Mr. Speaker, as always it is an incredible honour to rise in the House as the elected member for the great region of Timmins—James Bay.
It is November 5 and I was thinking of the children's poem that is said all over England today, “Remember, remember, the fifth of November”. That is the Guy Fawkes plot where a group of rebels attempted to blow up the House of Commons. Coming from a Scottish Catholic background, our family never had much reason to celebrate the Guy Fawkes plot with all of the burnings. However, I thought of it because people will look back at this period as a time when the so-called august chamber of sober second thought was blown up under its own hubris and corruption. What poems will the children speak in future? Will they remember Guy Fawkes or will they remember Nigel Wright, Pamela Wallin, Patrick Brazeau, Mac Harb or the current Prime Minister?
I want to speak to the motion and the issues we see. Right now there is a legitimization crisis in the country toward Parliament and the Senate because of this corruption scandal. Canadians need answers. At the outset, the New Democrats would support any effort to get answers regarding this scandal. However, I have a number of questions about the Liberal motion to bring the Prime Minister to committee for a three hour period to speak. I do not think that is very well thought out because there are many people we need to hear from. If we were to set up a proper inquiry, there are a number of people we would bring to committee, such as Chris Woodcock, Benjamin Perrin, Mr. van Hemmen, Irving Gerstein and Nigel Wright.
I do not agree with the idea of the Prime Minister coming to committee for three hours. Last week he was in the House for at least three hours during question period. That is the moment when we are to confront the Prime Minister. This is the tradition of the Westminster system. There is an honour system. Much of our tradition has been undermined by the present Prime Minister. However, when the leader of a party stands up to speak, it is the honour and tradition that the Prime Minister responds to the leader of that party. Therefore, the leaders of the parties have enormous opportunities in the House.
Last week, the Liberal leader fronted the idea of the Prime Minister speaking under oath somewhere. It seemed to take the Liberals a few days to figure out where this oath-taking would take place. However, I would remind the people back home that when ministers speak in the House, it is expected that they tell the truth. They may prevaricate, deny or skirt around the issue but there is a legal obligation. If someone knowingly misrepresents the facts, that is a breach of privilege for the members of the House. The Prime Minister has been walking a tightrope because he and his staff are facing many serious allegations. Therefore, this is the forum in which it should be done.
It is the leader of the Liberal Party who should be calling out the Prime Minister if he is being called out individually and not with all of his support staff or anyone else. It is the leader of a party who should be doing that. However, I have not seen the involvement of the Liberal leader anywhere with respect to this issue.
Last week the Liberal leader had 45 opportunities to ask questions on this issue. That is the power of the leader of the third party. He asked three questions. Therefore, it is surprising that it has suddenly become a serious issue for him. He skipped town. He was in Calgary glad-handing with the oil executives, while the nation was facing one of the biggest political scandals. The week before that he skipped town to go to Washington to promote Keystone XL. These were his choices and it is his choice to make. However, he then cannot turn around and say that the Prime Minister is not willing to answer questions when the Prime Minister does stand up. We will continue to take that stand.
My hon. Liberal members might say that the NDP had more opportunity to ask questions. However, our leader has made it a policy that the House of Commons is where leaders challenge each other to find out where the breakdowns are in the story.
There are two fundamental crises happening. One is in the Senate, and one is in the House of Commons.
There probably is a reason senators have not allowed cameras in the Senate. I say to the folks back home that I have been in the Senate watching. It is a dismal exercise. It is like watching the made men and women of the Liberal and Conservative parties hitting each other with feather dusters and then going off for drinks afterwards.
We are told by my colleagues in the Liberal Party that it is the Liberal senators who are standing up for fairness.
The key senators who should be questioned are not being questioned in the Senate, because senators protect their own. The Liberal senators have been standing up day after day saying how unfair it is that people who are facing issues of breech of trust and fraud are actually getting the boot.
I do not know what universe the Liberals live in, but if the people in my riding get an overpayment on their pension or disability cheques, the government comes back at them. There is no due process or anything else. The government comes down on them. I am dealing with a man with a disabled son who almost lost his house because of an overpayment. He was not doing anything wrong. Yet day after day, the Liberal senators have been stalling in the House, in the Senate, not on the issue of getting to the bottom of the scandal but on the fundamental issue that it is simply not fair that one of their made men or women are being booted out the door. That is what the debate has been about.
