Mr. Speaker, at the start I want to say how much we are thinking about the flood victims in Ontario and Quebec and how much we thank our military people and other first responders for the work that they are doing.
In October 2016, I was made critic for veterans affairs, and part of my responsibility was to continue on the good work of the member for Durham, the former critic, to restore relationships with our veterans. I can say, as somebody who represents CFB Borden or is in close proximity to CFB Borden, just how important that trust is to our men and women who serve this country. I never served my country, but I did serve my community as a firefighter. In a quasi-military organization, that trust is just as relevant as it is in our military.
The current government said that it was going to do things differently. Let me start by saying that it gives me no great pleasure to take a pound of flesh out of the Minister of National Defence, because I think he is a good and honourable man, and no one is discounting the service that he gave to our country. However, this is the government that ran on a mandate of transparency, on accountability, and on honesty. In fact, in the mandate letter that the Prime Minister wrote to the minister, he used the word “honesty” eight times and he used the word “accountability” six times. He used “honesty” in the context of the expectation that everything the Liberals do as a government and that he does as a minister will be done honestly.
Unfortunately, the minister has not lived up to the expectations of the Prime Minister. On not just one occasion but on two occasions, he misled the Canadian public on his role in Operation Medusa. I know the other side is arguing about the the grammar that was used, but the fact is that he did it twice.
In lines of questioning last week, not only did we speak about the word “honesty” being used eight times in the minister's mandate later but also about “accountability” being mentioned six times. This is about the trust, the respect, and the integrity that the men and women in our Canadian Forces have in the Minister of National Defence since this issue broke.
I have gone to several events in my riding, many of them attended by members of the military. I was at the Battle of the Atlantic commemoration this past Sunday in Barrie, and every single person I spoke to said, “What was he thinking? What was he doing?” I have sat in this House and I have heard the line of questioning and I see what is going on today. I look over at the Minister of National Defence. He knows he was wrong. He knows what he did was not right. He knows that our Canadian soldiers deserve somebody who is going to have their back, not somebody who pats himself on his own back, and I am placing direct blame not on the minister but on the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister does not know this is wrong. He is doing what he can to protect the minister. I believe that the minister, being an honourable man, knows that he cannot lead in his position anymore. Every time that minister steps onto a base, every time he steps onto a ship, every time he takes a flight, and every time he addresses our men and women in uniform, they will have what the minister did in back of their mind. This is the Prime Minister's fault. It is the Prime Minister who is diminishing this man's integrity and diminishing this man's respect among our troops. If the minister knows what he did was wrong, he needs to do the honourable thing and that is resign. I believe this. I believe in the honour and integrity of the minister. I believe he knows that he needs to do this, but for some reason they are hiding him.
This past weekend, we saw the Minister of Transport running cover for the defence minister. This is no secret to us here in Ontario. We have seen a pattern of this in the Ontario legislature with the Ontario Liberals. They deny, deny, deny. They do not do anything about it. They do not take responsibility.
The current Prime Minister is not taking responsibility. He is the one who is putting the minister in this position, further diminishing his credibility, further diminishing his respect among the men and women of our services, and further diminishing his integrity. The Prime Minister is to blame for this situation continuing to go on the way it is, not the minister of defence.