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House of Commons Hansard #14 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was senate.

Topics

Environment and Sustainable DevelopmentRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I have the honour to lay upon the table pursuant to subsection 23(5) of the Auditor General Act, the fall 2013 report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development to the House of Commons with an addendum on environmental petitions from January 1 to June 30, 2013.

This report is deemed permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

Performance Reports, 2012-13Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement ConservativePresident of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table documents in both official languages.

On behalf of the 92 departments and agencies, I table the performance reports for 2012-13, and I invite hon. members to access the performance reports at tbs-sct.gc.ca. Of course we have them available on members' sticks, so if they do not want the sticks they can go online as well.

Tackling Contraband Tobacco ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Conservative Delta—Richmond East, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in contraband tobacco).

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to the special order made previously, I would like to inform the House that this bill is in the same form as Bill S-16 was in the previous session at the time of prorogation.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Tackling Contraband Tobacco ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The Chair is satisfied that the bill is in the same form as Bill S-16 when it was before the House at the time of prorogation of the first session of the 41st Parliament.

Consequently, pursuant to the order made Monday, October 21, 2013, the bill is deemed read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Navigable Waters Protection ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-547, An Act to amend the Navigable Waters Protection Act (Fox Lake and other lakes and rivers).

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for York South—Weston for seconding my bill.

Today I introduce my bill to amend the Navigable Waters Protection Act to re-protect many lakes and rivers of Nickel Belt. After the government stripped protection from 98% of Canada's lakes and rivers, I received an incredible volume of mail from constituents asking that their lakes and rivers be re-protected. I have named some 34 waterways in this legislation, including Lake Wanapitei, which is a source of drinking water for the City of Greater Sudbury. We know that navigation is directly related to environmental conditions, ecosystem protection, water levels and the commercial and recreational use of water. We must protect the interests of cottagers, boaters, recreational fishers, municipalities, first nations and more.

This is not just an issue for environmentalists. If a river or lake is not protected, it means that anyone can build a bridge, set up ferry service or create an obstruction that will affect navigation on the lake or river.

It is not right that all of these groups and individuals assume the onus to take a developer to court if the proposed protection affects a lake or river. My New Democrat colleagues have launched a campaign to return protection to the lakes and rivers Canadians hold dear. I am happy to include Nickel Belt lakes and rivers in that campaign.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Cluster MunitionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition on behalf of about two dozen of my constituents expressing their strong support for the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the positive obligations that are contained in it.

Sewer InfrastructurePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, residents in my community of York South—Weston who endured terrible flooding last July 8, in part caused by inadequate and antiquated sewers, have signed a petition calling on the Government of Canada to immediately take steps to fund urgent infrastructure projects in order to upgrade our sewer systems and avoid future property damage.

Honey BeesPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Independent

Bruce Hyer Independent Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I present a petition on behalf of residents in my riding of Thunder Bay—Superior North who are concerned about the disappearance of honey bees in Canada and around the world.

The petitioners are counting upon the federal government to immediately establish a refuge zone for honey bees in northwestern Ontario, where we are free from honey bee diseases. A honey bee refuge zone in northwestern Ontario is vital to the preservation of one of the last healthy populations of honey bees left in the world.

Lyme DiseasePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

November 5th, 2013 / 10:05 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present two petitions.

The first petition is from residents of Maple Ridge, B.C., as well as Oakville and Toronto, in Ontario. I am very grateful to the petitioners. They have collected petitioners' signatures to support my private member's bill, Bill C-442, calling for a national Lyme disease strategy. I hear from Canadians every single day who are suffering from this terrible disease. It is a non-partisan issue, and I hope the bill will be passed.

Climate ChangePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is from residents of my riding of Saanich—Gulf Islands, in Saanichton and Sidney, and also from people in Tofino.

The petitioners are calling upon this House to put together a full national climate strategy to reduce by 80%, by 2050, our emissions of greenhouse gases.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

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

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Opposition Motion—Instruction to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

moved:

That the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics be instructed to examine the conduct of the Prime Minister’s Office regarding the repayment of Senator Mike Duffy’s expenses; that the Prime Minister be ordered to appear under oath as a witness before the Committee for a period of 3 hours, before December 10, 2013; and that the proceedings be televised.

