand that Canadians have a right to be concerned, rather than trying to change the channel? I do not understand.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
View Charlie Angus Profile
2019-02-28 19:48 [p.25968]
Madam Speaker, it is always a great honour to rise in the House and represent the people of Timmins—James Bay and the New Democratic Party on the ethics file. However, I am not proud that we have come to this point, because we are talking about a fundamental crisis that has occurred in our country, because the veil has been pulled back, thanks to the courage of the former attorney general, to show us how corrupt the culture of insiders is in Ottawa.
I want to preface this by saying there are two betrayals we are dealing with. One is the attempt to undermine the rule of law. I refer to a former Liberal attorney general, Michael Bryant, who said, we are dealing with “a constitutional crisis far worse than what I envisioned” and “a bald attempt by the Prime Minister to exercise his cabinet-making power over [the] quasi-judicial authority” of the Attorney General. He went on to say that he has never seen it used in such a “brazen, reckless fashion.”
That is the subject of why we are here tonight. However, for people who are watching there is an equally great betrayal. The Prime Minister gave people hope. He made people believe that politics could be different in Ottawa. We ran against him and we ran against his party, but I have to admit that I came in 2015 thinking that maybe he was serious about open government, maybe he was serious about reconciliation, and just maybe he was serious about the middle class he always spoke about. Many people and I know many of my friends in the Liberal Party share those values, and they are hurting tonight.
However, there is another Liberal Party, the old Liberal Party of corruption, insiders and cronies, and the Prime Minister had not even set up shop when the lobbyists began moving into town. What we have seen here is the power of the rich to call into the Prime Minister's Office and get things moved.
For example, KPMG established an illegal offshore tax fraud system for billionaires. When it was found out, suddenly, miraculously, there were no criminal penalties. We all wondered how that could happen, but the fog on the Liberal side was that they did not know. An agreement was made. Then the Prime Minister appointed a KPMG executive as the treasurer for the Liberal Party, because that way of doing business is something he is comfortable with.
We never got to see the raw exercise of power until yesterday, when the former attorney general spoke truth to power. She said that she experienced “a consistent and sustained effort by many people within the government to seek to politically interfere in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in my role as the Attorney General”. What she experienced were the powerful men and women around the Prime Minister's Office trying to intimidate her and to threaten her.
That was an amazing moment when she talked about the Clerk of the Privy Council, who has completely betrayed his obligation to the Canadian people to be the non-partisan voice of principle. He was the one used to be the thug. I asked her, “Did he threaten you?” She said he not only threatened her once but three times in that meeting. During that meeting she was concerned that the “other shoe” was going to drop. We will get to that other shoe in a moment.
I want to talk about the very first meeting, when she met with the Prime Minister about this, when the director of public prosecutions had made the determination that SNC-Lavalin was not eligible for this deferred prosecution agreement, a deferred prosecution law that was written specifically for SNC. SNC-Lavalin was so bad it could not even meet the criteria of a law that had been handwritten for it and stuffed into an omnibus bill.
What did the Prime Minister say? He was with the clerk and the clerk said there was going to be a board meeting on Thursday. How were they making those connections? They were talking about the shareholders they were meeting and they had to have that decision. The Prime Minister jumped in and said he was an MP from Quebec, the member for Papineau. The Prime Minister established that his main priority was saving his own political rear end. That is why this began.
Then we see the interference by the finance minister and his staff. She told him that it was unacceptable, and they continued.
I want to get to Gerry Butts and Katie Telford, who then met with her. Gerry Butts said he did not like the law. He called it a Harper law.
I do not like very many things Stephen Harper ever did. In fact, I do not know if I can count one or two. However, the rule of law is the rule of law. Liberals do not get to say, “Oh, that was a Conservative law so we are going to ignore it.” She told him, “It is the law of the land.” It was a good law to hold political corruption accountable internationally. That is what Gerry Butts did not like.
Then he said that there was going to be no solution that did not involve interference. For any member on that side to stand up and claim that this was just the normal activities, it may be the normal activities of the corrupt old Liberal Party, but this is not the normal activities of how the judicial system works, that it cannot be done without interference.
Then Katie Telford said that she was not interested in legalities. This woman still has her job. If there is a person in the Prime Minister's Office who does not give a tinker's darn about the rule of law, they have no business being there. What did Katie say? Katie said, “Hey, if you have any problems with it, we'll just get some prominent, important Liberal people to write some op-eds to cover it off.” That is the corrupt old Liberal way of doing business.
