House of Commons Hansard #24 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was senate.


(Return tabled)

Question No. 22Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

With regard to the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, on an annual basis: (a) what human and financial resources have been allocated to the Convention’s implementation since its ratification, for fiscal years (i) 2013-2014, (ii) 2014-2015; (b) what projects, groups and associations have received funding since its ratification; (c) has the Department of Canadian Heritage reviewed its policies to ensure they comply with the Convention; (d) what action does the government intend to take in 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 to implement the Convention; (e) how many meetings on the Convention have the government and the provinces held since its ratification; (f) how many UNESCO meetings on the Convention have Canadian delegates attended; (g) with regard to the Canada-Europe free-trade agreement, how many meetings between the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development have been held to date?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all remaining questions to be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members


Opposition Motion--Prime Minister's OfficeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2013 / 10:10 a.m.


Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB


That, given the recent sworn statements by RCMP Corporal Greg Horton, which revealed that: (i) on February 21, 2013, the Prime Minister’s Office had agreed that, with regard to Mike Duffy’s controversial expenses, the Conservative Party of Canada would “keep him whole on the repayment”; (ii) on February 22, 2013, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff wanted to “speak to the PM before everything is considered final”; (iii) later on February 22, 2013, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff confirmed “We are good to go from the PM once Ben has his confirmation from Payne”; (iv) an agreement was reached between Benjamin Perrin and Janice Payne, counsels for the Prime Minister and Mike Duffy; (v) the amount to keep Mike Duffy whole was calculated to be higher than first determined, requiring a changed source of funds from Conservative Party funds to Nigel Wright’s personal funds, after which the arrangement proceeded and Duffy’s expenses were re-paid; and (vi) subsequently, the Prime Minister's Office engaged in the obstruction of a Deloitte audit and a whitewash of a Senate report; the House condemn the deeply disappointing actions of the Prime Minister's Office in devising, organizing and participating in an arrangement that the RCMP believes violated sections 119, 121 and 122 of the Criminal Code of Canada, and remind the Prime Minister of his own Guide for Ministers and Ministers of State, which states on page 28 that “Ministers and Ministers of State are personally responsible for the conduct and operation of their offices and the exempt staff in their employ,” and the House call upon the Prime Minister to explain in detail to Canadians, under oath, what Nigel Wright or any other member of his staff or any other Conservative told him at any time about any aspect of any possible arrangement pertaining to Mike Duffy, what he did about it, and when.

Mr. Speaker, at the outset, I want to thank my colleague from Cardigan for seconding this important motion.

Today there are basically two issues we hope Canadians will reflect on in this House and pronounce on later this evening.

The first is the role of the Prime Minister's Office, the senior advisers to the Prime Minister, in a potentially criminal cover-up and a series of events, which the RCMP believes, in fact, have violated three sections of the Criminal Code.

The second issue is the role of senior Conservative operatives and senior Conservative senators in participating in a whitewash of a Senate report in attempting to influence an independent audit being conducted by a national auditing firm.

We think Canadians, increasingly, do not believe the Prime Minister and do not believe his constantly changing version of these events. That is why we think it is important to have this discussion in the House of Commons today. I hope that colleagues will agree with us tonight, in a vote, that the only solution is for the Prime Minister to, in fact, come clean, under oath, and explain to Canadians the exact extent to which he was informed of many of these details.

The real problem here, apart from the fact that the RCMP believes that criminal activity took place in the Prime Minister's Office, is that not only are there multiple versions of the facts in terms of the degree of the Prime Minister's involvement, but the versions put forward by the RCMP and by this government demonstrate that the Prime Minister and his staff acted inappropriately.

It has become clear that Canadians no longer believe the Prime Minister when he tells his changing version of this sordid affair. In fact, the person who is undermining the Prime Minister's credibility the most is the Prime Minister himself, because he has given us so many different versions. His story keeps changing. Every time, new details are made public. We are at the point where people are doubting what the Prime Minister of Canada is saying.

On the one side, we have email correspondence from Nigel Wright, the Prime Minister's chief of staff, highlighted in a sworn affidavit from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and presented to a judge. Let us look at the first email.

On February 22, Nigel Wright states that Mike Duffy would be made whole through the use of Conservative Party money, but at the end, Nigel Wright wanted to “speak to the PM before everything is considered final. Less than an hour later, according to an RCMP sworn affidavit, Nigel Wright sent a further email saying, “We are good to go from the PM”.

The inference here is very clear: Nigel Wright confirmed the details of the agreement to pay back Mike Duffy with the Prime Minister.

I would very much like to give the Prime Minister the benefit of the doubt when he claims that Nigel Wright did not tell him the details of the agreement. However, Nigel Wright has been very clear. At that time, the agreement was in fact to use Conservative Party funds to pay back Mike Duffy's inappropriate expense claims.

It is ridiculous to suggest that Mr. Wright needed the Prime Minister's approval to ask Mike Duffy to pay back his fraudulent expense claims with his own money. Quire frankly, this story borders on the ridiculous.

The determining factor in an illegal act such as the ones the RCMP believes took place in the Prime Minister's Office is not only who gave the corrupt money and when but that such a transfer ultimately took place. The Prime Minister's problem here is that all indications, all the circumstantial evidence, point to his knowing and approving of at least a $32,000 payment to Senator Duffy, plus his legal fees. These funds were originally going to come from the Conservative Party through the hands of Senator Irving Gerstein, who was a senior Conservative member of the caucus and chairman of the Conservative fund.

It does not matter, in the end, that the source of funds changed and that the amount increased. The Prime Minister appears to have approved a plan to corrupt a sitting legislator, and that is the essential element of how this whole sordid affair began. That allegation has met with no credible defence from the government spokespersons, and the RCMP, in its sworn affidavit, tells a very compelling story to Canadians.

Indeed, the RCMP affidavit paints a clear and compelling story of a widespread and directed cover-up at the senior levels of the Prime Minister's Office, including senior members of the Conservative caucus in the Senate and a woman who, at the time, was a senior Conservative cabinet minister. The RCMP believes that in the totality of the evidence, these actions and the subsequent attempt to cover up these actions constituted a violation of at least three sections of Canada's Criminal Code.

Even if we believe the Prime Minister when he says that Nigel Wright told him nothing and that he was never informed of the Mike Duffy repayment scheme; of the whitewashing of the Senate report, which was ordered by his own office; or of the involvement of four senators in his inner circle—even if we decide to believe all of the excuses, each more ridiculous than the last—there is still a serious problem. This government chose to protect the individuals who were involved in this possibly criminal scheme instead of adequately disciplining them.