Mr. Speaker, last Thursday was Hallowe'en, and pumpkins across Canada were carved with the haunting letters “PMO”: hardly a compliment. On Friday, there were jokes making the rounds that only the drug debacle consuming Toronto mayor Rob Ford, the Prime Minister's friend, could take the current federal government's ethics scandal off the front pages of the newspapers.

The Conservatives had a convention in Calgary over the weekend, and the dominant news was not any matter of government policy; it was all about the intrigue surrounding a mysterious $90,000 payment and other chicanery to buy the silence and complicity of a disgraced senator. And on and on it goes. The government's self-inflicted crisis has made it a target for national questioning and even national ridicule.

The motion we have put before the House today is intended to help Canadians get the basic respect they deserve by providing a forum within which they can have their many serious questions asked and answered authoritatively about what went so terribly wrong with Senator Mike Duffy, and how the Prime Minister and his office got so deeply implicated. Interrogations in the daily question period are obviously useful, but they can only go so far. In the limited time available, question period cannot do much more than identify the basic headline issues, and the government's responses in 35 seconds are bound to be a bit superficial at best. That is compounded by an obvious government strategy to “deny, deny, deny”, as Colin Thatcher once said, stonewalling any reasonable access to information.

However, denial, deflection and obfuscation do not diminish the public's thirst for a complete and honest explanation of what transpired in the Conservative ethics scandal, or the public's absolute right to get such an explanation. The Prime Minister, of course, is the central player. He either appointed or hired every one of the people involved in this scandal. They were carrying out his orders to make the Duffy problem go away. The Prime Minister enabled them, he empowered them and they were accountable to him for what they did and how they did it. He, in turn, is accountable for them to all Canadians.

That point was made emphatically by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, then the government House leader, on August 27, 2010, when a parliamentary committee wanted to interrogate a ministerial staff member about his interference in an access to information proceeding. The minister blocked the employee from answering any questions, relying on the principle of ministerial responsibility. In the Globe and Mail, on behalf of the government, the current Minister of Foreign Affairs who was then the government House leader said this:

The fundamental constitutional principle of responsible government, which is integral to the supremacy of Parliament, provides that ministers are the ones accountable to Parliament, not members of their staff....

So in the government's own words, it is not appropriate, indeed it is a violation of parliamentary democracy, for the Prime Minister to blame his staff for this scandal or to shift responsibility onto employees or others.

When the Prime Minister brutally trashed Nigel Wright in this House last week, when he suggested that Wright and Wright alone was responsible for all the deceit and corruption, he was flatly wrong. The buck stops at the PM, not the PMO. It is the Prime Minister who must answer fully and completely to Canadians. To fail to do so shows utter contempt for the people of this country, who have the right to know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Providing for the Prime Minister to have his day under oath in the court of public opinion will give him an unparalleled opportunity to set the record straight; no more unanswered rants from Mike Duffy, no more speculation by the opposition, no more meddling by the media. The Prime Minister would have an unfiltered occasion to speak directly to Canadians, to tell them what they need to know in the most credible way possible, under oath. That is why the motion is being presented today.

If Canadians were the ones to be asking the questions, what would they want to know? They might start with the Prime Minister's frame of mind. Last week in Calgary, why did he go so far out of his way to set up an “us versus them” conflict scenario, which depicted anyone who was not a sycophantic Conservative ideologue as an opponent to be vilified? “I couldn't care less what those opponents think”, he shouted into the microphone. Add them up. Those opponents constitute a very large majority of Canadians. The Prime Minister owes them all an explanation. What did he mean when he told them he could not care less?

Does he comprehend that all those Canadians for whom he could not care less know full well that there are two distinct sides to this scandal? On one side, there is the bad behaviour of certain senators run amok. It is interesting to note that last May, as this scandal was developing in the public arena, it was the Liberals who prevented the quick sweep-under-the-rug scheme that the government was attempting back in May. We forced a debate in the Senate about the audits. We unwound the government's whitewash. We called for all of the files to go to the RCMP and we demanded consequences for those who had broken the rules. That was back in May. That is the one side of the scandal and that is where the government would want the public's focus to begin and end.

However, on the other side, there is the PMO and the Prime Minister's senior entourage, all those people who were so intensely involved in covering up the embarrassment to the government caused by its highest profile senators getting into such deep trouble. It is the cover up that converted Mike Duffy's scandal into the Prime Minister's scandal. Indeed, the cover up is likely the larger problem because it raises the question of what sort of operating mentality was dominating the PMO on the Prime Minister's watch that led Nigel Wright and so many others to think that a $90,000 payment to a sitting parliamentarian would somehow be okay.

