Mr. Speaker, it is always an honour to rise in this House as an elected member representing the people of Timmins—James Bay. Elected members are accountable to the people who vote for them. They go back every two years. I have gone back once at 18 months, at two years and at four years. It is a job interview, and if the people decide they do not like an elected member's record, they vote the member out. That is what democracy is.
Here tonight in a democratic House, we are talking about people who have no democratic mandate, people who believe themselves to be superior to the people of Canada. We are talking about a group of people who show such outrage over questions of accountability because they have never had to show accountability to anyone except their political masters, the leaders of the Liberal and Conservative parties who appointed them.
This motion we are debating tonight comes on the eve of the most explosive political scandal with the Senate in Canadian history. It is certainly one of the great political scandals. This is not just about the abuse of public trust. This is not just about fraud. This is about people who actually constitutionally may not even be allowed to sit in that upper chamber and yet they have the right under this present system to overrule the democratically elected voices of the people of Canada.
We saw that when Pamela Wallin helped galvanize her cronies to defeat Jack Layton's climate change bill. Pamela Wallin at that time was sitting on the boards of all manner of corporations, including tar sands development corporate interests. It was considered okay that she could take her role as a senator and also receive the financial interests for doing tar sands development, and yet kill a climate change bill that was voted on with the support of the people of this country.
The issues of how we are going to deal with this unelected and unaccountable Senate are things that this House needs to deal with. It is fascinating to watch the behaviour of the members of the other two old parties. The Liberals were born as the party of cronyism and corruption. That is their baby in the upper chamber. It is not a surprise that so many Liberal senators are up to their necks in this scandal, because that was how the Liberal machine was done. It was a system of cronyism. It was a system of patronage. It was a system of the old boys' club. If people flipped pancakes at Liberal fundraisers, they might some day end up in the Senate, and then they could travel around the world and do whatever they wanted and never have to be checked. I am not surprised at the Liberal intransigence and their deep desire to defend the Senate.
Certainly, from having been elected here in 2004, the behaviour of the Conservatives is something to see. I remember a different Conservative Party, a Reform Party that believed that the cronies in the upper chamber were an abomination to Canadians. They sold themselves in western Canada as being the ones who were going to bring accountability, but they never did. Instead of bringing accountability, the Conservatives brought us Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, Carolyn Stewart Olsen, and the rest of that crew. Now we see them doing whatever they can to change the channel on the endemic corruption that is in that institution.
I could do a long litany of Senate abuse going back through the ages to Senator Andy Thompson who lived in Mexico and collected a paycheque and showed up in Canada maybe once a year. That went on year after year. We were told back then that he was a senator and could not be touched. I could talk about Raymond Lavigne, the Liberal senator who was convicted of fraud and was sent off to the hoosegow, and all the red flags that were raised by the RCMP at the time of his incarceration, which the Senate ignored.
I could talk about numerous failed candidates and party organizers and bagmen over the years who have been dumped in that upper chamber where, for the rest of their lives, taxpayers paid them to work for the parties. However, let us just focus on how we came to this present corruption scandal. The Conservatives are doing everything they can to change the channel on how we got there.
This debate tonight is so important because it begins with the notorious three of Wallin, Brazeau, Duffy and the appointment of the three of them by the Prime Minister back in December 2008.
At that time, questions were immediately raised that Senator Pamela Wallin and Senator Mike Duffy were not eligible to sit in the Senate. In fact, at the time, when the media asked how Mike Duffy could be a senator for Prince Edward Island when everyone knew he lived in Kanata, Dimitri Soudas told the media that all of the nominees would meet their residency requirements. This was the beginning. This was the original sin that led us to where we are tonight.
People who were not eligible to sit in the Senate were appointed to the Senate. Why? It was because they were going to do the heavy lifting for the Conservative machinery in terms of fundraising. That was Duffy's role. That was Wallin's role. That was even Patrick Brazeau's role.
There were flags raised because Pamela Wallin did not live in Wadena, Saskatchewan; she lived in a condo in Toronto. Section 31 of the Constitution is clear that a senator will be disqualified if he or she “ceases to be qualified in respect of Property..”. What the Conservatives have attempted to claim is that only $4,000 worth of property will make an individual eligible to sit in the Senate, but that is not what the Constitution says. It says that a senator “shall be resident in the Province for which [they represent]”.
The Prime Minister knew that they were not qualified to sit in the Senate. This is the beginning of all of the issues with Mike Duffy. We have seen numerous prevarications from my colleagues, particularly from the member for Oak Ridges—Markham, who said that the rules have been clear for 150 years but will not explain what the rules are.
