Mr. Speaker, the RCMP did identify, on page 21 of the report, the fact that the Prime Minister actually ordered his office to assist in every way possible.
Hundreds of emails—thousands, in fact—were turned over. Of course, the Privy Council Office, in a letter released to the RCMP, outlined the reasons these emails were not found initially and did take full responsibility.
I will use the words of the member for Wascana himself, who said that beyond apologies to the PMO and the RCMP, the Privy Council Office owes its biggest apology to all Canadians.
I will accept what the member for Wascana said on that.
Mr. Speaker, again, the subjects of this investigation are Senator Duffy and Nigel Wright.
However, when we are talking about RCMP investigations, I want to read a quote: “Under RCMP questioning”, the member for Wascana “seemed uneasy about discussing his one-time cabinet colleague. 'I guess others will have to make the judgment call about how to characterize...'” the activities of the member for King—Hants with respect to the income trust. It went on further to say that the member for Wascana:
...has no e-mail service, either on a handheld device or even on his desktop computer, saying “it just ticks me off”—especially when colleagues thumb their BlackBerries[sic] at meetings.
Let me get this: no BlackBerrys, no emails, no records. That is the Liberal accountability.
Mr. Speaker, I would ask the member the same question: Why is it that he sits in a caucus with the members for Kings—Hants, Wascana, York West, Guelph, Westmount—Ville-Marie, Malpeque and Vancouver Centre? I could go on and on.
These are all people who, one way or another, have either been accused of wrongdoing or have been found guilty of wrongdoing, either with their expense accounts or with respect to Elections Canada rules. If the hon. member has such high standards, I wonder why he sits in a caucus with so many people who have broken so many rules. I wonder if he is going to call and ask them to resign their seats in the House of Commons.
The Leader of the Opposition should know that we do not use a word like that in parliamentary language in the chamber.
The hon. member for Wascana.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to get up and speak to this particular bill on behalf of the party. I want to commend the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue for bringing this forward for debate. She has brought it forward as a well-intentioned bill; but certainly, as my colleague from Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo has indicated, there are aspects of this bill that remain unaddressed or vague or somewhat strange in the number of ways it could be applied. I am just not certain as to where the problem was that precipitated the bill's coming forward, so I was surprised to see it coming from a member who represents a rural constituency.
I have 50 volunteer fire departments in my riding. They go from Dominion to Donkin to Guysborough, Cheticamp and Port Hawkesbury. Every community has a volunteer fire department. We all stand and offer respect and gratitude to those who offer themselves up to help look over their family and friends in those rural communities. I have done a fair amount of work with the volunteer firefighters, not just in my riding, but nationally I was able to bring a private member's bill forward in the 37th Parliament. The essence of it was a tax deduction for those who put in 200 hours. The Conservatives took that and put it in a bigger omnibus bill. It was probably a rose among many thorns, so we were not able to support it at that time, but had it been broken free I know that my colleagues in my party would have supported it.
At that time, I was able to speak with a great number of volunteer fire department chiefs from across the country and a great number of volunteer firefighters. Never over the course of those discussions did this ever come out as an issue. Certainly in my consultations with the fire chiefs, they have been consistent year after year. Brent Denny from Cape Breton regional fire services has been a strong advocate for the fire chiefs. He is on the national executive and continues to do great work for that organization and for firefighters. They have been consistent year after year in identifying their key concerns, asking for government to designate 10 MHz of spectrum on the public safety broadband, which would provide volunteer fire services and first responders with state-of-the-art communications. This is something they have been advocating for over the last number of years. Improvement to fire services on first nations communities is another issue. They have banded together and are trying to rally for the creation of an independent national fire marshal for first nations communities.
We are very much aware of those initiatives, but this particular one was never heard coming from those whom it would most impact. Since receiving the private member's bill, I have communicated with those people and they still do not see it as being something that is, pardon the pun, a burning issue.
With regard to my party, I want to recognize the work by the member for Wascana who succeeded in passing Motion No. 388. This motion introduces a one-time $300,000 benefit for firefighters who were killed or disabled in the line of duty. It also provides firefighters with priority access to vaccines and medications, very similar to what front-line health care workers have to their avail now.
It calls for the inclusion of firefighter safety in the National Building Code. Again, that motion that was presented by the member for Wascana reflected issues and concerns that have been brought forward by firefighters and representatives over the years.
