Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be part of this debate in a sense. I wish we did not need to have this debate on a motion calling on the information, privacy and ethics committee to be instructed to examine the conduct of the Prime Minister's Office regarding the repayment of Senator Mike Duffy's expenses and on the Prime Minister to be ordered to appear under oath as a witness before the committee for a period of three hours.
It is to some degree humiliating to the Prime Minister, to his members of Parliament, to the Conservative Party and to Canada that we have to put a motion forward asking the head of the government to be honest with Canadians. How humiliating it must be for the Prime Minister to have one of the former members of his party and his caucus, the member for Edmonton—St. Albert, plead for an honest response from his former leader, the Prime Minister, as to what he knew and when he knew it. How humiliating it must be for the Prime Minister to be begged to take responsibility for what occurred in his office, the office he is in charge of and a government he is in charge of, which is led by a party of which he is the leader.
As an official observer at the recent convention of the Conservative Party of Canada in Calgary, I was struck by the initial subdued atmosphere at the convention, but it was also an atmosphere of waiting expectantly. That was not just the atmosphere at that convention, but the atmosphere across the country where Canadians, who have been following this, were waiting for the air to be cleared.
We are in a situation where well over half of Canadians do not know whether to believe their Prime Minister's or Senator Duffy's version of what took place. When two-thirds of Canadians are unable to trust that their Prime Minister is telling the truth, that is a humiliation not only for the government, but also for our country. One out of two Conservative voters do not trust that their Prime MInister is telling the truth and do not know whom to believe when there are two different stories. That is a significant and very worrisome situation when there has been systemic lack of clarity on the part of the Prime Minister, whose story has changed again and again.
As the member for Edmonton—St. Albert just declared, this is bad for our country. He was very eloquent in talking about the consequences when the integrity of the Prime Minister of the country is in question, that it is bad for our political system and for our democracy.
That expectant atmosphere in Calgary was awaiting the Prime Minister's speech on Friday night. The Prime Minister had an opportunity to speak to the nation and address this crisis in his government, which has been mounting since last February. I will give examples showing the changes in the Prime Minister's version of events that are symbolic of a lack of integrity and the question that has built in people's minds about whether he is telling the truth.
On May 16, the Prime Minister's Office put out a statement with regard to Mr. Wright who was the chief of staff to the Prime Minister in the PMO. The statement was, “Mr. Wright will not be resigning...Mr. Wright has the full support of the Prime Minister”.
On May 19, the Prime Minister's Office put out a statement from the Prime Minister, which said:
It is with great regret that I have accepted the resignation of Nigel Wright as my Chief of Staff. I accept that Nigel believed he was acting in the public interest, but I understand the decision he has taken to resign. I want to thank Nigel for his tremendous contribution to our Government over the past two and a half years.
On June 5, the Prime Minister stated the following, in the House of Commons:
—it was Mr. Wright who made the decision to take his personal funds and give those to Mr. Duffy so that Mr. Duffy could reimburse the taxpayers. Those were his decisions. They were not communicated to me or to members of my office.
We know that is not true.
On October 28, the Prime Minister stated, in a radio interview, “look, I think the responsibility whenever things go wrong is for us to take appropriate action. As you know, I had a chief of staff who made an inappropriate payment to Mr. Duffy. He was dismissed”.
First, he resigned, then he was dismissed.
On October 29, the Prime Minister said the following, in the House of Commons:
—on our side there is one person responsible for this deception, and that person is Mr. Wright, by his own admission.
Now it has gone from supporting this person, to regretfully accepting his resignation, to accusing him of deception.
What are Canadians to believe when a prime minister changes his story?
When one reads this, the responsibility when things go wrong, on our side there is one person responsible.
Canadians when they hear “responsible”, they believe it is the Prime Minister who is responsible. It is the Prime Minister who is effectively the president and CEO of this organization. That is what heads of organizations do. They take responsibility when there has been an action where funds have been paid to silence a sitting senator and funds have been paid to pay the legal bills to negotiate a cover-up. This is a serious matter. Who is responsible?
Back to Calgary. The public was expecting to hear some words of acceptance of personal responsibility for the situation. The president and CEO, effectively, of the organization, the dual organizations, the Conservative Party of Canada and the Government of Canada, is the Prime Minister. Was this person going to accept any responsibility whatsoever? The public was expecting that would happen and my guess is the Conservative members of his party were expecting that would happen. One out of two Conservative voters who do not know whether to trust that the Prime Minister has told the truth.
My guess is that the Prime Minister's caucus was in Calgary anticipating that the Prime Minister might accept some personal responsibility for the situation. He could have acknowledged that he was the head of this organization, that he personally appointed Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy so he was responsible. He could have told them what he would do to accept his responsibilities and how he would demonstrate his integrity in this situation and take action.
