Mr. Speaker, we are here today to move along business that we started last summer.
It was last summer that Canadians first learned about the WE scandal involving the Liberal government. This is the scandal of the WE organization paying members of the Prime Minister's family half a million dollars and then being awarded, in an untendered agreement, half a billion dollars of taxpayer funds as part of a proposed or planned pandemic relief program for students.
We heard many different things at the time, both from the PMO and from the WE organization, including that members of the Prime Minister's family had never been paid. Then, of course, that story changed over time.
When hearings began last summer and members of the opposition began to get answers for Canadians, the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament, effectively killing the work of those committees. At the time he said that when the House resumed in the fall, there would be lots of time for questions. There was certainly lots of time, and that time was spent by Liberal members filibustering across multiple committees.
At the ethics committee alone, the filibuster lasted for the equivalent of 20 meetings. When that filibuster finally ended and we were able to order witnesses to appear, it was December. In December, we initiated that process, but the government's partners in this deal, the founders of the WE organization, Craig and Marc Kielburger, took until March to agree to appear at the committee, and then eventually said they would not, even if summoned.
A summons was issued to them, and they did appear. During that appearance, we heard more contradictions to previous testimony and sought to have more witnesses called as a result.
The Prime Minister's testimony in the summer was before the heavily redacted document dump that came on the eve of the cover-up prorogation in August, and so here was no opportunity for members to compare and contrast the answers given by the Prime Minister, his chief of staff, other witnesses from cabinet, and the information that was in that document release. As more information has come out, the need for more questions to be asked has come to pass, and we need these witnesses to appear.
I should note, before I mention the defence committee, that I will be sharing my time with the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman. He sits on the defence committee and is the shadow minister for defence.
This is happening at the same time that the defence committee is dealing with the study with respect to sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces. The allegations it is dealing with concern the former chief of the defence staff. The former chief of the defence staff is alleged to have perpetrated sexual misconduct. It was reported to the Canadian Forces ombudsman in 2018. That information was relayed to the Minister of National Defence and to the Prime Minister's Office, at which point one would expect that a thorough investigation would be undertaken, one that would include the appropriate authorities.
However, a blind eye was turned. Instead, the alleged perpetrator was given a raise by the Prime Minister, and the victims were left without justice. Other members of our Canadian Armed Forces are left wondering what protections are being afforded them by the government that they serve with unlimited liability.
It is important to note that members of our Canadian Armed Forces serve this country with unlimited liability. They ask very little of us in return, but guaranteeing them a workplace that is free from sexual misconduct, particularly when it is perpetrated by Canada's top soldier, seems like the least we could do for them. However, that is not the case, so members of the defence committee have looked for a witness to appear. Those efforts have been blocked.
There was a due diligence report with respect to the Canada student service grant that was committed by the Privy Council. That report was not tabled with the committee, so we are seeking that information as well with this motion.
It is important to note how we came to this point. With dozens of hours wasted to filibustering and dozens of meetings lost to delays and obstruction, parliamentarians were not able to fully engage in the defence, finance, PROC or ethics committees, among other committees. I was going to make it an either/or between the defence and ethics committees, but the filibusters were across multiple committees.
The study at the ethics committee has to do with pandemic spending. We had intended to wrap this study up in the fall, but of course those obstructions prevented us from doing so and prevented us from getting on to the other important work that the committee intended to undertake, such as to protect victims of sexual exploitation online and to examine emerging technologies, such as facial recognition, as is the mandate of our committee, and the defence committee barely has its feet under it in the study with respect to sexual misconduct in the military. It is facing a brick wall from the government.
It is tremendously concerning that when it comes to accountability and how the government spends the public's money. Half a billion dollars in support for students was originally billed as $912 million, but members of the Liberal Party do not want answers and accountability for Canadians.
It is alleged that this program was designed to help students. They could have devoted those funds to the Canada summer jobs program, which was already in place, with some modifications that were made to it last year, but instead of committing those funds to an established, tried, tested program, the Liberals cooked up something new and gave it to friends of the Prime Minister. They let down all of those students who did not have employment opportunities, and in fact let down the business owners who could have benefited from having the labour of the students who would gain experience when they were already facing hard times. These businesses would have had subsidized labour in that time, and the charitable sector also missed out by not having the volunteers that were promised in that program. The Canadians who were let down in that process make up a laundry list. It is incumbent on us to get answers on how that came to pass. We need to find out what happened so that it does not happen again.
We are looking at another budget. It is the first time I have been able to say that in years. We have not had a budget here in over two years, and we want to make sure, when we go through that process, that that we do not see the government set to repeat the same mistakes that we have seen over the past year in particular.
The opposition is looking for a very measured result from today's motion, and that result is to have witnesses appear at committee to testify on studies at those committees. We have to devote a supply day to this. Earlier this week we used one of our opposition supply days to talk about what the government's plan was, asking for it to table a plan for the House and for all Canadians to see on coming out of the pandemic. A year ago, it was reasonable to say that there were some things the government might not have planned for. There was some things it could have planned for and did not, but now, with a year's experience, it ought to have a plan.
Today we are looking to make committees work and we are looking to make the House work, so we are asking for these witnesses to appear. Of course, if it is the position of the government that these witnesses should not appear, then there is the option for the Prime Minister to appear at committee. The choice is certainly the government's to make. The opposition has made the choice to make Parliament work, and I hope that all members of the House vote with us to make the House of Commons work and to make committees work so that we can get answers for Canadians on how their money was spent and so that we can ensure that we have a safe, respectful work environment for all members of our Canadian Armed Forces.