The other thing that concerns me, and I would think it should concern the members of the NDP as well, is that what we are doing is we are asking the government to change the Canada Labour Code. We know the Canada Labour Code is the bedrock, the foundation, for the relationship between employers and employees. We know it is fundamental.
We have seen the government put forward legislation in this chamber that has been an outright offence to that relationship. We saw the changes that it wanted to undertake in moving from a card check system to a system with a secret preferred ballot. That is a complete change to the relationship between employer and employee.
We have heard from unions that said if the government were to change the Canada Labour Code, it should be done through consultation and consensus. It should not be one-offing. The Sims report that was tabled in the late 1990s said we should not be political with this. The government of the day should not be involved in this. The relationship between employer and employee should be one that is built through consultation and consensus.
If we are going to attack the government for their wrong-minded approach on those changes to the labour code, then I think there has been a certain degree of consistency on the part of the opposition.
I do not know enough about the bill, and I was hoping to learn more through this debate this evening. I have not seen anything in the debate to make me say, “Oh, I get it now. I see where the problem was.” I would hope that over the course of this debate the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue can bring forward some actual fact, some research, some position papers or voluntary positions put forward by those most impacted. Maybe she could give us some cases where hardship has been met by volunteer firefighters.
In the time that we have had to look at this issue, we just have not seen that. If that comes out over the course of the debate, then we will certainly take that into consideration. Making a change to the Canada Labour Code is something we should not take lightly as legislators.
I think my time is winding down. Each of us in rural communities, whether you are a paid firefighter or a volunteer first responder, know that probably the volunteer firefighters have it even tougher because they are expected to be trained. They have a full-time day job but are expected to be trained just as well as full-time firefighters. They are expected to deal with the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual impacts of being a first responder, of rushing into that house while everyone else is running out, showing up at the scene of a head-on collision on a highway, using the jaws of life or scraping an 18-year-old kid off the dash of a car. When those volunteer first responders do that type of thing, they then have to go back to the hall, change their gear and go back to work.
We believe what they do is important, what they do is noble. We appreciate their efforts. If we believe that in some way this helps those firefighters, then we will support the bill.
The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion of the member for Wascana relating to the business of supply.
Mr. Speaker, the Liberal opposition motion, as moved by the hon. member for Wascana, states:
That the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics be instructed to examine the conduct of the Prime Minister’s Office regarding the repayment of Senator Mike Duffy’s expenses; that the Prime Minister be ordered to appear under oath as a witness before the Committee for a period of 3 hours, before December 10, 2013; and that the proceedings be televised.
There are two reasons for this motion. The first pertains to Canadians' right to know the truth about what we can call the cheque scandal. It is impossible to get the truth from the government and the Prime Minister either inside or outside the House. The government is ducking the issue, refusing to answer, only giving little bits of information at a time and constantly contradicting itself. That is why the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics must look into this matter and call all of those involved, including the Prime Minister, and have them testify under oath as witnesses.
The second reason for this motion is that the situation calls into question the Prime Minister's integrity, openness and ability to tell Canadians the truth. The very role of Prime Minister is affected. I do not know whether the Prime Minister is aware of this, but more and more Canadians do not believe him and see him as secretive.
In our political system, the person who holds the office of Prime Minister has so much power and so many ways that he can profoundly affect the lives of Canadians and how the country operates that we cannot have the slightest doubt about his honesty and openness. We may disagree with his values, decisions or style, but we must never doubt his honesty and openness.
In the cheque scandal, the Prime Minister is either telling the truth—and he must demonstrate that such is the case in order to dispel the doubts—or the Prime Minister is hiding things that must be brought to light and that could call into question whether he is worthy of his office. Canadians have the right to know which it is. They have the right to know the truth.
Let us forget for a moment about the role of Prime Minister and think about an ordinary citizen. What does any honest and unfairly suspected person do when his integrity is called into question? He hastens to show that the allegations are unfounded and that he is an honest person. He puts everything on the table to clear his name.
However, if this person does not have a clear conscience and has something to hide, what does he do? He dodges the issue, obfuscates and does everything he can to throw up a smokescreen and blame his accomplices. Is that not exactly what the government and the Prime Minister are doing—ducking, obfuscating, throwing up a smokescreen and blaming their accomplices?
