- MPndpFri 9:15 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
With regard to the purchase of televisions for departments, agencies and crown corporations: a) what is the amount spent per year for each department agency and crown corporation on televisions for each of the last seven years; b) what is the proportion of those amounts spent on high definition or 3D televisions respectively; c) what is the amount per year for televisions in the offices of ministers, deputy ministers or CEOs listed by agency and name; d) what are the proportions of the amounts listed in c) for HD or 3D televisions respectively?
- MPndpThu 10:30 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for her excellent question and I think she points out what the Conservative government does all the time.
It is the Conservatives' Monty Pythonesque Trojan Horse where they think they are going to be really bright. They take something as strong as devolution, which they know everyone supports, and then shove into it once again an undermining of environmental standards such as their attack on the Mackenzie River Valley management area. Then they attack anyone who does not support their Trojan Horse.
This issue is about ensuring that this is done right, so let us separate the bill. Let us bring in devolution, let us deal with it, and then let us look at the Conservatives' plan to give the minister that kind of control. However, the Conservatives do not have the nerve to stand up and go public with this and so they try and hide it.
- MPndpThu 10:25 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for his question and say I am sorry that maybe he needs subtitles when we are speaking so he can follow along. He could follow the bouncing ball to understand the importance of involving the people on the ground. Again, it is a sort of selective understanding. The Conservatives only hear what they want to hear when they want to hear it.
Bob Bromley, the MLA in the region, said:
The federal government’s proposal to collapse the regional land and water boards into one big board is disturbing, unnecessary and possibly unconstitutional. ...a single board does nothing to meet the real problem....
The real problem is the failure of implementation.
The Conservatives can jump up and down all they want and pretend they are managers of the economy, but obviously they have blown the Ring of Fire, they are alienating people with the gateway pipeline and they have managed to burn their reputation internationally on Keystone XL and the environment. Hey, they are going to need a third-party manager to look after them soon.
- MPndpThu 10:15 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise on behalf of the people of Timmins—James Bay to speak to this important bill, Bill C-15, on the issues of devolution and the further development of the far north.
Through representing a far north region in Ontario, I really appreciate and understand the importance of the devolution of power to the communities and regions that are very different from the rest of Canada, and that they be allowed and given the tools they need to advance.
Unfortunately, the government has failed on so many levels in dealing with issues of the far north. In my own region we see complete failure of infrastructure in community after community in the far north. The Conservatives' only attitude is very colonial. They want the resources, and they want them out as fast as they can get them. They treat the people who live there like they are a subject population.
I see also how they bungle these projects, because their idea of fast is to try to get things as quickly as possible without thinking about the need to develop the economy in any sustainable, long-term or cohesive manner. I point to the bungling of the Ring of Fire.
The Ring of Fire is in my region of Timmins—James Bay. It may be one of the largest mining discoveries in the last half century, $3.3 billion of value at this point. There is an important need to get it right because we have seen how often things have been done wrong.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Joliette.
In my own region where I live in Cobalt, I see the poisoned lakes. I see all the wealth that was taken out of communities such as Cobalt. Not a single paved road was left in any of Coleman Township, which at one time was the richest municipality in all of Canada. I have seen the cave-ins from the mines that were left. I see that all across northern Ontario and northern Quebec, wherever I travel.
The idea was that we would take the resources out and leave the communities behind with whatever they could get by on. I look at the issue of devolution in terms of the revenue agreement. In the far north of Ontario, all our resources go to Queen's Park. We have one of the richest diamond mines in the world right near the impoverished little community of Attawapiskat. All the royalties from that mine go to Queen's Park, yet the people of Attawapiskat are basically living in shacks on top of each other. They do not even have the room to build a proper townsite. We would have to get that permission from the province. If we asked the Province of Ontario about Attawapiskat, we would be told it is not Ontario's responsibility, because those are federal people. Of course, the feds have shown a complete disinterest in Attawapiskat.
It is amazing, nobody else lives up there except the Mushkego Cree. They do not even have access to their own land. As one women in Kashechewan told me, it is like being raised in a prisoner of war camp in her community. There are little postage stamp communities, while the vast resources around them are controlled by the province, which takes the resources out and they are sent to southern Ontario, paving the roads down there. The issue of devolution and the development of communities is something we really understand.
Going back to the Ring of Fire, the minister from Muskoka was to be our great leader on this. He was to be the man who got it all done, just like he got everything else done around here, and Cliffs has walked away from the project. They said they are tired of the lack of action, the lack of planning. The first nation communities are still sitting at the table saying they need the environmental issues dealt with. What happened to the big leadership of the member for Parry Sound—Muskoka? He shrugs and says it was a provincial responsibility.
That was not what the Conservatives were saying a few months ago when it looked like they would try to get some of the glory of the Ring of Fire. We notice that the issue of the Ring of Fire is vital for the development of northern Ontario, sustainable, planned, ensuring that the rivers and the lakes are not polluted, putting a proper road and transportation system in, working with the provincial Ontario Northland Railway to get a railway in there, to build sustainability. The feds walked. They blew it.
We have a motion at committee to look at the Ring of Fire, to find out what happened. However, the Conservatives go in camera and kill the study of the Ring of Fire, the same men and women who stand up and say they are the defenders of resource development and they understand the economy. They only understand their excuses when they blow it.
I am very interested in the issue of devolution, but there are some issues that have been raised that are very concerning. One is the amendment on the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act, which would create the environmental screening process for the Northwest Territories. The amendment will replace the current structure of regional land and water boards, which were created through land claims final agreements with the Northwest Territory aboriginal governments, with a single board.
Here is the kicker. The amendments also reserve to the federal minister the approval of all land and water usage in the Northwest Territories, which could easily circumvent the powers that were transferred to the first nation communities through devolution. Would any Canadian trust any minister on that side to do the right thing when it comes to water management or land management?
Let us just look at what the Conservatives did in their last omnibus bill. They stripped the environmental protections for 99.997% of all lakes and rivers in this country. Why is that? It was so they could push pipelines through faster, so they do not have to worry about the shut-off valves and can just go through any of the waterways.
It is funny. There are only 97 waterways that are still protected in this country. The rest of it is open season for these guys. If someone wants to dump tailings or run a pipeline through, this is their baby. Out of the 97 lakes and rivers that are protected, 12 of them are in the riding of the Muskoka minister. Lake Rosseau where Goldie Hawn gets her feet wet in the summertime, that property is protected. Twelve lakes in his riding are protected.
Do members know how many waterways in Quebec are protected? Four. In the massive region of Quebec, four are protected. The member for Parry Sound—Muskoka squirrels away 12 so that he can be happy with all his rich friends down at the cottage, and maybe they will invite him over to the barbecue and he will get Jeff Bridges' autograph. Twelve, that is the same as what the Conservatives have reserved for the entire province of British Columbia.
This is about a government that has turned environmental protection and planning into an absolute mockery, which is why Canada is seen more and more as an international outlier. While the Liberals and Conservatives go down to Washington to try to promote the Keystone XL pipeline and outdo each other, our reputation is that this is a government and a third party that no one wants to deal with. The government has systematically undermined and trashed environmental standards so that its friends with the big oil agenda can get things as fast as they want, as quick as they want, and it is too bad about the planet.
We want to move towards devolution but we do not want to see anyone on that side able to put their fingers into the development of waterways and the environment in the far north. We know that the Conservatives' only attitude is to get it as quickly as possible, and too bad about the next generation.
I want to go back to the lakes and rivers, and the importance of it. Our friend, the Muskoka minister, who blew the ring of fire, was the man who allowed Vale and Xstrata to take control of the two greatest mining companies that Canada has produced, the international giants, Inco and Falconbridge. They were pretty much run into the ground under his watch.
The man who has grabbed 12 out of the 100 lakes to protect for his rich friends, is he not the same guy who took $50 million of border infrastructure money that should have been used to stop gangs and guns from coming across the border? What did he do? He was building fake lighthouses in Muskoka with it. Of course there was no paper trail.
Normally people who take money like that and spend it in such an egregious fashion get the bounce. In the government, if someone is that bad, they get promoted. He is now the President of the Treasury Board, the man who is supposed to ensure that everyone else accounts for their dollars. We see him kicking the crap out of the poor civil service, blaming them, going after them and going after their pensions.
Here is the man who took $50 million and does not have a piece of paper that he can show for it. Then, of course, we did find there was a lot of paper in his office, he just pretended there was not. We managed to find that through access to information.
These are not the kind of people we want to allow anywhere near environmental planning. We want to keep them away. We have to have some sort of ring fencing to keep them away and to keep their hands off it.
We think devolution is really important, but devolution has to be based on the principle that it is the people on the ground, the people in the far north, who should always have the final decision-making about what happens in their region.
- MPndpThu 9:55 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague has a real breadth of understanding on issues in the far north, representing a region in northern Manitoba very similar to my own in some ways. I was interested in her reference to the colonial mentality of this Conservative government and its attitude of rip-and-ship resources. It believes that its only obligation as a federal government is to get at the resources as quickly as possible, leaving no benefits for the communities. The lack of infrastructure in the first nation communities in all of our north is an international disgrace that has been recognized. Canada has now fallen to about 60th place in terms of looking after the needs of first nations children.
I would like to ask my hon. colleague this. Within the community she represents, does she have the same experience that we are seeing in James Bay, where the communities are wanting to move forward and be part of the development of their region but are basically being kept under the thumb of a colonial attitude that is about taking out the resources and leaving the community in very substandard and sometimes squalid conditions?