However, they were standing up against an attorney general who said no, and who said that she was “waiting for that other shoe to drop”, which I spoke of before. She knew it was coming, and it did come. They told her she was being replaced.
The most damning testimony of all was that the Clerk of the Privy Council told her staff that the first order of business of the new Attorney General would be to put that SNC-Lavalin deal through. That is unconscionable.
I want to say personally that I have never made a secret of some of the major battles I have had with the former attorney general. The role of the justice department lawyers in suppressing evidence in the case of the St. Anne's Indian Residential School has shaken me in my political life. I have never felt confidence in the judicial system for indigenous people because of the role of the justice department in suppressing that evidence.
I went to the Minister of Indigenous Affairs who landed the campaign against the St. Anne's survivors, and I begged him to stop. I begged him to stop this attack on people who had suffered so much. I approached the Attorney General, but she was the solicitor of the client, Indian Affairs. I make no apologies for my anger about her failings then.
However, I learn now, thanks to the former attorney general, that what was going on behind the scenes was that she had come to Ottawa to deal with reconciliation, but what was she getting stuck with? She was getting stuck with looking after the rich friends of the Liberal Party.
We were very frustrated that the former attorney general was not moving on the indigenous framework. Then we find out, through this testimony, that she was not given the indigenous framework. The Liberal government was not interested in her doing the indigenous framework. It wanted her to cut a deal for their rich insider friends.
Last night, when I sat at that committee, I watched integrity. I watched someone who put her political career on the line, and maybe has finished her political career, but she was not going to be intimidated and she was not going to be silenced.
I urge my friends in the Liberal Party who are as sickened in their core as I am, and I know many of them are, do not go into the smear campaign, do not continue this attack on her, do not say it was her father pulling her strings, do not say that she could not take the stress, and do not, and I am calling on my colleagues over there, do not do the next step that the Liberal government is going to do, which is starting the attack on her credibility.
It is one woman who stood up to this Prime Minister, one woman who said what he was doing was unconscionable. This Prime Minister needs to be accountable. He needs to come to committee. He needs to stop hiding. He needs to show Canadians that he can explain why the people around him were involved in such a corrupt interference and obstruction of the work of the Attorney General on a matter of corruption. Until he does that, he has lost his fundamental moral compass and the Liberal Party is adrift.
View Francis Drouin Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I have listened to the member for Timmins—James Bay give a passionate speech. I know he likes to play music. I know he likes to act like a rock star.
The member is blaming the Liberal Party for attacking the former attorney general. The Liberal Party or any member of the House has never attacked the former attorney general. It was that particular member who attacked the former attorney general.
Let me quote, “The failure of [the former attorney general] to show any leadership or direction on Indigenous justice has been one of the deepest disappointments of the Trudeau government.”
This is what he asked for for Christmas. He said, “For Christmas, I want [the Prime Minister] to fire [the former attorney general].”
The member is acting in sheer hypocrisy. He should be ashamed of himself. He should come clean with Canadians on the real reason he is politicizing this issue.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
View Charlie Angus Profile
2019-02-28 19:59 [p.25969]
Madam Speaker, it is true that I play music, and what I want for Christmas is indigenous justice. We did not get it this Christmas, and we did not get it the previous Christmas or the Christmas before that. We got a Prime Minister who stood in the House and made a promise that he would move that indigenous framework, but he did not give it to the former attorney general because he wanted her to deal with the corruption and the insider friends.
I would like to point out that yesterday the Prime Minister was asked about SNC-Lavalin engaging in the sexual trafficking of women in Libya. The feminist Prime Minister stood and said that the Liberals do not make any apologies for defending jobs.
Is he willing to sell the bodies of women in Libya so that his friends at SNC-Lavalin can get a job? He could not even answer that question without showing complete disregard. This man has embarrassed our nation.
View Dan Albas Profile
CPC (BC)
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the interventions tonight by the member for Timmins—James Bay. There is one thing I would hope most of us agree on, and I hope my colleague and I can definitely agree on. If any one of us, particularly a prime minister, takes issue with a particular law, there should be a debate in the open. That person should have the people's representative come and say what is good and what is not good in a particular law.
However, that is not what the Prime Minister tried to do. He tried to use his position, the people in his office and those in the Minister of Finance's office. He even put to work someone who was supposed to be a non-partisan public servant, Michael Wernick, to get his friends in this company a get out of jail free card.
I would like the member to speak more about the use of power and how this kind of corruption can harm a system like Canada's. I would like to ask him specifically to speak on that note.
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