Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address the Prime Minister's blatant disregard for the recommendation of the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development against the appointment of Glen Murray to chair of the national round table on the environment and the economy.
I am a new member of Parliament and the environment committee was my first choice for committee participation. This is also a minority Parliament. The Prime Minister set the table for stronger committees with stronger mandates. I would like to begin with what the Prime Minister once said though I dare not ever say he actually believed it himself. He said:
We have permitted a culture to arise that has been some 30 years in the making; one that can be best summarized by the one question that everyone in Ottawa believes has become the key to getting things done: 'Who do you know in the PMO?'
This Liberal Prime Minister said this only 14 months ago. Promises of slaying the democratic deficit were only meant to cover the slaying of the previous Liberal prime minister in order for this Liberal Prime Minister to claim the top job.
This was a candid admission of a self-evident truth. Political cronies with partisan ties to the Prime Minister get plum appointments. Some 3,000 to 4,000 appointments is quite a demand to fill for partisan pals, but the sponsorship scandal has shown us that many are indeed both called and chosen.
This Liberal Prime Minister also said the following some 13 months ago:
No longer will the key to Ottawa be who do you know. We are going to condemn to history the practice and the politics of cronyism.
The Liberal patronage leopard cannot change its crony spots. Let us together examine this Liberal Prime Minister's record.
The Prime Minister appointed Liberal MP Allan Rock as Canada's ambassador to the United Nations. He appointed Liberal member of Parliament Sophia Leung as his personal special adviser in order to appoint the current industry minister as a candidate in the last election. He appointed Liberal MP Sarkis Assadourian as his personal special adviser in order to clear the way for the current member for Brampton--Springdale to run in the last election. He appointed Liberal MP Yvon Charbonneau as ambassador to UNESCO in order to clear the way for his personal organizer to run in the last election. He appointed former Liberal cabinet minister Hélène Scherrer to the PMO. He appointed a host of Liberal provincial members to boards and agencies. He appointed defeated Liberal candidates, staff of Liberal cabinet ministers and personal aides to a host of ambassadorships, judgeships and panels. Their common thread was the fact that they were Liberals who knew the Prime Minister.
Most important today is the current appointment of a failed Liberal candidate, a current Liberal activist and paid voting delegate to the recent Liberal convention by the current Liberal Prime Minister to chair the national round table on the environment and the economy. Not only does this partisan appointment confirm that the torch has been passed from one Liberal prime minister to the current Liberal Prime Minister to hold high for all Liberals to see, but it further reinforces a deep and justified cynicism that breaking the hold of cronyism is another Liberal promise made and another Liberal promise broken.
Most alarming is the fact that this is happening in the age of the Gomery inquiry, a scandal that has rocked the public for its findings of a blatant Liberal Party patronage for contracts, an elaborate trail of dirty money kicked forward and back in a manner and effort to hide from public view the dispensing of Liberal Party political reward and favour.
It is important to note that the Prime Minister has made a grave error in appointing Glen Murray to chair the NRT. Primarily, it makes the review of appointments a worthless exercise in public relations rather than the intended place of sober recommendation on potential appointments. Second, the strong partisan links of the appointed to the Prime Minister will continue to colour any possible achievements of Mr. Murray as chair and will continue to be a mark against the government for breaking its promise to end cronyism. Last, as our motion at the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development said, Mr. Murray lacks sufficient experience to fulfill the role for which he was nominated.
Let us start with the process of reviewing appointments.
The Prime Minister promised great things when he was campaigning for his job. He tapped into existing widespread understanding that appointments were not based on merit, but on relationship to the PMO. He raised expectations that his leadership would usher in a new era, a new era of ideas, a new era of vigour and energy, a new era where merit would take one as far and as high as one wanted to go. Nine years of planning to be prime minister, some would say nine years of plodding but I will give him the benefit of the doubt, the road to the PMO for the Prime Minister was paved only with good intentions.
It is much clearer now what the Prime Minister intended by his earlier comments on record. Committee and parliamentary review of appointments was never intended to affect his opinion and judgment on those appointments. A decision like ours at the environment committee where we voted seven to four against recommending Glen Murray for the position of chair of the NRT was envisioned by the Prime Minister as something to give him caution and seek out an alternate nominee. It was not that in actual fact. Mr. Murray, when he appeared before the committee at one point referred to himself as a nominee while no one ever believed he was. There were no other nominees for the position.
My distinguished colleague from Red Deer whom we heard earlier, the Conservative Party's environment critic, referred to the job interview process. This was no job interview. When I was elected last June, I became not only a public servant but an employer. I received hundreds of job applications from which my transition team culled the best prospects to fill a variety of jobs in my Ottawa office. For each position there were several qualified applicants selected for interviews. Each was interviewed until the best was selected.
We have no idea what process was undertaken to select Mr. Murray before it ever came to the environment committee. We know from Mr. Murray's testimony that he was asked in a phone call if he was available for the job. Then there was an e-mail telling him when and where to show up for the interview. Then a press release was issued by the PMO about his appointment.