- MPndpTue 1:00 pm | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I listened to my hon. colleague. He misrepresents the facts. He is misrepresenting things back to constituents. It is not right. He can say whatever he wants, but if he wants to make up facts, he should stand outside and do it outside.
- MPndpTue 12:45 pm | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, there are a number of elements that I find are missing from the bill in terms of dealing with economic development.
In my region, a large mining sector, we are having a very difficult time bringing miners in. One of the reasons for that, if we ask all of the northern mayors, is the issue of housing. People are not building housing stock. There is no available housing. It is just not worth people moving. They will not move if they have to spend $300,000 or $400,000 for a house in a mining town. This is happening all across the north, but it is not only in the north. We see in the city of Toronto now that the price of affordable rent is pushing people who would previously have been middle class to share and double-up on apartments.
Under the Conservative government, we do not have any plan for a national housing strategy, yet, it is affecting development. It is affecting the development of the middle class and it is causing more and more people to have to put money into rent that they should be putting into investments, savings and education.
Has my hon. colleague looked at the issue in his area in terms of the price of affordable housing becoming so difficult to afford that it is actually affecting the bottom lines of many Canadian families?
- MPndpTue 11:25 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, is he saying that he is now admitting that his own lawyer misled him? I did not hear an answer.
Let us continue on. It is quite as the crickets over there.
On May 28 our leader asked a simple question. He asked, “Can the Prime Minister tell us what part Mr. Perrin played in this story?” The Prime Minister responded, “Mr. Perrin has already answered these questions”.
Now that they have read the affidavit of the RCMP, would the Conservatives say that the Prime Minister knew at the time that what Mr. Perrin was saying was completely untrue?
- MPndpDec 02, 2013 11:35 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, if there is an issue of competency, maybe the Conservatives want to invite Dalton McGuinty over to help them figure out how to deal with their email problems in the PCO.
If the Conservatives cannot explain how the legal emails to the Prime Minister's lawyer would suddenly disappear, and now they thought which was lost, as the Bible says, has suddenly been found, maybe we will go to a simpler question.
When the Prime Minister got rid of his lawyer in March 2012, was Ben Perrin fired, or did he leave on his own accord? Under what terms did Ben Perrin leave the Prime Minister's Office?
- MPndpDec 02, 2013 11:30 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, I want to be helpful to my friend from Oak Ridges—Markham, but if he does not know the answers, then why are the Conservatives putting him up? Is he not their spokesman?
It seems awfully strange that the government would tell the RCMP it deleted the emails of the Prime Minister's legal counsel, and then when push comes to shove, the emails reappear. Is it the Conservatives' policy to make the electronic legal correspondence of the Prime Minister's lawyer disappear, or do they only disappear emails from people who were involved in the Duffy cover-up?
- MPndpNov 28, 2013 11:30 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, there has been enormous political fallout for the Conservatives since they propped up Gerstein at the Conservative convention with his lines about Duffy. Now, with the RCMP affidavit, we know that Gerstein was a key negotiator in the attempt to whitewash the audit.
Can the Prime Minister's person over there tell us if anyone in the Prime Minister's Office has spoken with Gerstein in the last two weeks in an attempt to contain the fallout of the damage that has been done to their credibility?
- MPndpNov 26, 2013 8:25 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague and I do not agree on much. However, I think he would agree that when we are in the House, members are considered to be under oath. Otherwise, we are in contempt of Parliament. Therefore, when we have a motion that states that the Prime Minister should speak under oath, the Prime Minister, as much as I disagree with him, has shown up. We have asked him question after question. This is how we are trying to get to the bottom of this.
Unfortunately, our Liberal colleague, the Liberal leader, does not often show up. Given the opportunity to ask 45 questions in a week, at most he might ask nine. He seems to be everywhere else in the country.
This is a priority for Canadians. Regardless of our positions, the House of Commons is where Canadians send us to debate the issues of the day. How we bring forward positions is through debate. It is not about glossy brochures and ladies' nights. It is about standing up here and debating ideas.
I might not like much of what the Conservatives say, but they show up and they debate. We will debate them. I would invite the Liberal leader. I wish he were here. We need the extra voice. We would like to hear his perspective. Unfortunately, he is rarely in the House. I think that Canadians are not being served well by that.
- MPndpNov 26, 2013 8:20 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, I have such great respect for my hon. colleague, because he is from the island of Cape Breton. My family left the Dominion coal mines in Cape Breton to work in the mines in northern Ontario.
I am sure that the folks back in Cape Breton, just like in Timmins—James Bay, are appalled. They were appalled that senior citizens were told that they could work until they were 67 and not to worry about it; they would actually tell the millionaires in Davos that. The government told the veterans that they would close all their points of contact and that they would be kicked out without being given a pension. That is the attitude of the Conservatives. They show no mercy to anybody. However, when it is one of their buddies or pals, there is a pot that is so big we cannot even get to the bottom of it.
This is about corruption. It is about a rip-off of the people of Canada while telling the hard-working Canadian taxpayers that they should be footing the bill for these crooks. All of the Conservatives over there are going along with this. We have not seen any Conservative members stand up to say that they are ashamed of the behaviour of their Prime Minister, of his staff, and of all those Conservative senators.
They have identified Duffy, Brazeau, and Mac Harb. What about Tkachuk, Gerstein, and Senator Patterson, who they have identified as living in British Columbia, who may be ripping off the taxpayers? It is going on, but they have decided to look the other way.
People back home are not too happy.
- MPndpNov 26, 2013 8:10 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, I rise with great honour, as always, to represent the people of Timmins—James Bay who put their trust in me to represent their interests. All of us are here to represent the public good, including the office of the Prime Minister.
I will definitely be supporting this motion. It shows the concern and sadness of the House of Commons that the Prime Minister's Office is under investigation for bribery, corruption, breach of trust, fraud, and that the RCMP is seeking warrants to get production orders from all the key players in the Prime Minister's Office, except one. Benjamin Perrin is the only person the RCMP is not seeking production orders from because his emails have been erased.
Today, rather than get into the cast of dubious characters in this disgraceful scandal, I would like to focus on Benjamin Perrin. I find his role to be particularly interesting because his role in the Prime Minister's Office is as lawyer to the Prime Minister of Canada.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Gatineau.
As a lawyer, Mr. Perrin had certain obligations and responsibilities. He was to protect the interests of the Prime Minister and work for the Prime Minister. The question is this. What role did Benjamin Perrin play in this deal that is now being investigated for fraud, corruption and breach of trust?
On May 21, Benjamin Perrin said, “I was not consulted on, and did not participate in, Nigel Wright’s decision to write a personal cheque to reimburse Senator Duffy's expenses”. However, the RCMP affidavit seems to suggest otherwise. Mr. Perrin also said, “I have never communicated with the Prime Minister on this matter”. However, as his lawyer, I would find that sort of a strange situation.
Let us go through this.
Mr. Perrin becomes involved in this scheme on February 19. So Duffy's lawyer, Ms. Payne, has a legal person in the Prime Minister's Office to talk to, Benjamin Perrin steps up.
Nigel Wright on February 20, stated the “cash for repayment scheme”, which is what it is called, and that Deloitte would not find against him.
Therefore, Benjamin Perrin was involved in these negotiations. Who authorized him to get involved in these negotiations? As the lawyer for the Prime Minister, was he just doing this on his own working against the express position of the Prime Minister, as has been reiterated in a very dubious way by the parliamentary secretary?
February 21 and 22 are key in this scandal.
Nigel Wright contacts Benjamin Perrin and they talk about setting up this story for Mike Duffy, the media lines for Mike Duffy. Nigel Wright says to Mr. Perrin that he does not like the optics of sending lines to a lawyer and wants to do it over the phone.
Now if this was a legal agreement, an honourable agreement, is it something that the Prime Minister would support? Why would they not want to put the deal in writing? However, no, they did not want to talk to the lawyer, but tell Duffy over the phone. This is the lawyer for the Prime Minister being involved in this.
On February 21, we found out that Benjamin Perrin, the personal lawyer to the Prime Minister of the country, came back with a five-point deal.
The first was to kill the audit and say that Duffy's expenses were okay. Now the audit is on whether or not Mike Duffy had defrauded the taxpayers of Canada. Therefore, the first thing they would do is kill that audit and say that Mike Duffy did not defraud the people of Canada.
The second was that Duffy meet the requirements for residency. Well, they knew he did not because, as Chris Woodcock says, “Describing Duffy's arrangements in Charlottetown as a ‘residence’ may be too cute…I’ll cross that line out”. However. they were going to pretend that Duffy's summer place was his residency.
The third, and this is the key element, was that his expenses stemmed from his time on the road working for the party and that his legal fees would be reimbursed and he would be kept whole. As the RCMP tells us, financially, Mike Duffy will not be out of pocket.
The fourth, the old Duffster, if they changed the rules back, he would like to be able to claim his P.E.I. residence again and start scamming the taxpayers one more time, but that was in the deal.
The fifth was that the Prime Minister's Office would take all reasonable steps to ensure the Conservative caucus would stick to the media lines. This meant that nobody was going to bad mouth the Duffster.
Therefore, Benjamin Perrin writes back that they have negotiated this deal. Once again, who is Benjamin Perrin negotiating this deal from?
Then Nigel Wright said to him, “I now have the go-ahead on point three, with a couple of stipulations”. The go-ahead is that they are going to pay Mike Duffy's expenses and pretend that he paid them back. Who gave the go-ahead, with the stipulations? Are we to assume that the phantom Prime Minister was not the one they had to get the go-ahead from?
