Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise and address the chamber.
I will move specifically to a couple of quotes, because I think they are really important in terms of the context of what has been taking place over the last few weeks.
I would ultimately argue that what we have before us is in fact an opposition that has become united. It is not the first time that the NDP and the Conservatives have decided to join forces to see what they can do. This is not necessarily about a policy issue per se, but rather about pointing fingers and character assassination, particularly focusing attention on the Prime Minister. This is something we have witnessed on a number of occasions when the NDP and the Conservative Party have come together.
We treat all issues with the utmost importance, and I am hoping that I will be able to provide a little clarity on this. What we see on the other side is that any issue becomes a major issue, especially if members opposite can smear the government to attempt to make it look bad and take attention away from what the government is actually doing.
If we were to take a look at what the government is doing and accomplishing, we would find that no matter what the region of the country, there is a sense of hope, a sense that there is a stronger, more willing national government that is making a difference with respect to increasing the strength of our economy and better serving Canada's middle class, those aspiring to be a part of it and those who are working hard in our communities. I take a great sense of pride in what we have been able to accomplish.
Over the last while, we have not heard opposition members talking about policy issues related to Canada's economy or its social programming. This is because we are doing a fairly decent job and are having a very real impact on the lives of Canadians in every region of our country.
Let us move to the motion that has been brought forward today by the Conservative Party. Once again, I would suggest that Conservatives want, as much as possible, to make personal attacks against personalities within the government.
The Conservatives say that we do not have a responsibility to communicate with ministers, and in this particular case with the Attorney General. I take exception to that.
I have listened to the debate on this issue for a number of days. I have heard many questions and answers. I am very much concerned. Obviously, there is a bit of a different standard coming from the Conservative Party. In fairness to the New Democrats, they have never been in government, so we are not able to pass judgment over what they would have been doing in government.
However, I can tell members that considerable lobbying took place when Stephen Harper was the Prime Minister. There is no way that Conservative members can convince me that the Prime Minister's Office at the time did not have discussions and meetings with numerous cabinet ministers. I would suggest that we all have a responsibility to communicate what we believe are important issues to our constituents, and indeed to all Canadians.
That is one thing that I think we are missing out on. An interesting question was asked today by the Bloc, which expressed concerns with respect to the employees of SNC. We have not heard that argument. In fact, to a certain degree, the member for Timmins—James Bay, who sits in the front benches of the NDP Party, in essence said on the issue of SNC employees, “Who Cares?” To him, if SNC goes broke and no longer exists, others will pick up the slack for it. That is the type of mentality that at least some members within the New Democratic Party have on this very important issue.
There is a broader issue at hand here. Yes, there are things that occurred with SNC, and we as a government are very much concerned about the corruption allegations that have taken place in Libya. We understand and believe that there needs to be a sense of accountability. However, we also need to be aware of the 9,000-plus people who are employed by them here in Canada. There is a worldwide recognition for the company which has 40,000-plus jobs.
This is not something new. One would think, if one listened to the unholy alliance between the NDP and the Conservatives, that it is only the Liberals who are being lobbied by SNC. That is not true. Both the Conservative leader himself and the New Democratic leader, Jagmeet Singh, have had representations made by and been lobbied by SNC. Many members of the opposition benches have met and been lobbied by SNC equally, as have government or Liberal members of the caucus. That is nothing new. We are lobbied all the time. That is why we have independent mechanisms put in place to ensure there is a sense of transparency and accountability when it comes to lobbying.
The Prime Minister has done absolutely nothing wrong. I do not care how many times the Conservatives tell the members of the media and their constituents something different and try to spread what I believe is misinformation. Just because the opposition members, the unholy alliance between the NDP and the Conservatives, have said that the Prime Minister has done something wrong does not mean that it is true. That is what I believe is the case here.
That brings me to a couple of quotes. Unlike the opposition members, we recognize the value of our standing committees and the fine work they do, as well as the Ethics Commissioner and his independence.
The other day Mr. Wernick appeared before the standing committee and made a presentation. Before I comment on that, allow me to share this with those Canadians who might be participating and following this debate in any way.
Mr. Wernick was a top civil servant working under Stephen Harper. I believe he possibly worked at the Department of Indian Affairs as a deputy minister. I do not know all of the details. What I do know is that he is an incredible, well-recognized, apolitical, independent civil servant who has been working at the high end, not only under this government but also under the Conservative government. It is really important for us to recognize that.