If we look at the RCMP investigation into the Mike Duffy affair, it keeps coming back to the fact that Mike Duffy was well aware that he was not eligible to sit in the Senate and he wanted that issue dealt with. He was told not to worry because nobody has ever been thrown out of the Senate. That is true, because it is an old boys' club. It is like being a made man. Once they are in the Senate, they are looked after. However, Duffy was aware of that issue.
The issues were raised on numerous occasions. On February 15, 2013, Nigel Wright wrote to Benjamin Perrin, saying:
I am gravely concerned that Sen. Duffy would be considered a resident of Ontario...Possibly Sen. [Dennis] Patterson in BC too.
Wait a minute. Is Senator Patterson not supposed to represent Nunavut? Wright went on to say:
If this were adopted as the Senate’s view about whether the constitutional qualification were met, the consequences are obvious.
Nigel Wright was writing to the Prime Minister's lawyer on February 15, 2013, that if the word got out that Duffy was not eligible to sit, what about the other senators? Constitutionally, they knew that they were not even eligible to sit. That sitting gave them the power to override a democratically elected House.
The Prime Minister's Office pressured the Senate rules committee to remove the definition to protect the caucus, and to secure Duffy's own repayment of expenses. The PMO said it would cut the cheque for Duffy if that was “all that stands in the way of Sen. Duffy paying back his $32,000 and closing out his situation”. However, Duffy did not owe $32,000. He owed $90,000.
Nigel Wright said:
If the [Rules] and Procedures Committee doesn’t have the right membership, then the Senate by motion should constitute a special committee that will have the right Senators on board. We cannot rely on the Senate Leader's office to get this right…have to do this in a way that does not lead to the Chinese water torture of new facts in the public domain, that the PM does not want....
The Prime Minister's right hand was saying that they could not trust the Senate to get this right and to protect this cover-up. To defend the Prime Minister, they were going to have to make sure that they would, through the Prime Minister's Office, start appointing people to handle the audit.
What does that have to do with tonight? This has to do with the fact that, according to the RCMP, key senators, the Prime Minister's Office, and the Prime Minister's staff recognized that they had to come up with a scam to cover up the fact that Duffy was ineligible to sit in the Senate, and it would lead to whitewashing the audit.
Nigel Wright then said:
I will advise Sen. LeBreton that we will not take any steps in the Senate to address residency...unless anyone challenges the qualification of any of our Senators, in which case we will defend (and defeat any motion regarding) any Senator who owns property in the correct province...
He said “defeat” because they had the majority. He went on to say:
I will advise Sen. Duffy that we will defeat any challenge to his residency…and advise him to settle the expenses matter promptly.
He was going to tell Duffy that they would deal with the residency thing and get the money paid back. Wright then said:
I think we should lay out the approach in a brief memo to the PM...
...because getting confirmation of qualification residency is all that is needed to close out the Duffy situation.
They have the scheme. They have the plan. They are going to appoint the people to the Senate board that is dealing with the audit. They just need to get the sign-off from the Prime Minister to say that Duffy is a resident, which everyone knew he was not.
On February 20, Nigel Wright sent an email to Chris Woodcock, Benjamin Perrin, and other PMO staff. It states:
...I have spoken again with Sen. Duffy. Tomorrow morning I shall receive by courier redacted copies of his diaries and other info to back up his claim to have “PEI” (as opposed to his home in Cavendish) as his primary residence. Our team will have to look at that to see if there is anything in it that we would not want his lawyer to send to the Senate steering committee. Maybe it will persuade us to let him [take] his chances with Deloitte's findings. If not, then I have told him I will be back on his case about repayment.
They are already planning what they are going to share with the audit committee.
Then they approach Senator Tkachuk, approach LeBreton, and they are talking about whitewashing an audit into potential fraud. This is the Prime Minister of the country of Canada and his staff cooking up a scheme to whitewash an audit into fraud.
This was the deal. It was their five-point deal. The big issue that held up the deal was that Duffy “will repay, with a couple of conditions, including that admitting to a primary residence in Ottawa does not disqualify him from representing [Prince Edward Island] in the Senate”.
They are just making the Constitution up. That is part of the deal.
Nigel Wright said:
...(I have been specific with Sen. Duffy that a “senior government source” will make a statement on the day of his statement to the effect that there is no doubt he is qualified to sit as a Senator.... The PM[O] will also give this answer [if he] is asked, as will other authorized...people for the Government.
He talked to Benjamin Perrin. He said I have to go to the Prime Minister. I have to run this deal by him. Then he came back and said it is good to go. Then the Prime Minister of Canada stands up in this House and repeats verbatim what was in the plan to get Mike Duffy off the hook, which is that Mike Duffy, a man who lives in Kanata, Ontario, somehow qualifies to be in the Senate representing Prince Edward Island.
They thought they were going to get away with this. However, the questions continued to be asked. Then, once the RCMP became involved, we began to see an attempt to whitewash the audit, to interfere with the Deloitte audit.