If the Liberal senators were serious about dealing with this, they could use their role in the Senate for a whole manner of things, because we are not, in our lower chamber, supposed to even be able to question these august senators. As Liberal Senator Baker said, they are “above all rules”. They make their own rules. In their world, if they ask for money, ask and it shall be given. Knock and the door shall be opened. They seem to live in some kind of biblical antechamber. They believe that if they ask for the money, they should receive it and that what is unfair is that senators are being booted out for having done that.
Let us talk about who should be brought forward if we were to ask questions. Let us talk about the fraud charges against Raymond Lavigne. This is not bringing up the deep, dark past. This is recent history. The RCMP raised the issues about fraud and the fact that there were no checks and balances in the Senate. They were raised then, in the trial, when he went to jail, and nothing was done in the Senate. The senators just went on with business as usual.
Let us talk about Senator Tkachuk. There is an allegation that Senator Tkachuk gave Mike Duffy the heads-up about him ordering all the chicken wings and beer when he was two weeks in Florida, in the middle of an audit. He was on the committee, and he gave Mike Duffy the heads-up.
There is nobody on the Liberal side of the Senate asking what was going on that undermined an audit. Now they are saying that it is gross negligence. If we have allegations that senators were giving other senators a tipoff, that undermines the public trust.
One would think the senators would be asking questions of Carolyn Stewart Olsen, who is having her own problems now with the mispaying of money. She sat on that committee.
We are told that under the Nigel Wright deal, Nigel Wright would arrange the money and the senators would whitewash the audit. I would like to hear them asking in the Senate right now what senators were involved in the whitewashing of that audit, but we are not hearing anything.
The Liberal senators are standing on the principle that one of their own, a senator, even if from the other party, should never be kicked out. Senators should keep their benefits no matter what has happened.
It is a disgraced institution, and Canadians are rightly fed up with these shenanigans. They would expect someone over in that so-called upper chamber to act decently and recognize that they are living off the largesse of the Canadian people. However, we are not hearing a word of that from any of the Liberal senators at this point. They are stalling for time. They are saying that it is unfair what is happening to Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, and Patrick Brazeau. They are talking about their right to due process, which no other Canadian would get, because these are the people who make the rules.
This scandal is a very serious issue for Canadians, because what starts with Mike Duffy and his ineligible expenses goes into the Prime Minister's Office, where Nigel Wright apparently, according to Mike Duffy, who has the paper trail, told him that his expenses were okay, because if they went after him, there were at least four other senators in that spot. Who are those other senators? I think Canadians need to know.
What has come forward from the evidence that came out at the beginning of February, and that nobody has contradicted, is that they would write a $90,000 cheque. Initially, according to the RCMP affidavits, which the Conservatives are always telling us to study, Senator Irving Gerstein was involved in the discussions. He was willing to use $30,000 from the donor base of the Conservative Party to pay, but when he found out that it was $90,000, he refused.
What was the role of Senator Irving Gerstein, or what knowledge did he have of a deal that was potentially illegal? I am not a lawyer, but to make a secret payment to a sitting politician in a matter before the Senate is certainly something that breaches the Criminal Code. Irving Gerstein would have been aware of that.
The deal was what Nigel Wright referred to as a cash repayment scheme.They would pay for Mike Duffy's audit problems, the $90,000, and then the Senate would agree to go easy on Duffy. That is what happened. We saw an initial whitewashed audit. We saw the Prime Minister thanking Mike Duffy for showing leadership. All the things were in place until the paper trail began to come out.
On March 25, Nigel Wright transferred $90,172.24 to Mike Duffy's lawyer. We are not sure exactly how the transfer occurred and whether it went through Conservative Party lawyers, but it was transferred. Mike Duffy said that Nigel Wright said do not worry. He would write the cheque and would let lawyers handle the details. Duffy should just follow the plan, and they would keep Carolyn Stewart Olsen and David Tkachuk at bay.
Who were those lawyers? There has to be a paper trail.
Less than two weeks after this transfer of money, which may have been highly illegal, Arthur Hamilton, the senior lawyer for the Conservative Party, sent a cheque for $13,560 to Mike Duffy's lawyer, Elizabeth Payne. The House of Commons, through all the questions, was not told about this by the Prime Minister. Who authorized the senior Conservative Party lawyer to write this cheque if it was not Senator Irving Gerstein or someone up higher?
On May 15, this potentially illegal hush-money payoff became public. On May 16, the Prime Minister said that Nigel Wright had his full confidence. The Prime Minister knew on May 16. If the Prime Minister had no idea before, it seems rather bizarre that everyone around the Prime Minister knew.