I want to share a few of the most blatant examples. Some of these people are still Conservative senators and others were directly employed by the Prime Minister of Canada before being promoted to the highest echelons of Conservative ministerial offices.

Let us start with the Conservative senators. Four of them, senators LeBreton, Carolyn Stewart Olsen, David Tkachuk and Irving Gerstein, were interviewed by the RCMP in regard to their role in the Conservative scheme to whitewash a Senate report that was supposed to be, originally, critical of Senator Duffy's behaviour.

Indeed the RCMP have found, in sworn affidavits, that these Conservative senators were less than truthful when they were interviewed by Canada's national police force. Senator Marjory LeBreton was a senior member of the Conservative cabinet in the current Prime Minister's government. She was a key architect in the government plan to whitewash the Senate audit and participated actively and directly in an effort to sweep the whole mess under the carpet.

She presided over an effort in the Senate to potentially hide criminal acts, and for that she has been rewarded by remaining on the internal economy committee of the Senate.

Senator Carolyn Stewart Olsen really did the heavy lifting in the effort to whitewash the Senate report. She in fact moved to strip sections out of the draft report that were critical of Senator Duffy's spending. She was an architect of the deal to go easy on Senator Duffy, as was negotiated between the Prime Minister's lawyer, Mr. Perrin, and Mr. Duffy's counsel, Ms. Payne. She was found, herself, to have been less than truthful in her discussions, in her interview with the RCMP.

For a government that pretends over and over again that it is co-operating fully with the RCMP in this investigation, maybe it should start by suggesting to the senior members of its caucus, as well as Senator Stewart Olsen, the Prime Minister's former press secretary, that they in fact be truthful when they are interviewed by the RCMP.

Some will remember Senator David Tkachuk as having been involved in the scandal concerning spending in the Saskatchewan legislature. Senator Tkachuk played another critical role. He was chair of the internal economy committee. He subsequently resigned. Canadians will remember that Senator Tkachuk was briefed by Deloitte in a verbal presentation on the progress of its audit.

It was a private meeting. Three senators were present. The auditors came to give a preliminary report on their findings. Deloitte had found that Senator Duffy was claiming per diem allocations from taxpayers in Ottawa at a time when his cellphone records indicated he was in Florida, and what did Senator Tkachuk do? He picked up the phone and called Senator Duffy and told him he had better come up with some explanation as to why he was claiming per diems in Ottawa when in fact he was in Florida.

Ever compliant, their favourite senator, Senator Duffy then sent a phony letter to Senator Tkachuk referring to a conversation they had two evenings previously and saying he had reviewed his records and in fact there was a clerical error in his office as to why taxpayers were paying per diems for his work in Ottawa when he was in Florida.

Senator Tkachuk had an obligation to taxpayers to protect taxpayers' hard-earned dollars, not to call a colleague who is under investigation in a forensic audit and tip him off. That would be like a judge who meets with the police before granting a search warrant, and the minute the police leave his or her office, the judge picks up the phone and says to the target of the search warrant: “Look you'd better get rid of the evidence, because the police are on their way over”. That makes no sense at all. That was what Senator Tkachuk did, and he too has been rewarded for his good work by continuing to serve on the internal economy committee of the senate.

Canadians will know Senator Irving Gerstein as a senior Conservative fundraiser, the chair of the Conservative fund. Surprisingly, he felt it appropriate to pick up the phone, on instructions from the Prime Minister's Office as we have learned from the RCMP affidavit, and call Deloitte, a reputable national auditing firm, to try to put pressure on it to say that if Mike Duffy reimbursed the money they could just sort of call it kiff and forget about Senator Duffy and the audit. He asked how that might work.

Senator Gerstein is not a member of that committee. He was not involved in the audit function in the Senate at all, but presumably he has a relationship with senior officials at the accounting firm. It might be because it has done $50 million worth of work for the Government of Canada in recent years; that could be. I see my colleague, the NDP House leader, may agree with me that it might in fact be one of the reasons Senator Gerstein felt it was appropriate to just pick up the phone and say, “Look, can we just forget about this?”

That constitutes a huge breach of professional ethics on the part of Senator Gerstein. It is inexplicable why the Prime Minister's Office would instruct people to contact an independent audit firm. I am very pleased that the Senate internal economy committee, inspired by an intervention from the Liberal Party, will in fact be calling Deloitte before the Senate committee later this week to explain exactly how and by whom they were contacted, when senior Conservative operators called attempting to whitewash an audit.

Senator Gerstein was also willing to pay $32,000 to reimburse Mike Duffy for his potentially fraudulent expenses. As we know from the RCMP audit, Senator Gerstein certainly did not worry about the propriety of potentially trying to corrupt and bribe a sitting legislator. His concern was with the quantum. His concern was with the amount of money involved, and he was willing to take $32,000 of contributions that Canadians made of their personal money to the Conservative Party and flush it to Mike Duffy to try to make a problem go away for the Prime Minister and for Mr. Wright, but at the end he decided that the amount was too much; and then Nigel Wright entered with a bag of money.

Now let us take a look at the steps taken by the Prime Minister's employees, those who played some sort of role in this sordid affair and who still work for the Conservative Party and the Canadian government, namely Chris Woodcock, David Van Hammen, Patrick Rogers and Ray Novak. I want to look at what they knew, when they knew it, and what the Prime Minister did for his own employees who were responsible for this scheme.

I will start with Mr. Woodcock. He was director of issues management in the PMO. In other words, if there was a fire, it was up to Chris Woodcock to put it out. RCMP documents show that he participated in whitewashing the Senate report and, what is worse, Nigel Wright sent him an email on March 8 to inform him that Mike Duffy would be receiving a $90,000 cheque from Nigel Wright's personal bank account.

Rather than informing the police or perhaps even calling a lawyer, what did he do? Clearly, he could not call the Prime Minister's lawyer in the Prime Minister's Office, because we are well aware that Mr. Perrin was also involved. Instead, Mr. Woodcock helped to do more to cover up the scandal. In the private sector, he would have been fired and the police would have been called. As a member of the Conservative Party, he became the chief of staff to the Minister of Natural Resources.

David van Hemmen was Mr. Wright's executive assistant in the Prime Minister's Office. Not only was he aware of the illegal plan to pay back Mr. Duffy, but he also helped to transfer the funds. He took the cheque to the bank of Mr. Duffy's lawyer. He was aware enough of what was going on to be in possession of that cheque, which the RCMP described as key evidence of corruption. Once again, what was his punishment? He was promoted to the position of policy advisor to the Minister of State for Finance.

