Madam Speaker, I am proud to say I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Beauport—Limoilou.
We are having a debate today because of truly unparalleled circumstances in our parliamentary democracy. Within two years of forming government, the Liberal government, led by the Prime Minister, is the subject of multiple investigations by officers of Parliament for inappropriate lobbying and conflicts of interest. Canadians who tuned in to the political debate in the fall saw the hon. member for Toronto Centre, the finance minister, plagued by questions of conflict of interest with respect to his dealings and legislation he brought into the chamber that he had lobbied for in the private sector ahead of time without recusing himself from that process. That investigation is still to come.
Within months of forming government, the Prime Minister was engaged in cash for access fundraising events. The Lobbying Commissioner is investigating that. That report is yet to come. Today's debate comes from the report we do have before us and it is the reason we are debating the conflict of interest of the Prime Minister today. That was the report in the name of the Prime Minister released by the Ethics Commissioner just before Christmas last year.
What is unparalleled is that the Prime Minister was found to violate the Conflict of Interest Act in four separate ways. Despite the repeated rhetoric from my friends on the Liberal side of the House saying the Prime Minister has accepted responsibility and is accountable, there is nothing in the report that levies a punishment, an administrative fine, or any type of accountability measure on the Prime Minister. True accountability for a leader would be, at an absolute minimum, to apologize and reimburse Canadians for expenditures that should never have been spent with respect to his trip.
Liberals are suggesting Conservatives are being unreasonable. We are not suggesting the Prime Minister face jail time for this. We are not suggesting that an administrative monetary penalty, a fine, be levied. We are suggesting a basic form of accountability that most parents teach their children when it comes to accepting responsibility for their actions. The Prime Minister is famous for saying sorry, including in this House for several good reasons in the past, but sorry with respect to four ethical violations on his own conduct is unacceptable. He needs to show leadership to show that other members in his caucus need to be accountable for their conduct.
That is why we are here. Liberals do not want to talk about that, but they have yet to provide one example of how the Prime Minister is being accountable. Saying he was found guilty on four counts under the act is one thing. What is the Prime Minister prepared to do to show contrition, to show he understands the severity of the decision of the Ethics Commissioner, and to send a signal that both the Prime Minister and his caucus find that conduct unacceptable?
We all remember, after the lovely stroll up to Rideau Hall, #RealChange, and all of that language, the Prime Minister, to great fanfare, released the mandate letters for his ministers, in which he said their conduct not only needed to be free from conflict of interest but, to the highest standards, needed to be free from perceptions of conflict of interest. Even the appearance that something was inappropriate was the standard he set. He has not met that standard himself, and it is being suggested that Conservatives are being unreasonable by saying the only true way he can show contrition, to show Canadians and the Ethics Commissioner that he understands the message of this report, is to reimburse taxpayers for the cost of a trip that never should have occurred.
I will highlight how ridiculous his defence is. Because there is an exception to receiving gifts from friends, the Prime Minister of Canada has turned himself into a pretzel suggesting that the Aga Khan is a friend.
What did the ethics commissioner say about whether this exception applied? She applied an objective standard, which is, in law, what a reasonable person would take from this defence. I quote from page 36:
The evidence shows that, but for the Aga Khan's attendance at [the Prime Minister's] father's funeral in 2000, [the Prime Minister] had no private or personal interactions with the Aga Khan between 1983 and fall of 2013, a span of 30 years.
I think it is hard to suggest that one has a lifelong friendship with a person because one met that person once or twice when young. When trying to pin a legal and ethical defence on a friendship, a person will bend over backwards to suggest that this is a lifetime friend. The Prime Minister certainly did not maintain that friendship very well, if three decades passed with no interaction.
The report goes on to say that on several visits the Aga Khan made to Canada, there was no attempt on either's part to connect. There was no correspondence.
This was a Hail Mary pass defence to suggest that this was a friendship with Uncle K. It is not befitting the Prime Minister of Canada to make ridiculous defences when he should be accepting responsibility.
The Prime Minister had his health minister, when she was in that role, accept responsibility for some inappropriate expenditures. I respect her for that. I think she got the respect of the House for taking responsibility. The Prime Minister has not. To say he accepts the findings is not enough.
This is an administrative law, a parliamentary matter. We are not talking about criminal law. We are not talking about imposing sanctions or monetary penalties on the Prime Minister. In the civil context or the administrative context, reimbursement is the appropriate measure. A press conference held days before Christmas, when the Prime Minister stumbled through an apology in the most embarrassing fashion possible, does not cut it.
I was a cabinet minister at the tail end of the Harper government, which lasted for almost a decade. There are no reports entitled the Harper report. This is occurring within months of the Prime Minister forming government.
As I said the other day, it took over a decade for entitlement, helping friends, and avoiding responsibility to creep in under the Chrétien Liberals. It took a decade for that government to become tired and in conflict. It has taken the present Liberal government mere months.
Would I today like to be talking about the Prime Minister's trip to China, where he secretly promised a free trade deal before being sent home with his tail between his legs by the Chinese? Would I prefer to be talking about NAFTA? Would I prefer to be talking about the shameful display the Prime Minister made in front of veterans in Edmonton last week, when he suggested that despite his extravagant spending, hundreds of thousands of dollars on tweets alone, veterans are asking for too much? I would prefer to have an opposition day debate on that.
The Prime Minister needs to show accountability for his ethics breaches. Leadership by example should mean that the Prime Minister holds himself to an even higher standard than he expects from his team. That is leadership by example. We saw the Minister of Health do that. The Prime Minister should take some lessons from her on accountability. Certainly the amounts are slightly larger than the minister repaid, but then again, it is hard to take a limousine to a private island in the Caribbean.
What was even more inappropriate was the fact that later on, the Prime Minister's family asked for additional trips. This is the level of entitlement and expectation they have.
At a time when we have debated the difficult circumstances families in Alberta have faced and the threat and imposition on Sears employees, Canadians do not accept this high-wheeling, high-flying Prime Minister who will not accept responsibility for his actions. We are here today to ask for it, and I only hope that his own members of caucus will pressure him to lead by example and repay the amount of money.