This has to stop. The government must come clean, the Prime Minister must come clean and they all must appear before a parliamentary committee, under oath, as there is no other way to get at the truth.
Let us go back to the sequence of events as we know it.
On December 3, 2012, questions were raised about Senator Duffy's housing claims. Among other issues, Senator Duffy was claiming his longtime Ottawa residence as a secondary residence and his cottage in P.E.I. as his primary residence.
On December 4, 2012, the Prime Minister's then chief of staff, Mr. Nigel Wright, emailed Senator Duffy. The email said that he had been told that Duffy complied with all applicable rules on expenses and noted that “...there would be several Senators with similar arrangements”. It concluded, “This sure seems to be a smear.”
On February 13, 2013, the Prime Minister told Senator Duffy to repay, according to Senator Duffy because the optics were not good with the party base. Nigel Wright was present at the meeting. Then Nigel Wright offered a $90,000 cheque to Duffy. Funds were wired to Duffy's lawyer on March 25.
On March 4, 2013, Duffy's lawyer sent Conservative Party lawyer Arthur Hamlton an invoice for $13,560 for his legal fees related to the Senate expense repayment deal.
On April 4, 2013, Arthur Hamilton sent a cheque to Duffy's lawyer for $13,560.
On May 15, 2013, the payment by Nigel Wright was eventually made public.
On May 19, 2013, Nigel Wright is no longer the Prime Minister's chief of staff.
On June 5, 2013, in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister said that Nigel Wright made the decision to give Mike Duffy a $90,000 cheque, that it was Mr. Wright's decision, and that it was not communicated to the Prime Minister or members of his office.
On October 24, 2013, the Prime Minister said in the House that Mr. Wright had admitted that what he did was wrong, that he had taken responsibility for his actions, and that he informed very few people.
Therefore in June the Prime Minister said that only Wright knew of the money, and in October he said that a few people knew. RCMP affidavits filed in court show that numerous Prime Minister's senior staff knew about the $90,000 and that they were involved in the cover-up.
The Prime Minister has stated that on February 13 he ordered Mike Duffy to repay his expenses, but from that date until May 16—three full months—we are told the Prime Minister was never briefed on his hand-picked star senator, nor did he ask any questions. During that time, $90,000 was paid to Senator Duffy, Duffy's $13,000 legal bills for the cover-up were paid by Conservative donors, a Deloitte audit was subverted, a Senate report was corrupted, and a false story was concocted by the PMO about a bank mortgage.
The Prime Minister needs to come clean with Canadians and tell them when he first heard that his staff, for which he is accountable, had counselled Mike Duffy to lie.
This weekend Senator Irving Gerstein, chairman of the Conservative Fund of Canada, stated that he refused a request by Wright to repay Duffy's bogus expenses. This statement directly contradicts statements made by Nigel Wright's lawyers in an RCMP affidavit, which stated that the party was prepared to pay $32,000 but declined to pay when the bill reached $90,000. Who is lying, Nigel Wright or Senator Gerstein?
In his role as chairman of the fund, Senator Gerstein reports directly to the Prime Minister. Are Canadians supposed to believe that Gerstein failed to mention this PMO conspiracy that he was involved in to the Prime Minister during their many meetings over many months?
Now let us consider the number of senior officials who knew about the Wright-Duffy deal. Wright told the RCMP that he informed the following people of the $90,000 cheque: Conservative Senator Irving Gerstein, chairman of the Conservative Fund of Canada; Benjamin Perrin, the Prime Minister's personal lawyer in the PMO; David van Hemmen, formerly Nigel Wright's assistant, now policy adviser to the Minister of State for Finance; and Chris Woodcock, director of issues management in the PMO at the time, and now chief of staff of the Minister of Natural Resources.
Duffy alleges that Woodcock wrote the line that he used on national television, which was that Duffy took out a bank loan to repay his housing expenses. It was a line that Senator Duffy has said was designed “...to deceive Canadians as to the real source of the $90,000”.
He also said that Woodcock even followed up with Duffy the day after the bank to ensure that he was sticking to the line.
It has also been reported that Patrick Rogers, then legislative assistant to the Prime Minister and now director of policy for the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, knew of the $90,000 cheque.
Additionally, it has been reported that Jenni Byrne, former director or political operations for the Conservative Party and current deputy chief of staff to the Prime Minister, knew of the Conservative Party's plan to repay Duffy's expenses when they were thought to be $32,000.
