That this House call for the establishment of an independent judicial inquiry to determine if the Prime Minister is in breach of conflict of interest rules regarding his involvement with the Grand- Mère Golf Club and the Grand-Mère Inn; and that the inquiry should have broad terms of reference with the power to subpoena all relevant documents and witnesses.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to indicate that I will be splitting my time with the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Langley.
I rise today on this supply day motion that the House call for an independent judicial inquiry into the various business dealings of the Prime Minister that unfortunately have come to be known, in a negative light, as Shawinigate.
Specifically, we want the inquiry to examine whether the Prime Minister was in a direct conflict of interest when he lobbied crown agencies for money on the hotel he once co-owned and located next door to a golf course in which he had a financial interest.
For several weeks the Liberal government has been saying in this House that we need to move on from Shawinigate and to start debating real issues.
Today, the motion of the official opposition offers the government and the Prime Minister the opportunity to get out of the mess they are in and to take Shawinigate out of the hands of the politicians and put it into the hands of an independent judicial inquiry.
We offer the opportunity to get this out of the hands of politicians and move it into the hands of an independent inquiry.
The Prime Minister has no one but himself to blame for the issue dragging on for the last two years. Had there been full disclosure from the beginning, we would not be here today over two years later calling for a judicial inquiry to finally and fully determine all the facts.
For two years the Shawinigate scandal has been the background noise of Canadian politics. For two years we have been faithfully holding the government to account on this issue.
While the government has continued to go on as if it is business as usual, in its usual “Don't worry, be happy” fashion, every once in a while Shawinigate has popped up like a toothache that has never been treated. It just gets worse and worse. We are proposing a root canal. We want this to go to an independent public inquiry.
More and more Canadians are focusing on this issue every day. At first, with all the stories of numbered companies, financial transactions and secret shareholders, it seemed complicated. However, it really comes down to a simple principle: The Prime Minister pressured a crown corporation to give hundreds of thousands of dollars, $615,000 to be exact, to the hotel next to the golf course in which he had a financial interest.
Those things are very clear. The Prime Minister appears to have used his office to secure his own financial position and that is wrong.
Worse still, the Prime Minister has attempted to cover up the whole affair. The official opposition has been asking questions for two years without any satisfactory answers. His staff and even his cabinet seem to have tried to mislead us in order to cover up for their boss.
The Prime Minister himself has made certain statements that proved later to be false. Shawinigate is all this; not just a bank president, a numbered company, or a legal agreement. It is above all a Prime Minister who appears to be abusing of the powers of his position and then wants to see us put an end to the whole affair.
It is unacceptable. I have been saddened, the people in the Chamber have been saddened and I believe the people of Canada have been saddened to see the highest elected office in the land treated with such disrespect and misused in this way.
It is important that we consider some of the many contradictions we have heard from the Prime Minister and his defenders on this file.
First, the Prime Minister said that all of his assets were placed in a blind trust. He said that very clearly. In his public declaration of declarable assets dated March 1, 1994 the Prime Minister declared:
I declare that I hold a third of the shares of J&AC Consultants Inc., a private company managed by a third party who is not dependent on me and without a right of regard on my part.
Those are the legal words for a blind trust. The only regard of which he does not have any is his disregard to the Canadian people.
It was J&AC Consultants that owned the shares in the Grand-Mère golf club. J&AC Consultants was still owed $300,000 from Mr. Jonas Prince after the supposed sale of the shares in November 1993.
The Prime Minister said in the House on March 23, 1999 “I put all my assets in the trust. It is a blind trust. I did exactly that so I would not have to reply to that type of question”. He did not want to reply to the question, that is for sure. We know now that his blind trust had peripheral vision.
We know from the ethics counsellor that the Prime Minister and his lawyer acting as an agent were actively involved in trying to find new buyers for his shares, shares which the Prime Minister supposedly did not own after November 1, 1993. That is what he tried to tell us.
At the same time the Prime Minister was lobbying for money from the Business Development Bank of Canada and meeting with immigrant investors, some of whom were being investigated for criminal reasons, while the Prime Minister's staff was pushing for HRDC grants, all to help the neighbouring Auberge Grand-Mère.
Second, we have the contradictions over the ownership of the shares themselves. The Prime Minister claimed repeatedly that he sold the shares in the golf club on November 1, 1993. Now we know that the supposed buyer of those shares, Mr. Jonas Prince, in his own words, never considered himself or considered the flimsy back of a napkin note on which the supposed sale was written to be a purchase. It was simply in the mind of Mr. Jonas Prince, an option to buy.
We also know that Mr. Prince paid the Prime Minister's company $40,000 in November 1997 to settle this botched agreement. In the words of Mr. Prince, it was to extricate himself from that deal and make it be known that he had nothing more to do with it. Only the Prime Minister had a lot to do with it. In his own words, Mr. Prince indicated this.
We now know that the corporate records of the golf club were never changed to show that Mr. Prince was the owner of the shares. As far as we know, J&AC Consultants may have been listed as the owner of these shares until some time last week.
Melissa Marcotte, the lifelong friend of the Prime Minister and the daughter of one of the co-owners of the golf club, admitted to the National Post two weeks ago that “he never sold them”. Then after some pressure, we do not know exactly what it was, the story changed and maybe he did own them. The pressure from the Prime Minister's office was significant and severe.
We have been walking through this charade, we have been walking through this dance of seven veils and we continue to get no answers. We think the people of Canada deserve the answers.
Some of the Prime Minister's disciples and followers, the few who are sitting in the ranks opposite, have said that the Prime Minister could not be capable of such a thing, that he could not be capable of anything less than full disclosure and full honesty and that it would be impossible. It is important to note that we are talking about the Prime Minister who, in a situation related to a vote on the ethics counsellor, ordered men and women to vote against their own word. We are talking about a Prime Minister who ordered them to break their word. Would he be capable of contradiction on this file? Absolutely he would and he has proven it. This needs to go to an independent inquiry.
We have other contradictions over the Prime Minister and his role in lobbying for the auberge. The Prime Minister, the Minister of Industry and the Prime Minister's spokesman, Mr. Donolo, all said that the Prime Minister had not interfered with the BDC, which acted independently and according to normal procedures. They were all on record saying this.
Peter Donolo said:
The government does not get directly involved in the lending decisions of the BDC. Decisions for that are made entirely by appropriate officials within the BDC.
We now know, after pressure from us and others, that internal BDC members said the loan in fact did not follow normal policies and that the Prime Minister met with the bank president personally at 24 Sussex Drive to discuss it, and called him about it on the phone.
No wonder the majority of Canadians in every poll which has been taken are asking that this be moved to an independent inquiry.
These are just a few of the contradictions we face. Canadians need to know the truth. It is too late now for the Prime Minister to restore his promise about bringing accountability to the House of Commons. That day has passed. It now needs to move to the hands of an independent inquiry.