Patrick Rogers was the director of parliamentary affairs in the PMO. According to the RCMP, he and Senator Gerstein were involved in trying to put an end to the Deloitte audit in order to protect Mike Duffy. Mr. Rogers also had dealings with Senator Tkachuk and Senator Stewart Olsen, who whitewashed the Senate report about Mike Duffy by removing any criticisms of his behaviour. What happened to Mr. Rogers as a result of this unacceptable behaviour? He is now the director of policy for the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

Finally, let us talk about Ray Novak, who was the Prime Minister's deputy chief of staff. We know two things about Ray Novak. He knew enough about this sordid affair to call Mike Duffy a serial liar, and he worked on the Senate file with Senator LeBreton. If we are thinking about accepting that the Prime Minister knew nothing about what was happening—and that is a big if—then clearly Ray Novak knew much more and he never shared that information with the Prime Minister. What was his sentence? Ray Novak replaced Nigel Wright as the Prime Minister's chief of staff.

Canadians have the right to wonder how the Prime Minister can trust Ray Novak to be his chief of staff. Why replace a chief of staff who, according to the Prime Minister himself, misled his boss with another person who allegedly did the same thing?

The concept is very simple. At the end of the day, in the private sector, if any chief executive officer presided over such chaotic behaviour from his or her senior staff, or if any board of directors was faced with a chief executive officer who the RCMP, in sworn affidavits, knew presided over an operation that may have violated three very serious sections of Canada's Criminal Code, that chief executive officer would have been shown the door. That chief executive officer would not have then promoted all the incompetent and deceitful staff who participated under his watch in what may in fact be a criminal conspiracy to subvert three important sections of the Criminal Code.

In his own guide for ministers and ministers of state, the Prime Minister outlined what ministerial responsibility allegedly should be. If one hires all the players, then one is responsible ultimately for their behaviour. The current Prime Minister is not living up to his own standard of responsibility, and Canadians are increasingly distrustful and disbelieving of the words of the Prime Minister.

The government's stories and answers make no sense at all: Mr. Wright was a great Canadian; then, all of a sudden, he accepted full responsibility and resigned; then, suddenly, we find out that he was fired.

The idea that he took sole responsibility for a criminal act has no basis at all in law. If a group of people conspire to violate the Criminal Code, it really is not acceptable at the end of the day if one of them says, “You know what, let me take the blame on this one and then you guys will owe me something down the line”.

That basis has absolutely no credibility, and Canadians are increasingly distrustful of a government that has lost its moral compass and simply is unable to tell the truth in the face of this very serious scandal.

Opposition Motion--Prime Minister's OfficeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am shocked and appalled that no Conservatives wanted to get up today and refute any of the claims that my friend from the Liberal Party has made. It is remarkable because this is a scandal that goes right to the very heart of the Conservative Party and the Prime Minister. Yet they remain silent and remain in their seats, perhaps because they do not have a lot to say on this scandal, which has gripped the country for the last number of months.

I have two points and a question for my friend.

There appears to be two consistent themes in the story and narrative he described today.

The first is that every character involved in this play, every actor he mentioned who has been at the heart of this corruption scandal, are intimately tied to the Prime Minister. They are personally connected to the Prime Minister and to his judgment. He appointed them all. They were confidants. In many cases, they were friends. He trusted them implicitly. It calls into question the Prime Minister's judgment and the culture that has been created in the Prime Minister's very own office, which the RCMP are now investigating. By the way, the Prime Minister claims that there is no RCMP investigation into his office. Rather, the RCMP are just interviewing everyone in the Prime Minister's Office about an illegal affair but that is not an investigation.

Second, and this is where my friend might diverge a bit, there is also a consistent theme that everyone involved on the Senate side of this scandal has virtually no accountability. The interactions he talks about between the head of the investigating committee, the board of internal economy, the auditors and Mike Duffy, from Stewart Olsen, LeBreton and everyone down the line, the reason they can act that way, act with such incredible ease with the law and any ethical guidelines, is that there is no accounting. They simply know they are there by the will of a prime minister or a previous prime minister and there is no day of reckoning with the Canadian public. At the heart of this scandal, is there not also a call for fundamental reform if not outright abolishment? The Senate itself, by its very DNA, its very nature, encourages this kind of behaviour to go on and be rampant, like the old boys' club.

Are there not those two consistent themes in the narrative the member has woven today?

Opposition Motion--Prime Minister's OfficeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague and NDP counterpart, the House Leader of the Official Opposition, for his question.

I agree with my colleague that the Conservatives are remaining silent. That is probably because the incessant talking points that are cranked out in the Prime Minister's Office really have nothing to say in the face of RCMP sworn affidavits given to a criminal court judge.

It is increasingly difficult, even for the great talent in the Prime Minister's Office, to fabricate talking points that Conservative members can get up and repeat in the House. I would suspect as the debate unfolds today that there will be very few Conservatives who will want to participate in the debate and very few who will be able to defend the actions of their own leader, as we have seen in media reports.

I agree with my colleague that the characters in this cover-up, whom we have called the “fraud squad” and the “dirty dozen”, the different people who were intimately involved both in the potentially criminal acts and the three Criminal Code violations identified so far by the RCMP, were intimately tied to the Prime Minister. He selected those people. He appointed some of them to the Senate. He has continued to give them immense responsibility in his office. However, when the heat came on, obviously he was unable to fire all of them, maybe because they knew too much, so they were sort of shifted laterally and then up a bit. They probably received pay raises by assuming senior positions in the offices of Conservative cabinet ministers.

I would also agree with my colleague that there needs to be full accountability in the Senate. Ultimately, we may disagree on the disposition of the upper chamber, but I think there is no disagreement whatsoever on the idea that the senators need to be fully accountable and that those who behaved in a way that the RCMP said was less than truthful in interviews with the police should also face consequences. I think that when the police finally get access to those emails and correspondence the list of people potentially charged in this criminal conspiracy will grow and we may very well see Conservative senators facing criminal charges as well.

Opposition Motion--Prime Minister's OfficeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.


Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Beauséjour for his actual and remarkable summary of what has happened in this criminal conspiracy.

He opined about three different sections of the Criminal Code that have been offended by Mr. Wright and Mr. Duffy, including reference to bribery that was offered and tampering with documents. However, there is another section of the Criminal Code that relates directly to criminal conspiracy, another word that was used by my friend. Paragraph 465(1)(c) essentially says that anyone who conspires with someone to commit an indictable offence is themselves guilty of an indictable offence and subject to the same punishment.