In that regard, here is a sampling of just some of the questions that the Prime Minister needs to answer for Canadians. Before he appointed Mike Duffy to the Senate, what kind of a background check was done? Did he read it? Did the Prime Minister know that Mr. Duffy was a resident of Ottawa and not a resident of Prince Edward Island? Was he eligible to be appointed as a senator representing P.E.I.?

When did the Prime Minister first become aware that Mike Duffy had accumulating problems with his travel and living costs? How long before Nigel Wright summoned Duffy to a meeting in the PMO on February 11? On February 13, when the Prime Minister says he ordered Duffy to repay his expenses, what instructions did he give to Nigel Wright or anyone else to ensure that his orders to Mr. Duffy were in fact carried out properly? In the next three months, from Prime MinisterFebruary until mid-May, is it conceivable that the was never briefed by his staff about the biggest political problem that was then dogging the government or that he never asked a single question about how his orders on February 13 were being executed?

During that period, from February 13 until May 15, $90,000 was paid to Senator Duffy. Another $13,560 was paid to Duffy's lawyers to cover unspecified legal costs. The course of a forensic audit being conducted by Deloitte was seriously impeded. A Senate report about Mr. Duffy was edited, watered down and whitewashed to go easy on him.

He claims he was threatened and subject to extortion. He also says there was an elaborate communications plan to portray him as an honourable man, showing leadership by taking out a home mortgage to cover the $90,000 himself, which was patently untrue. He says he was specifically coached by the PMO to lie to Canadians about that mortgage scam.

All of this was going on in the PMO right under the Prime Minister's nose for three full months, from February to May, and the Prime Minister never noticed a thing. Did no one tell him? Did he not ask?

Canadians want to know how that is possible. They also want to know who was involved in this conspiracy. The Prime Minister says he found out on May 15 that the cash for Duffy came from Nigel Wright. He has repeatedly claimed that no one else knew anything or did anything. It was Wright and Wright alone. He was the sole architect of this deception.

However, that is clearly not true. Police documents show others were involved. Media reports have disclosed others still. It is a long list: Duffy; Wright; Senator Gerstein, now by his own admission; lawyers Perrin and Hamilton, maybe more; Chris Woodcock, the Prime Minister's director of issues management who got a detailed email from Duffy outlining the anatomy of the cover-up deal, including possible illegal behaviour in and around the PMO; senior staffers Byrne, Rogers, Novak and van Hemmen; Senators LeBreton, Tkachuk and Stewart Olsen; and on and on it goes.

As the Prime Minister's entire inner sanctum gets implicated, how is it credible that none of these folks breathed a word to the Prime Minister over a period of three full months? His chief of staff, his lawyer, his chief fundraiser; they had a duty to warn their boss that potentially illegal scheming was going on in his office. More to the point, they had a duty to Canada to stop it.

Here is another contradiction. Starting on May 15 when the media disclosed and the Prime Minister had to concede that Nigel Wright had given Duffy the cash to repay his expenses, the Prime Minister described Mr. Wright as an honourable man trying to protect taxpayers, trying to help out a dear old friend. He said that Mr. Wright continued to have his complete confidence.

Then five days later, he was gone, thrown under the bus with Duffy and all the rest. What did the Prime Minister learn in those five days, from the Wednesday to the Sunday, that totally changed his characterization of Mr. Wright? Why has that characterization continued to worsen over the summer and into the fall to the point that the Prime Minister so vilified Mr. Wright last week?

In the search for someone to pay the $90,000, what negotiations took place between Nigel Wright, Senator Gerstein and lawyer Arthur Hamilton? Did the Conservative Party say no as a matter of principle, or did it just say no when the cost rose above $30,000 and up to $90,000?

What is the party payment of $13,560 in legal fees really for? Can the Prime Minister or the government produce an itemized invoice from Duffy's lawyers to prove that this party cash had nothing to do with the $90,000 in hush money? If Duffy's lawyers obtained that $13,000 by false pretences, by saying it was in relation to something that it was not, will legal action be taken to get the money back?

What were the conversations between Wright and Duffy and various other senators about interfering with Deloitte's forensic audit and whitewashing a Senate report? Who gave those orders? Who carried them out? Who in the PMO instructed Mike Duffy to lie on national television about getting a mortgage?