Are Canadians to trust the Senate on this latest scandal? Are they going to trust the Prime Minister? Hardly.
We now have the Auditor General's report brought in. LeBreton, Tkachuk, Stewart-Olsen have been disgraced for having been involved in this scheme. They are all still in the Senate. They cannot be fired. Who replaces them? Leo Housakos, the Prime Minister's Montreal bagman, was appointed to the Senate. Suddenly he was appointed by the Prime Minister as the Speaker of the Senate.
Senator James Cowan, the Liberal leader, and Senator Carignan, who received letters that they have spending problems, step forward to the Senate to tell the senators that they will set up a process to deal with this. When the Auditor General comes up with findings, that will be the process. We are in this crazy alternate universe where the Senate and the Conservative Party have created views that this is just the Auditor General's opinion so they have to set up another process.
I have never heard of the Auditor General investigating any department and being told that was just the Auditor General's opinion, that within the department where they found all of these problems, they will set up another internal process run by their own department to show that the Auditor General is wrong. However, that is what the Senate claims it will do. Who will run that? Leo Housakos, James Cowan, and Mr. Carignan step in to announce that they will set up this other process that they will oversee, at a time when they knew they were under investigation.
We should ask the Canadian people if that has any credibility. With the pattern we have seen of abuse of public trust here, is there any reason for them to trust?
We still have not dealt with the fact from the ITO that there are a number of senators who are not living in places that they claim to represent and may not even be eligible.
On May 15, 2015, the Senate invoked privilege to keep secret a document about whether senators are even eligible to sit in the upper chamber. This is a complete abuse of the Canadian people, and senators get away with it because they do not believe they are accountable to the Canadian people. That is unacceptable. It is unacceptable that a democratically elected House is told there is nothing it can do about this gang because whatever they decide is their own ticket.
We are in a situation where the Auditor General has brought out a report that was immediately leaked, in all manner of areas, by the senators under investigation. They gave themselves four or five days of damage control to undermine the Auditor General of this country. James Cowan, Liberal leader in the Senate, came out and started attacking the work of the Auditor General while saying he is going to make sure the process is trustworthy.
Canadians have no faith in that. Canadians are fed up. They have dealt with this institution for too long. They have been told that there is nothing we can do about them, that they can write their own ticket, and that they can do whatever they want. It is like the honour system in there.
What I am seeing from my colleagues in the Conservative Party is absolutely no leadership whatsoever on tackling this. This is the great scandal of our generation. The Conservatives have gone to ground because the scandal continues to go back to the Prime Minister's Office. It is in the RCMP ITO, the cover-up, the naming of senators who were not eligible, the fact that they had decided they could not trust the Senate itself to do the cover-up for the Prime Minister, that the Prime Minister' Office would choose who was going to be on the committee.
Carolyn Stewart-Olsen was appointed to the Senate. What are her qualifications? She was a communications flak for the Prime Minister. She was put on the board to oversee this. The Prime Minister puts in all of his key people.
This is no longer a government that has anything to do with the legacy of Preston Manning and the promise of reform, and that were going to deal with the Senate and look for alternatives that could have the trust of the Canadian people. This is now a government in absolute damage control.
The Conservative government is mired, locked in step with the corruption in the Senate. The Prime Minister has decided that he can get better deals by appointing people who are not eligible to sit in the Senate to do party work, something he railed against in opposition. Right now, this is the Conservative plan.
The Conservative government does not want to deal with this, so it is going to try to ride this out. I do not think it is possible anymore. We are being told again and again—here we are in 2015—that the Canadian people have no ability. We are just the little peons and we have no ability to stand up to this culture of entitlement.
Tonight we actually have an opportunity. We can say sorry, enough is enough. If they want to continue sitting in the Senate, we are going to cut off the taps. Then we are going to start talking. We are going to talk about establishing a clear set of rules for an unelected and unaccountable group.
I would like to see the senators gone tomorrow, but in the meantime, I would like to see clear ethical standards set in place for them, unlike with Mike Duffy, where we saw a diary full of lobbying and potential illegal lobbying, which is not his business. His business should be reviewing legislation. He should not be travelling around the country doing this.
I would like to end with a quote:
Obviously the government thinks it is being clever by appointing [men and] women. But the real concern is, whether it's women or men or French or English or whatever, these people inevitably don't represent anybody but the prime minister who appoints them.
We don't think that [party] patronage has any place in the Parliament of Canada.
I have never agreed with the Prime Minister of this country before, but I certainly agreed with his sentiments when he said that in 1995. I want to ask, what happened to that Prime Minister? Why did he lose his way? Why did he lead Canadians directly into the corruption scandal that we are in today because of his desire to hang out with the Senate?