If, on May 16, the Prime Minister knew that a potentially illegal cheque had been written by his staff in a cover-up to whitewash an audit that may have been looking at issues of breach of trust or fraud, the Prime Minister's response was certainly odd when he said that he had full confidence.
On May 17, the Prime Minister's Office said that Wright was staying on.
On May 19, the extent of the political damage was becoming very clear, and the Prime Minister said, “It is with great regret that I have accepted the resignation of Nigel Wright as my Chief of Staff”.
Up to that point, we remember the questions in the House of Commons about whether the RCMP investigators were to be involved. They were saying to leave it to the ethics officer. It was actually the New Democrats that wrote a letter asking the RCMP to investigate, because we were looking at a potential crime.
The Prime Minister said in May and June that if there were any documents relating to this issue, they would be more than willing to co-operate, but he did not say that he would release any. In fact, we were told by the present Minister of Foreign Affairs that no documents existed. We know that this is simply not true.
What is surprising from the evidence that has been brought forward by Nigel Wright is that he has in his possession a very large binder of evidence regarding Mike Duffy's claims: his calendar, his travel, and all manner of issues. This was not given over to the audit, and it was not given over to the RCMP until months after the RCMP investigation began.
I mention this because if, on May 19, Nigel Wright walked out of his office, why would the Prime Minister's staff allow him to walk out with such a trove of evidence about a potential crime? It just beggars belief that Nigel Wright was allowed to walk with all this evidence. Yet he was.
When we asked the Prime Minister a really simple and straightforward question—who knew in the Prime Minister's Office?—he said again and again that Nigel Wright was the sole actor. We asked about Benjamin Perrin's role. We were not given straightforward answers. We now know that Chris Woodcock, in the Prime Minister's Office, Benjamin Perrin, and David van Hemmen were involved. We need to know to what degree.
I refer the House to the latest article on the RCMP statements. They are now looking for the paper trail regarding new allegations that have emerged that this RBC mortgage loan was a front set up by the Prime Minister's Office and that they told Mike Duffy to go along.
The allegation Mike Duffy made, and we have not seen the Prime Minister stand up in the House and say that Mike Duffy is a liar, is that the Prime Minister's staff coached him to lie to the Canadian people about this deal and the fake RBC loan. The Prime Minister continues to repeat that line in the House. His Parliamentary Secretary continues to repeat that line.
At no point have we heard the Prime Minister say that he was told by his staff that Mike Duffy had an RBC loan. What the heck was going on? The Prime Minister seems to have real disinterest in finding out within his office if people were playing a game.
In fact, we now know that there was a senator who phoned Mike Duffy and threatened him, saying that he had better go along and do what the Prime Minister said. Who was that person? We have not heard the Prime Minister answer that.
I would like to focus on the RBC loan, because it is a very important issue. What we are seeing now from Sergeant Biage Carrese of the RCMP National Division, in a November 1 letter, is that:
Emails from the PMO specifically relating to a script for Senator Duffy to follow in advance of obtaining funds from a RBC loan to repay the Receiver General
may be material to the RCMP's investigation.
Duffy has said:
On Feb. 21, after all of the threats and intimidation, I reluctantly agreed to go along with this dirty scheme.
I certainly do not think that too many Canadians believe that Mike Duffy is the most trustworthy person. However, the difference between Mike Duffy and the Prime Minister at this point is that Mike Duffy is providing us with a paper trail. We are getting nothing from the Prime Minister. It is quite a shocking set of circumstances when someone who has abused the public trust as much as Mike Duffy is being given more credit than the Prime Minister.
We are talking about the RCMP actually investigating not just the issue of whether a potentially illegal payout was made, which was meant to cover up the breach of trust and potential fraud against the taxpayers, but that it was the Prime Minister's Office that set up the fake story about the RBC and coached Mike Duffy. If he did not go along, they would go public with the fact that he was not even legitimately allowed to sit in the Senate.
What kind of contempt for the Canadian people is that? Even in a system as dodgy as the Senate, they were all willing to cover up the fact that Mike Duffy was not even eligible to sit in the Senate. He had to go along. It was being orchestrated. Who was it? Was it Ray Novak? Was it Chris Woodcock? Was it Benjamin Perrin? Who was the one in the Prime Minister's Office coaching Mike Duffy through this scheme?