Furthermore, where is the paper trail?

In answer to access to information requests and order paper questions, the government has said, incredibly but repeatedly, that there is not a single shred of paper, not an email, not a note, not a message written on a napkin, anywhere in the PMO or anywhere in the government that relates to Duffy or the Prime Minister's scandal.

However, Duffy has paper. PMO leakers have paper. The police have a lot of paper, and they are looking for more.

How is it that all that documentation somehow mysteriously vanished? Is it stored somewhere? Has any of it been destroyed inadvertently?

This raises a serious question for the Clerk of the Privy Council and the Deputy Minister of Justice. What have they done and what do they continue to do to protect the integrity of the Government of Canada through this whole sordid and tragic affair?

The central actor, of course, remains the Prime Minister. He has the ultimate authority and accountability. None of that can be delegated to subordinates, not to Nigel Wright or anyone else, to assume full responsibility. Only the Prime Minister can answer. The Prime Minister needs to look Canadians in the eye and tell them fully what happened.

Accordingly, I move:

That the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics be instructed to examine the conduct of the Prime Minister’s Office regarding the repayment of Senator Mike Duffy’s expenses; that the Prime Minister be ordered to appear under oath as a witness before the Committee for a period of 3 hours, before December 10, 2013; and that the proceedings be televised.

Opposition Motion—Instruction to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, it is rather funny to hear this member talk about things being written on a napkin. Of course, we remember his leader who sold a golf course by using a napkin at a restaurant and then used government money to do that, but I do not want to digress too far.

We have been listening in this chamber for a number of months. We have been having extraordinary debate back and forth. We have seen the Leader of the Opposition ask a lot of very good quality questions. There has been vigorous debate, but the one thing we have all noticed is that the Liberal leader does not seem to want to participate in that debate. What is becoming quite clear, I think even to members of the Liberal Party, is just how in over his head the Liberal leader is.

We have great actors in the House. The member for Jeanne-Le Ber I will say was a spectacular actor in the movie 300. That is a good actor, a great performance, but what is quite clear is that a drama teacher trying to act like a leader is just not working out for the Liberals. He is not acting great.

What the motion does is that it really is an admission by the Liberals that their leader is of no use to them in the House, so they want one member on the ethics committee to do all of the work that their leader has been so abysmal at in the House.

My question to the member is this. Is he that embarrassed by his leader and his inability to perform in the House that he now wants to shift it over to the member for Avalon? Has he now become the new leader of the Liberal Party when it comes to this topic?

Opposition Motion—Instruction to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, no amount of clown acting is going to change the topic. No number of slurs directed against the teaching profession is going to change the topic or change the channel.

The fact of the matter is that the Liberal caucus and the Liberal leader have pursued this issue every step of the way as it has unfolded so tragically before Canadians over the course of the last number of months.

I would also note that the reason the exposure to the country has been as ample as it has been is largely because of the work of Senator Cowan and others in the Liberal caucus in the Senate who refused to get snookered by the Conservatives who wanted this whole issue dealt with, without debate, by unanimous consent, back on about May 9. They wanted to sweep it all under the carpet. “Let's just pass a motion absolving everybody of everything, get over it and move on”.

If it had not been for the strength of the Liberal caucus in the Senate, which made sure that there was debate, which made sure that the facts got on the table, which made sure that the cover-up was unwound, in fact there would not be the degree of disclosure that we have today. Ever since then, in both the Senate and in the House, Liberals have prosecuted this aggressively and will continue to do so.

Opposition Motion—Instruction to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, we, the official opposition, would certainly like to hear from the Prime Minister, under oath, along with Senator Duffy, Senator Wallin, and Senator Brazeau.

However, I want the Liberal member to know that I am not clowning around. I would also like to hear from former Senator Mac Harb, who abruptly resigned to avoid answering questions; former Liberal Senator Raymond Lavigne, who is in jail; and former Liberal Senator Andy Thompson, who is God knows where. I would like to know if the Liberals would bring them to committee, under oath, to tell us about their scheming to defraud Canadian taxpayers.

Opposition Motion—Instruction to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, the hon. gentleman is entitled to propose whatever motions he likes, and the House will deal with and dispose of them.

This motion puts a precise focus on the major issue before the country right now, and that is the question of how Senator Duffy got so badly into disgrace and how and to what extent and by what means the Prime Minister and his office were involved.

That is the question we wish to see put before the ethics committee. If others wish to make other proposals, let them do it.

