Mr. Speaker, when the public hear words like “extortion”, “bribery”, “cover-up”, “deception” and “lying”, we have an obligation and a duty to find out the truth about this emerging political and possibly criminal crisis involving the highest officials in the Government of Canada. We are now in a situation where it is alleged that a wholesale cover-up was deployed to deceive Canadians about a payoff to a sitting senator, a payoff meant to conceal information from the Canadian people and to obstruct a forensic audit.
The rule of law still applies to the highest office-holders in the land. No one is above the law. We need to know the truth about the $90,000 payoff to Senator Duffy. We need to know about what involvement others had, including the role, if any, of the Prime Minister in this cover-up. We need to know the truth, and so far we have had little.
That is why I support the motion before the House, which reads:
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.
How did we get to this point? What events transpired that led to allegations of bribery and cover-up? What events led to this crisis that is now consuming the Conservative government and the Prime Minister?
Well, this all started in 2009. The “old Duff”, as he likes to call himself, had waged a decades long effort to get into the Senate. He waged this effort, all the while acting as a journalist, and I emphasize “acting as a journalist”. It was clear and it was well known that Mike Duffy really wanted to be a senator and he was prepared to do almost anything to achieve that end. He found favour with the current Prime Minister when his Mike Duffy Live show morphed into a Conservative propaganda outlet. Mike Duffy really did “earn” the Senate seat with biased reporting that more often than not favoured the Conservative Party. Therefore, when the Prime Minister had a vacancy in Prince Edward Island, he appointed Mike Duffy, and the outrage back home on the island was felt immediately. Islanders were appalled that an individual living in Ontario for some 40 years was to be selected to represent Prince Edward Island in the Senate. The rest, as they say, was history.
Mike Duffy, once appointed, became an ATM to the Prime Minister. He travelled around the country raising very large amounts of money for the Conservatives, and he was good at it. People flocked to see the “old Duff” because he was a well-known celebrity and a media person. He viciously and gleefully insulted our premier. The Prime Minister was no doubt very pleased with the bags of money he was raising. It was only when questions were raised about inappropriate expenses charged by Senator Duffy and when questions re-emerged about his true residence that things began to unravel. Soon, one of the most successful fundraisers for the Conservative Party, Mike Duffy, became a serious liability because of his expenses.
That is the start of this whole sordid affair. It was that day in 2009 when the Prime Minister appointed Mike Duffy, who was living in Ontario for 40 years, as a senator for P.E.I.
However, why should we be surprised at that appointment, a slap in the face to the people of Prince Edward Island? The degree of disdain the government has for Prince Edward Island is clear, and this is but one example. Immediately upon the Conservatives' election in 2006, the first thing the Prime Minister did was to cancel a deal that would have provided for a third power cable between P.E.I. and New Brunswick, something that would be very important for our energy security and economic development, and the attack on Prince Edward Island continues to this day.
It was the Prime Minister who made cuts to the federal civil service at the rate of 4.8% across the country and double that rate in Prince Edward Island. It was the Prime Minister who cut district offices for veterans, leaving Prince Edward Island as the only province with no district office for veterans. It was the Prime Minister who cut the immigration office in Prince Edward Island, leaving it as the only province in Canada without an office for citizenship and immigration. It was the Prime Minister who cut the counter service for Revenue Canada in Prince Edward Island, leaving my province as the only one in Canada where a taxpayer could not speak to a live person through counter service at Revenue Canada. It was the Prime Minister who gutted the EI system, hurting Atlantic Canadian families and harming seasonal businesses on Prince Edward Island. Also, it was the Prime Minister who appointed Mike Duffy, from Kanata, to the Senate.
I am amazed to witness the performance by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister. Day in and day out, he stands in the House of Commons defending the indefensible and acting as if his boss is somehow a victim in this whole affair. Does he not know it was his boss, the Prime Minister, who was the source of all this mess? Does he think Canadians will forget that it was the Prime Minister who appointed Senators Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau and who also appointed Nigel Wright, among others? No, Canadians will not forget.
The Prime Minister has repeatedly claimed in the House that he knew nothing about the payoff to Mike Duffy. He says that he was not involved. Senator Duffy is now suggesting otherwise. Senator Duffy has presented some explosive allegations about a cover-up involving officials in the Prime Minister's Office and perhaps even the Prime Minister himself. Nigel Wright, the Prime Minister's former chief of staff, who by all accounts was considered by most Conservatives and others as an honourable man, is now suddenly not the chief of staff for the Prime Minister but rather the chief deceiver, at least according to the Prime Minister.
I concede that under normal circumstances when a Prime Minister speaks on a particular matter, we should assume he or she is telling the truth, and why would we not? The Prime Minister is, after all, the holder of the most senior position in the Canadian government. Under normal circumstances we would take the Prime Minister at his word. These, however, are not normal times. There are far too many questions about this ethics scandal and, to date, the Prime Minister has not answered questions to the satisfaction of the House, nor to the satisfaction of Canadians. The fact that we find ourselves questioning whether the Prime Minister is telling the truth is, frankly, quite troubling.
I do not know if the Prime Minister was in on the organized cover-up with respect to the $90,000 payoff to Mike Duffy. Yet, day in and day out, when facing direct and clear questions from the Liberals and the New Democrats about the cover-up, we hear an evolving and changing story from the Prime Minister. Instead of direct answers, the Prime Minister is evasive and deploys rehearsed and changing talking points, all which seek to sidestep accountability and give rise to suspicion.
I concede that it is possible the Prime Minister could be telling the truth. The Prime Minister's comportment in this regard, however, his unwillingness to be direct and forthright when asked direct questions about his involvement in a possible cover-up, gives rise to doubt.
Are we to believe the Prime Minister knew nothing of the cover-up and the potential bribe of a sitting parliamentarian, a cover-up meant to protect the Prime Minister? Are we to believe that a prime minister who rules with an iron fist, who micromanages his cabinet members, who holds court over the vast majority of the operation of the Government of Canada, who, according to a recent book by Paul Wells, ordered the production of a stamp at Canada Post, is suddenly a prime minister unbothered with the minute details of daily government life?
Is it believable that his chief of staff, Nigel Wright, was operating alone as the Prime Minister first suggested? Is it possible that all of this happened without the knowledge of the Prime Minister?
It is also possible that there was no moon landing. However, the evidence is overwhelming that there was.