When Mr. Wernick came to committee, this is what he said specifically about the allegations we are hearing from the Conservatives and the NDP unholy alliance. He stated, “It is my conclusion and my assertion, based on all the information I have, that there was no inappropriate pressure on the Minister of Justice in this matter.” This is not someone who is partisan saying this, but Canada's top civil servant, someone who has made incredible contributions over different administrations to ensuring that we have the world-class civil service we have today. He stated, “based on all the information I have, that there was no inappropriate pressure on the Minister of Justice in this matter.”
I thought that another interesting quote from the same committee meeting was when Mr. Wernick said it was “entirely her call to make”, referring to the former Minister of Justice. She was the decider. I believe the Prime Minister has been consistent with respect to that from day one.
From day one, I believe that the Prime Minister has been very transparent and accountable on this issue. The Conservatives and the NDP, in an unholy alliance, believe that they can score some political points based on an article that appeared in The Globe and Mail. That article was referenced at the committee. They continue to push.
What is interesting is that the NDP, on the one hand, said that they believe that the Ethics Commissioner should be involved. They were the ones who encouraged the Ethics Commissioner to be involved, yet if we listen to what they are saying today, they say that the Ethics Commissioner is not going to be able to do the job. Now they say that they want more to be done. They want a public inquiry on the issue. Where was that confidence when they initially said that we should have the Ethics Commissioner engaged?
The Conservatives and the NDP are talking about standing committees. I can tell colleagues that as a government, this Prime Minister in particular has made a solemn commitment to our standing committees.
I was there when the Conservatives and Stephen Harper took ownership of all the standing committees. I was at PROC when the parliamentary secretary would be there dictating what would take place that day at committee. I was there when Stephen Harper would not allow any amendments, outside of government amendments, to pass.
We have seen a Prime Minister who has marginalized the role of parliamentary secretaries on standing committees. We have seen a Prime Minister who has committed additional funds to our standing committees. We have seen a Prime Minister and a Liberal caucus, on all those points, support independent standing committees. When I say that, I am referring to opposition amendments that have passed. Many opposition members have had the opportunity to pass amendments at standing committees.
If we contrast Stephen Harper with our current Prime Minister, they are like night and day in terms of transparency and accountability when it comes to Canada's standing committees.
Now we have a standing committee that is actually looking into this issue. The former attorney general is going to be appearing. I could be wrong, but my understanding is that it was one of the Liberal members who put in the formal request for the former attorney general to come before the committee.
At the end of the day, the Conservatives and the New Democrats are coming together to say how badly we need to make the standing committees more independent, when the record of the Conservative Party was abysmal at best. We finally have a government that is committed to openness, transparency and accountability at our standing committees and inside this chamber.
The opposition believes that the standing committee is still not enough, even though, in many ways, such as financially and in terms of independence, we have supported it. It is where our chief civil servant was able to give a presentation.
When I listened to question period today and the interpretations of what took place at the standing committee, they were cherry-picking. I cannot blame them for cherry-picking, I guess, because I too am cherry-picking. I am cherry-picking what I believe Mr. Wernick made very clear to every committee member. Every member of this House is aware of exactly what it is Mr. Wernick indicated.
As I said earlier, Mr. Wernick said that the Prime Minister told the former attorney general that the decision to intervene in the case was hers alone, and the Prime Minister indicated that it was entirely her call to make, that she was the decider.
As Mr. Wernick indicated, “It is my conclusion and my assertion, based on all the information I have, that there was no inappropriate pressure on the Minister of Justice in this matter.”
Since I have had the opportunity, as others have had the opportunity, to formulate opinions on the matter at hand, I feel very confident that there was not any inappropriate pressure. Hearing it from the top civil servant means a great deal to me. It reassures me. I hope it reassures Canadians.
It will not stop the opposition. I was in opposition for over 20 years. I can appreciate the potential of a good story. If a good story is there, and members think they have something to push to the nth degree, they should go nuts. However, maybe they should provide a little more than what they have actually provided to date.
Let us look at the questions the opposition members have been asking day in and day out. They are not providing anything new to the story, from what I can see, that ultimately justifies the type of discussions we are having here today. I do not say that lightly.
When I go back home every weekend, I like to get a sense of what is important to the constituents I represent. It is issues like jobs, health care and our environment people are genuinely concerned about. Those are the issues we should be talking about.
The Minister of Finance has announced that we have a federal budget coming up. I have some thoughts on what I would like to see in the budget. These are the types of issues that are affecting everyday Canadians in all our regions.
It really makes me wonder about the commitment of the opposition. The bottom line is that it is hard to tell the difference between the Leader of the Opposition, who many would call Stephen Harper with a smile, and Stephen Harper.