Opposition Motion—Instruction to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my hon. colleague from Wascana on his speech and on all his efforts throughout this scandal to clarify this situation and get some answers from the government and the Prime Minister. It is unfortunate that the Prime Minister often does not want to answer questions. However, I congratulate my colleague on his excellent work on this issue.

My question is rather simple. For the past few days, we have seen some of the questions that have arisen from the statements or affidavits the RCMP has filed in court regarding the involvement of the Prime Minister's Office—probably Mr. Woodcock, who is now the chief of staff for the Minister of Natural Resources—in inventing a scenario or scheme to cover up money in the PMO, specifically the money that Mr. Wright gave to Senator Duffy, and inventing stories involving a line of credit for Mr. Duffy's house and claims that he borrowed the money from the Royal Bank.

Clearly, the police documents reveal that that was not true, and furthermore, that the Prime Minister's Office had advised a parliamentarian to lie. It is really disturbing that senior officials in the office of the Prime Minister of Canada would take the time to send emails instructing a parliamentarian to go on television and lie to the Canadian public about an issue as complex and important as the integrity of the Prime Minister's Office and the Prime Minister himself.

I wonder if my colleague has any thoughts he could share on that.

Opposition Motion—Instruction to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, that is a core question that remains unanswered by the government. It is a stunning allegation by Senator Duffy. According to news reports, it is now the subject of a more focused kind of investigation by the police.

On at least two occasions, maybe more, I have asked that very question of the government in the House and have gotten absolutely no answer. What about this suggestion that somebody in the Prime Minister's Office counselled a sitting parliamentarian to lie to Canadians about a key fact in this whole sordid affair?

What makes it so serious is that the Prime Minister said that he took comfort that everything was being properly handled when he saw Senator Duffy on television saying that he had taken out a mortgage to pay his own expenses. Then we discover that it is alleged that Senator Duffy was lying on the instructions of the Prime Minister's very own office. That is the kind of damning thing that needs to be answered, and the answer can only come from the Prime Minister looking Canadians in the eye.

Opposition Motion—Instruction to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, MB

Mr. Speaker, I find it ironic that the Liberal Party raises this issue. We all remember the Gomery scandal and the $40 million we are still looking for.

The member for Wascana may recall an exchange with Judy Wasylycia-Leis during the previous election, when there were some serious allegations and an RCMP investigation.

There are so many issues facing the world today. There is the Syria crisis, the crisis in Egypt, and issues in Southeast Asia and throughout Africa. In Canada, there are issues in health care and aboriginal issues we need to work together as a Parliament to get through.

I wonder if the member could rank issues such as health care, the environment, and the economy in order of importance to him, relative to the Senate.

Opposition Motion—Instruction to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, first, in relation to the two specific cases the hon. gentleman referred to, in one case, there was a royal commission, and in the other case, there was a police investigation, both of which completely vindicated the position I had taken, by 100%.

Second, all the issues he referred to in terms of health, economic development, and the well-being of Canadians are crucially important issues, and they need to have the time and attention of this House.

It is also fundamentally important, and more important than anything else, that Canadians are able to trust the integrity of their Prime Minister. That is the issue that has to be dealt with first and foremost.

Opposition Motion—Instruction to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, we have obviously been spending a lot of time on this here in the House of Commons. As I said in my opening question to the deputy leader of the Liberal Party, it seems that we have come to a point where the Liberals themselves are in agreement with the fact that their leader is in way over his head.

Last week we were in the House, and the Liberals were accusing the NDP of bringing forward a silly motion that showed how amateur the NDP was and so on and so forth. Now we have the Liberal Party basically admitting to Canadians that the new leader of the Liberal Party will be the member for Avalon. He is the person they trust more than their own leader to get to the bottom of issues.

Where are we with respect to the Senate? It is important that we look back and see where we are and what has happened.

On February 13, as I have said in the House on a number of occasions, Senator Duffy approached the Prime Minister to try to justify his inappropriate expenses. He approached the Prime Minister, who was very clear: if Senator Duffy had inappropriate expenses or expenses that he did not earn, he had to pay those back. The Prime Minister was very clear.

I do not think any of us, at least on this side of the House, would disagree with that statement. If someone has accepted a payment that he or she is not entitled to, it must be paid back.