It was fixed from the beginning. There were no options for the environment committee to interview candidates and pick the best. There was no process known from the PMO about how Mr. Murray was selected rather than others, if there were others. There was no pre-review interview for the position by the PMO. There was just a “Hey, Glen, are you available for the job? Come on down”, and a press release saying it was done.
The Prime Minister never cast his net wide in a search for the best candidate. The Prime Minister never intended to take any direction from committee in making the final determination on an appointment. In the end the Prime Minister scorned the will of the environment committee and appointed Mr. Murray anyway. Liberal promise made; Liberal promise broken.
Let us move to the partisanship of the appointment of Mr. Murray by the Prime Minister. There is no doubt in the minds of the members of the environment committee that Mr. Murray is a partisan appointment. He is a failed star Liberal candidate, hand picked and courted by the Prime Minister to run in the recent federal election. Actually the Prime Minister courted Mr. Murray to break his on record, oft stated commitment to the people of Winnipeg not to leave his mayoralty to run in the federal election. It is bad enough that the Prime Minister cannot keep his own promises to Canadians, but shame on him for putting others in the position of breaking their commitments to the people.
Mr. Murray told the people of Winnipeg that he would not short-circuit his term as mayor to run as the Liberal candidate in the recent federal election. Month after month he was asked if he would step down and run. “No time as mayor to campaign,” he once responded. “It would be hard to run while I am mayor”, he said another time. Mr. Murray actually never said he would not leave the city in the lurch to seek personal political fortunes with the Liberal Party and so he never finished his term as mayor of Winnipeg.
It is interesting that in his testimony before the environment committee Mr. Murray was asked many times by my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley if he would actually serve his full three year term as the chair of the NRT, or would he instead run in the next federal election. Mr. Murray's responses sounded eerily familiar. There would be no time for him to campaign. It was the same room that allowed him to wiggle out of his obligations as Winnipeg mayor.
We are not confident that Mr. Murray will finish his term as chair of the NRT. We suspect the Prime Minister has elevated him to this position as a holding ground with profile until the next election where he could again run as a Liberal candidate. One might have greater confidence that Mr. Murray would complete the three year posting if he had not already publicly promised not to take a public service appointment in the wake of his defeat, if offered one. Liberal promise made; Liberal promise broken.
When we do a job interview, and I asked this at the committee, we look for tangibles and intangibles when we are interviewing somebody. My colleague from Red Deer elaborated on some of the tangibles that Mr. Murray lacked, such as his lack of knowledge on the issues. How can he determine and prioritize which issues the NRT should be pursuing if he does not understand them himself? There are some intangibles as well.
Mr. Murray before this committee was cavalier at one time saying, “Well, sometimes one changes one's mind”. That is not the kind of attitude we want from somebody who said in his own words that he wants to serve members of Parliament. He was evasive to questions and belligerent at times. I would not hire him based on this alone. He not only fails on the tangibles of qualifying but he also qualifies on the intangibles.
I want to go back to the partisanship issue. Mr. Murray ran as a Liberal candidate in the recent federal election. Mr. Murray owes much to the Prime Minister. After all, the Prime Minister went to great lengths to ensure an electoral victory for Mr. Murray. The Prime Minister chose a safe Liberal seat for him to run in. However, there was a problem. There was actually a sitting Liberal member of Parliament but that was no problem for the Prime Minister. He simply appointed that Liberal MP to the post of lieutenant governor of Manitoba in order to clear a spot for Mr. Murray. The Prime Minister will leave no Liberal stone unturned in order to reward a Liberal for doing his bidding.
It was only a matter of time before Mr. Murray, without a mayor's seat to fall back on, would be appointed for his faithfulness as a Liberal candidate. What has Mr. Murray done since his failed Liberal candidacy? He is still a card-carrying Liberal by his own testimony. He was also a paid voting delegate to the recent Liberal convention by his own testimony.
The previous ethics counsellor in 2003 ruled that anyone with a patronage appointment should not attend a leadership convention. The reasons are self-evident. One would wonder aloud whether Mr. Murray supported pot for 12 year olds and legalized prostitution and whether he voted to endorse the Prime Minister's leadership. All of these things were discussed at that convention.
One should not have to be concerned about these things but Mr. Murray's acceptance of the appointment raises the question. It would not exist if the appointment were not a partisan Liberal.
Mr. Murray testified before our committee and said, “I would like, if I could, to erase the line in a non-partisan way between Parliament and the national round table”. The only way to erase that partisan line is not to appoint a partisan to the position.
Since the Prime Minister is willing to go against the advice of the environment committee and appoint Mr. Murray come hell or high water, then Mr. Murray can achieve this same end by refusing to take the appointment. If he fails to do the honourable thing, then partisanship will continue to plague his efforts.
Whether Mr. Murray does the honourable thing or not, it is incumbent upon the House to send a stern message to the Prime Minister for engaging in crass partisan patronage. He will never respect the House if we fail to do so and committees will be nothing but a public relations front for the PMO. Worse, if the House fails to stand up for the prerogatives of committees, the Prime Minister will consider committees servile to his ends.