Later on that day, as the negotiations go back and forth, they go back and say that they need the final word from the Prime Minister before this deal is okayed. The Prime Minister's own lawyer has laid out a deal, which we now see is under investigation for fraud and breach of trust. Then they say that they have the okay. “We are good to go”.
How can the Canadian public be expected to believe that a lawyer as important as Mr. Perrin, with all the professional and legal obligations he has, would have been involved in the negotiations on his own, would have misrepresented those negotiations to the Prime Minister, would have argued with some fictitious person in the Prime Minister's chair about the stipulation on point number three that they were going to cover off, through the Conservative Party, Mike Duffy's expenses, and would have then turned around and said that he did not know a thing about this and further that he never bothered to tell the Prime Minister? I would find that very surprising for a man of integrity and for a man with the professional and legal responsibilities Mr. Perrin has.
The other interesting point here is that Senator Duffy's lawyer wanted the agreement in writing, and Mr. Perrin did not want to put it in writing. He says, “we aren't selling a car here”. It sounds like we are reading Goodfellas. This is the lawyer for the Prime Minister of the country saying that we are not selling a car here; we are not putting it in writing.
This deal is about transferring money from the Conservative Party, whitewashing an audit, and claiming that a man who is not eligible to sit in the Senate meets the constitutional requirements, and doing all of this but not putting it in writing. Again, who is Mr. Perrin, the Prime Minister's lawyer, representing when he says that they are not selling a car? One has to sign a big legal agreement to sell a car, but they would set up a potentially illegal deal in the Prime Minister's Office, not put it in writing, and not tell the Prime Minister.
We know that the deal goes off the rails on February 27, when poor Nigel Wright is gobsmacked to find out that Mike Duffy has scammed so much money that instead of the $30,000, it is $90,000. Senator Gerstein balks at this point and walks. Nigel Wright is in a pickle, and for whatever bizarre reason, he agrees to cut the cheque himself so that the deal stays in place.
Then we go back again to the lawyer for the Prime Minister of this country, Mr. Benjamin Perrin. On page five of the RCMP's affidavit it says:
Nigel Wright decided that he would personally cover the cost of reimbursing Senator Duffy. After back and forth negotiations between Janice Payne and Benjamin Perrin (legal counsel within the PMO) terms of the agreement were set.
Benjamin Perrin told us on May 21 that he was not consulted on and had not participated in Nigel Wright's decision to write a personal cheque to reimburse Senator Duffy's expenses, and further, he had never communicated with the Prime Minister on this matter.
What we are seeing in this scandal is that a cover-up was orchestrated in the Prime Minister's Office. We have named the names of the senators who were involved in attempting to whitewash the audit, including the call from Wright to Gerstein and from Gerstein to Michael Runia at Deloitte, a friend of his, to try to whitewash an audit. What does whitewashing an audit mean? The audit was about whether Mike Duffy defrauded the people of Canada of $90,000 and had set up a housing scheme to collect the per diems.
We see Senator Tkachuk and Senator Stewart-Olsen involved. We see Senator LeBreton and Senator Gerstein. All of them have acted shamefully, but within the office of the Prime Minister, there were two key people: Nigel Wright, the chief of staff, and Benjamin Perrin, the lawyer for the Prime Minister. How can we believe that nobody told the Prime Minister when, on February 22, they were needing the go-ahead on point three. Point three is about coming up with a scheme to pay Mike Duffy to make him shut up and make the problem go away.
- MPndpNov 26, 2013 8:00 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague. He missed a number of key elements of this 80-page affidavit, particularly about the role of senators in the Prime Minister's Office of trying to interfere with the issue of the eligibility requirements of Mike Duffy to sit in the Senate. In fact, it was used to hold over him. Chris Woodcock said at one point, “Describing Duffy's arrangements in Charlottetown as a ‘residence’ may be too cute…I’II cross that line out”.
I bring this up not because of Duffy. We know Duffy scammed the system. I bring it up because on page 26 of the affidavit, Nigel Wright said in an email to Benjamin Perrin:
I am gravely concerned that Sen. Duffy would be considered a resident of Ontario under [these changes]. Possibly Sen. Patterson in BC too. If this were adopted as the Senate's view about whether the constitutional qualification...the consequences are obvious.
The issue is that the Prime Minister's Office is considering Senator Patterson to be a resident of British Columbia. If anyone looks into Senator Patterson's living conditions, then his constitutional eligibility to even be in the Senate is in question. We have seen how the Conservatives bend themselves out of shape, twisting the constitutional requirements for their friend, Mike Duffy, but I would like to ask a question of my hon. colleague about Senator Patterson of British Columbia.
What do the Conservatives know about his residency in British Columbia, rather than in his home territory of Nunavut, that they identified and flagged as an issue that he would not be constitutionally eligible to sit in the Senate? As well, have they looked into whether Senator Patterson was scamming the taxpayers for his housing allowance if he was in fact not a resident of Nunavut?
- MPndpNov 25, 2013 11:45 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Oh, our poor hapless Prime Minister, being defended with such hokum.
Mr. Speaker, Canadians remember that on May 15, the Prime Minister said he had complete support for this illegal scheme. They also know that the Prime Minister told the House that there was “no legal agreement between [Mike Duffy and Nigel Wright]”. Surely the Prime Minister would have known that his own lawyer, Benjamin Perrin, was up to his neck in this. Are we to believe that the Prime Minister did not know what his own lawyer was doing?
Through all of May, all of June, all of September, and all of October the Prime Minister continued to mislead the House. Why has he not come clean on the involvement of his staff?
- MPndpNov 25, 2013 11:40 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, thanks to the RCMP, we learned that as early as February 2, Ray Novak was being copied on emails about the cover-up in the Prime Minister's Office regarding the Duffy scandal. Mr. Novak has since been promoted to chief of staff for the Prime Minister.
What did Ray Novak tell the Prime Minister about what was going down? Otherwise, how would the Prime Minister be able to have any trust that he is telling him the truth now?
- MPndpNov 21, 2013 11:35 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, that was tough talk from a man defending bribery, fraud, and corruption in the Prime Minister's Office. Let us try to bring him back to reality.
Benjamin Perrin was the Prime Minister's personal lawyer. RCMP documents reveal that Perrin's emails have been deleted and cannot be examined. The Library and Archives Act states:
No government or ministerial record...shall be disposed of, including by being destroyed, without the written consent of the Librarian and Archivist....
I have a simple question. Did the Prime Minister's Office get that consent before it erased this evidence?
- MPndpNov 21, 2013 11:10 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on the importance of establishing a national palliative care strategy. Every one of us here will die, and all of our families have faced the loss of a loved one or will face that loss. These traumatic moments are made much more difficult when there is a lack of access to quality palliative care.
Many jurisdictions have no 24/7 home support for dying patients or access to hospice care. It means that patients end up in emergency wards or overcrowded hospitals, with unnecessary cost to the health care system and unnecessary stress to the patients and their families.
Palliative care is home-centred. It is family-centred. It is community-centred. That is why the New Democratic Party is saying it is time we worked together, as all parliamentarians, on a national palliative care strategy, working with the provinces and territories and first nations and Inuit people to set the benchmarks.
I am calling on my colleagues to work with us on Motion No. 456 to establish a national palliative care strategy.
- MPndpNov 21, 2013 9:35 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, it is clear that this is an attempt to undermine the work of the Supreme Court, which laid out a clear test for what should be an InSite site. Our colleagues on the other side would misrepresent the facts so that they can make some bucks off their base.
I look at a government that promised that it would bring ethical standards. What do I see? I see the unprecedented situation of an RCMP investigation into the office of the Prime Minister. I saw 80 pages yesterday of police testimony that said again and again that it was the office of the Prime Minister that was interfering with an audit in the Senate. This audit was about the defrauding of the taxpayers of the country. Senator Gerstein, Senator Olsen, Senator Tkachuk, Pat Rogers, and Benjamin Perrin, who is the personal lawyer for the Prime Minister, were involved. Their names are there.
We are talking about attempting to whitewash fraud against the taxpayers. This is the Conservatives' idea of good representation. It is criminal behaviour.
- MPndpNov 21, 2013 9:25 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, I would like to say I am very glad to be rising to speak to the bill, but I am speaking with a sense of sadness. This is the level to which the current government is descending in terms of its misrepresentation of facts, its willingness to leave people basically out on the streets to die and of course to play political games, attacking the Supreme Court, attacking the peer-reviewed medical communities and attacking medical authorities so it can make a few bucks for its Conservative war machine.
Twenty-five years ago, I spent a number of years working on the streets of the east end of Toronto in Riverdale. Twenty-five years later, my oldest daughter is back in the east end of Toronto working with the homeless. We sit down and talk. She was born in a house that we were running, taking in men coming out of prison and taking in addicts. Having a child in that house did marvels for restoring a sense of community and of helping to heal people. We have had people who came through that house who went on to live wonderful lives. I think of my dear friend Pierre, a lifelong heroin addict whom we managed to get out of prison and who ended up becoming the adopted grandfather of my children. He lived with us until he died in his 70s. That would not have been possible if there had not been opportunities in place to get him off the streets.
Twenty-five years later, my daughter is back working on the streets of Toronto. I would like to say that things are better, but they are not. Things have deteriorated, as far as I can see. We talk about the causes. Of course, many of the causes are sitting over on the front bench of the Conservative Party. They are all the former Mike Harris thugs, who are now in the House of Commons, who stripped social housing programs. Previously we could get men and women off the streets and into subsidized housing, but that is disappearing, particularly in Toronto centre, where we see more and more condos going up and more and more of the poor being put out onto the streets. We see the lack of health supports for these people on the streets. I talk with my daughter about the issue of addiction and what she faces with the people coming through.
