Mr. Speaker, we are here today with a motion calling upon the Prime Minister of Canada to testify under oath as to what he knew or what his role was in the SNC-Lavalin affair.
For those who are watching, who may have heard about this over the last couple of weeks, I want to break down what happened.
SNC-Lavalin is a Montreal-based company. Its description is that it provides “engineering, procurement and construction services”. It has a lot of employees in the Montreal area. It has won a lot of major taxpayer-funded, multi-million-dollar contracts from the federal government, so there are a lot of votes at stake and there is a lot of profit at stake here.
In 2015, the RCMP laid charges against this company. The charges alleged that the company offered bribes worth $47.7 million to Libyan officials, and Moammar Gadhafi's son was named in the court documents, I believe. The company is also alleged to have defrauded Libyan public agencies of approximately $129 million.
Recently we found out that the RCMP has laid out a bribery scheme here in Canada with the company, involving the $127-million Jacques Cartier Bridge contract. In this case, a federal official pleaded guilty last year to accepting more than $2.3 million worth of payments from this company. What is the cost of doing business here?
In 2015, the RCMP said, “Corruption of foreign officials undermines good governance and sustainable economic development.” This is a huge deal.
Fast-forward to this year. The company—this very wealthy, well-funded company—went on the lobbying spree to end all lobbying sprees. Imagine American-style lobbyists. It was a full court press on the government, on everybody. There was meeting after meeting with the Prime Minister's Office. They would not take no for an answer, because the company wanted to get out of this. That is the motivation here.
Why? It is because if SNC-Lavalin is convicted, the company would not be able to bid on federal contracts. That is the big penalty here. There is a lot at stake.
In the budget bill, after the company's lobbying, the Liberals snuck in something called a deferred prosecution agreement. In this bazillion-page document that had everything under the sun, the Liberals snuck in a major change to our laws. A deferred prosecution agreement, simply put, would allow SNC-Lavalin, if it went this route, to not have to go to jail or be convicted. It could just pay a fine, and then the company would also be eligible to bid on federal contracts.
This is all happening behind closed doors. It gets snuck into an omnibus budget bill, and the bill passes. However, we have something called the Public Prosecution Service, which is at arm's length, and it is the Public Prosecution Service that makes the call on whether or not this deferred prosecution agreement is used. The public prosecutor said that no, the service was not doing this and the case was going to trial.
Then the former attorney general held firm on that decision and said it was going to trial. Then, according to the Clerk of the Privy Council in testimony last week, after the Prime Minister's story on this issue has changed a million times, he essentially said that they went to the former attorney general and laid out the economic implications of what would happen if this went to trial and there was a conviction. This happened after she had made her decision to proceed.
What we are talking about here is the Prime Minister's Office and the supposedly non-partisan head of the public service standing accused of being involved in obstruction of justice at the highest levels. That is why the Prime Minister needs to testify in front of Canadians.
Let me lay out five reasons that this is so important.
First of all, keep in mind the former attorney general stood her ground after all of this and then what happened? She was fired. The Prime Minister fired her. This is a potential obstruction of justice. This is not just an ethics breach. This is not just an Aga Khan island slap-on-the-wrist situation. There could potentially be serious criminality involved in this.
Second, what message does this send? It sends a message to everybody in this country that there are two sets of rules, that there are two different justice systems in this country, in Canada, one for people who can afford millions of dollars for lobbyists and can apply pressure based on ridings in Montreal, and one for racialized communities, women, who do not have that opportunity. We can sit here and talk about all sorts of ways to deal with that issue, but that is the reality. There are many people in Canada who do not get this opportunity and that is a huge problem.
The third thing is that the Prime Minister, “Mr. Feminist”, acts like he is such a feminist and stands up for women. The Clerk of the Privy Council, at the justice committee last week, basically said the former attorney general experienced things differently when he was trying to explain whether this was “inappropriate pressure” that could be criminal. Where did we hear that before? The Prime Minister had a groping allegation and he used those exact same words: She experienced it “differently”. This is not he said, she said. As Maclean's magazine said, “It’s a ‘he, he, he-said'.” He is a fake feminist.
The Prime Minister is somebody who wraps feminism around him like a warm, fuzzy cloak to get votes and then when the rubber hits the road, when lobbyists come upon him, it is “she experienced it differently” and “she should have done something else”. That is garbage. That is disgusting. He needs to be held accountable for that in front of the justice committee. One does not get to stand up and claim to be a feminist and then do that to a woman. That just cannot be done.
The Prime Minister has also kept her silent. He has kept her muzzled and on a leash while he goes out and spins this story. That is disgusting. That is wrong. He needs to be held to account for that.
Finally, as a Calgary MP, deferred prosecution agreements are not supposed to consider economic arguments, yet the Clerk of the Privy Council said in the justice committee that he told the former attorney general about the economic argument and that a lot of jobs were at stake.
Maybe the company should not have bribed Libyan officials to begin with. Maybe it should not have bribed people for contracts. Maybe there should be a cost for doing that. Where is the economic considerations for all of the punitive policies the government has put against Albertan energy companies?
Constituents in my riding are looking at this and asking why Montreal gets deferred prosecution agreements. As we found out today, the government is considering changing the rules, so even if the company is convicted, it can still bid on federal contracts. Why are those jobs better than jobs in my riding? The role of a prime minister is to unite our country. All jobs are important. The Prime Minister should stand for justice.
This is disgusting. This is what every single one of us in this place should be standing up against, regardless of political stripe. Every person sitting on the Liberal backbench is not here just for themselves. They are here to stand up for justice and for their community. Their role is to hold the government to account, even if that government is of the same partisan stripe as they are. This is where the rubber hits the road. This is where we stand for what is right or we stand for nothing at all.
The Prime Minister was wrong. He should stand in front of the justice committee and answer for the fact that he has put words in a strong woman's mouth, that he said that one set of jobs is better than another set of jobs, that he stands accused of obstruction of justice.
Everybody in this country, regardless of how we vote, stands for one thing and that is the independence of our judiciary, the fact that our country can stand tall and proud and say we do not do business the same way that other countries do. That starts today with the leader of our country. He needs to be in front of this committee and he needs to be held to account.
Every person who votes against the motion will be giving him a shield for this type of abrogation of democracy. Every person who votes against the motion should be held to account by the people in their communities who do not want to be divided on this type of garbage, and this is the stuff that can divide our country.
When, at the highest level of government, the leader of our country, a fake feminist, stands up for jobs with a company that is accused of bribing Libyans, we have to get our act together and it starts with the Prime Minister.