The Prime Minister made quite clear to all of us, in a caucus meeting with senators and members of Parliament in attendance, the standard he expected from members of Parliament and each of us who is entrusted with taxpayers' money. He told all of us that if members have something inappropriate, they had better make it right. If they do not, they cannot expect their caucus to stand up for them. At the conclusion of that meeting, as I have said, Senator Duffy approached the Prime Minister to try to justify those expenses. The Prime Minister was very clear that he had to repay those expenses.

We then learned, along with all Canadians and all members of the House, that Senator Duffy had taken out a mortgage or a loan from the Royal Bank of Canada on one of his homes, and with that loan, he paid back the expenses. That is what we were told. Obviously, that was not true. There is no disputing the fact that Senator Duffy, at this point, had not paid back a penny of the inappropriate expenses he accepted.

We learned subsequently, when it was reported on May 15, that Nigel Wright had, in fact, repaid Senator Duffy's expenses. Nigel Wright, of course, understands that it was inappropriate. Nigel Wright is prepared to accept the consequences of that decision. Nigel Wright, as far as we understand, is working with the authorities in providing whatever information they ask for. We also subsequently learned that there were other individuals whom Mr. Wright had brought into his confidence with respect to his repayment of Senator Duffy's expenses. That was, of course, addressed by the Prime Minister in the summer.

Let us talk a bit further about what has been happening in the House for a number of months, because that is really at the heart of what this Liberal motion is all about. Since this came out, we have had the audit. Canadians I have spoken to, the ones who are contacting my office, want to learn more about how the Senate operates. They understand that there are two houses of Parliament, but they do not always appreciate the independence the Senate has with respect to the House of Commons. They understand that we have certain rules we follow over here with respect to how we submit and receive our expenses, but they do not understand how this was able to go on in the Senate for so long, and they want accountability.

Canadians also know that one of the ways they can extract accountability from their members of Parliament is by throwing them out of office at the time of the next election. It frustrates them that they do not have that exact same ability with senators. It frustrates them that there is no way to remove a senator from office until that senator reaches the age of 75.

The member opposite, from the NDP caucus, asked a question in which he talked about former Liberal senator Andy Thompson. Canadians remember this. Here was a Liberal senator, the former leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, who I think was appointed in 1967, I suppose by Pierre Trudeau or by Lester Pearson. I assume it was Pierre Trudeau, because it was late 1967.

By 1997 people were wondering who the heck this senator was. People started to look into it. He appeared once or twice a session to collect his paycheque, but then he was gone. We subsequently found that the senator had actually been living in Mexico. However, for years he still collected a paycheque from the people of Canada as a senator. It never dawned on the Liberal Party that that was somehow inappropriate for the taxpayers of Canada to be paying for a senator to live in Mexico, come up to Canada, show his face in the Senate once or twice a session, collect his paycheque, collect credits toward his pension, and in no way participate in any of the debates that were so important to Canadians at that time.

Debates such as those on the GST and free trade were very important, and so was the repatriation of the constitution. This senator did not participate in any of it, because he was busy tanning in Mexico. No one in the Liberal Party ever thought that was a problem and they had better do something about it until members of the Reform Party at the time brought this out and asked how appropriate it was. Then all of a sudden the Liberals decided he needed to be removed from the Senate, his salary stripped, and so on. Thirty years later, they finally got around to it.

Canadians also remember, sadly, Senator Raymond Lavigne. This was brought up by my NDP colleague, the member for Nickel Belt. Senator Lavigne, if I recall correctly, was having one of his assistants clean his cottage and chop down some trees. He was getting paid to do that. Senator Lavigne was on the public payroll for years while he was going to court, where he was subsequently found guilty.

Canadians look at this and say they cannot throw them out through an election. When they abuse their expenses, unlike the case in the private sector, where they would be fired, in the Senate they are told not to show up for work. They keep all of their privileges, continue to get paid, and receive credits toward their pension. Canadians know that is unacceptable and, rightly, it frustrates them.

The same goes for these senators right now, Senators Brazeau, Wallin, and Duffy, and recently retired and disgraced Liberal Senator Mac Harb. Here is another case. Mac Harb is a former Liberal member of Parliament for Ottawa Centre. He lived in Ottawa, became a senator for Ottawa, but then found a way to manipulate the rules so that he could claim a housing allowance by buying a home 120 kilometres away from Ottawa, just outside the area, and then pretending to live there. He collected an allowance, year after year, as someone living away from Ottawa.