In contrast to the Conservative Party and its dumbed-down attack machine that likes to show people the junkie sneaking through the child's bedroom window so they will give them some money so that the Prime Minister, whose office is under investigation for all manner of criminal activities, can defend them, what we see with junkies and addicts is a cross-section of society. What we are here to discuss today is not ideology. We are here to discuss the Supreme Court, to discuss the support of the Canadian Medical Association and peer-reviewed studies. This is on our side of the House. On their side is a cynical attempt to make money off the Conservative base with their expression “keep heroin out of our backyards”.
If we look at the evidence, we find that if we do not have a way of dealing with these street drugs, it will be in our backyards. When it is pushed underground, that is where we see the crime and the break-ins, and this is where we see the long-term effects. It is not just the overdoses and the deaths, but the hepatitis, HIV, and the other blood-related diseases that end up destroying people, sometimes who sober up and then many years later start to die from liver ailments and other problems that have been caused because they were not dealt with properly when they were on the street.
I would like to say this for the Conservatives who live in this fairy bubble that it is the 1950s: the drugs are in their communities. It is the fentanyl patches that young people are getting caught up in. It is the OxyContin addictions that went across our communities when they were over-prescribed by the medical authorities. It is the meth. These are drugs that are cutting across all manner of society. As my hon. colleague from Winnipeg Centre said, when you see the people who ask, who try to break the cycle of addiction, try getting them a bed in rehab, try getting them the support they need. If it is not there, the cycle becomes worse, and it becomes a cycle of crime.
What we need to do here is to put this in context. The Supreme Court called on the current government and laid down very clear rules for when there would be an injection site.
I personally have many problems with anyone using heroin under any circumstance. I find it is an anathema. However, what was agreed upon was that there had to be a way of constraining this to limit the damage. Therefore it is done with the community. It is done with proper oversight. It is done with support so that somehow these people can get off the addictions.
As they say in the 12-step program, and I spent many days at Alcoholics Anonymous with the men coming out of prison, to get them sobered up, there but for the grace of God go I. People who find themselves in this situation are not born to be criminals. They have medical problems that hit them, and it takes over their lives.
I will also say, having dealt with the Toronto police 25 years ago, and in talking with my daughter, who deals with the Toronto police today, that too often the police in Toronto, and in other cities as well, are the front line social and health care workers. They are the ones dealing with people who are in this crisis. It is a waste of their resources and a waste of our resources.
Do I believe that heroin needs to be stopped on the streets? I would do anything to stop heroin on the streets. However, to simply turn it into a fundraising tactic for the Conservative base is a complete abdication of the role of Parliament, which is to find out the best ways to limit the damage and start moving toward constructive solutions so that we can bring people out of the depths of addiction.
I would like to point out that my colleagues in the Conservative Party pride themselves on their lack of mercy. It seems to be their hallmark. They have zero tolerance for anyone. They love throwing people in jail. They love standing up on the back bench on any given day railing against the little punk who took the old lady's purse. However, when it comes to defending their own, oh my God, they have arms so wide they could fit around Rob Ford. That is how much they are willing to defend their own.
Here we have one of their close friends, a man who is a thug, who has disgraced a public office in this country and around the world, who has turned our nation into a laughingstock with his egregious use of crack cocaine, of all things, who was hanging out with drug dealers and criminal elements, and who is under investigation by the Toronto police.
We do not hear a peep out of anybody on that back bench. Oh, no, he is one of theirs. He is one of their pals. When we have the mayor of Toronto, the fourth-largest city in North America, the economic engine of Ontario, a mayor who has turned city hall into something that looks like a Hells Angels hangout, we hear nothing from over there. Oh, no, he is one of their boys.
The Prime Minister said that he was slightly concerned. The Minister of Health, who is helping to rally the troops to go after the poor addicts in downtown Vancouver, has so much concern for Rob Ford. Oh, my God. Then the Minister of Finance was tearing up about this thug. Poor little Robbie; he is one of our boys.
The Conservatives have no mercy for anybody else, but when it is one of theirs, like those in their office, like their senators under investigation for breach of trust, under investigation for fraud and bribery, they say that the Prime Minister cannot be held accountable; everybody else is accountable.
When we ask the Conservatives questions, we have to ask the Rob Ford kind of question: “Are you smoking crack right now? Did you smoke crack yesterday at three o'clock”?
You see how the Conservatives cannot stand up and be accountable.
This bill being brought forward by the government is an attack on the Supreme Court. It is an attack on attempts to save lives. It is being done not because the Conservatives really care about what happens to the junkies in downtown Montreal or Vancouver. It is so they can make a few bucks from their base. That is as dismal a political standard as I have ever seen in this country.
We will continue to stand up for smart policies, not dumbed-down policies. We will continue to oppose the government. It is mired in corruption and mired in criminal activity and would prefer to hang out with its Conservative gang members while going after victims on the street.
- MPndpNov 21, 2013 9:05 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my hon. colleague what she thinks about the Conservatives, who pride themselves on showing no mercy to anybody who is not one of their own. They stand and talk about being tough on crime and how much they oppose illegal drugs, yet they tiptoe around the disgrace in Toronto of Rob Ford, a man who promotes his ties to gangs, a man who takes illegal drugs, a man who takes crack. We do not hear anyone on the Conservative side saying that the mayor of one of the largest cities in North America is an absolute disgrace and needs to resign.
Meanwhile, they want to go after something that has been examined by medical authorities across North America and that has been supported by the Supreme Court. They will do fundraising efforts on that.
I would ask my hon. colleague why she thinks they are not doing fundraising letters on Rob Ford, the crack mayor who has disgraced North America? Why are they not saying that they are going to be tough on him? He is one of their friends. He is one of their own. They will protect their own, no matter what kind of criminal activity they are involved in.
I would like to hear my hon. colleague on this.
- MPndpNov 20, 2013 11:50 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, I noticed in his little run through the calendar, he jumped over the date of February 22, when he was briefed on this.
What we also learned from the RCMP file is that Privy Council employee Chris Montgomery objected to this scheme, and he warned that the senators were actually compromising themselves. However, the scheme went on, and Mr. Montgomery was soon gone. Who moved Chris Montgomery out of the way and instructed Senator Gerstein and Senator Tkachuk to whitewash an audit into the potential misspending by Mike Duffy?
- MPndpNov 19, 2013 2:00 pm | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, this is an august chamber where we are actually supposed to discuss facts, not Liberal fiction.
Corruption brought that member's government down. Corruption and the Canadian people threw them out. That is on the record, and it needs to be kept on the record.
- MPndpNov 19, 2013 12:20 pm | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague with his understanding of the issue, particularly, coming from the Maritimes where so many people are involved in the offshore industry.
Where I live in northern Ontario, we have people who are on flying crews and in isolated communities. They are away from home for a long time. However, when we look at the offshore industry in particular, we see there have been a number of disturbing accidents and problems in the past. Certainly, the whole country still remembers what happened with the Ocean Ranger disaster and the lack of safety protocols that left so many men exposed and damaged so many families. We see the loss of the helicopter that went down recently off Newfoundland. There were the same questions and same issues of safety.
Now we see the issues across the country, with respect to various pipeline proposals, where pipelines have blown out because the proper safety systems were not in place, causing either loss of life or heavy damage to the environment.
Given the sensitivities in the maritime culture in terms of fisheries, habitat and danger to people out on the ocean, I would ask my hon. colleague this question: what does he think we need to do specifically in terms of safety issues and making sure there are clear rules in place?
- MPndpNov 19, 2013 11:40 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, in 2006, the Prime Minister promised Canadians that he would clean up the culture of corruption in Ottawa. Fast forward to today and it is clear that he has lost his ethical way.
Let us look at access to information. It is a key tool for exposing cronyism, waste, and government corruption. However, under the Conservative government, the complaints are skyrocketing, the documents are being redacted until they look like Swiss cheese, and the Prime Minister is lording over the most opaque and secretive government in memory.
Rather than slip further down the ethical scale, will the Conservatives finally agree to reform the Access to Information Act?
- MPndpNov 18, 2013 11:30 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, did I hear law and order?
Speaking of law and order over there, on November 30, 2012, the Minister of Democratic Reform told the House that the Conservative government was “proactively co-operating with Elections Canada” to find out what happened with the electoral fraud in Guelph. Now we find out that Elections Canada is being stonewalled by the Conservatives about the issues of voter fraud.
What happened to the promise that was made in the House to get to the bottom of this fraud?
- MPndpNov 18, 2013 11:25 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, the problem is that they just cannot seem to get their stories straight. The Prime Minister has given the Canadian people many versions of who knew what in the Prime Minister's Office about the cover-up cheque to Mike Duffy. First, the Prime Minister said that Nigel Wright acted alone. Then, last week, he said “Well, okay, a few knew”. Now, he is back to saying that Wright acted “by himself”.
Could anyone over there explain why the Prime Minister has such a difficult time answering such a straightforward question?
- MPndpNov 08, 2013 9:40 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, I have listened with great interest to my hon. colleague and to the debate all this morning.
Twenty-five years ago, I was working on the streets of Toronto with the homeless men coming out of prison and dealing with issues of addiction. Twenty-five years later, my daughter is now doing similar work on the streets of Toronto. When we talk about what has changed, it is really dismal to see how conditions have actually become worse for people on the streets, thanks of course to actions such as the Harris government's cutting of social housing and mental health services.
