Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to continue to speak to the motion currently before the House, a motion that, if passed, would seek to have the Prime Minister of Canada testify under oath about what he knew about the $90,000 payment.
I have a couple of points in relation to the motion. First of all, this is not about Senate reform. This is about a scandal that has gone into the Prime Minister's Office and has implicated those closest to him, those who report directly to him. It is not a motion about Senate reform.
Second, the motion does not preclude a wider examination by the committee. It is the House that has the power to order the Prime Minister to appear before the committee. That is what the motion seeks to do. There is nothing to preclude the committee from engaging in a wider examination, and from inviting and then ordering other witnesses to appear. Indeed, it would appear that is what is in the interests of Canadians.
It could very well be that one of the versions that we heard in the House from the Prime Minister is indeed accurate, but that still leaves the question of the culture within the Prime Minister's Office, apparently a place where it is okay to give the boss plausible deniability while paying off a sitting parliamentarian to obstruct a forensic audit, while paying, from the Conservative Party, the legal fees directly associated with that.
I can say, as someone who practised law for 17 years, it is quite common for cheques to pass between lawyers. However, it is also quite common that when a cheque passes, it is impressed with a trust and that trust could be in the form of a formal trust agreement, but it could simply be done through an exchange of letters.
I believe that the inquiry that we seek before the committee would allow us to get behind any trust conditions that were impressed upon that $90,000 cheque. It bears remembering that we still have not seen the cheque. It bears remembering that we know that one legal bill involved in this transaction was $13,000. Legal fees in the city of Ottawa could be up to $500 an hour. If we assume that this is a top-shelf lawyer billing the top rate, there were at least 26 hours put into negotiating this. I find it hard to imagine that a trust cheque went from one lawyer's office to another without some sort of an agreement if not only an exchange of letters, which is very common in the legal profession. It says, “This cheque is impressed with the following trust conditions and it will not be released until these conditions are met”.
The Canadian public deserves to know the terms of those trust conditions. I have little doubt that they exist. It appears that the documentation, according to the access to information request that has been filed and the order paper questions that have been filed, does not exist within the office of the Prime Minister. However, miraculously, Senator Duffy was able to produce a binder full of documents.
These questions are on the minds of Canadians. There are so many things that happen here in the House of Commons that just happen within the Ottawa bubble and that are constrained to the Ottawa bubble. That is not the case with this dispute.
Canadians are paying attention. Canadians want answers. Canadians deserve the truth and I sincerely hope that there will be some Conservative backbenchers who will listen to their constituents, who will stand and support the motion and support what their constituents want. They want the truth. They want transparency. They deserve it and this is the time for it.