Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by congratulating our leader for his fine speech earlier today on this subject.
I also want to say to my colleague across the way that I listened intently to his answers in the last few minutes and I certainly agree with him that the authors of the previous report did excellent work. However he never did answer the question of why the government has totally ignored that excellent work for five years. The report has been collecting dust somewhere in the House of Commons.
He also did not answer my question about forming another committee so the government can show it is concerned about corruption and ethics. Will the government adopt the report? I doubt it. It will sit for another five years on a shelf. Hopefully by then there will be a new government in this House and we will enact some laws with some real strong ethics in them .
I want to extend my sympathies to all members opposite who are cringing because their leader suddenly had to order up a committee to tell him what constitutes ethical behaviour.
Canadians will remember that the Liberals were so vague on what constituted ethical or unethical behaviour for holders of public office that they suddenly had to do what we have been demanding for years.
Most people learn from an early age the definition of ethics or ethical and an act by instinct as if what they learned is carved in stone. What we have here is perhaps a late childhood.
And late indeed it is. Why has this report languished on a shelf gathering annual layers of dust for years? Why was it not brought forward when it came out five years ago? Is it because there was no panic back then because the horror stories about scandals and corruption had not started yet? Is it really because of all the scandal in the last few weeks that the government has finally dusted off that wonderful report and decided to look at it again in the hope the public will think it really cares about ethics in the House of Commons?
We recall back in 1993 how this Prime Minister promised to restore integrity and ethical behaviour to Canada's parliament. He tossed out those promises like wedding guests throw confetti. As it turned out, the promises were just like confetti. They littered the ground for a while and then slowly dissolved or were flushed into storm sewers.
Now, in panic and desperation, searchers from the Prime Minister's Office are being sent out to fetch this dimly remembered document that was buried somewhere on a shelf. The Liberals said that they must convince Canadians that they are ethical. How can they do that when Canadians know full well they are not? They will dust off that report from way back when their reputations were still intact and hope they will be able to con Canadians one more time.
It will not work. The jury went out and it is back. The verdict is that the Liberals lack ethics and integrity. They should not be surprised that the verdict was guilty. Year after year of scandals and stories, hundreds of millions of precious dollars spent or wasted on cronies and Liberal friendly companies would bring even the most patient or gullible Canadian to only one conclusion. It turns out that 70% or more of Canadians are of a similar mind. They believe the government is corrupt.
Canadians are asking some tough questions. They want to know how any member on the front benches or even way in the back can claim to be ethical if they did not object to all this unethical behaviour. The same can be said of those who sit silently while corrupt things are being done. If members do not object to corruption, then are they not just as corrupt as the individuals they are observing?
Another point has to be made. The Prime Minister tried to justify corruption and missing millions by saying that even if it did happen, his heart was in the right place. He said that mistakes might have been made but that his motivations were pure.
Let us examine that logic. Let us consider the case of a bank robber apprehended just as the teller begins handing over the cash. The robber explains to the arresting officer that he intended to give a portion of the stolen money to one of the Prime Minister's invisible homeless friends, and further, that he planned to give another small portion to building imaginary shelters for the Prime Minister's imaginary homeless friends. The police officer, struck by the simple logic and generosity of this defence, orders the teller to hand over the money to the robber and escorts him to the door.
There are those who would not accept the robber's defence or condone the police officer's choosing to wink at the apprehended crime. Those people are in a majority. The rest are part of that lavishly rich minority who cough up thousands of dollars when the Prime Minister calls and sells them a ticket to get through the door of the Prime Minister's residence.
Then again the members of that minority are the same ones who think that delivering millions to companies for work that was never done is perfectly acceptable behaviour for a government.
This is probably a good time to give those opposite a refresher. On page 355 of the Concise Oxford Dictionary they can find the word “ethic”. The words after it say it means “relating to morals, treating of moral questions, morally correct and honourable”. None of those are really big words even for a Liberal. I am certain if the Liberal members try very hard they can come to some understanding of what it means. “A set of principles”, is another phrase.
No, we do not mean the people who supervise schools. The principle referred to has another meaning. On page 880 under the word “principle” we find the phrase “personal code of right conduct”. After that comes the word “principled” which is defined as “based on or having praiseworthy principles of behaviour”.
I hope those opposite are not finding it a struggle to keep up with me. To simplify it, if people have ethics, integrity and principles, they know right from wrong. If they have ethics, integrity and principles, they know what behaviour is acceptable and what behaviour is unacceptable. They are not people who would rob a bank or the taxpayers and say that they are doing it out of the goodness of their hearts. They would not do that because they would know that it is unacceptable behaviour.
If one is a person of principle and ethics one would not follow a Prime Minister who attempts to justify the theft of millions, as the Prime Minister did not so long ago. Nor would one sit quietly and condone certain practices such as paying inflated advertising contracts with public money on the understanding that the overpayment would be returned somehow in the next election or prior to that in donations to the Liberal Party. Sadly and tragically there are those who do or did sit quietly and watch this sort of thing happen.