What my daughter tells me in terms of addiction is that the biggest costs they are facing right now are in the emergency wards, with people getting sick and people dying, as well as the heavy cost of police, who actually have become the front-line social workers in many situations. When we talk to the police on the ground on inner-city Toronto, they are saying that it is a complete waste of their resources.
My Conservative colleagues are always talking about being tough on crime, but the real dangers of crime that we see in the inner cities are desperate addicts. It is the same even in smaller communities, where people who are not on methadone and are not able to have safe injection become dangerous criminals. Then the police and the emergency services are the ones who have to deal with these very sad cases.
I would ask my hon. colleague this question: why would the Conservatives once again choose a dumb-down approach when very straightforward systems that work with health care and police have been proven time and again to be effective?
- MPndpNov 08, 2013 8:35 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, as one father to another, I will ask my hon. colleague not to use his children to defend corruption.
Maybe I will give him a break. Surely somebody over on that side has been paying attention to the culture of corruption that has gone in the Prime Minister's office. We know the Minister of Justice has been out in the media defending Nigel Wright. Maybe the Minister of Justice, now that he is supporting Nigel Wright, would tell us when was the last time he spoke with him.
- MPndpNov 08, 2013 8:20 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister told the House of Commons that the payment of $13,000 to Mike Duffy's lawyers was for “valid legal fees”.
Could the government explain the details of this payment so that we know how the Prime Minister is able to claim in the House that they were valid? If the Conservatives cannot, will they explain why the Prime Minister is making unsupported statements about a potential crime in the House of Commons?
- MPndpNov 07, 2013 1:10 pm | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for participating in this debate with these kinds of interventions, because this is about an economic vision. It is about an economic strategy.
As I said, I very rarely agree with Conservatives on the other side, but there have been occasions. At least they are willing to stand and say what their vision is, unlike the Liberal Party, the third party. Their leader will go to Washington. He will go glad-handing in Calgary, but when it comes to Ottawa, he unplugs himself all the time and does not seem to think that participating in debates in the House of Commons is the role of a leader.
The role of a leader is to stand in the House, show a vision, argue that vision, be challenged on that vision, and if he is right, beat us at the end of the day. However, simply offering cocktails at a ladies' night event, when he should be in the House of Commons debating, is a disgrace. That is a failure of vision, and we will take them on any day over that.
- MPndpNov 07, 2013 1:05 pm | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, I was quite amused by that. It seems that my colleagues in the Liberal Party once again cannot just stand up and say that, yes, they are going to support Keystone XL. Yes, they support the sell-off of oil sands resources to state-owned companies like China. Yes, they support the secretive China free trade deal, regardless of whether they see it. Yes, this is their position. They should just say it and not try to bend themselves into pretzels trying to use first-year philosophy logic.
We say this is a bad deal for Canada. Canadians are speaking up, and we are not afraid to stand up to do it. I would like to see the unplugged members of the Liberal Party actually plug themselves in and get a little bit of energy on this issue.
- MPndpNov 07, 2013 12:55 pm | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to rise in the House; and this debate on the Keystone XL pipeline is an example of what the House should be doing in its work and the role of parliamentarians. The issues of development of resources, sustainability and the economy are worthy of debate. I do not think it is any surprise that I do not agree very much with the Conservative side of the floor. However, they show up. We have a different vision. What we need to do in the House, which is the Westminster party system, is to show up and debate so that Canadians can makes choices, and that is what we are here to do today.
My colleagues in the Liberal Party do not bother to show up. Their leader would rather go to Washington to promote the Keystone XL pipeline. He would rather go to Calgary to glad-hand oil executives, but he does not want to bother showing up in the House of Commons to say where he stands. That is a fundamental difference.
The issue here—
- MPndpNov 07, 2013 12:50 pm | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, the member made reference to a Dutch elm disease. That is about a tree. This is about the Dutch economy.
- MPndpNov 07, 2013 12:30 pm | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, I always find it interesting to hear my colleagues in the Conservative Party talk about the free market and say there are no subsidies. The subsidy that we are dealing with is the environment.
The current government has stripped environmental regulations. It stripped the fundamental costs of running this production in a manner that makes the environment carry that cost, so it is subsidizing it to an extraordinary degree. I would refer my colleague to the November 5 report of the interim Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development that says that the government has not met the targets. It has not even come close.
I would also refer the member to what we are seeing in Reuters, that we have just reached a historic and very dismal mark in terms of greenhouse gas production around the world, and we are set to reach the two-degree world increase very soon.
I know a number of my colleagues on the other side do not believe the science of climate change. They think it is irrelevant. They just want to grab and ship and rip as fast as they can.
Does my hon. colleague believe the science of climate change?
- MPndpNov 07, 2013 12:15 pm | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, I listened with a bit of dubious interest to my hon. colleague. The problem the Conservatives have is they have consistently stripped environmental protection and ridiculed issues of climate science, leaving themselves seen in the world as outliers. I refer to their Minister of Natural Resources, who attacked respected NASA scientist James Hansen while the minister was on a supposed diplomatic mission to Washington. He said that Dr. Hansen should be ashamed because of his work on climate science.
These comments might have played well with the Conservative back base, but they certainly did not play well in The Guardian and The New York Times, although I see my colleagues on the backbench and the Conservatives nodding in support of the Minister of Natural Resources's comments.
I ask my hon. colleague this: does he support such attacks on credible climate scientists? Does he think that is a good way to promote trade with the United States?
- MPndpNov 06, 2013 1:10 pm | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, the issue before us today is the fact that we have a government that shows absolute contempt for the role of the Westminster tradition. We heard it from the minister herself, because she was not going to allow what she called debate for debate's sake.
I know that my Conservative colleagues do not understand or perhaps are not interested in the Westminster tradition, but we are called here to debate. We have a mandate from people who vote for us.
The Conservatives have contempt for the people who vote for us, because they say that they know what is good for Canadians, and so they do not waste time debating. If they do not want to waste time debating, they should leave the Westminster tradition.
- MPndpNov 06, 2013 12:55 pm | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.
Since this is about shutting down debate on a motion, I do not think it is right that we have people filling up time with all other manner of things, avoiding the fundamental debate at hand, which is the shutdown of our ability to speak in the House. This is what we need to be speaking about. I ask you to keep that in mind, because this is about our democratic rights as members.
- MPndpNov 05, 2013 8:35 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, the Liberals built the corrupt system that is the Senate. It is their machine. It is where they put their party men and their bagmen for years. They are not even asking right now to go after the Senate and clean it up. They are only asking to protect perks. That is the fundamental problem. If we do not abolish the Senate, if we stripped it of its partisan rule, then Canadians might have some faith in it. However, when they see people who flip pancakes and do fundraisers for the party getting appointed as made men and women for life, no wonder Canadians are cynical and fed up. They look to them to show some leadership and they just see people looking after their own and protecting their time at the trough.
- MPndpNov 05, 2013 8:30 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, I want my hon. colleague to understand that we are certainly interested in getting to the bottom of what has happened and we will support efforts. However, the problem I guess is a question of perception.
When one calls out a prime minister, the person who calls out the prime minister is the leader of a party. It is not my position as the critic to call out the prime minister. I will call out my colleague who is the parliamentary secretary.
The leader of the Liberal Party has the opportunity to show leadership at this moment. He has not been here. He has not been asking the questions. We have been in the House for the last number of weeks and he simply has not shown up. If one is only going to ask three questions out of a possible 45 on this, it is hard to convince Canadians that one takes it all that seriously.
Yes, we are more than willing to study this at the ethics committee, but we think that the main issue is for the Prime Minister to answer the questions from the two leaders in the House. Our work in committee I think is with all the other players. That is who we should be bringing to committee, but we are certainly more than willing to work with our colleagues on trying to find an appropriate solution.
- MPndpNov 05, 2013 8:05 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, as always it is an incredible honour to rise in the House as the elected member for the great region of Timmins—James Bay.
It is November 5 and I was thinking of the children's poem that is said all over England today, “Remember, remember, the fifth of November”. That is the Guy Fawkes plot where a group of rebels attempted to blow up the House of Commons. Coming from a Scottish Catholic background, our family never had much reason to celebrate the Guy Fawkes plot with all of the burnings. However, I thought of it because people will look back at this period as a time when the so-called august chamber of sober second thought was blown up under its own hubris and corruption. What poems will the children speak in future? Will they remember Guy Fawkes or will they remember Nigel Wright, Pamela Wallin, Patrick Brazeau, Mac Harb or the current Prime Minister?
I want to speak to the motion and the issues we see. Right now there is a legitimization crisis in the country toward Parliament and the Senate because of this corruption scandal. Canadians need answers. At the outset, the New Democrats would support any effort to get answers regarding this scandal. However, I have a number of questions about the Liberal motion to bring the Prime Minister to committee for a three hour period to speak. I do not think that is very well thought out because there are many people we need to hear from. If we were to set up a proper inquiry, there are a number of people we would bring to committee, such as Chris Woodcock, Benjamin Perrin, Mr. van Hemmen, Irving Gerstein and Nigel Wright.
I do not agree with the idea of the Prime Minister coming to committee for three hours. Last week he was in the House for at least three hours during question period. That is the moment when we are to confront the Prime Minister. This is the tradition of the Westminster system. There is an honour system. Much of our tradition has been undermined by the present Prime Minister. However, when the leader of a party stands up to speak, it is the honour and tradition that the Prime Minister responds to the leader of that party. Therefore, the leaders of the parties have enormous opportunities in the House.