Senator Duffy has also provided documentation to show that Conservative Party lawyer Arthur Hamilton was involved in the paying of Senator Duffy's legal fees.
Who else knew about it?
The Prime Minister himself must answer, rather than trying to pin the whole affair on Nigel Wright alone. It is disturbing that the Prime Minister dramatically changed his version of the facts with regard to Nigel Wright's departure.
Let us return to the sequence of events.
On May 16, the PMO issued the following statement, “Mr. Wright will not be resigning...Mr. Wright has the full support of the Prime Minister”.
On May 19, the PMO issued a statement from the Prime Minister, which said:
It is with great regret that I have accepted the resignation of Nigel Wright as my Chief of Staff. I accept that Nigel believed he was acting in the public interest, but I understand the decision he has taken to resign. I want to thank Nigel for his tremendous contribution to our Government over the past two and a half years.
On June 5, the Prime Minister stated the following in the House of Commons:
—it was Mr. Wright who made the decision to take his personal funds and give those to Mr. Duffy so that Mr. Duffy could reimburse the taxpayers. Those were his decisions. They were not communicated to me or to members of my office.
On October 25, in a radio interview, the Prime Minister stated, “As you know I had a chief of staff who made an inappropriate payment to Mr. Duffy. He was dismissed”.
On October 29, the Prime Minister stated in the House of Commons, “on our side there is one person responsible for this deception, and that person is Mr. Wright, by his own admission”.
First, the Prime Minister defended Nigel Wright for five days, from May 15 to 19, then he let him go “with great regret” on May 19. Lately he has said that he fired him for lying.
Fewer and fewer Canadians believe the Prime Minister because he keeps changing his story.
Like all other aspects of this sordid affair, the Prime Minister has not provided Canadians with the truth.
In conclusion, what is at stake?
First, paying a sitting legislator money to do something has the potential to be illegal. It has been reported that Duffy had to agree to stop talking and to stop co-operating with an audit as a condition of payment.
Second, there is a cover-up. That cover-up starts with the source of the funds. Duffy alleges the PMO wrote lines designed to deceive Canadians as to the source of the money, mainly that he took out a bank loan.
Who is involved in this cover-up? All the key players I mentioned must testify under oath before the committee. The Prime Minister must also testify under oath before the committee because Canadians have the right to know the truth.
Mr. Speaker, I find it ironic that the Liberal Party raises this issue. We all remember the Gomery scandal and the $40 million we are still looking for.
The member for Wascana may recall an exchange with Judy Wasylycia-Leis during the previous election, when there were some serious allegations and an RCMP investigation.
There are so many issues facing the world today. There is the Syria crisis, the crisis in Egypt, and issues in Southeast Asia and throughout Africa. In Canada, there are issues in health care and aboriginal issues we need to work together as a Parliament to get through.
I wonder if the member could rank issues such as health care, the environment, and the economy in order of importance to him, relative to the Senate.
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my hon. colleague from Wascana on his speech and on all his efforts throughout this scandal to clarify this situation and get some answers from the government and the Prime Minister. It is unfortunate that the Prime Minister often does not want to answer questions. However, I congratulate my colleague on his excellent work on this issue.
My question is rather simple. For the past few days, we have seen some of the questions that have arisen from the statements or affidavits the RCMP has filed in court regarding the involvement of the Prime Minister's Office—probably Mr. Woodcock, who is now the chief of staff for the Minister of Natural Resources—in inventing a scenario or scheme to cover up money in the PMO, specifically the money that Mr. Wright gave to Senator Duffy, and inventing stories involving a line of credit for Mr. Duffy's house and claims that he borrowed the money from the Royal Bank.
Clearly, the police documents reveal that that was not true, and furthermore, that the Prime Minister's Office had advised a parliamentarian to lie. It is really disturbing that senior officials in the office of the Prime Minister of Canada would take the time to send emails instructing a parliamentarian to go on television and lie to the Canadian public about an issue as complex and important as the integrity of the Prime Minister's Office and the Prime Minister himself.
I wonder if my colleague has any thoughts he could share on that.
Order, please. The hon. member for Wascana now has the floor and I would like to hear him.
The electoral district of Wascana (Saskatchewan) has a population of 75,717 with 57,746 registered voters and 172 polling divisions.
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