As the smell spreads outward from the source, much like swamp gas, everyone in the vicinity takes on a certain unfriendly odour. As has been said before, there should be an amendment to the endangered species legislation which would specifically offer protection to one of the nation's most endangered species; the honest Liberal. Liberal numbers dwindle by the day as they refuse to stand and be counted and to say that this has to stop.
Perhaps the temptations are too great for the species. Perhaps some still imagine the day when they will be transported from sullen and glum wilderness of the backbench to the glorious front. We know how the species communicates. The cry is “keep your head down and your mouth shut and your integrity, ethics and principles under wraps and you too might find the road out of the wilderness”.
Who will be next? The member for Richmond would be a good candidate, no doubt highly recommended by all of the people in all the parties he has portrayed. However Canadians are wondering about those who litter the front benches as well. Over all these years why did they, whether leadership aspirants or not, sit quietly while the treasury was plundered or were they waiting for the imaginary ethical guidelines to magically appear so they could have some idea of what was right and what was wrong?
Now that they have a code of conduct, will they ask if it has retroactive application? If so, do they intended to blow the whistle or will they continue to follow already established practices?
We suspect they have been told to wave the code of ethics around like they were fanning embers at a barbecue for the next three months. Do not use it to start the barbecue, just wave it and know in their hearts that the authors wrote the simple text as a public relations tool. Know also that the authors would tell them that the first rule for any Liberal is do not get caught. If they do get caught, fall back on the Prime Minister's strategy. Explain that their ethically challenged behaviour, their toleration of scandalous practices, their participation in those practices all have a simple explanation. They did it, or let it happen or did not object to its happening because their hearts were in the right place even if their souls were not.
I will close by repeating what I said earlier, that this is a phoney motion today put forward by a government that is ethically challenged. It needed something for the summer barbecue. Even when I gave the minister an opportunity to say to the House that, yes, if this report were passed by the House and the Senate, the government would accept it, he would not say that because the Prime Minister would not let him. This will just be another committee that meets, sits and comes up with a report just like that last glorious report written by those two intellectuals, one in each House. However it sat there for five years collecting dust. This report will probably sit there for another five years collecting dust.
That is not good enough for Canadians. They want some real action. I have not seen any clamour from my constituents about a code of conduct for MPs, but they certainly would like to see one for the cabinet. They would certainly like to see an independent ethics commissioner who reports to the House and who could answers some of these questions we have asked a lot sooner and a lot quicker.
I thought it very interesting today when the Deputy Prime Minister attacked my leader because he raised his funds during the election, well within the Canada Elections Act and within the law of Canada. He violated no rules whatsoever. Yet the Deputy Prime Minister was trying to make a phoney issue by saying, “Give us a list on all their leadership races in the past”. No list is there. It is not the law. We have said quite openly if the government brings in a law, we will comply with it. We will vote for that. We have been asking a long time for that law. At the same time the government has the nerve to say that, we know that certain cabinet ministers have been collecting money over the last few years. Nobody knows who gave that money.
Even the Deputy Prime Minister had a fundraiser sending a letter to people asking for $25,000 and indicating that they might be able to get a tax receipt for it. It is certainly not deductible under the Canada Elections Act unless they call it a business expense. They might get away with it with this government because it seems if someone donates money it is part of doing business.
We have cabinet ministers who have been receiving money over the last few years from Canadians. We do not know who made the donations and the Deputy Prime Minister and the Prime Minister forget. I might remind all those backbenchers that neither they nor we sign legislation or give out grants. It is done by the cabinet. That is why there are special rules for people in a cabinet. We should know immediately, and we will hopefully in a few days, where all the money has been coming from for these individuals.
I can remember Brian Tobin out in British Columbia having a dinner at $1,000 a plate and 100 people attended. He said that the money was going to Newfoundland to help the Liberal Party in Newfoundland. He was a minister of the government at the time. Where is all his money? He is no longer in the cabinet. He will not fall under the same rules. Will we get him to indicate how much money he still has sitting in the bank for his leadership race? Will we get the list of the former minister of finance showing where the money came which he raised?
The public will understand this. Remember that the cabinet ministers who have been doing this are the ones that make the rules, make the laws and sign the cheques. The rest of us speak on legislation and vote on it. We do not have control of the purse. That is why there has to be special rules when we are in a cabinet.
Other members in the House have been in a cabinet. I have. I know what the blind trusts are like. I know what we can or cannot do. I believe in openness and always have. That is the way it should be. We do not have that from the government.
The motion today is a scam to try to cover up what has been happening in the cabinet of this government over the last few months. Now we are finding that it goes back to 1996. Next we will find that it started in 1993. It has been reported and documented that this has been going on since 1996. There have been problems with grants, loans and scandals. It is time we have an independent ethics commissioner. It is time we have an independent judicial inquiry to get to the bottom of this mess so that it never happens again.
We believe our amendment is a very good and legitimate one. We believe it is one that all Canadians want. They want an independent ethics commissioner who reports to parliament. That is what our motion says. When the government can guarantee me that it will accept the report that comes from committee, for which it will have the majority, and implement it immediately, we will be quite happy to vote for it and do whatever we can to speed it along.