Last week, the Liberal leader fronted the idea of the Prime Minister speaking under oath somewhere. It seemed to take the Liberals a few days to figure out where this oath-taking would take place. However, I would remind the people back home that when ministers speak in the House, it is expected that they tell the truth. They may prevaricate, deny or skirt around the issue but there is a legal obligation. If someone knowingly misrepresents the facts, that is a breach of privilege for the members of the House. The Prime Minister has been walking a tightrope because he and his staff are facing many serious allegations. Therefore, this is the forum in which it should be done.
It is the leader of the Liberal Party who should be calling out the Prime Minister if he is being called out individually and not with all of his support staff or anyone else. It is the leader of a party who should be doing that. However, I have not seen the involvement of the Liberal leader anywhere with respect to this issue.
Last week the Liberal leader had 45 opportunities to ask questions on this issue. That is the power of the leader of the third party. He asked three questions. Therefore, it is surprising that it has suddenly become a serious issue for him. He skipped town. He was in Calgary glad-handing with the oil executives, while the nation was facing one of the biggest political scandals. The week before that he skipped town to go to Washington to promote Keystone XL. These were his choices and it is his choice to make. However, he then cannot turn around and say that the Prime Minister is not willing to answer questions when the Prime Minister does stand up. We will continue to take that stand.
My hon. Liberal members might say that the NDP had more opportunity to ask questions. However, our leader has made it a policy that the House of Commons is where leaders challenge each other to find out where the breakdowns are in the story.
There are two fundamental crises happening. One is in the Senate, and one is in the House of Commons.
There probably is a reason senators have not allowed cameras in the Senate. I say to the folks back home that I have been in the Senate watching. It is a dismal exercise. It is like watching the made men and women of the Liberal and Conservative parties hitting each other with feather dusters and then going off for drinks afterwards.
We are told by my colleagues in the Liberal Party that it is the Liberal senators who are standing up for fairness.
The key senators who should be questioned are not being questioned in the Senate, because senators protect their own. The Liberal senators have been standing up day after day saying how unfair it is that people who are facing issues of breech of trust and fraud are actually getting the boot.
I do not know what universe the Liberals live in, but if the people in my riding get an overpayment on their pension or disability cheques, the government comes back at them. There is no due process or anything else. The government comes down on them. I am dealing with a man with a disabled son who almost lost his house because of an overpayment. He was not doing anything wrong. Yet day after day, the Liberal senators have been stalling in the House, in the Senate, not on the issue of getting to the bottom of the scandal but on the fundamental issue that it is simply not fair that one of their made men or women are being booted out the door. That is what the debate has been about.
If the Liberal senators were serious about dealing with this, they could use their role in the Senate for a whole manner of things, because we are not, in our lower chamber, supposed to even be able to question these august senators. As Liberal Senator Baker said, they are “above all rules”. They make their own rules. In their world, if they ask for money, ask and it shall be given. Knock and the door shall be opened. They seem to live in some kind of biblical antechamber. They believe that if they ask for the money, they should receive it and that what is unfair is that senators are being booted out for having done that.
Let us talk about who should be brought forward if we were to ask questions. Let us talk about the fraud charges against Raymond Lavigne. This is not bringing up the deep, dark past. This is recent history. The RCMP raised the issues about fraud and the fact that there were no checks and balances in the Senate. They were raised then, in the trial, when he went to jail, and nothing was done in the Senate. The senators just went on with business as usual.
Let us talk about Senator Tkachuk. There is an allegation that Senator Tkachuk gave Mike Duffy the heads-up about him ordering all the chicken wings and beer when he was two weeks in Florida, in the middle of an audit. He was on the committee, and he gave Mike Duffy the heads-up.
There is nobody on the Liberal side of the Senate asking what was going on that undermined an audit. Now they are saying that it is gross negligence. If we have allegations that senators were giving other senators a tipoff, that undermines the public trust.
One would think the senators would be asking questions of Carolyn Stewart Olsen, who is having her own problems now with the mispaying of money. She sat on that committee.
We are told that under the Nigel Wright deal, Nigel Wright would arrange the money and the senators would whitewash the audit. I would like to hear them asking in the Senate right now what senators were involved in the whitewashing of that audit, but we are not hearing anything.
The Liberal senators are standing on the principle that one of their own, a senator, even if from the other party, should never be kicked out. Senators should keep their benefits no matter what has happened.
It is a disgraced institution, and Canadians are rightly fed up with these shenanigans. They would expect someone over in that so-called upper chamber to act decently and recognize that they are living off the largesse of the Canadian people. However, we are not hearing a word of that from any of the Liberal senators at this point. They are stalling for time. They are saying that it is unfair what is happening to Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, and Patrick Brazeau. They are talking about their right to due process, which no other Canadian would get, because these are the people who make the rules.
This scandal is a very serious issue for Canadians, because what starts with Mike Duffy and his ineligible expenses goes into the Prime Minister's Office, where Nigel Wright apparently, according to Mike Duffy, who has the paper trail, told him that his expenses were okay, because if they went after him, there were at least four other senators in that spot. Who are those other senators? I think Canadians need to know.
What has come forward from the evidence that came out at the beginning of February, and that nobody has contradicted, is that they would write a $90,000 cheque. Initially, according to the RCMP affidavits, which the Conservatives are always telling us to study, Senator Irving Gerstein was involved in the discussions. He was willing to use $30,000 from the donor base of the Conservative Party to pay, but when he found out that it was $90,000, he refused.
What was the role of Senator Irving Gerstein, or what knowledge did he have of a deal that was potentially illegal? I am not a lawyer, but to make a secret payment to a sitting politician in a matter before the Senate is certainly something that breaches the Criminal Code. Irving Gerstein would have been aware of that.
The deal was what Nigel Wright referred to as a cash repayment scheme.They would pay for Mike Duffy's audit problems, the $90,000, and then the Senate would agree to go easy on Duffy. That is what happened. We saw an initial whitewashed audit. We saw the Prime Minister thanking Mike Duffy for showing leadership. All the things were in place until the paper trail began to come out.
On March 25, Nigel Wright transferred $90,172.24 to Mike Duffy's lawyer. We are not sure exactly how the transfer occurred and whether it went through Conservative Party lawyers, but it was transferred. Mike Duffy said that Nigel Wright said do not worry. He would write the cheque and would let lawyers handle the details. Duffy should just follow the plan, and they would keep Carolyn Stewart Olsen and David Tkachuk at bay.
Who were those lawyers? There has to be a paper trail.
Less than two weeks after this transfer of money, which may have been highly illegal, Arthur Hamilton, the senior lawyer for the Conservative Party, sent a cheque for $13,560 to Mike Duffy's lawyer, Elizabeth Payne. The House of Commons, through all the questions, was not told about this by the Prime Minister. Who authorized the senior Conservative Party lawyer to write this cheque if it was not Senator Irving Gerstein or someone up higher?
On May 15, this potentially illegal hush-money payoff became public. On May 16, the Prime Minister said that Nigel Wright had his full confidence. The Prime Minister knew on May 16. If the Prime Minister had no idea before, it seems rather bizarre that everyone around the Prime Minister knew.
If, on May 16, the Prime Minister knew that a potentially illegal cheque had been written by his staff in a cover-up to whitewash an audit that may have been looking at issues of breach of trust or fraud, the Prime Minister's response was certainly odd when he said that he had full confidence.
On May 17, the Prime Minister's Office said that Wright was staying on.
On May 19, the extent of the political damage was becoming very clear, and the Prime Minister said, “It is with great regret that I have accepted the resignation of Nigel Wright as my Chief of Staff”.
Up to that point, we remember the questions in the House of Commons about whether the RCMP investigators were to be involved. They were saying to leave it to the ethics officer. It was actually the New Democrats that wrote a letter asking the RCMP to investigate, because we were looking at a potential crime.
The Prime Minister said in May and June that if there were any documents relating to this issue, they would be more than willing to co-operate, but he did not say that he would release any. In fact, we were told by the present Minister of Foreign Affairs that no documents existed. We know that this is simply not true.
What is surprising from the evidence that has been brought forward by Nigel Wright is that he has in his possession a very large binder of evidence regarding Mike Duffy's claims: his calendar, his travel, and all manner of issues. This was not given over to the audit, and it was not given over to the RCMP until months after the RCMP investigation began.
I mention this because if, on May 19, Nigel Wright walked out of his office, why would the Prime Minister's staff allow him to walk out with such a trove of evidence about a potential crime? It just beggars belief that Nigel Wright was allowed to walk with all this evidence. Yet he was.
When we asked the Prime Minister a really simple and straightforward question—who knew in the Prime Minister's Office?—he said again and again that Nigel Wright was the sole actor. We asked about Benjamin Perrin's role. We were not given straightforward answers. We now know that Chris Woodcock, in the Prime Minister's Office, Benjamin Perrin, and David van Hemmen were involved. We need to know to what degree.
I refer the House to the latest article on the RCMP statements. They are now looking for the paper trail regarding new allegations that have emerged that this RBC mortgage loan was a front set up by the Prime Minister's Office and that they told Mike Duffy to go along.
The allegation Mike Duffy made, and we have not seen the Prime Minister stand up in the House and say that Mike Duffy is a liar, is that the Prime Minister's staff coached him to lie to the Canadian people about this deal and the fake RBC loan. The Prime Minister continues to repeat that line in the House. His Parliamentary Secretary continues to repeat that line.