We all have the opportunity in this place to decide where our principal residence will be. There are a lot of members who, for travel reasons or because they are cabinet ministers or for whatever reason, choose to declare that their principal residence will be in Ottawa, even though they have a home elsewhere. My principal residence is in Stouffville. I declare that as my principal residence when I am asked. However, other members who are here more often and perhaps have extraordinary flight challenges getting back and forth may decide to make their residence here. We understand what that means in relation to our expenses. It is not a confusion to any of us, so it should not be a confusion to the senators either.

As we have been saying right from the beginning, just because somebody can figure out a way to abuse the system and then try to go back and say, “Well, the rules are the rules, and I was able to figure out a way around them“ does not mean that the person should be protected. As the Prime Minister said, it is not only about following the letter of the law, it is about following the spirit of the law.

The vast majority of us in this place, on both sides of the House, have never violated that trust. We understand it. We get it.

We know that there were some members of the Liberal Party who did not quite get it. I think two of its sitting members abused that trust. I hope that they have subsequently paid the money back. I am not sure. I have never seen any copies of cheques showing they have repaid the hundreds of thousands of dollars in residence claims to which they were not entitled.

However, I will take them at their word. If they say they have paid it back, I guess they did, although I have not seen any copies of the cheques suggesting that they have.

However, that does not make it right. Just because someone can figure out a way around the rules does not make it right.

What are Canadians asking? They are saying they understand there are challenges and they are asking us to make it right, so they want us to look at the Senate and find ways that we can reform it. As a result, we have a package of reforms that we have put forward to the Supreme Court of Canada to find out ways in which we can actually reform the Senate.

Canadians have also been clear that they do not want to get into a big, long-drawn-out constitutional battle. They do not want us fighting with our provincial partners regarding the Senate. One of the things that Canadians have most talked about as well is how well the provinces and the federal government have worked together during the great recession to benefit the Canadian people. They do not want to turn back the pages to a time when the federal government was fighting with the provincial governments on everything. However, they do want change.

We have asked the Supreme Court of Canada to help us, to give us a road map to show us how we can change the Senate so that it better reflects Canadian values of the 21st century in order that Canadians can once again be proud of that institution, but in such a way that Canadians can be consulted so that there are term limits for these senators and so that Canadians' voices with respect to accountability can be heard. We are waiting for the Supreme Court to give us that advice so that we can bring it forward and make some changes.

What we said in our throne speech is that if we cannot change it, then it has to be abolished. I think it is quite clear that Canadians will no longer tolerate a Senate that has zero accountability.

In relation to this motion, I get to answer a lot of questions in question period. I know that often my colleagues on the NDP benches are not happy with how I answer the questions, and that is fine. I get it. I understand. I am not always happy with the way they ask the question and they are not happy with the way I answer the question, but at least they actually ask questions on something that they think is important. Their leader gets up in the House and asks those questions. I might not like it and I might want to talk about other things. I think it is important we talk about other things, such as the economy, and I think it is important we talk about health care, trade, and natural resources, as was already mentioned. I think these are also very important things we should talk about

However, this issue is obviously important to the members of the official opposition. This is a priority for them. They are asking those questions, and we are obliged to answer them.

However, they do it from the floor of the House of Commons, unlike the third party, which has clearly been left leaderless. The Liberals have clearly been left embarrassed by their own leader's inability to do anything of any significance or importance within this House of Commons.

The Liberals could start by having their leader's stage handlers pull out a copy of Hansard from May so that he could be brought back up to speed on what we have been talking about since then, as opposed to turning over the reins to the new or presumptive Liberal leader, the member for Avalon, and telling the member for Avalon that it is now his responsibility to do the job because the Liberal leader has so miserably failed in his duties.

What do they want? This is something that at least one opposition has been seized with. The Liberals have tried in their silly way to gain some traction, but it has been quite clear that when it comes to this issue, the leader of the NDP has taken the spotlight, and it is killing the Liberal leader. It is killing the Liberal leader that somebody has stolen his spotlight. What is more evident is just how irrelevant the Liberals have become on matters of any importance to the Canadian people. They are completely irrelevant.

The Liberal leader was elected in April and was going to bring so much hope to the Liberal Party. Liberals waited and waited and waited. Canadians waited with bated breath. Then, how was his first policy formulated? He was having a dinner party at his house with his friends and maybe his advisers; I do not know. They pulled out a joint and started talking about things, and the idea that maybe they should legalize marijuana came up. Now, there was a good policy.