The Prime Minister has already broken his promise to eliminate the democratic deficit. It is in our hands to do it for him.
Last, let us look at the mandate of the environment committee in examining Mr. Murray's qualifications for the appointment as chair of the NRT. I may have covered some of this earlier but allow me a little latitude as I finish.
Those who know me best know that I am not a rabid partisan. It is my duty to the people of Essex whom I serve to be fair minded in my position as a member of Parliament. I approach my participation at committee with the same mindset. Notwithstanding the partisan context within which Mr. Murray was appointed and then sent for what one can loosely call a review, I came to the table with an open mind. I had never met Mr. Murray before, nor had I followed his career, save of course for the part about the successful election of his opponent, now my colleague, the affable and competent health critic for our party, the member for Charleswood St. James—Assiniboia.
I was looking forward to learning who Mr. Murray was and whether he had what it took to assume the appointment on merit. As preparation for the meeting committee members were handed Mr. Murray's biography. There were nice credentials, but Mr. Murray never presented in his biography credentials on the environment. Surely one would highlight one's environmental credentials and achievements in a biography if they were actually noteworthy. It was a small detail maybe. Our opponents across the way would contend it is a small detail but faithfulness in small things lays the foundation for trust and faithfulness in larger things, say a chairmanship of the NRT. This is a basic operating principle of life.
Was this a job interview? Not really. There were no other nominees put forward. Interestingly the process of nominating Mr. Murray as stated in Mr. Murray's own words before our committee was that he was phoned, then e-mailed and then showed up.
There was no due diligence, even on one candidate, for a job interview. There was no testimony of a grilling on issues or qualifications when the phone call was made to him. There was no probing, no series of pre-interviews. Shame on the Prime Minister for shoddy pre-interview work. No wonder everyone thinks this is a partisan appointment of someone who is unqualified for the job.
Does Mr. Murray understand his role as chair of the NRT? No. He testified that it was about networking. Then he testified that it was about setting the agenda. Then he said it was about the committee setting the agenda. Listen to Mr. Murray's own words: “We need a chairperson who can make sense of policy”. The members of the committee questioned his ability to understand policy and evaluate priorities in order to set the agenda for the NRT.
My colleague at the committee probed him on NO
and cap and trade, and any number of issues, all of which Mr. Murray never answered. I asked him about fee base and whether he knew enough to evaluate whether that should be a priority on which the NRT should be pursuing and researching and giving advice to the government. How does a person do that if he does not know what the issues are about?
We have post-Kyoto targets. He commented on the U.K.'s 50% to 60% reductions in CO
after the Kyoto timeframe, but he could not comment on whether he thought that would be something Canada should do or should not do. He could not evaluate the science of it. He could not evaluate whether it was a worthy target. He certainly could not make any recommendations on whether that should be a priority item for the NRT to be looking at and giving advice on to the government. Biomass, aquifer mapping and the list goes on and on. He does not know the issues. How could he evaluate if it is a priority for the NRT to be looking at and providing advice to the government? Those are all very key questions.
He was missing on the tangibles and missing on the intangibles. It was not a very successful job interview in my view.
I want to raise another issue. I am concerned about the values of chairing a committee such as the NRT. It is very important. It is on the environment and the economy and how he reconciles those principles.
Testimony came up at the committee. My hon. colleague from Fort McMurray—Athabasca inquired about some of his business dealings, particularly a company called Navigator PPG. This is very important. We all know Mr. Warren Kinsella is part of that company. I am going to quote Mr. Murray's testimony before the committee: “What we are negotiating right now”--for the record I should state that is between Navigator and his own company, the Glen Murray Group--is for them”--Navigator--“to carry some of the files and contracts that I have jointly with them”.
It is very interesting that in my home community very important proposals have come forward by the city of Windsor to solve the border corridor mess between Windsor and Detroit. It is called the Schwartz report for those in the House who do not know about it. It proposes to ram four lanes of trucks, 7,000 trucks a day, through a federal environmentally sensitive area and an area of natural and scientific interest.
There are very significant designations for this Ojibway wilderness complex. Interestingly, Navigator has been retained through a series of groups to promote routing 7,000 trucks a day through an environmentally sensitive area of natural and scientific interest. I hardly call that an environmental principle. Yet this is a group that is involved with the Glen Murray Group. It casts some credibility on what values Mr. Murray will bring to the chairmanship. Is it really going to be about the environment or is it going to be about the economy? It is worthwhile to be concerned about that.
On all counts he failed the job interview. I am not sure he has got the right values anyway to be the chair of the NRT. He does not understand what the job is about. There is partisan political patronage, cronyism and quite frankly, it stinks on all counts. I am not ashamed to say that. That is why the committee voted seven to four against recommending him. We stand by that commitment right now.
I call on the House to affirm the decision of the environment committee to reject this appointment, and call on the Prime Minister to do the honourable thing which is to withdraw the appointment and find someone who is better qualified for the job.