Did he do that? Absolutely not.
He spoke, once again, about responsibility as if it was something he understood and then failed to take one molecule of responsibility in the situation and essentially went on with a continuation of blaming other individuals and other organizations for the situation.
That is why the Prime Minister, who is completely out of touch with the expectations of normal human beings, a person in charge would take responsibility, have integrity and tell the truth, is being subjected to the humiliating situation of a motion requiring that he testify under oath in a televised committee so Canadians can find out what actually happened.
This is a government and it is a party that prides itself on its connections with the private sector, with the business community.
I will not go so far as to say that it is doing a good job in terms of the economy, but it is certainly a government that would claim that free enterprise and the private sector is one of its important constituents.
How does the Prime Minister explain to the private sector how completely out of alignment with any norms or ethics, in terms of responsibility for problems, the Prime Minister's behaviour demonstrates he is? It is antithetical to what we expect of any organization where there has been a mistake made, where there has been an error in judgment. There is no longer a corporation in this country that would have this kind of scandal, corruption, bribery, cover-up, or change in story by the CEO and president of the organization without clear repercussions. In any corporation that made a mistake or had a problem, responsibility would be accepted at the top.
In the private sector, if it was the president and CEO who was implicated, as it is in the case of the Prime Minister, the head of this organization, who met with the senator in question and the chief of staff, according to Senator Duffy, and who has changed his story, that president and CEO would be shown the door by the board of directors immediately.
I had the privilege of working in the private sector for 25 years before entering politics. The organization I worked in had a number of contract crews. In the early days, they were completing contracts for our clients in reforestation across the country. The project manager in the field was responsible for the results of a project. Even if the weather was not co-operating, even if somebody else let them down, even if a vehicle had problems due to someone else's actions, even if some of the equipment was taken in an unauthorized way and was not available, it was the project manager who was responsible for the result of that contract. That is what we do when we are in charge. If we are in charge of a project, we take responsibility. In the private sector, one does not point fingers and say, “Yes, I'm in charge, but it is not me. Somebody else has to be responsible.” One takes responsibility.
It has been shocking to me, as a businessperson, to see the head of this organization fail utterly on that level. The private sector could not function if this were the norm. If the head of an organization demonstrated a lack of integrity, changed his or her story, blamed others for what happened, hid the truth, allowed it to leak out bit by bit, and tried to manoeuvre around it, changing the story bit by bit, that organization would have absolutely no credibility.
If we had a pipeline company, and the pipeline leaked, and the CEO and president of that company pretended that it did not happen, and when he or she could no longer pretend that it did not happen blamed whoever had pointed out that it had happened—maybe the homeowners whose water and fields had been contaminated by the oil—and changed the story as the truth came out, that CEO would be history. He or she would have no more credibility in that or any other industry.
Integrity is key to effectively working in groups and leading projects. This is a prime minister who is at the head of a government. It is unbelievable that we can have this kind of modelling of poor integrity for the young people in our country who are potentially interested in politics and how this country operates.
Everyone can make a mistake, so it is not about never making a mistake. It is not about being perfect. It is about taking responsibility for one's mistakes. It is about taking responsibility for the organization one leads. That kind of behaviour is important for young people and for the rest of our society to see in the head of our country, which is our Prime Minister. We are not seeing that. That is why I call this a humiliating day, not just for the members opposite, their leader, and the Conservative Party but for Canadians, our parliamentary system, and our democracy.
We are calling on the Prime Minister to accept responsibility and end the response of attacking others. What we have heard from the Prime Minister are untruths about the Liberal Party and the motion in the Senate. They are to distract Canadians into thinking that this is about a Senate motion and a Senate debate and that this is about the actions of one, two, or three senators. No, this is actually about the absence of the integrity of the Prime Minister, a cover-up in the Prime Ministers office, a bribe to pay off and silence a senator the Prime Minister was concerned would tarnish the reputation of his party, and potentially illegal activities. We know, because the RCMP are now investigating the Prime Minister's office, that potentially criminal actions have taken place in the Prime Minister's office.
The integrity of our parliamentary system requires the Prime Minister to step up and accept his responsibility and be willing to clarify what happened. No more changed stories, no more attacks, no more distractions, and no more punting the questions over to a parliamentary secretary who wants to talk about bologna pizza. This issue is far more serious than that. It is the integrity of the government that is at stake. It is the believability of the government that is at stake.
A person of great eminence in our history, Mahatma Gandhi, said that the moment a person's word is in question, everything he does is tainted, and that is what we have with the Prime Minister. This is a person whose integrity, whose word, is in question, and that means that everything he does is tainted. What the Prime Minister said about the Canada-EU free trade agreement is no longer believable. It is tainted.