Mr. Chair, here is another case in which I find myself agreeing, as I so often do, with much of what Ms. May said—not everything, but there's a great deal there, a great deal of substance, as always, from our colleague.
Mr. Chair, I received an email from a constituent just a few days ago. It relates back to the points I was making earlier about the importance of staying focused on the main thing. Obviously, WE Charity is quite critical. We're not denying that at all. I'm not opposed to extending our study beyond the original mandate—the original mandate being four meetings, of course—but the main thing facing this country, the main thing facing our constituents right now, is COVID-19.
Here's the email from the constituent. I won't read the whole thing, but I'll read the part that stood out the most and that moved me the most, as follows:
My rent is average for London rent prices, and even still once I pay rent I have nothing left to spend on my other bills. This means I have to rely on the food bank. What can you do to lower my rent to an affordable amount? I need to stay where I am to maintain my health. My doctor would gladly confirm this.
I get emails like this on a very regular basis these days, as I'm sure we all do. This one particularly stood out. It's heartbreaking. Of course, I want to help this man in every way I can. I don't have that ability. There are many things I can do, but I cannot create a new reality for him, much as I would like to. What we as a committee and what we as parliamentarians can do is be serious about the work at hand. We've heard at this committee very effective, very important and very meaningful testimony at previous meetings. I expect that once we get to budget deliberations, we'll hear even more about COVID-19 and its impact on the country, what it's doing to the country, how the federal government is responding and how else it could respond.
The issue I have, which I think Mr. Fraser brought up and Ms. Koutrakis brought up, and now Ms. May has eloquently brought up, relates to the wording of the motion. That's the issue here. We're not trying to get away from further probing the issues relating to WE and the challenges they raise for the government. Important questions still need to be answered, but will we even get to those pre-budget deliberations if we go down the path that Mr. Poilievre and his Conservative colleagues are suggesting? “Exhaustive” carries very.... Well, its meaning is very clear. There are clear consequences to endorsing this motion, ones that would set us back as a committee.
I also find it rather peculiar, Mr. Chair, that Mr. Poilievre has put this motion forward. If he is concerned that this committee is not engaged in an exhaustive study of the WE Charity issue, then frankly he's wrong. We are going to hear this week from the Prime Minister of Canada on this subject. The Prime Minister of this country is coming to testify at committee and answer questions.
This is unprecedented, as I'm sure Mr. Poilievre knows. In fact, I know he knows that, because on November 6, 2013, he had a chance to vote in favour of Stephen Harper coming to what was the access to information and privacy committee to examine matters relating to the Mike Duffy scandal. Mr. Poilievre voted against that motion.
That said, I won't exhaust the point—not to use that word over and over, although I'm using it now in a different way—but on November 6, 2013, there was a vote in Parliament on a motion that said the following:
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...Prime Minister [Harper] 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.
Mr. Poilievre voted against that motion in Parliament. He voted against it. A number of other current Conservative colleagues who are now sitting in the House also voted against that motion. I know that was 2013, but it's still relevant, because contrary to that approach, this committee, with this Prime Minister, will see something that is very, very different: We have a Prime Minister coming to the committee to answer questions, so if Mr. Poilievre is looking for an exhaustive approach to this issue, we're seeing it play out. We are looking into this matter in great detail.
I'll leave it there, Mr. Chair, but I think we have to be serious about what matters here and the task at hand. We have to stay focused on COVID-19.
We cannot push aside matters of ethics. Canadians will have questions, and we ought to look at those issues and make sure there are not unanswered questions, but when we have this committee, the ethics committee and the government operations committee all looking at all those issues, I end with the point that I began with, which is that the emails that I see in my constituency office are the reason I'm a member of Parliament: to help individuals who are going through those sorts of challenges.
WE is an important issue. We should devote more time to it than the original four meetings. We are doing that, and I'm not opposed to looking at this in greater detail, but let's not forget the main thing right now. The main thing is the main thing, and that's COVID-19.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.