He alluded to Senators Gerstein, LeBreton, Tkachuk and Stewart Olsen. I wonder then, if the good member might opine on his thoughts on the violation of section 465(1)(c)?

Opposition Motion--Prime Minister's OfficeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.


Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Guelph, who as colleagues will know is a senior lawyer and had a distinguished law practice in that great city for a number of years. Obviously, when we are talking about complicated legal matters and the Criminal Code, the opinion from my colleague from Guelph carries great experience and great weight.

I would agree with him when he correctly focused on section 465(1)(c) of the Criminal Code. You, yourself, Mr. Speaker, were a senior lawyer in the great city of Windsor. I am sure you have reviewed the Criminal Code many times in your law practice. Clients would colloquially refer to that as the aiding and abetting section.

Everyone understands that if two or three people get together to rob a bank and a couple of guys go in with face masks and weapons while the other guy is waiting outside in the car, the guy in the car is as guilty of participating in the criminal act of robbing the bank as the two people who showed up in the bank with the weapons and balaclavas.

In this case, the people wearing the balaclavas were a senior group of operatives in the Prime Minister's Office. They were the ones who were part of what we believe, and the RCMP may ultimately believe, a crown prosecutor may ultimately conclude and a criminal court may ultimately find, to have been a criminal conspiracy.

Under the section correctly identified by the member for Guelph, I think that this dirty dozen, these senior advisers to the Prime Minister and these senior Conservative senators, are very much at risk of finding themselves subject to a criminal prosecution, depending on the evidence that the police uncover in their very thorough and comprehensive review of the evidence they are getting and have asked to be produced by the information to obtain order that was made public.

Opposition Motion--Prime Minister's OfficeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham Ontario


Paul Calandra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and for Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, whilst we may disagree on a number of facts throughout today's debate and we may disagree that it is a priority of the Canadian people at this point to take the full length of a day, I wonder if the member might at least comment on whether he would agree with me that the actions of these three senators and disgraced former Liberal senator, Mac Harb, were inappropriate? Would he agree that, ultimately, the Canadian taxpayers were defrauded by these four senators and they needed to face some type of punishment?

If he would agree that this is the case, would he explain to the House why it was that the Liberals in the Senate fought so hard against removing the three remaining senators from the Senate? Why did they fight so hard to protect the status quo in the Senate?

Opposition Motion--Prime Minister's OfficeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.


Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would agree with one aspect of what the parliamentary secretary said and disagree with perhaps another aspect.

He said he is not sure that this is a priority of the Canadian people. I think that the very ethics at the centre of the Government of Canada and the truthfulness of the Prime Minister of Canada when facing tough questions about ethical scandals under his watch are very much a priority of the Canadian people.

I would draw to the attention of the parliamentary secretary the results of last night's by-elections and the rather massive decline in the Conservative popular vote. If he does not think that Canadians are concerned about this, I think he read the by-election results last night differently than I did.

We agree that the behaviour of these four senators was clearly inappropriate. In fact, the RCMP believe, and may conclude, that it warrants criminal charges. There has to be and should always be a very robust accountability for persons who are spending taxpayers' dollars. Certainly one of the Conservative senators involved did not think he had to reimburse expenses himself because someone in the Prime Minister's Office would make him whole with a large cheque. Taxpayers may have been reimbursed, but it was certainly not by the offending senator. He was reimbursed by the Prime Minister's senior adviser. We think that, too, was wrong.

Opposition Motion--Prime Minister's OfficeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham Ontario


Paul Calandra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and for Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise on this. The hon. member from the Liberal Party touched on the by-election results last night. I want to take a very brief moment to congratulate the two newest members of the Conservative caucus who will be coming to the House very soon. I want to congratulate all those who ran. It is never easy running for an election. It is certainly not easy in a by-election, running when a candidate is left alone and the focus of the world is on other areas, but again, congratulations to the newest Conservative members and congratulations to all members who ran and who were victorious last night.

I will start by continuing along with the question I asked of the member opposite. All Canadians have been very saddened by the behaviour they have seen by a number of senators. The vast majority of Canadians expect that when they elect members of Parliament or when individuals are elevated to the Senate, they will do their best to use the money that Canadian taxpayers provide them to do their job. They expect the senators will do their best to use that money in a respectful way, in a way that respects the taxpayers. When Canadians see that does not happen, they rightfully demand that action be taken.

As others have tried to do, I will not defend the actions of these senators, because I think they are very indefensible. We have seen throughout this debate the need to have significant reforms in the Senate. This government has been trying to do so for a number of years. We have brought forward legislation that is right now being debated in the Supreme Court of Canada because we want to have a road map for the reform of the Senate.

Canadians at the same time have said that they want a reformed Senate. They want a Senate that they can once again be proud of, but at the same time, they do not want to see the attention of the elected members of Parliament be turned toward constitutional battles that would take us away from what should be the main focus of government, creating jobs and opportunity and hope for Canadians across this country. That is why we have put forward a number of reforms to the Supreme Court, which we hope will again provide us with a road map for going forward.

I note also that the Senate did take some steps last June to improve accountability measures in the Senate. It was unfortunate, and I hear this often in my constituency, that it took them so long. Why did it take so long for the Senate to catch up with the House of Commons with respect to accountability and how their expenses are being handled? I wish I had the answer to that, and perhaps had these measures been undertaken earlier by the Senate, the senators would not be in the position they find themselves now.

Having said that, the member for Beauséjour raised a number of points. He talked a little with respect to the Prime Minister and the actions of the Prime Minister's Office. The member has heard me say this on a number of occasions, and I will reference the report itself. It is on page 21. I will read some of the relevant sections. This is the RCMP speaking on page 21:

Rob Staley, legal representative for the PMO, advised my office that he had clear orders from the Prime Minister to provide complete cooperation with the investigation, and to provide any assistance or documentation the RCMP requested. The PMO employees (current and former) whose e-mails I deemed relevant, have all provided privacy waivers though their legal counsel, relating to the content of their e-mails. The PMO has also waived solicitor-client privilege for those e-mails....

Upon learning of the allegations, and the subsequent RCMP investigation in May 2013, [the] Prime Minister...ordered that all e-mails of PMO staff were to be retained for the RCMP, should they be required.

It goes on to say:

The process resulted in the initial identification of approximately 260,000 e-mail items of possible relevance. E-mail item refers to either e-mails, or attachments to e-mails. Through a review process that number was reduced to approximately 19,000 items. Further detailed analysis of that data reduced the number of e-mail items containing possible evidentiary value to approximately 2,600.

