Thank you very much.
Today I am going to do something a little bit unusual. I am going to spend almost all of my time quoting Liberals. Instead of offering my opinion, I'll offer theirs.
Let me start by quoting the testimony that gave rise to this entire matter:
...I experienced a consistent and sustained effort by many people within the government to seek to politically interfere in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in my role as the Attorney General of Canada in an inappropriate effort to secure a deferred prosecution agreement with SNC-Lavalin.
Those are the words of the woman to whom the Prime Minister of Canada entrusted the role of the Crown's top law officer, the Attorney General herself.
Next I will quote the person the Prime Minister thought was most qualified to handle indigenous relations, health care and, finally, the Treasury Board, which is one of the central agencies of the Government of Canada. She wrote:
I felt that there was evidence of an attempt to politically interfere with the justice system in its work on the criminal trial that has been described by some as the most important and serious prosecution of corporate corruption in modern Canadian history.
I note that when she speaks of this important and serious prosecution of corporate corruption, she is referring to the allegations of over $100 million of fraud and bribery levelled against SNC-Lavalin.
Before I go further I want to address the racist notion that these kinds of crimes have no victims, that this is just the way things are done in certain countries. Canada is party to international treaties against corruption, the purpose of which is to put an end to wealthy western countries impoverishing developing nations through systematic and parasitical corruption. It is not just the way things are in African countries, and we should never allow our companies to think they can get off from bribing those countries' leaders and robbing those people of their money. That is exactly what SNC-Lavalin is accused of. It stands accused of bribing Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi with a whole series of gifts, including prostitutes for his son, in order to extract in return $100 million from those who are among the poorest people in the world. This is not a victimless crime. This is not just the way things are done over there.
We have a duty to hold our companies to a higher standard than that—no more winking, no more nudging, but full criminal prosecution where evidence merits it.
Now, the allegation is that the Prime Minister went to extraordinary lengths to avoid such a prosecution.
Let me just review those particular lengths. First of all, he jammed an amendment to the Criminal Code in an omnibus budget bill. Since when do we amend the Criminal Code in a budget bill? The Liberals on the finance committee who discovered it late at night as they were going through the 600-page document were astonished. The chairman of the committee said he didn't think it belonged in a budget bill. That was a Liberal. As I said, I would be relying on the words of Liberals.
The Liberal member for Hull—Aylmer, Greg Fergus, said that the amendment to the Criminal Code amounted to a slap on the wrist for large corporate criminals, that it would create a justice system where people were punished more for stealing $10 than for stealing $10 million.
All that being said, the amendment became law. After it did, the Prime Minister's Office engaged in, again, what Liberals describe...and I'm going to quote some words here. Some of them are verbs and some of them are nouns: “harassed”, “hounded”, “veiled threats”, “bullying” and more. These are the words that I'm taking from current members of the Liberal caucus, up until recently among the most senior ministers in the Prime Minister's government. If Liberals now say that the people who uttered these words have no credibility, well, they weren't saying that only two months ago when these same people were actually administering large departments with immense power.
I come back. What would motivate the Prime Minister to engage in this kind of activity, to amend the Criminal Code to help a company get off charges and to then engage in a sustained and consistent interference, to harass, hound, issue veiled threats and carry out bullying? What would be behind that move?
Well, originally we were told it was jobs: that if the company didn't get off the charges, 9,000 jobs would disappear and the headquarters would move. Well, just days ago, the CEO of SNC-Lavalin said that both of those claims are false.
Let me show the discrepancy. The then attorney general said the Prime Minister twice claimed to her that the headquarters of SNC-Lavalin would leave if she did not immediately help shelve the charges against the company. The Prime Minister later denied making that comment.
Unfortunately for him, he had repeated it at his press conference on March 7, where he said, “We had heard representations from various sources including the company itself that this was an issue of deep concern to them and that it”—the trial—“would potentially have consequences as dire as the company having to leave Canada altogether.” He claims the company told him that.
Well, Neil Bruce, the CEO.... Let me quote what the Toronto Star said in December:
[CEO Neil] Bruce also insisted the company is committed to remaining headquartered in Montreal.
“We absolutely want to be based here in Quebec, here in Canada”.
BNN asked him, “Did you threaten to move the headquarters from Montreal?” He said, “No.” Said BNN, “Never?” Mr. Bruce said, “No.” He said, “I don't know what people make up or what they have in their minds....” The Prime Minister said the company headquarters would be gone if the charges proceeded, and now we know, from the company itself, from the statements by the CEO, and, I might also add, from public filings showing the company has to stay in Montreal as part of a loan agreement and from public press releases showing the headquarters they have signed in for a 20-year lease in Montreal, and that the headquarters have just recently been renovated to keep its employees in Montreal....
