Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Lévis—Lotbinière.
I am pleased today to rise in support of the motion before the House. The motion, in essence, refers to four major elements of the Conflict of Interest Act regarding the acceptance of illegal gifts, furthering private interests, being in a conflict of interest, and accepting travel.
The motion asks that the House find that when any of those sections of the Conflict of Interest Act are broken, sections 11, 21, 5, and 12, and the conflict of interest code and costs to the taxpayer are incurred, the member responsible must repay those costs to the taxpayer.
Before I go any further, the House should recognize that today is an important anniversary. It is not necessarily an anniversary to be marked with candles, fizzy drinks, and from the heart out, rainbows and unicorns, but rather one that the Liberal government would rather see forgotten, a day of infamy for the Liberal government. Today is the first anniversary of the day, February 6, 2017, when the Ethics Commissioner informed the Prime Minister that he was being investigated.
Why was the Prime Minister of Canada being investigated? Because the Conservative member for Regina—Qu'Appelle had requested an inquiry under the code into an improper vacation taken by the Prime Minister and his family to the private island of His Highness the Aga Khan. The commissioner was also responding to a request by another Conservative member of the House, raising concerns that the Prime Minister may have contravened sections of the Conflict of Interest Act.
The Ethics Commissioner found both requests reasonable, and that led to the letter written 12 months ago, informing the Prime Minister of Canada that he was being investigated for wrongdoing.
The Ethics Commissioner also informed the Prime Minister, in that fateful letter, that she was extending him the courtesy of an initial interview before collecting additional information or documents from other parties, third parties.
It was a gracious offer, but did the Prime Minister take advantage of that offer? Did the Prime Minister fully co-operate, as he has claimed so many times over the past 12 months? No. The Prime Minister did not consider the Ethics Commissioner's investigation a priority matter. He did not make himself available to the Ethics Commissioner for a full two months.
The focus of the final report, the official title of which may not be spoken in the House by order of the Speaker, because it is in the Prime Minister's name, is the one improper, illegal Christmas vacation, December/January 2016. However, the commissioner's investigation also revealed that the Prime Minister and his family had accepted a vacation on the Aga Khan's island earlier, in December 2014, and that in March 2016, members of the Prime Minister's family, a friend, and the friend's children enjoyed a vacation on the Aga Khan's island, requested by the Prime Minister's wife.
On March 9, 2016, two days before the Prime Minister's wife took that vacation, a representative of the Aga Khan requested a formal, bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister, which, when held in May, 2016, discussed matters including a $15 million dollar Government of Canada grant for one of the Aga Khan's projects.
When the Prime Minister, or the Liberal House leader, recites his lines that he accepts the commissioner's findings, and I will get to those in a moment, he just dusts his hands, says he has apologized, and commits to seek advice on his holidays from the Ethics Commissioner from now on.
What he has not acknowledged is his testimony before the Ethics Commissioner and, just as important, her interpretation of that testimony regarding the May 17 meeting with the Aga Khan. The Ethics Commissioner reported that the Prime Minister, despite receiving gifts and hospitality from the Aga Khan, had no concerns about attending the high-level grant-seeking meeting with the Aga Khan.
The Prime Minister told the Ethics Commissioner that the meetings he attended as Prime Minister were not really business meetings, but rather “high-level” meetings centred on relationship building and ensuring that all parties were moving forward together, that he left the details of deals, deals involving millions of dollars of Canadian taxpayers, to others. He suggested that was the way he saw his role in any high-level meeting, ceremonial in nature.
That is why we on this side of the House want the Prime Minister to tell us just how many other times he has behaved similarly with big name lobbyists or other organizations seeking millions of dollars, or much more, of Canadians' hard-earned tax dollars.
In the end, 11 months after initiating an investigation of the Prime Minister, the commissioner released her report, titled in the Prime Minister's name, a week after the House rose just before Christmas. Commissioner Dawson found that the Prime Minister violated four major sections of the Conflict of Interest Act: 5, 11, 12, and 21.
Except for one clumsy scrum in the foyer of the House, the Prime Minister has not meaningfully discussed the report with members, either in question period or more appropriately with the ethics committee. He has refused an invitation to committee saying he would rather answer in town halls, but where again, he has not.
The Prime Minister has been found to have broken the law. The Prime Minister accepted an illegal gift. The Prime Minister should do the right thing to attempt to regain the public trust, to demonstrate his accountability not only to the act but to his own ethical guidelines.
That is why this motion is before the House. That is why I hope all members will support the motion and the principles of accountability and ethical behaviour that the Prime Minister has so cavalierly violated.