For months we have been hearing from the opposition. First, last spring we heard the opposition suggesting that the Prime Minister was not participating or assisting. Clearly, evidence shows that the opposite was actually happening. The Prime Minister moved very quickly upon hearing of the allegations to make sure that his office not only assisted but participated in the investigation.

I bring that up as a contrast because the member for Beauséjour raised a number of points, and sometimes we have to go back to judge what the member is saying. I think there is a context, so I want to talk a bit about the income trust problem that the previous Martin government found itself in. I want to go over some of it and I will bring it back around and show the contrast. I will quote some sections here from a report.

[The member for Kings-Hants ] was also interviewed by the Mounties about an e-mail he sent to an acquaintance at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, the day before [the member for Wascana's] announcement.

This was with respect to the approach that the then-government was going to take on income trusts. The member for Kings—Hants wrote in that email that the recipient “will be happier very soon”. That was a quote from the member for Kings—Hants.

The investigation then went on a bit further. The member for Wascana said that he was contacted by the member for Kings—Hants and asked to state publicly “that my recollection of events was the same as his”, so what would appear to have been happening is that the member for Kings—Hants was trying to convince the member for Wascana that they should somehow talk about things in advance of the RCMP investigation, figure out their story, and go public with it.

It then goes on a bit further.

Under RCMP questioning, the member for Wascana seemed uneasy about discussing his one-time cabinet colleague. “I guess others will have to make the judgment call about how to characterize [the member for Kings—Hants'] activity”.

That is important because it shows the hypocrisy of the Liberal Party on so many fronts.

Then when asked about emails and BlackBerrys, the member for Wascana had this to say. He told the RCMP that:

...he has no email service, either on a handheld device or even his desktop computer, saying “it just ticks me off”, especially when colleagues thumb their BlackBerries at meetings.

That is the Liberal approach to something as serious as the income trust.

The decision on whether the government was going to tax income trusts or not would have had a massive impact on the market. We would have seen the market move. People had significant holdings and resources that would have been impacted by the government's decision.

It would appear on the surface that when the member for Kings—Hants was telling a person at the CIBC that he would be happier very soon, the day before this would be released to the public, I am making the assumption that he was actually letting him on the fact that the member for Wascana, who was then the finance minster, was about to make a decision on the income trusts that would make this person at the CIBC happier.

What appears to have happened here is that the member for Wascana informed the member for Kings—Hants, who then informed somebody at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. Forgetting about cabinet secrecy, what they seem to have done is to try to find a way to positively influence the people who were at that time donating massive amounts to the Liberal Party.

As members will recall, one of the first acts of this government was the Federal Accountability Act, which removed the influence of big money and big unions from banks. Then when they went on a little further to investigate, apparently he had no email. He did not have a BlackBerry, nothing of the sort.

I contrast that to our Prime Minister. The moment he found out, the moment he was informed that there might be problems within his office, he immediately goes back. His staff is asked to sign waivers so that they could appropriately assist in the RCMP investigation. Hundreds of thousands of emails are turned over. Everything that the RCMP is asking for is provided to them so that they can assist in this investigation.

In addition, talking a bit further about some of the hypocrisy of the Liberal Party, this is apparently a priority. It is a priority for the Liberals. I am going to say, and we will disagree on this, that the economy is a priority for Canadians. I think jobs and opportunities are priorities for Canadians. I think public safety is a priority for Canadians. I think resource development is a priority for Canadians.

Apparently the Liberals have a different philosophy. They think that is important. It is such a priority that the Liberal leader sits down every day in this House and is not allowed to talk about other things. It seems that it is not important enough for the Liberal leader to come into the House and talk about these issues. It is not important enough for him to come and ask the questions that he deems to be the most important questions of the day. He does not do it. He sends another person, a surrogate, to do it and to ask those questions.

As I said before in another debate we had, while I disagree that this is the absolute priority of Canadians, it is a priority of at least one of the two opposition parties. On a daily basis the Leader of the Opposition shows up in the House and asks questions. It is every single day.

Every single day the Leader of the Opposition asks questions, because he says it is a priority, and I assume it is a priority because he shows up and asks those questions. I may disagree. I might not like the questions he is asking and I know he does not like the answers I am giving back, but at least he is somewhat consistent in that he is making it a priority.

That is in contrast to most of the Liberal Party members, who when a camera might be on or when they think they might be able to score a cheap political point, will rise in their place and try to make a point.

We also have the leader of the Liberal Party, who gets up and says, “Oh, I am Mr. Positive. I am Mr. Happy”, but then he gets somebody else to get up and make slanders and slurs against either the official opposition or the government. He is neither accountable nor honest in how he deals with the Canadian people.

More and more, every single day, Canadians are coming to the same conclusion that we did a long time ago: that this is a person who is in way over his head. His inability to speak to motions that he deems to be the most important to Canadians reflects either his lack of trust in the parliamentary process or his inability to actually back up the things that he is saying with evidence.

There has been a lot of discussion with respect to the actions of Mr. Wright and why, on February 22, there was an email that seems to have caused a bit of grief.

These documents are a very impressive body of work, and I congratulate the RCMP. However, people are asking why the Prime Minister would need to tell Senator Duffy to repay his expenses. As I said in the House yesterday, on February 7 Senator Duffy defended himself, saying that his expenses were perfectly fine. On February 11 Senator Duffy again tried to defend the fact that he had claimed these inappropriate expenses.

On February 13 he approached the Prime Minister, again trying to justify these inappropriate expenses, and the Prime Minister told him he had to repay them.

On February 19 Senator Duffy tried to defend his inappropriate expenses. On February 20 Senator Duffy tried to defend his inappropriate expenses. On February 21 Senator Duffy tried to defend his inappropriate expenses. At no point did the senator ever agree that he had to repay them.

As I have also said on a number of occasions, just because someone can find a way around the rules does not mean that he or she should find a way around the rules. There is the spirit of the law, as the Prime Minister has said, and there is the letter of the law. When these rules are put in place, we do not envision members of Parliament or senators finding all kinds of convenient ways around the rules and justifying them. Canadians give us a lot of money to be here, they provide us with a lot of resources to be here, and they are fair in what they give us, but they also want to be treated fairly. Part of being treated fairly is not finding a way to scam or get around the rules.

Therefore, when Senator Duffy came to the Prime Minister on February 13, the Prime Minister said to repay the expenses, despite the fact that the senator, on February 7, 11, 12, 13, 19, 20, and 21 was still objecting to the fact that he had to pay. Finally, on February 22, it appeared that he was going to repay them. Of course, we have all learned that such was not the fact, that he had somebody else repay those expenses.

