Mr. Speaker, I will not say that I am honoured to discuss such a subject, because I am very depressed at having to rise to speak again about scandals. The particular scandal we are discussing could be the plot in a John Grisham novel, and I would not be surprised if it were outright fiction.
For several weeks now, if not months, we have been pounded by all kinds of speeches. This motion from the Liberal opposition calls for the actions of the Prime Minister's Office to be condemned and for the Prime Minister to testify in committee under oath, among other things.
I agree with my colleague from Timmins—James Bay that we all swore an oath here, before even entering the House, when we were elected as members of Parliament. I hope that when we speak, we do so under oath.
The Liberal leader seemed to suggest that having the Prime Minister testify under oath somewhere would change something, but I do not agree. However, it would be interesting to look into this issue in committee and ask the Prime Minister all kinds of questions. Again, I highly doubt this will change anything at all.
I say this with unimaginable sadness. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister is doing his job, but I still think he is being thrown to the lions. He is trying to handle things as well as he can. Clearly he is in no way involved in this scandal, but he was chosen to play this role and to lend some credibility to the whole affair. It is rather unfortunate for him that he has to do this, although it does give him an opportunity to exercise some of his natural talents.
That said, if he thinks that this is not a concern for Canadians, then he is just a little too busy with this issue and too focused on learning his lines. He would find it useful to visit his riding and talk to his constituents.
When I go to Gatineau, all that people have to say is, “Don't let up on the Senate.” Seriously, this is what people most often say to me. The reason for that is that Canadians, including the people of Quebec and Gatineau, are fed up with being taken for fools.
We, too, feel that their version of the story is changing little by little. This is not a minor matter. This situation concerns an extremely important institution, one that has gained great importance in recent years. Whether the government is Liberal or Conservative, power has become increasingly concentrated in the PMO.
No one in government can speak or even sneeze without the PMO's prior permission, and this is a good indication of how much power that office wields. When a scandal erupts from that office, it rocks one of the main pillars of our great democratic institution, Canada's Parliament.
I already knew that the government does not have a great deal of respect for the legal system, judges, courts and, now, even for the Supreme Court of Canada. Still, it is incredible that the Prime Minister of Canada's office is so deeply involved in such a situation.
Make no mistake. The holier than thou Conservatives can feign indignation as much as they want and swear, with their hands on their hearts, that they wanted Canadian taxpayers to be reimbursed, but the information obtained proves the contrary. Perhaps that is where their problem lies.
They now have no credibility because their versions of the story, from the first day to yesterday, and perhaps even up to today, are diametrically opposed, different and conflicting. People are hungrily following this story because it reads like a thrilling political suspense novel.
People are wondering what went on. Everyone has an idea in their mind, but if you do not, I will help you out. Everyone remembers the Prime Minister's absolutely extraordinary meetings with Mike Duffy. He was the star they brought in to make the Prime Minister look good on so many occasions that it is almost laughable.
Now they are distancing themselves from Mike Duffy, even though he used to play an extremely important role for the Conservative Party and the government. The Conservatives could meet people all over Canada and Mike Duffy would help make the Prime Minister seem a little more human. No one has a hard time believing what is in the sworn statement from the RCMP, in which it appears that they wanted to protect someone who was very important to the party.
However, when you make up a story and try to manipulate the truth and rationalize, you eventually reach a point where you have problems knowing what is right and true. At some point, your story stops making sense, so you are forced to do a complete 180 and distance yourself as much as possible from the situation. That is what we are seeing here.
I once asked the parliamentary secretary a question and told him that it would be much easier to apply the saying, “a fault confessed is half redressed”.
The Conservatives could have said that there was a misunderstanding about the expenses but that they were going to take care of it, instead of inventing this absolutely nightmarish scheme in which they are trying to defend the indefensible and change things by the back door. Then, they rise and try to suggest that they did this for Canadians, to ensure that they were not out that $90,000 we keep hearing about. Someone repaid the money, and it was not just anyone. It was the person closest to the Prime Minister.
In view of the notes that the government blithely hands out to everyone, I think that it—and the PMO in fact—are confusing the concept of responsibility with the concept of finding a scapegoat.
I think that the Conservatives truly believe that standing up and saying that Nigel Wright accepts responsibility should be good enough for the rest of us. We should just accept that and say, okay, we have the person responsible. It does not work like that. We are talking about the PMO in the same way we talk about a department being the responsibility of the minister. This Canadian democracy and its democratic pillars have to mean something. We have a system of ministerial responsibilities that does not seem to mean much of anything any more, when the government can hide behind the Nigel Wrights of this world to justify not taking responsibility.
Whether things happen with the Prime Minister's knowledge or not, whether he is aware or not, the fact remains that when something happens on his watch, it is his responsibility. It is up to him to stand before Canadians and apologize and tell them that something inappropriate happened and that he is going to get to the bottom of things and find the truth. He should not say this, learn that, change his story, take three steps back, move ahead two steps, step to the side and let his parliamentary secretary answer for him and so on and so forth.
In closing, the unfortunate thing about all of this is that, once again, after the sponsorship scandal and the Gomery commission, after being promised the moon and the stars by this Conservative government, which was supposed to be squeaky clean, all we have seen is one scandal after another. This is having an impact on all of us, on all members from all parties. It will not be easy to regain the trust of Canadians. Right now every Canadian thinks that we must get to the bottom of this and ensure that the truth comes out about the Senate.