At no point have we heard the Prime Minister say that he was told by his staff that Mike Duffy had an RBC loan. What the heck was going on? The Prime Minister seems to have real disinterest in finding out within his office if people were playing a game.
In fact, we now know that there was a senator who phoned Mike Duffy and threatened him, saying that he had better go along and do what the Prime Minister said. Who was that person? We have not heard the Prime Minister answer that.
I would like to focus on the RBC loan, because it is a very important issue. What we are seeing now from Sergeant Biage Carrese of the RCMP National Division, in a November 1 letter, is that:
Emails from the PMO specifically relating to a script for Senator Duffy to follow in advance of obtaining funds from a RBC loan to repay the Receiver General
may be material to the RCMP's investigation.
Duffy has said:
On Feb. 21, after all of the threats and intimidation, I reluctantly agreed to go along with this dirty scheme.
I certainly do not think that too many Canadians believe that Mike Duffy is the most trustworthy person. However, the difference between Mike Duffy and the Prime Minister at this point is that Mike Duffy is providing us with a paper trail. We are getting nothing from the Prime Minister. It is quite a shocking set of circumstances when someone who has abused the public trust as much as Mike Duffy is being given more credit than the Prime Minister.
We are talking about the RCMP actually investigating not just the issue of whether a potentially illegal payout was made, which was meant to cover up the breach of trust and potential fraud against the taxpayers, but that it was the Prime Minister's Office that set up the fake story about the RBC and coached Mike Duffy. If he did not go along, they would go public with the fact that he was not even legitimately allowed to sit in the Senate.
What kind of contempt for the Canadian people is that? Even in a system as dodgy as the Senate, they were all willing to cover up the fact that Mike Duffy was not even eligible to sit in the Senate. He had to go along. It was being orchestrated. Who was it? Was it Ray Novak? Was it Chris Woodcock? Was it Benjamin Perrin? Who was the one in the Prime Minister's Office coaching Mike Duffy through this scheme?
- MPndpNov 04, 2013 11:25 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, last week, the Prime Minister tried to avoid answering straightforward questions—
- MPndpOct 31, 2013 8:35 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, it has been five months since Canadians learned about the secret deal between Mike Duffy and Nigel Wright. We learned in May that there was one cheque. Then in the past week, we learned that there was a second cheque, from Conservative Party donors, to cover off Mike Duffy's legal fees.
Does the government know how many cheques Mike Duffy received and how many cheques were handled by the Prime Minister's Office? It should be a simple question to answer.
- MPndpOct 28, 2013 11:25 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, we know that the RCMP affidavits have certainly painted a picture that the Prime Minister is not telling Canadians the truth on this issue, and we cannot get a straight answer; so let us try another one.
Last May, the Prime Minister said that Nigel Wright resigned and that he was sorry he was resigning and he was going to receive full severance. Now he is claiming that he fired Nigel Wright.
Well, when average Canadians get fired, they are not entitled to EI; so why are the taxpayers being stuck with the bill to pay off the severance for Nigel Wright?
- MPndpOct 28, 2013 11:20 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, on Friday the government leader in the Senate, Mr. Claude Carignan, admitted that he had approached Patrick Brazeau about a secret plea deal. Do the Conservatives not get it? It was a secret deal with a senator that got them into this mess.
My simple question is: Was the Prime Minister's office aware that Senator Carignan was offering this side deal with Senator Brazeau on behalf of the Conservatives, and were Senators Wallin and Duffy offered the same deal?
- MPndpOct 28, 2013 10:45 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, I have such great respect for my hon. colleague's work.
We have a prime minister who is an economist. My father was an economist. He went back to school in his forties, because he had never finished high school and then he became an economist. My father thought numbers mattered.
However, he also told me “Son, they can say anything they want with numbers. Don't ever believe them”.
What we see with the government is it just makes up numbers. What it is saying is that permanent jobs are part time and what we are seeing are thousands of temporary foreign workers coming in, being given the jobs and then being deported.
- MPndpOct 28, 2013 10:40 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, we are seeing from the government an act of contempt for the basic workings of democracy. Democracy is not about the Conservatives' partisan spin versus ours; it is about accountability. What more important place to talk about the issue of accountability than in the spending of taxpayers' dollars?
What the government has done with the budget implementation bill and the estimates is stuff all manner of ideological issues into the footnotes of a massive bill. They demand that Parliament pass it, refuse to allow proper debate, and refuse to allow the committees the proper time to study it. This is an incredibly large and complex issue, but we are seeing all the little poison pills that favour the Conservatives' ideological, strange people in their ranks. They are using a budget implementation bill to do this.
I was talking the other day with my colleagues at the provincial level. For the estimates for, say, agriculture, the MPPs might have the deputy minister before them for 13 hours to discuss the implementation of the estimates. This is what happens at the provincial level. Yet at the federal level, we see debate shut off. We see the Conservatives using budgets to force ideological agendas to attack people's rights and to attack all manner of things. Then when they cannot find--
- MPndpOct 28, 2013 10:30 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
What we saw in the case of Abitibi was that a company saw an opportunity, but what really drove the agenda was that a province understood that a plan was needed for development to create a region and to build what was building in northern Ontario at that time.
At that time, there was an agreement with Abitibi, a young company. It would have access to the forest and the province would give it access to the power of the dams. That is what made Abitibi the economic powerhouse known around the world. It was the agreement with the province. The same deals were struck then in Quebec and in the Maritimes that these were the resources of the people of the province, but they would work with the company to share the resources to build a base.
In the case of Abitibi, the communities of Ansonville and Iroquois Falls built up around it. Generations and generations of people worked in that mill. There were times when over 1,000 people were working in the mill. Thousands of people were working out in the bush, cutting the wood and bringing it in.
The sense of spirit and community in Iroquois Falls has always been very strong. There was the building of the arena, the most beautiful arena of its kind in the north. The Abitibi Eskimos, the junior hockey team, has been able to sustain itself in a community like Iroquois Falls.
However, over the years, we have seen continuing pressure on the paper industry. We have seen the decline of the forest industry across northern Canada. We are hoping that the markets are beginning to rebound and that we might begin to see the return of some of these once-mighty forestry communities. However, in the case of the No.1 paper machine, which is 100 years old, the market has changed. This is a recognition that we are in a new economy. What was once the big papermaking money machine operation at Iroquois Falls is no more.
We have to take that into account, and nobody understands that better than people who live in a resource economy. When we look at these issues, we need to have a long-term plan. Unfortunately, we have seen the absolute failure, at the provincial level, of the Liberal government, and at the federal level, of the Conservative government. The Liberals provincially had such a short-term vision of the north that they thought they would just sell off the dams to private interests, make some quick bucks, and pay off their badly managed debts. Here were people who were ringing up $1 billion on gas plants through a dodgy deal to save a few Liberal MPPs while at the same time they were trying to have a fire sale of some of the provinces best resources, which were the mills on the Abitibi River. That certainly affected the bottom line of the Abitibi company.
Again, it was the lack of understanding of how to build a region. We saw the provincial Liberals cut train services to northern Ontario. “We'll save a few more bucks. We'll just keep writing off anybody who lives north of Highway 17. They don't really belong in Ontario anyway”. It was a lack of understanding that to build an economy, there has to be investment. There has to be the infrastructure.
At the federal level, we see the problem, particularly in this bill, of no vision for the pension crisis in this country. There is no response to the fact that more and more people are falling through the cracks when it comes to EI.
There is a failure of the government to work on adequate infrastructure investments in communities. As the population ages in northern communities that were once able to count on the tax dollars from single employers, like a paper mill or a mine, more and more of that cost is being downloaded onto the backs of ordinary Canadian citizens.
My colleagues in the House always talk about this fiction that the average taxpayer pays so much less in taxes. Time and again, whatever they have lost at the federal level they have gained in costs at the municipal level. That is the reality. If we ask citizens about their municipal taxes, they ask why it is that they are paying such enormous taxes. Unfortunately, more and more of the costs have been downloaded to the provinces and the municipalities without their partnership. We certainly see that in Iroquois Falls where there are roads and bridges that are going out, and there is no money to replace them. We see that in decaying infrastructure and a lack of investment.
Iroquois Falls was also ground zero for the pension crisis in this country, because when the company was facing bankruptcy, it was the Abitibi workers who were facing the insolvency of their pension plan, just as the Nortel workers did.
If we ask Canadians, the issue of the need for an overhaul of Canada's pension plan is paramount. My father-in-law, who worked in the oil patch, paid into a pension for life and retired with a pension he was able to live on, but that is less and less available now.
I regularly meet people in their late-60s who come up to me at Tim Hortons and tell me that they have paid into the Canada Pension Plan their whole lives and cannot afford to live in their homes anymore. Men who are 68 and 70 tell me that they are going back to work underground in the gold mines, because they cannot pay the cost of living. When the municipal tax rates were reassessed in Timmins, again the costs were downloaded onto senior citizens. I see people in their late-60s going to work at Walmart and in the mines. They are trying to find work, because the pension system has failed them.
The New Democrats have tried to work with the government on a coherent pension plan. The CPP at one time was the best pension plan in the world. It is a system that works. However, the government attacked senior citizens and said that they had to work an extra two years.
Right now, the Conservatives are over in the Senate with their buddies saying that Pamela Wallin is being hard done by and they have to work out a deal for her. They have to get a deal for Patrick Brazeau. They had to get the Prime Minister's chief of staff to cut Mike Duffy a secret cheque, because he is one of them.