That, at its core, is what this investigation by the police is about right now. It is about the fact that Senator Duffy claimed expenses that he did not incur and that it was made worse by the fact that Nigel Wright repaid those expenses on his behalf. As I have said countless times—and if people read this, it is quite evident—Nigel Wright said he is prepared to accept the consequences of the decisions that he made. He is working also, it would appear, with the RCMP on this matter. However, despite his pronouncements in the Senate a number of weeks ago, Senator Duffy is in no way co-operating with this investigation. He said he would turn over lots of emails, but every time he is asked, he finds a reason he cannot turn them over.

It also says on page 72 of the RCMP report:

I am not aware of any evidence that the Prime Minister was involved in the repayment or reimbursement of money to Senator Duffy or his lawyer.

The RCMP, after reviewing thousands of emails and documents, has come to that conclusion.

Nigel Wright has also said that he did not bring the Prime Minister into his confidence with respect to this matter. Therefore, it is very clear that the Prime Minister did not know. Had he known, he would have put a stop to it. What Nigel Wright did was inappropriate. It should not have happened, and he should suffer the consequences of that decision.

Ultimately, what Senator Duffy, Senator Mac Harb, Senator Brazeau, and Senator Wallin did is something that all Canadians are infuriated with, and rightly so. In addition to working with the RCMP, that is one of the reasons that we have to move forward as a Parliament with substantial reform to the Senate.

On all these matters, it is very clear that the Prime Minister has shown leadership, he has worked with the RCMP, has been open and honest and that he, just as badly as everybody else, wants to see the conclusion of this.

As we have said on a number of occasions, we will continue to govern for all Canadians. We have an incredible record of some 61 bills, and 19 private member's bills that have been passed. We have a very impressive record that I know a majority of Canadians look at everyday and are very proud of. That is why I am so proud to work with the Prime Minister.

Opposition Motion--Prime Minister's OfficeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague. He missed a number of key elements of this 80-page affidavit, particularly about the role of senators in the Prime Minister's Office of trying to interfere with the issue of the eligibility requirements of Mike Duffy to sit in the Senate. In fact, it was used to hold over him. Chris Woodcock said at one point, “Describing Duffy's arrangements in Charlottetown as a ‘residence’ may be too cute…I’II cross that line out”.

I bring this up not because of Duffy. We know Duffy scammed the system. I bring it up because on page 26 of the affidavit, Nigel Wright said in an email to Benjamin Perrin:

I am gravely concerned that Sen. Duffy would be considered a resident of Ontario under [these changes]. Possibly Sen. Patterson in BC too. If this were adopted as the Senate's view about whether the constitutional qualification...the consequences are obvious.

The issue is that the Prime Minister's Office is considering Senator Patterson to be a resident of British Columbia. If anyone looks into Senator Patterson's living conditions, then his constitutional eligibility to even be in the Senate is in question. We have seen how the Conservatives bend themselves out of shape, twisting the constitutional requirements for their friend, Mike Duffy, but I would like to ask a question of my hon. colleague about Senator Patterson of British Columbia.

What do the Conservatives know about his residency in British Columbia, rather than in his home territory of Nunavut, that they identified and flagged as an issue that he would not be constitutionally eligible to sit in the Senate? As well, have they looked into whether Senator Patterson was scamming the taxpayers for his housing allowance if he was in fact not a resident of Nunavut?

Opposition Motion--Prime Minister's OfficeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.


Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member knows, there is an audit under way by the Auditor General into the expense filings of all senators at this point. I do not want to prejudge that. However, we set a very important standard with respect to senators' eligibility when the Conservative senators fought so hard, supported by this caucus, to have Senators Brazeau, Wallin and Duffy removed from the Senate.

We heard for a number of weeks during that debate how people thought that was somehow against due process. We argued that it was not, that in fact these senators had been given a tremendous amount of opportunity to address these charges and, failing to do that in the right way, we believed they should be removed.

I am encouraged now to hear the member would agree, at least on that point, that these three senators should have been removed. I think he would also agree that it is probably a good idea that the Auditor General does review all of the expenses of the Senate. I think he would probably agree that the only party that believes in the status quo is the Liberal Party, and the Liberals will always fight for their entitlements as opposed to putting taxpayers first.

Opposition Motion--Prime Minister's OfficeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.


John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, notwithstanding that last comment by the parliamentary secretary, I must admit I have a bit of sympathy for him because in the lottery of jobs, he has drawn the shortest possible stick at this point. He is left in the position where, out of that vast Conservative caucus, only two members get up to defend the Prime Minister: the Prime Minister and his parliamentary secretary. It is a sad state of affairs for which he is not responsible.

However, my question has to do with income trusts. I cannot believe he would talk about the subject of income trusts, which brings such huge discredit to his leader and his party. The allegations he mentions against two of my colleagues were totally unfounded. It happened some eight years ago. No charges were ever laid, so it is completely baseless.

The reality is that the Prime Minister, during the election campaign of 2005-06, promised repeatedly there would be no tax on income trusts. Then what did he do on that black Halloween day of 2006? He changed his mind. He raised taxes on income trusts to the point where hundreds of thousands of Canadians lost hundreds of millions of dollars overnight, turning many former Conservatives into non-Conservatives. It was a total breaking of a solemn commitment made by the Prime Minister, leading to massive losses by millions of hard-saving Canadians, who have, in many cases, not recovered from that.

I know the member is desperate for defences, but how does he have the nerve to bring up income trusts as a matter of defence against his Prime Minister?

Opposition Motion--Prime Minister's OfficeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.


Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, that question defies logic. He needs to read the motion that has been brought forward today.

He said that there was no evidence and that they were not charged with anything. Nobody has been charged with anything right now. Yet, day in and day out, at least the Leader of the Opposition has been asking questions. The Liberal leader is always missing in action.

The relevance of the income trust is to show just how hypocritical the Liberals are with respect to this. He talks about the income trust and millions of people turning. My vote count went from a victory of 500 to a victory of 22,000. When I first entered Parliament, the Liberals were right there, across from me, as the opposition, with approximately 80 members. Now they are tucked away in a little corner, with approximately 31 members.

I think the only people who are turning away are the people who used to vote for the Liberals. They are turning to other parties. They have given us a majority because they see, in this Parliament alone, that the record of achievement of this party and of this government is incomparable with any in the history of the country.

Ultimately, the Liberals have to look at themselves to try to appreciate that Canadians are telling them they just do not meet up to the standards of what Canadians think a government should look like. That is why, on this side of the House, we will always stand up for taxpayers. We will tell them what we are going to do, how we are going to do it and we will ensure that it is always in the best interest of this country, unlike the Liberals, who are always entitled to their entitlements, who will never stand up for Canadian taxpayers, who always stand up for the status quo. However, then again that is why they are in a little corner of the House.

