Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague across the way for his intervention. We were looking forward to it. I would ask the indulgence when the Speaker returns to the chair, I know he will be looking at the blues of this intervention by my friend across the way, as there may be a small supplemental that we will seek to further enhance and perhaps counter some of the arguments that the government House leader has made.
I have just a few very brief ones right now with respect to a couple of the points that were raised. The gravity of the situation is obviously serious and significant. What we are talking about is an ongoing police investigation into the Prime Minister's Office, involving all of his hand-chosen staff, and having implicated and led to the resignation of Nigel Wright in the involvement of the Mike Duffy scandal, and the payoff of $90,000 which, according to Mr. Duffy's lawyer, was done under some considerations.
What was specifically raised earlier this week, when I rose on this point of privilege just yesterday, was that Mr. Duffy contends, and has evidence to this effect that is now before the courts and in the hands of the police, that the Prime Minister's own contestation in this place, when we took his word last spring, was that Mr. Wright acted alone and there was no one else involved.
Yet we now find out that the correspondence between the Prime Minister's chief of staff and Mr. Duffy on many occasions involved the terms “we” and “we will coordinate”. Lawyers were involved, the Prime Minister's own lawyer, as well as the lawyer representing Mr. Duffy, at various points.
The Prime Minister is now seeking somehow to be believed that he has plausible deniability. His chief of staff, his lawyer, several of his senior aides within the Prime Minister's Office were all working on this file for many weeks and months. It was dominating the national news. However, the Prime Minister never at any point asked any questions of them, and was never at any point briefed about the most serious scandal affecting his government of the day.
Maybe for some of the prime ministers in our past that might somehow be possible, if they were the more laissez-faire and casual kind. I would never suggest that this Prime Minister has ever been accused of being casual about his control of the agenda and his own staff, as my colleague just said.
Allow me to quote from something that arose in question period. My friend has said that the Prime Minister has always been forthright in these conversations, yet just today when given very specific questions by the Leader of the Opposition about a specific element of this case and this scandal, the Prime Minister stood and the first thing he said was that he had already answered that question.
It would be laughable if it were not tragic, because the specific question was clearly not answered because then the Prime Minister would go on about something else. He is continuing to lose credibility.
I want to quote this, because I think it is important in terms of accountability, what we are seeking here as a government principle, and also the prima facie case that we are seeking with you, through your office, Mr. Speaker. The Prime Minister's message to his ministers, the context around ministerial accountability and being accountable for a ministership, was called “Accountable Government”, a guide for ministers and parliamentary secretaries, 2011. It reads:
As a Minister, you are individually accountable to Parliament for the discharge of all responsibilities vested in you. You must answer all questions pertaining to your areas of responsibility, correcting any inadvertent errors at the earliest [possible] opportunity.
These are the definitions we also use about telling the truth in this place, which is the case that is before the Speaker's table now, as to whether the Prime Minister lied or not, whether he knowingly misled the House or was misled by his staff, and as minister is still accountable for that misinformation which he continued to say: that Mr. Wright acted alone in the Duffy affair, that there was no conversation had within the PMO, that there was only one actor. Those things have now proven to be untrue. It is the Prime Minister's duty and obligation to follow his own words and his own direction to his ministers. The government is seeking distinction but with no difference.
I would allow that even today in the House leader's submission to this place in defence of his Prime Minister, just three hours ago we saw the Prime Minister on his feet using the exact same tactics that have gotten him into trouble to this point. When we ask for accountability or any level of regret from this Prime Minister, we see none.
In terms of answering questions, we could literally count on one hand the number of questions the Prime Minister has actually taken from the media on any of these things. The audacity of any member of the media to ask a question inadvertently gets them barred off the prime ministerial plane, it seems. That decision was thankfully reversed.
Allow this, Mr. Speaker, that in the question we are looking at, the seriousness of this case will require your office to do somewhat of an investigation itself. It will have to compare the answers that the Prime Minister gave, particularly in the springtime under questions from the Leader of the Opposition, the answers the Prime Minister offered up, looking straight into the camera and suggesting that something is proven to be not true that was under his watch, in his ministership as Prime Minister, and the fact that leads to the conclusion that a prima facie case of misleading the House is of the most serious nature.
This cannot be casually dismissed by the government or some attempt to change the channel and all of the rest, because of an RCMP investigation into the Prime Minister's office, into the very heart of his inner sanctum. The only very clear comparison we have is the John A. Macdonald affair. Massive corruption existed when the great line was built across Canada. However, where the police had to investigate a sitting Prime Minister through his chief of staff and all the way down, we have not seen that before.
In the worst years of the Liberal scandals in Quebec, in the worst years of the Brian Mulroney regime and the years going back, we never saw the depth of concern that Canadians now have over a Prime Minister who seems to have, in the initial case, such profoundly restricted judgment and a sense of right versus wrong and then a Prime Minister who is so unwilling at any point in this entire conversation to come forward and say, “The facts as I knew them in the spring of this year were then proven to be wrong. I regret that”. That would actually take care of the case we have before us and I would also offer would go a long way to restoring some faith that Canadians have lost in the government for being accountable and even showing a modicum of honesty in the way it deals with something so important as paying off a sitting senator to stay quiet because he had illegally taken money and his reimbursement. That is the debate going on in the Senate right now.
It is incredible to me that these words are so difficult for the Prime Minister. Many of us in politics have a challenge with the “I am sorry” or “I was wrong” statements, but it always seems that as grave as the initial infraction was, it is only compounded when leaders, as the Prime Minister has done, refuse to admit what is obvious to everybody who is watching, that mistruths were spoken and people were misled. People expect more from the Prime Minister. This is beneath the office of the Prime Minister to conduct himself in this way and to stand day after day in the House of Commons and suggest things that are simply not true.
While it might seem to the cynics on that side that this is just business as usual, we actually believe that we can hope for something better and that when things go so badly wrong, when illegal acts are taking place with the Prime Minister's own chief of staff, under his watch with the people he appointed to the Senate against his promise not to do so, it reminds me again that shortcuts in democracy might make sense in the very short, expedient term, but in the long term do not pay off.
The government is now reaping the rewards of all of these decisions. All of these values that the Conservatives used to hold that they have now broken are now allowing them to reap those rewards and those rewards must not feel all that good. Certainly, for a government that staked its credit and acclaim on cleaning up the mess in Ottawa, it seems government members did not come and change Ottawa, but Ottawa ended up changing them. That is too bad, but that is for them to account for.
However, the sense of entitlement and arrogance that I see consistently displayed by the government when it comes to basic matters of accountability puts a lie to the very first act it moved, which was meant to be the Accountability Act. It is not me saying that. It is the Information Commissioner, the Privacy Commissioner, the Auditor General, the Parliamentary Budget Officer and everybody who tries to get basic simple answers from the government.
Time and time again it seems there is a certain allergy of the government with declaring the truth as it is known to be. In this case, the Prime Minister seems to have got himself into a corner that he finds himself unable to get out of.
It is all of his own making. From Nigel Wright to Mike Duffy, there is nobody involved in the scandal who was not particularly and individually chosen by the Prime Minister. He cannot look to pass the blame. The victim in this case is not himself. I would like him to stand up for victims once in a while, and that is the Canadian taxpayers, who had to foot the bill for all of the Prime Minister's very bad decisions and the damage it has done to our country's reputation and to our stature in the world of a free and democratic country.