Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Milton.
I thank the member for Timmins—James Bay for moving this motion today. I am proud to say that the official opposition will support it unanimously.
Before speaking to the importance of holding a public inquiry, I would like to talk about why this issue matters to us, as a country. We are and must always be a country governed by the rule of law. This essentially means that when we, as parliamentarians, pass a law on behalf of those who elected us, we are not above that law.
We are all subject to the rule of law. We are all equal under it. We are bound by its conventions, and our political or societal status does not entitle any one of us to special treatment under it. These core principles of the rule of law must be upheld for any democracy to function. As history tells us, whenever the rule of law is impeded or subverted or corrupted, the consequences can be extreme. We cannot claim to be a country under the rule of law when political agendas can dictate the course of justice, and that is precisely what the Prime Minister and his office stand accused of.
To understand the severity of these allegations, which the Prime Minister has yet to credibly refute, we have to go back to 2015. SNC-Lavalin, a major Canadian construction firm, was charged with bribing the Libyan government under dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Eager to avoid prosecution, the company launched a massive two-year campaign to lobby the new Liberal government for a special judicial proceeding that would get it off the hook. The lobbying worked. The mechanism to secure that ruling was wedged into an 800-page omnibus budget bill and became the law of the land.
Up until this point, no laws had been broken. The aggressive lobbying and legislative manoeuvres that followed were certainly suspicious, but not illegal. However, that all changed when the push to cut SNC-Lavalin a special deal met resistance inside the justice department.
After carefully examining the SNC-Lavalin case, the director of public prosecutions decided to move forward with criminal prosecution. That is when the political operatives of the Prime Minister's Office sprung into action.
According to the Globe and Mail, the Prime Minister's Office pressured the then attorney general to overrule the decision by the director of public prosecutions and to grant SNC-Lavalin the special deal that the company had sought for some time.
When the justice minister did not do it, presumably out of devotion to the rule of law she was duty bound to protect, the Prime Minister fired her. At the time, she said in a written statement, “It is a pillar of our democracy that our system of justice be free from even the perception of political interference and uphold the highest levels of public confidence.”
We did not know it at the time, but that statement foreshadowed what would later come to light: the alarming possibility that the Prime Minister's Office exerted its power to influence the administration of justice, or to put it another way, when the justice department said no to SNC-Lavalin, the Prime Minister's Office would not take no for an answer.
Many have attempted to describe the profound seriousness of these allegations, but none have done so better than the former Ontario Liberal attorney general, Michael Bryant, who said that when he was prosecuting cases, if a politician had ever called him up, he would have put down the phone and called the police.
Since these allegations have surfaced, the Prime Minister and his office have engaged in an obvious cover-up. He refuses to waive solicitor-client privilege, as prime ministers before him have done when the public interest has demanded it. Doing so would allow the former attorney general to speak to tell Canadians her side of the story, but the Prime Minister has kept her silent to protect himself.
Last week, the Liberals on the justice committee voted in lockstep to keep the truth from coming out, defeating a motion calling on several key PMO and government officials, including the former attorney general, to testify in front of all Canadians.
The Prime Minister continues to change his version of the facts and to hide behind others. He blames everyone, from his own office's staff to Scott Brison, and even the former attorney general, for the mess in which he finds himself. Those are not the actions of a prime minister with nothing to hide. He is mistaken if he thinks that the resignation of his closest advisor is going to make this go away.
Thus, I will request once again that the Prime Minister immediately waive solicitor-client privilege and allow the former attorney general to speak.
The way in which the story has unfolded, with almost daily changes to the Prime Minister's version of events, high-profile resignations, anonymously sourced smear campaigns, and coordinated cover-up manoeuvring, suggests this is not an ordinary political scandal. Something more sinister is at play here.
Section 139 of the Criminal Code deals with obstruction of justice. I draw the attention of the House to subsection (2), which reads:
Every one who wilfully attempts in any manner other than a manner described in subsection (1) to obstruct, pervert or defeat the course of justice is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years.
It would be up to the police to decide whether what transpired between the Prime Minister's Office and the former attorney general of Canada was criminal. I expect this matter to be brought to their attention shortly, if it has not already.
I have always said that all options were possible. If a crime has been committed, then those responsible have to be punished accordingly.
Today I am proud to stand with my colleagues to support this motion urging the Prime Minister to waive privilege in this case. Canadians are tired of hearing him speak for the former attorney general. It is time Canadians heard from the former attorney general herself.