Opposition Motion--Prime Minister's OfficeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

Newmarket—Aurora Ontario


Lois Brown ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development

Mr. Speaker, if there is one thing this debate shines a light on is the fact that Canadians are calling upon our government to reform the Senate. We have looked at a number of ways that this can be done. We have a motion right now where we have asked the Supreme Court to take a look at it.

Could my colleague talk about some of the things we are looking at and what his constituents are saying about reforming the Senate and finding accountability there?

Opposition Motion--Prime Minister's OfficeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.


Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I said initially, nobody is proud of what happened in the Senate. I think we are all angered by the actions of those senators. It shines a poor light on all of us as parliamentarians.

Having said that, we have put forward a road map that we think is very important to seek change in the Senate. The Senate brought in some accountability measures in June. The Minister of State for Democratic Reform has put forward a number of recommendations to reform the Senate, to make it more accountable, to have elections for senators, to put term limits on the table for senators.

However, at the same time, we know Canadians want us to focus on jobs and economic growth. Therefore, we want to do this in a way that works with our partners and that does not start into big long, drawn out constitutional battles.

Constituents in my riding are split. Some want to maintain a bicameral system. Others want to see the Senate removed. What they are very unified on is that they do not want to see the Liberal approach of protecting the status quo and the Senate at all costs. I think they are more in line with our approach to reforming the Senate. Also, I have talked a bit about the NDP approach of abolishing it, at the same time. The Conservatives and the NDP are the only two parties that have any position on the Senate that would change the status quo.

I think that is why Canadians are looking more in a different direction than the Liberal Party and that is why it is always sitting in that little tiny corner of the House of Commons.

Opposition Motion--Prime Minister's OfficeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise with great honour, as always, to represent the people of Timmins—James Bay who put their trust in me to represent their interests. All of us are here to represent the public good, including the office of the Prime Minister.

I will definitely be supporting this motion. It shows the concern and sadness of the House of Commons that the Prime Minister's Office is under investigation for bribery, corruption, breach of trust, fraud, and that the RCMP is seeking warrants to get production orders from all the key players in the Prime Minister's Office, except one. Benjamin Perrin is the only person the RCMP is not seeking production orders from because his emails have been erased.

Today, rather than get into the cast of dubious characters in this disgraceful scandal, I would like to focus on Benjamin Perrin. I find his role to be particularly interesting because his role in the Prime Minister's Office is as lawyer to the Prime Minister of Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Gatineau.

As a lawyer, Mr. Perrin had certain obligations and responsibilities. He was to protect the interests of the Prime Minister and work for the Prime Minister. The question is this. What role did Benjamin Perrin play in this deal that is now being investigated for fraud, corruption and breach of trust?

On May 21, Benjamin Perrin said, “I was not consulted on, and did not participate in, Nigel Wright’s decision to write a personal cheque to reimburse Senator Duffy's expenses”. However, the RCMP affidavit seems to suggest otherwise. Mr. Perrin also said, “I have never communicated with the Prime Minister on this matter”. However, as his lawyer, I would find that sort of a strange situation.

Let us go through this.

Mr. Perrin becomes involved in this scheme on February 19. So Duffy's lawyer, Ms. Payne, has a legal person in the Prime Minister's Office to talk to, Benjamin Perrin steps up.

Nigel Wright on February 20, stated the “cash for repayment scheme”, which is what it is called, and that Deloitte would not find against him.

Therefore, Benjamin Perrin was involved in these negotiations. Who authorized him to get involved in these negotiations? As the lawyer for the Prime Minister, was he just doing this on his own working against the express position of the Prime Minister, as has been reiterated in a very dubious way by the parliamentary secretary?

February 21 and 22 are key in this scandal.

Nigel Wright contacts Benjamin Perrin and they talk about setting up this story for Mike Duffy, the media lines for Mike Duffy. Nigel Wright says to Mr. Perrin that he does not like the optics of sending lines to a lawyer and wants to do it over the phone.

Now if this was a legal agreement, an honourable agreement, is it something that the Prime Minister would support? Why would they not want to put the deal in writing? However, no, they did not want to talk to the lawyer, but tell Duffy over the phone. This is the lawyer for the Prime Minister being involved in this.

On February 21, we found out that Benjamin Perrin, the personal lawyer to the Prime Minister of the country, came back with a five-point deal.

The first was to kill the audit and say that Duffy's expenses were okay. Now the audit is on whether or not Mike Duffy had defrauded the taxpayers of Canada. Therefore, the first thing they would do is kill that audit and say that Mike Duffy did not defraud the people of Canada.

The second was that Duffy meet the requirements for residency. Well, they knew he did not because, as Chris Woodcock says, “Describing Duffy's arrangements in Charlottetown as a ‘residence’ may be too cute…I’ll cross that line out”. However. they were going to pretend that Duffy's summer place was his residency.

The third, and this is the key element, was that his expenses stemmed from his time on the road working for the party and that his legal fees would be reimbursed and he would be kept whole. As the RCMP tells us, financially, Mike Duffy will not be out of pocket.

The fourth, the old Duffster, if they changed the rules back, he would like to be able to claim his P.E.I. residence again and start scamming the taxpayers one more time, but that was in the deal.

The fifth was that the Prime Minister's Office would take all reasonable steps to ensure the Conservative caucus would stick to the media lines. This meant that nobody was going to bad mouth the Duffster.

Therefore, Benjamin Perrin writes back that they have negotiated this deal. Once again, who is Benjamin Perrin negotiating this deal from?

Then Nigel Wright said to him, “I now have the go-ahead on point three, with a couple of stipulations”. The go-ahead is that they are going to pay Mike Duffy's expenses and pretend that he paid them back. Who gave the go-ahead, with the stipulations? Are we to assume that the phantom Prime Minister was not the one they had to get the go-ahead from?

Later on that day, as the negotiations go back and forth, they go back and say that they need the final word from the Prime Minister before this deal is okayed. The Prime Minister's own lawyer has laid out a deal, which we now see is under investigation for fraud and breach of trust. Then they say that they have the okay. “We are good to go”.

How can the Canadian public be expected to believe that a lawyer as important as Mr. Perrin, with all the professional and legal obligations he has, would have been involved in the negotiations on his own, would have misrepresented those negotiations to the Prime Minister, would have argued with some fictitious person in the Prime Minister's chair about the stipulation on point number three that they were going to cover off, through the Conservative Party, Mike Duffy's expenses, and would have then turned around and said that he did not know a thing about this and further that he never bothered to tell the Prime Minister? I would find that very surprising for a man of integrity and for a man with the professional and legal responsibilities Mr. Perrin has.

