I'm going to put some direct questions to you, Mr. MacDonald, and I'm going to ask if you could try to provide some direct answers.
We've had, over the last couple of hours, in fact weeks, plenty of opportunities to kind of unpack what's been transpiring here. The previous witness made a statement that the system is the scandal. With the previous witness, I also began the line of questioning around avoidance and anti-avoidance clauses, specifically section 18, which says,
No public office holder shall take any action that has as its purpose the circumvention of the public office holder’s obligations under this Act.
I'm stuck on this, because we've had in previous reports.... If I recall correctly, the Prime Minister, in a previous finding of guilt, said that it wasn't a private plane because it wasn't fixed wings; it was a helicopter. It was this type of legal finagling where the ethics are separated from the actual word of law, aside from the spirit of the law.
I look particularly at the contribution of awards. You brought up something, which I think the other witness did as well, around the culture of ethics—the ethical culture—and the behaviour and the habitual pattern of ethics breaches and violations. I'm wondering if you can comment on this particular aspect as it relates to this idea of sole-sourced contracting, which in the private sector would be a thing and I'm sure you can find a parallel.
We have seen that over the last few years, in fact four or five years, there is this idea of knowing that the law says the threshold is x and delivering a contract at a dollar under x, or having a big project scope broken up into small contracts in order to be under the radar. Yet, when it comes to this massive project, it has been made clear that cabinet determines when the transfer payment programs are the most appropriate policy instrument. Cabinet also determines the objectives and outcomes to be achieved by means of a transfer payment. This is the idea of setting up programs and processes outside of typical procurement, so it's not sole-sourced, it's not a contract, it's a contribution agreement.
In your philosophical opinion, would you care to comment on whether or not setting up these types of boondoggles in this way are in fact in themselves a violation under section 18 in the anti-avoidance clause?