Mr. Speaker, I must say that this is the first and second time this has happened since I was elected. I am terribly sorry and I hope it will be the last time.
On January 11, the Prime Minister promised that he would start the public inquiry as soon as the committee hearings had ended, and we believed him. Now that the hearings are over, he is delaying it for another two weeks. What new excuse will he give us in two weeks?
So far, the Conservative government has been trying everything it can to put off a public inquiry that would shed light on what happened under Conservative rule.
It goes without saying that our committee did an excellent job. All the committee members did their jobs. We all worked differently and with a different perspective, but we did so within the limitations of a parliamentary committee. Some people were disappointed, but it was not a court of law. Some people were disappointed, but it was not an inquiry or a police investigation. It was a parliamentary committee with members sitting around a table asking questions in the best faith possible to get a clear understanding of the situation. This was very difficult, considering the amount of time we were given.
We think that the committee has finished its work, and that it did a good job. However, the committee was working under some constraints, and that is why the matter must be turned over to a public inquiry with the broadest possible mandate. I will explain why.
First, a public inquiry is justified because of conflicting information. Brian Mulroney's explanation of his international work does not make sense. Nobody believes that a former Prime Minister, who claimed to be against selling arms to China, would set off the day after leaving office on a contract to sell weapons. That does not make sense.
Mr. Mulroney was unable to prove that he actually worked for the $225,000 or $300,000 he received. The people working on the Bear Head-Schreiber project—Mr. Schreiber, Mr. Alford, and Mr. Marc Lalonde, do not remember having seen Brian Mulroney work on the project. Nobody can confirm that he did. Not only is there nobody in Canada who can confirm that Mr. Mulroney worked on the project, as Mr. Schreiber claims, but there is nobody anywhere in the world who is still alive and who can testify that Mr. Mulroney did the international work he was supposed to do.
That is very troubling, and I wanted to mention it. Some people claim that there is no need for a public inquiry. Yet, as I said, there are too many contradictions, too many inconsistencies, too many implausibilities, and too much suspicion. Some people say that suspicion alone, no matter how great, does not constitute proof, and they are right. However, suspicion surrounding potentially criminal actions led to the creation of the Gomery commission, which was an excellent initiative. This public inquiry must take place so that everyone can testify under oath. We are looking forward to hearing the former Conservative Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, testify under oath.
Some people say that this was not public knowledge, and that it does not concern the public because public funds were not involved. However, Canadian and Quebec taxpayers paid some or all of the $25 million in commissions through their taxes because Airbus and other companies made the Government of Canada pay $25 million more to cover those costs. Moreover, perhaps if there had not been so many secret commissions, the government at the time might have made a different decision about buying 34 airplanes, and the purchase might have ended up costing less.
Some say that nothing illegal went on. However, the mandate was unclear and implausible on both sides, as I mentioned earlier. The former prime minister was paid in cash. He was paid $300,000 in $1,000 bills. We would like to remind the House that the Bloc Québécois was responsible for having $1,000 bills withdrawn from circulation. Why? Because we believed and we convinced this House that $1,000 bills were used in illegal dealings and mafia transactions.
For that reason the Bloc Québécois convinced this House to withdraw $1,000 bills from circulation. In the end, it was unanimous.
Let us try to imagine the former prime minister of Canada receiving $225,000 or $300,000—it is no longer clear—in $1,000 bills in a brown envelope, always associated with something secret, in a hotel room, away from prying eyes, without an invoice, receipt or supporting documents. He was asked about these but he was unable to provide any receipts for expenses incurred here or abroad. There are no accounting records. He put the money in a safety deposit box. If everything was above board, why did he not deposit it in the bank? It was five years before he reported the money as income, just when Karlheinz Schreiber was arrested for the first time because he ran afoul of the law. The two events are related. Mr. Mulroney stated as much in his testimony. When he discovered that Mr. Schreiber had problems with the law, Mr. Mulroney finally reported the $225,000 or $300,000 to the tax authorities.
When a former prime minister of Canada receives that kind of money, under the circumstances I just explained, from a businessman who pocketed $25 million in commissions for contracts he obtained from the government of this prime minister, we should all be asking questions. A public inquiry must be held.
No one has been able to corroborate Brian Mulroney's version of the facts. Even his friend, Fred Doucet, testified that he did not hear what was said. No living person on earth can corroborate the international meetings of Brian Mulroney and no documentation has been provided to support his account.
Taken separately, his actions may not be illegal. However, in sociology, there is a principle according to which the sum of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It seems that this would apply in this case.
Mr. Mulroney said he had made a mistake, a colossal mistake. He admitted he was wrong. He said he had made a serious error in judgment. But he never said why he had made that error. That is what he must be asked. What clouded his judgment? What was his motivation? Why did he not react as he would have ordinarily? He must be asked these questions. Unfortunately, the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics did not have time to do so.
People have said they did not learn anything from the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. I am sorry, but we on the committee learned a great deal, and many people have said so.
First and foremost, the hearings allowed all the information that was circulating in English-language publications in English Canada to circulate in Quebec as well. This gave Quebeckers the chance to learn about this serious and disturbing situation.
It was the first time we understood that there were so many contradictions. In fact, it was the first time we heard Brian Mulroney's own version of events, rather than the subjective version given by his spokesperson, Luc Lavoie. Mr. Mulroney told us that he and Luc Lavoie only spoke for 10 minutes or so now and again, which is why Mr. Lavoie did not have full information. By the way, Luc Lavoie, who told us he had been Mr. Mulroney's spokesperson for years, was much more knowledgeable about specifics and details, such as the RCMP code number for journalist Stevie Cameron. He remembered her code number, but he was not aware of information such as the amount of money Brian Mulroney had received.
It was the first time Brian Mulroney had given his version of events publicly, and it differed from his spokesperson's version. It was the first time we could see that there were so many contradictions as to the amount of the agreement, the agreement itself and even the company that was to give Brian Mulroney the contract.
I must say that I personally learned a lot. Of course, I have read all the books written on the topic and have had the opportunity to question the witnesses. I did so in good faith and I learned a great deal.
I learned, for instance, that an invoice for $90,000 and a cheque for $90,000 had been given to Fred Doucet by one of Mr. Schreiber's businesses just a few weeks after Mr. Doucet left an official government position and only three weeks after Airbus had deposited $5 million in one of Mr. Schreiber's accounts.
Let us review the chronology of events—of what probably happened or what appears to have happened. A $5 million commission is deposited into a Swiss bank account for Mr. Schreiber, by Airbus. Three weeks later, Fred Doucet sends an invoice for $90,000 for services rendered, although he had been on the open job market for only a few weeks. That was $90,000 and I will come back to that in a moment. Then, a few days later, he receives a cheque for $90,000 for services rendered. Who makes that kind of money? Imagine, $90,000 for a few weeks of work, for services rendered. Exactly what kind of services? Please!
In any case, as I said earlier, it was the first time we heard Brian Mulroney's version. Now, Canadians and Quebeckers have the right to hear him under oath.