The other interesting point here is that Senator Duffy's lawyer wanted the agreement in writing, and Mr. Perrin did not want to put it in writing. He says, “we aren't selling a car here”. It sounds like we are reading Goodfellas. This is the lawyer for the Prime Minister of the country saying that we are not selling a car here; we are not putting it in writing.

This deal is about transferring money from the Conservative Party, whitewashing an audit, and claiming that a man who is not eligible to sit in the Senate meets the constitutional requirements, and doing all of this but not putting it in writing. Again, who is Mr. Perrin, the Prime Minister's lawyer, representing when he says that they are not selling a car? One has to sign a big legal agreement to sell a car, but they would set up a potentially illegal deal in the Prime Minister's Office, not put it in writing, and not tell the Prime Minister.

We know that the deal goes off the rails on February 27, when poor Nigel Wright is gobsmacked to find out that Mike Duffy has scammed so much money that instead of the $30,000, it is $90,000. Senator Gerstein balks at this point and walks. Nigel Wright is in a pickle, and for whatever bizarre reason, he agrees to cut the cheque himself so that the deal stays in place.

Then we go back again to the lawyer for the Prime Minister of this country, Mr. Benjamin Perrin. On page five of the RCMP's affidavit it says:

Nigel Wright decided that he would personally cover the cost of reimbursing Senator Duffy. After back and forth negotiations between Janice Payne and Benjamin Perrin (legal counsel within the PMO) terms of the agreement were set.

Benjamin Perrin told us on May 21 that he was not consulted on and had not participated in Nigel Wright's decision to write a personal cheque to reimburse Senator Duffy's expenses, and further, he had never communicated with the Prime Minister on this matter.

What we are seeing in this scandal is that a cover-up was orchestrated in the Prime Minister's Office. We have named the names of the senators who were involved in attempting to whitewash the audit, including the call from Wright to Gerstein and from Gerstein to Michael Runia at Deloitte, a friend of his, to try to whitewash an audit. What does whitewashing an audit mean? The audit was about whether Mike Duffy defrauded the people of Canada of $90,000 and had set up a housing scheme to collect the per diems.

We see Senator Tkachuk and Senator Stewart-Olsen involved. We see Senator LeBreton and Senator Gerstein. All of them have acted shamefully, but within the office of the Prime Minister, there were two key people: Nigel Wright, the chief of staff, and Benjamin Perrin, the lawyer for the Prime Minister. How can we believe that nobody told the Prime Minister when, on February 22, they were needing the go-ahead on point three. Point three is about coming up with a scheme to pay Mike Duffy to make him shut up and make the problem go away.

Opposition Motion--Prime Minister's OfficeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.


Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, the member for Timmins—James Bay has hit the nail on the head.

What is interesting is that when the Conservatives first spoke, they asked why this was being brought to the House of Commons today when there are so many other important things happening in this country. I am sure the Republicans said that about Nixon when there was trouble in the Oval Office, with the energy crisis that was happening down there as well as Vietnam.

Why bring it to the House of Commons? It is because that is where the power is centred. I think all Canadians would agree that there is a confidence problem with respect to the Prime Minister's Office.

I would like to ask the member for Timmins—James Bay what he has been hearing in his riding and across the country with respect to the seriousness of the situation. What are his feelings on the attitude of the Conservatives, who are saying that we should not even be bringing it to the floor today?

Opposition Motion--Prime Minister's OfficeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have such great respect for my hon. colleague, because he is from the island of Cape Breton. My family left the Dominion coal mines in Cape Breton to work in the mines in northern Ontario.

I am sure that the folks back in Cape Breton, just like in Timmins—James Bay, are appalled. They were appalled that senior citizens were told that they could work until they were 67 and not to worry about it; they would actually tell the millionaires in Davos that. The government told the veterans that they would close all their points of contact and that they would be kicked out without being given a pension. That is the attitude of the Conservatives. They show no mercy to anybody. However, when it is one of their buddies or pals, there is a pot that is so big we cannot even get to the bottom of it.

This is about corruption. It is about a rip-off of the people of Canada while telling the hard-working Canadian taxpayers that they should be footing the bill for these crooks. All of the Conservatives over there are going along with this. We have not seen any Conservative members stand up to say that they are ashamed of the behaviour of their Prime Minister, of his staff, and of all those Conservative senators.

They have identified Duffy, Brazeau, and Mac Harb. What about Tkachuk, Gerstein, and Senator Patterson, who they have identified as living in British Columbia, who may be ripping off the taxpayers? It is going on, but they have decided to look the other way.

People back home are not too happy.

Opposition Motion--Prime Minister's OfficeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham Ontario


Paul Calandra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and for Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, in contrast to what the Liberal MP just said, I wonder if I might ask my hon. colleague this.

I will not question the New Democrats' desire to make this important, because their leader stands up in the House every day and asks a number of questions. I think they have identified that. However, if this is so important to the Liberal Party, if it is not just about cheap political points for the Liberals, and if this is the most important issue to them, why is it that their leader could not stand in his place and make the case? Why is it that day in and day out the leader of the Liberal Party sits there and asks somebody else to do the hard work on what he thinks is the most important issue for Canadians?

I wonder if the hon. member might comment on the fact that the Liberal leader seems to be constantly missing in action. Even when it is something he calls a priority, he seems to be too busy to take up that challenge. I wonder if the hon. member might comment on that.

Opposition Motion--Prime Minister's OfficeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague and I do not agree on much. However, I think he would agree that when we are in the House, members are considered to be under oath. Otherwise, we are in contempt of Parliament. Therefore, when we have a motion that states that the Prime Minister should speak under oath, the Prime Minister, as much as I disagree with him, has shown up. We have asked him question after question. This is how we are trying to get to the bottom of this.

Unfortunately, our Liberal colleague, the Liberal leader, does not often show up. Given the opportunity to ask 45 questions in a week, at most he might ask nine. He seems to be everywhere else in the country.

This is a priority for Canadians. Regardless of our positions, the House of Commons is where Canadians send us to debate the issues of the day. How we bring forward positions is through debate. It is not about glossy brochures and ladies' nights. It is about standing up here and debating ideas.

I might not like much of what the Conservatives say, but they show up and they debate. We will debate them. I would invite the Liberal leader. I wish he were here. We need the extra voice. We would like to hear his perspective. Unfortunately, he is rarely in the House. I think that Canadians are not being served well by that.