The member for Richmond Hill told me he has a lot of dinner parties at his house. He said that usually people bring wine and they share a bottle of wine, but nobody has ever pulled out a joint and formulated policy on it. Liberals waited and waited and waited, and is that what he had?

Now he is saying he does not have what it takes in the House of Commons, so he is going to cede everything over to the member for Avalon, three hours in front of a committee is enough, and it will be put to bed.

I know why the Liberals want to do this. As we are learning today, the Liberal leader is actually instructing his senators to abstain from voting on these motions. He is actually telling them to abstain. It is being reported in the media, the same media that the Liberals have believed 100% of the time throughout this controversy. They do not care about any of the facts, but if something is reported by a certain person, it has to be true. That same person is now reporting that the Liberal leader has instructed his senators to abstain from voting on this matter.

As the member for Trinity—Spadina just said, the Liberals have lots of practice in abstaining. They do. It is very rare that Liberals will ever come forward with any options.

We have heard this before. I remember that when I was a bit younger, the Liberals said in 1993 that they were going to get rid of the GST and get rid of free trade. Well, the GST and free trade are still here, and then they tried to take credit for how the economy grew because of free trade.

One of the reasons I got involved in politics was that I remembered the debates between John Turner and Brian Mulroney on the free trade issue. I remember those debates. Former prime minister Turner, who was also the leader of the opposition, was passionate every day in the House about what he believed, and he fought for those beliefs. Ultimately, was he wrong? Yes, he was wrong, but he had a belief and he fought for it day in and day out. He stood in this place and fought for it.

I know all members in the House would agree with me that they cannot even begin to imagine that same level of debate from the current Liberal leader, who thinks it is more important to smile for a camera than to be in this place every single day and debate the issues that are important to Canadians.

No matter where we fall on this issue, we cannot help but see it as a desperate attempt by the Liberals to steal some of the spotlight away from the NDP and to do their best to make sure their leader never has to speak on this issue, because he has nothing to say. Other than protecting the status quo, they are terrified that he might actually speak on any substantive issue, anything of importance, because what he says changes from area to area. Unless his stage handlers have put something right in front of him, Liberals are terrified, so they have now told the member for Avalon that he is the new presumptive leader of the Liberal Party. He is the person Liberals trust on this issue. He has three hours to get it done and not do anything to upset the status quo in the Senate.

I think Canadians understand that. When it comes to fighting the status quo in the Senate, there are some people they can trust, and it is certainly not the Liberal Party of Canada.

Opposition Motion—Instruction to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, Canadians do not trust the Conservative Party with the Senate either. The member for Oak Ridges—Markham on October 25, stood in the House and said, “we have been very clear since we were elected in this place that we do not want to appoint senators”. That would be news to most Canadians in the fact that Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau, Pam Wallin, Fabian Manning, Larry Smith, Josée Verner were all appointed by the Prime Minister.

The member mentioned the debate that happened in the eighties between Brian Mulroney and the Liberal leader, and I remember it well too. Basically the Conservative leader at the time said, “You had an option, sir, about patronage appointments”. Now we are three decades later and we still have the same patronage appointments going on.

The Prime Minister for years said that he wanted to reform the Senate. The Prime Minister had the minimum option in terms of reform of not making patronage appointments to the Senate, but instead he chose to do like Liberal and Conservative governments of the past.

Does the member agree that the 50 people who his Prime Minister appointed should be there, or does he stand by his statement that he made October 25, saying that the Conservatives should not appoint senators?

Opposition Motion—Instruction to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, of course I do not think we should be appointing senators. When I was asked that question, I made it quite clear that we would rather elect senators. We do not want to appoint senators.

In fact, it is the Prime Minister who has actually appointed elected senators and they are sitting there right now. Alberta has a model where it approached the people who identified the people they wanted to be senators and the Prime Minister then appointed those people to the Senate. That is what we want to do. We want to have an elected Senate. We want to put term limits in place.

I stand by those comments because it is important. Canadians have said this. The ones I am speaking to said that they wanted accountability in the Senate and one of the first steps should be, once we were beyond this, was to ensure that we had a voice in who represented us in the Senate.

I disagree with one thing the NDP says on this. I do support a Senate that works better, of which Canadians can be proud. I want them to be elected. I want there to be term limits, but if we cannot get to that point, then it should be abolished.