Mr. Speaker, the question is why do we need an election? The non-confidence motion says that this House has lost confidence in the government. To put it in simple terms, it is because it is time to clean house. Specifically, it is an indictment of the government by the House saying that the government is condemned for its arrogance, for its culture of entitlement and for the corruption, the scandal and the gross abuse of public funds for political purposes. The government has lost touch with the common people and it is here to serve only its own ends.
Why do we need an election? Because it is time to clean house. There is a job that needs to be done and it needs to be done now. In fact, the majority of people will take the time in a responsible way to exercise their duty and responsibility to set the country on the right course by electing a new government.
It is the solemn responsibility that must be exercised as a cloud falls over the present government. It is a fundamental change that the people of Canada are about to make and make it they will with all the seriousness and determination that will be required, despite the time of year or the exact call of the day, because it is the right thing to do and it is the very thing that needs to be done to set our country on the right course and in the right direction.
Why does the Prime Minister want to wait until the second part of the Gomery report when the first part has been the fact finding part, and all the facts are in? It is not because he hopes to learn more about what happened, but rather it is the hope on his part that the public will have forgotten what happened, that the attention will be drawn to something else, that the real transgressions, that the severity and the magnitude of them will somehow be softened by the lens of time.
The Prime Minister is afraid to face the music, or shall I say the consequences. It is the cowardly act of not wanting to face the consequences here and now when the evidence is still fresh. The government has taken away supply days and the opportunity for earlier confidence votes. Now it is trying to say that somehow the opposition is forcing an election at this time of the year.
I am a lawyer, and Gomery indicated that on the evidence he could not find any blame or responsibility. That is not saying there is not any blame or responsibility. A case can be won or lost based on the evidence that is presented. One can have a winning case and still lose if the evidence is not presented or the necessary evidence is unavailable at the time of the hearing, or it is not pursued with the vigour required to unearth it to bring it forward. In fact, it may be because the nature of the evidence is buried and cannot be brought forward.
To the use the words “based on the evidence” makes the finding very qualified. Let me reiterate what I mean. Justice Gomery said in respect to one aspect of the hearing:
It is extraordinary that no witness is willing to tell the Commission exactly what transpired in the period following the political decision made by Cabinet on February 1-2, 1996....It is impossible to believe that there were no meetings or discussions involving the Prime Minister and his staff during that period concerning the implementation of the decision, but Mr. Pelletier conveniently purports to have no recollection of what actually happened.
That does not mean that there were no meetings. It only means that based on the evidence, he could not find that meetings took place.
He also spoke about Lafleur Communications and how he had the suspicion that the objective of public works was to qualify them as quickly as possibly so it could be one of the suppliers, although he had a suspicion the evidence was not there.
Somehow the Prime Minister interprets or takes the words of Justice Gomery to say he is exonerated from blame or for any carelessness or misconduct. The one person who knew of the evidence is the Prime Minister who made a national address saying the following with respect to his involvement. He said:
Let me speak plainly: what happened with the sponsorship file occurred on the watch of a Liberal government. Those who were in power are to be held responsible. And that includes me.
That sounds like a confession. He went on to say, “I was the Minister of Finance. Knowing what I've learned this past year, I am sorry that we weren’t more vigilant”. Then he had a stroke of conscience and corrected himself, “That I wasn't more vigilant. Public money was misdirected and misused and that is unacceptable”.
This happened on his watch, while he was the finance minister, when he knew where every penny moved, where every dollar went. He was not there to ensure that it did not happen. He must now face Canadians and let them judge. The facts are in and it is time for the jury to make its decision.
When the captain was involved, we have to wonder about the involvement of the first officer. The Prime Minister either knew of the general climate in Quebec or he otherwise turned a blind eye to what was going on around him. He was an able minister and he had the pulse of what was taking place when he orchestrated a silent coup to displace the then prime minister. He stated that he knew nothing, saw nothing, yet nothing moved without his knowing.
One would think that the government would have learned from the Gomery experience, but it is clear that it has not. We have only to look at the Dingwall affair and the Herle affair to see for ourselves that despite the multitude of promises and assurances from the Prime Minister that things would change, they have not. Nothing has changed.
Let us look at the Dingwall affair. An executive quits his job, the Prime Minister issues high praise for him, yet his expense account would make the most liberal of Liberals blush. That is okay, let us pay him a severance of $500,000 without even blinking an eye. Only when extreme pressure was placed on the government, did the Prime Minister blush at his earlier comments.
Let me give the House a more current example of the culture of which I speak.
The rules say that bids are to be solicited before any contract is entered into. There are certain exceptions, pressing emergencies, contracts under $25,000 and so on. Mr. Herle, known to just about everybody as the national Liberal campaign co-chair and party pollster, was given a contract to the maximum amount of $23,112, just under the $25,000 rule limit, where he billed about $3,000 without bids being solicited. He was contracted to provide advice, including advice on public opinion research, regarding the Minister of Finance's mini-budget or economic update. Was there anything wrong with that? He said that the contract had been given by the Department of Finance. It was within the rules, and the guidelines were followed.
The government does not get it. There is something with that culture of entitlement with benefiting its own. It is the idea as Rex Murphy stated of “tacit license to feed and appoint its own, to make merry with the public purse and a mockery of all the established rules under the self-serving gloss that it is acting in the public good”. As he further put it, “It's a closed, incestuous circle in which elected office is seen as a lever to reward friends or party workers or as the ideal base to prepare for lucrative careers on the public purse after elected politics”, the whole gauntlet of reward appointments for the well connected. He went on to say, “But outside of those extremes, they've hit the bottom of the barrel, dug underneath the barrel, and found an even lower place where there are no self-respecting barrels at all”.
That is why we must have an election and why the government must go.
New rules to show the way are important, but what is more important is a brand new set of people and a brand new government that will truly be the people's servants, who will be prepared to take a loss and sacrifice for the good of the country, for the good of its people, not because that is what the public would expect but because it is the right thing to do.
All of this is best highlighted and shown for what it is by the recent announcement by an individual who was prepared to pay a huge personal price and to make a personal sacrifice in order to do the right thing. The epitome of what I say, Mr. Allan Cutler, who blew the whistle. He knows all about this. I am reminded of his words earlier this week when he said that he took a look around and was impressed with what he saw in the federal accountability act, but more important, in the leader of the opposition as well as those around him.
Mr. Cutler wants to see accountability in government. Canadians, people who work hard, pay their taxes and play by the rules also want to see accountability in political leaders, and our leader exemplifies that. Mr. Cutler and all Canadians want to see the end of the influence of money in politics. Our leader is the right man to do the job. Mr. Cutler, along with all Canadians, value honesty and integrity in a leader and that is something our leader exemplifies.
This team will clean house and will implement the tough federal accountability act to ensure that this does not happen again. We have the plan, we have the rules and we have the right people. We do not have to wait for Justice Gomery any longer. We need an election because it is time to clean house. It is this culture of corruption and entitlement that must go and it must go now. The people of Canada will see to this.