We now know that the Prime Minister's claim that the headquarters and the company would leave Canada was patently false, so it wasn't about jobs, which raises two additional questions. One, if he wasn't protecting jobs, who was he protecting? Two, we're not just investigating whether the Prime Minister interfered in a criminal prosecution, but whether he and his team lied to the then attorney general about the prospect of the company headquarters leaving in order to manipulate the then attorney general into shelving the charges based on false information. These are questions that we need investigated. These are questions that we never had an opportunity to investigate at the justice committee.
There's another question. Today Canadian Press and CTV reported that effectively Gerald Butts lied to the justice committee. He claimed that Jody Wilson-Raybould was moved out of her position as Attorney General because of a musical chairs phenomenon that resulted from Scott Brison's resignation. Today, CTV and CP report that, no, it wasn't because of that. It was because the Prime Minister didn't like her choice of judges. We need to find out which story the Prime Minister's Office is sticking with on that question today.
The Prime Minister has said that enough has been said, that we know everything we need to know and it's time to move on. Let me go back to quoting the Liberals on that question.
We have Jody Wilson-Raybould's letter to the chairman of the justice committee. She is writing about the waiver that allowed her to appear before the committee. She says this of the waiver:
The OIC addresses only my time as attorney general of Canada and therefore does nothing to release me from any restrictions that apply to communications while I served as minister of veterans affairs and in relation to my resignation from that post or my presentation to cabinet after I...resigned.
Why is that important? Because we know that in the period after she was removed as Attorney General, she witnessed something that was so egregious it required that she resign from cabinet altogether.
Now, do we know why she resigned? Well, she can't say, because of the aforementioned restrictions contained in the Prime Minister's limited waiver, so let me illustrate the problems that this limitation caused the justice committee, as Conservative deputy leader Lisa Raitt asked:
Hon. Lisa Raitt: For clarity, can you tell us what you discussed with the Prime Minister at your meetings in Vancouver on February 11?
Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould: I cannot.
Hon. Lisa Raitt: Can you tell us what was discussed with the cabinet on February 19?
Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould: I cannot.
Hon. Lisa Raitt: Can you tell us why you've resigned from cabinet?
Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould: I cannot.
These are examples of things that she has not been allowed to speak about.
Now, some Liberals have suggested that she had unlimited licence to speak and say anything she wanted because of parliamentary privilege. This is merely a distraction. If that were really the position of the Prime Minister, he would have said so, instead of issuing a limited waiver at the outset. Furthermore, he wouldn't have limited the time frame of that waiver. It is merely a procedural distraction. As the old saying goes, complexity is the last refuge of the scoundrel.
Let me further quote Liberals on this matter.
I am now going to quote the current Liberal member of Parliament and former Treasury Board president, who said, and I quote, on the matter of whether there was more to discuss, that “there's much more to the story that needs to be told”. She goes on to say that “there’s been an attempt to shut down the story”.
Again, that is a Liberal. This is not an allegation from a Conservative or a New Democrat. This is a present sitting member of the Liberal caucus, someone to whom the Prime Minister recently entrusted three very senior cabinet positions, so you don't need to take our word for it. You can just listen to what the Liberals themselves are saying.
In keeping with the Liberals' comments on this matter, Judy Sgro, a Liberal MP, has implored all of you to vote in favour of allowing this study to go ahead. She has said that she believes Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott should “put up or shut up”. Those were her words. We could let them do that. We could let them “put up” their testimony before us in this committee. If Liberals—backbenchers or Liberal ministers—are going out and telling the media that they want Wilson-Raybould and Philpott to just say what they have to say, well, let's invite them here to say it.
Ms. Sgro was obviously not speaking just for herself, because the Prime Minister's democracy minister, Karina Gould, went out and said that they should put “on the record” everything else they have to say. Put it on the record. Well, we can do that right here at the ethics committee.
If these Liberals, including a current Liberal cabinet minister, are being honest and sincere and really want to give Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott the ability to “put up or shut up” or put it “on the record”, as they've said in their own words, then the Liberal members should honour the wishes of Ms. Sgro and Ms.Gould and vote in favour of letting them do that.
The decision for Liberals representing the Prime Minister on the committee today is this: are you going to put up or cover up?