What about all the senior citizens who are being told, “Too bad, so sad, the cupboard is bare. Work an extra two years. It won't kill you. Just get back to work and stop complaining”? It shows complete disrespect for the people who built this country.
We know that at least 5.8 million Canadians do not have the ability to retire on their pensions. That is a serious issue. It is standing before us. We have debated this time and again. The government has said not to worry about that and to tell them that there are pooled savings, as though if RRSPs worked, they would not need them. They would prefer to tell the senior citizens of this country to work an few extra years. To add to the gall, the Conservatives did not have the guts to tell senior citizens to their faces. The Prime Minister had to go off to Davos to tell the world's millionaires that he was putting the screws to Canadian senior citizens.
In Iroquois Falls, where we are seeing the shutdown of the No.1 paper machine, we are seeing the loss of at least 70 jobs. We are seeing people who are in transition, who paid into EI, who do not have enough to retire on. They will be in for a shock when they call Service Canada, the operation in the community that is supposed to help them. They are being told that they are not allowed to talk to a real person anymore. They have to go online.
The government also got rid of the EI appeals board. Now there are a couple of Conservative hacks running that. What we have now is more and more denials for people with legitimate claims.
The Conservatives on the back bench always say that there are lots of jobs in Alberta, so what is the problem? The problem is that they are not looking at a national economy.
When we have a community like Iroquois Falls that is in transition, we need to ensure that the people who work there are able to receive EI and are able to receive retraining, and fundamentally, that everyone who pays into the system is able to retire with dignity. Once again, the government has ignored that.
- MPndpOct 23, 2013 12:35 pm | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, it is always a great honour to stand in the House.
I would like to offer some additional comments on the question of privilege that I raised on October 17 regarding misleading statements made by the Prime Minister in the House in relation to the secret and potentially criminal payout to Mike Duffy. More specifically, I feel I need to add to this issue in order to answer the intervention yesterday by the government House leader.
First, let me say I was very disappointed that the government House leader would say that this issue was “absurd” or a “political stunt”. I hope that, given the seriousness of the matter before Parliament, the House leader would not have taken it so lightly and would not have tried to shove it aside. This is not an issue that can be brushed aside, because Parliament is where the laws of this land are made and there is an obligation for all of us to meet certain standards. Canadians want answers in this very disturbing and squalid scandal, and they want to know what happened. Therefore, when the Prime Minister was asked questions and provided false information, he interfered with the rights of the members of the House.
One of the arguments of the government House leader yesterday was that it is a long-established practice in the House that parliamentarians are to be taken at their word. Indeed, that is a practice that is essential for the workings of a democratic institution, and we agree with him, which is why the issue of a minister knowingly misrepresenting facts to his colleagues in the House or misrepresenting facts because his staff misled him is a breach of the privileges of the members of the House and can be found to be a contempt on the workings of Parliament.
What we are talking about right now is not he-said-she-said, as is being inferred by the government House leader, but facts that have been shown to be false through the affidavits of the RCMP and now through other statements that have come forward. The government House leader says that we must take parliamentarians at their word, and yet we have a situation where we now have two parliamentarians who have made completely contradictory declarations about the role they played in an issue that is under investigation by the RCMP. Therefore, it is essential that we find out the true answers.
Yesterday in his speech to the Senate, Mike Duffy was categorical in stating that the Prime Minister's office was involved in the secret negotiations for the $90,000 cheque and that the Prime Minister himself was directly involved in negotiations with Mike Duffy. Senator Duffy said the Prime Minister himself had ordered him to repay his living expenses because they had become a political problem for the Conservatives. He said that at a meeting on February 13, 2013, between him, the Prime Minister and Nigel Wright, “just the three of us”, the Prime Minister told him, “'It's not about what you did. It’s about the perception of what you did that’s been created in the media. The rules are inexplicable to our base'”. Duffy said, “I was ordered by the prime minister to pay the money back, end of discussion”.
These comments are very troubling because they contradict the statements that were made by the Prime Minister in the House, which he reiterated again today when he said that he spoke to Mike Duffy at a caucus meeting. The appearance given to the House of Commons was that this was in passing. At the time the Prime Minister made those comments, he said he told Mr. Duffy that if the expenses were inappropriate, he should pay them back. The Prime Minister today gives us, number one, the statement that he was categorical and emphatic that Mike Duffy had misrepresented his claims and was ordered to pay them back. That is different from what the Prime Minister said earlier.
The Prime Minister was asked today whether there was, as Mike Duffy said, “just the three of us”, Nigel Wright, Mike Duffy and the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister went back to saying that this meeting happened at a caucus meeting. Both men are giving completely contradictory information, and in order to do our jobs as parliamentarians, we need to know. We cannot believe both of them, so what is it that we should do? Certainly, if we were dealing with he-said-she-said on some minor matter, this would not be a matter of privilege.
However, the issue before us is that there is evidence prepared by Corporal Greg Horton, peace officer of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, delivered in court, and an application for a production order that presents evidence that is in clear contradiction to the Prime Minister's position.
The Prime Minister had said in this House, and it was reiterated by his parliamentary secretary on Monday, that Nigel Wright had acted alone. Now, according to the police evidence, we begin to see more names appear of who in the Prime Minister's office was involved. That brought us at least Chris Woodcock, David van Hemmen and Benjamin Perrin who knew, and this is from the RCMP.
Now, however, after the revelations of the last two days, we see that there are at least 13 key Conservatives who were involved in this deal that may be found to be an illegal payout. Nigel Wright, Benjamin Perrin, Chris Woodcock, Mr. van Hemmen and Patrick Rogers were all directly within the Prime Minister's office, and the claim is that Mr. Wright acted without anyone else. The Prime Minister has started to slowly change his position, but he was emphatic in June, and we were led to believe him.
We now know that Senators LeBreton, Tkachuk, Stewart Olsen, Finley and Gerstein were involved in this negotiation. Jenni Byrne was involved. Mike Duffy now tells us that Ray Novak and Senator LeBreton said they were speaking on behalf of the Prime Minister, and what is very troubling is that Mr. Duffy says he was told by them that there would be a deal. If he did not go along quietly, they would have him expelled from the Senate for not meeting the housing requirement; so either Mr. Duffy met the housing requirement or he did not, which again contradicts what the Prime Minister has said previously.
The government House leader yesterday suggested in his answer to the question that one of the precedents I mentioned for 1978 of a similar case cannot be used, because contrary to that case, we do not have an admission of wrongdoing from the Prime Minister of his staff.
That argument simply does not hold up, because it is based on the equivalency of saying that anyone can provide false statements to the House as long as they do not admit it. What kind of Parliament would we have if that were the case?
For my colleagues' benefit, let me again mention another precedent, from 2002, when the member for Portage--Lisgar said that the Minister of Defence had misled the House regarding the detention of Afghan prisoners. This case was found by Speaker Milliken to be prima facie case of privilege. Let me quote Speaker Milliken on this:
The authorities are consistent about the need for clarity in our proceedings and about the need to ensure the integrity of the information provided by the government to the House.
As the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst has pointed out, in deciding on alleged questions of privilege, it is relatively infrequent for the Chair to find prima facie privilege. It is more likely that the Speaker will characterize the situation as a dispute of facts.
However, in the case before us, there appears to be, in my opinion, no dispute as to the facts. I believe that both the minister and other hon. members recognize that two versions of the events have been presented to the House. Continuing on, he said:
On the basis of the arguments presented by hon. members and in view of the gravity of the matter, I have concluded that the situation before us where the House is left with two versions of events is one that merits further consideration by an appropriate committee, if only to clear the air.
Mr. Speaker, we have had such good, judicious rulings through the years. I think this is certainly a very appropriate one to be looking at.
In presenting his arguments, the government House leader also mentioned a ruling in 1987 by Speaker Fraser. Let me quote again from this judgment, because it offers very clear advice on what we should do in the present case:
These institutions [Parliament and the courts] enjoy the protection of absolute privilege because of the overriding need to ensure that the truth can be told.... Such a privilege confers grave responsibility on those who are protected by it. By that I mean specifically the Hon. Members of this place. The consequences of this abuse can be terrible.... All Hon. Members are conscious of the care they must exercise in availing themselves of their absolute privilege of freedom of speech. That is why there are long-standing practices and traditions observed in this House to counter the potential for abuse.
The freedom of speech that we protect for the members in the House means that neither I nor any citizen of Canada can go to the courts on a case based on something that the Prime Minister said in this chamber. However, as Speaker Fraser said, we do have practices and traditions in this institution that allow us to deal with cases of abuse of freedom of speech, because such abuses can be detrimental to Parliament and to the democratic life of Canadians.
This is exactly the situation we are faced with today. It is certainly an unprecedented situation, which is very grave and serious. That is why I felt the need to rise again. We have to get to the bottom of this disturbing story, and the way to do that is to refer it for an indepth study at the committee on procedure and House affairs.
Let me repeat that we are not in the domain of simple assertions here, we are talking about facts that have been brought forward through RCMP investigation, which is that the Prime Minister repeatedly said in the House that no one in his office knew of the Wright-Duffy deal. We now know that it is anywhere from three in his office to 13 key people around the Prime Minister.
In my previous intervention I put forward two possibilities: either the Prime Minister misled the House himself, or his own staff in the Prime Minister's Office had gone rogue behind his back and misled him. Either of these cases is a contempt of Parliament and a breach of the privileges of the members of the House.
We cannot, as the government House leader would have it, shove this matter aside and hope it will disappear on its own. We need to shed light on this matter, and the only way to do this is by finding that this is a prima facie case of the abuse of our privilege.
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