Mr. Speaker, I apologize for remarking on the presence or absence of the Prime Minister. I will say this. Some people bring happiness wherever they go; others bring happiness whenever they go. With that, I will continue my remarks.
What I am seeking in the case of the Prime Minister is that he come to the justice committee. What I was saying earlier was that if he were to rise in the House of Commons right now and say that the cover-up is over and the justice committee will be allowed to finish its investigation, I would terminate my speech. I know there have been many times when the Prime Minister would have given a great fortune to make me stop speaking. I am offering him the chance right now to do that for free, in the sense that the truth will set him free. That is how we can end this speech earlier than it would otherwise go. I assure the members across the way, who have endured me thus far, that this will continue. I can tell they are already tiring, to which I will not take any offence whatsoever.
I was just about to address the international component of this scandal and note the interest the OECD has now taken in the SNC-Lavalin corruption affair. We are party to an international convention against corruption, bribery and fraud that requires the independent prosecution of international corruption. The OECD has expressed concern that the Prime Minister may have politically interfered with the role of the former attorney general in attempting to block the prosecution of a company accused of well over $100 million of international fraud and corruption.
There is no doubt that such international infamy is bad for Canada. We are known as a country of the rule of law. Businesses around the world have always said that, for all of Canada's strengths and weaknesses, they can always count on fair treatment in our court systems and courts of law in the event of a dispute; that our governments do not typically confiscate property, abrogate contracts or carry out any other form of lawlessness; and that it is a safe and secure place for the world to do business.
That reputation is precious to our economy, and the existence of a public scandal where the former attorney general has accused the Prime Minister of personally interfering in a prosecution jeopardizes that precious reputation, thus the interest, and even inquiry, that the OECD has now taken in this scandal. I say that not only because of the international consequences, but to illustrate how serious this matter is.
Countries around the world do not often take notice of political controversies in their neighbouring jurisdictions. Large international and multinational organizations do not typically get involved in the latest political controversy in France, the United Kingdom or Canada, for that matter. This would have to be an extremely serious affair for an international body like the OECD to consider a public comment and statement of that nature. However, we had such a statement, which has now been rendered public for all eyes to see. It is our duty to reassure the global business and legal community that Canada does have the rule of law, that everyone is equal under that law and that politicians have no business monkeying around with the law.
We have the ability to do that by bringing the Prime Minister before the justice committee, along with all of the others who were alleged to have participated in the interference with the former attorney general's role, letting them speak the truth under oath, and letting the committee, which is majority Liberal controlled, issue a report with clear findings. That is all we are asking and most Canadians would consider that pretty reasonable.
One argument we have heard from across the way is that we have to get busy doing other things. I could not agree more. If I can be very blunt about it, I would rather be talking about the Liberal carbon tax or the broken promise on the deficit or a number of other extremely unpopular policy decisions that the Prime Minister has taken. Were we to shift to those failed and unpopular policies just for political purposes, we would be leaving behind a very important loose end with respect to the protection of our justice system under the law.
We are not simply going to try to score political points by talking about something that might be otherwise more politically advantageous. Instead, we are going to stay focused on bringing the government to account for this political interference in our legal system. The reason for that is while it might not be in our political interest to stay focused on concepts like preserving an independent judiciary and legal system, it is the right thing for the country.
There will be time to debate the carbon tax, which kicked in today in Ontario, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Manitoba. There will be time to debate the Prime Minister's broken promise to balance the budget this year. There will be plenty of time for those things and we will debate them. More than that, we will solve them with proposals of our own that will lower the tax burden and balance the budget.
That said, now is the time for accountability, and now is the time for us to correct this grievous wrong that the Prime Minister has exacted upon our justice system. We have given him a pathway to do that. It is very simple: Support our motion at committee to have a full-scale investigation. The Prime Minister should come to testify and bring along all of the staff members who participated in the cover-up. Let them all speak freely without any restrictions on what they can say, and then allow the committee to issue a final report that Canadians can read before the next election. That is a very reasonable step forward, which we think any prime minister who has nothing to hide would be prepared to do.
So far, he has not been prepared to do that. As we know, he has shut down two parliamentary investigations, one at the justice committee and the other at the ethics committee. He has refused calls for an independent, non-partisan public inquiry. We have no other venue in which the truth can come out but the parliamentary committees that I have just listed. If the Prime Minister would merely agree to let us move forward with those investigations, we can get the truth out. Then, we can get back to the debates that we all want to have, which are, again, the very unpopular and damaging Liberal carbon tax, the Prime Minister's broken promise on deficits, his failures on the global scene, his disastrous trip to India, his Twitter war with Saudi Arabia, his climb down to Donald Trump in accepting one concession after another in the USMCA and his decision to kill three pipelines. All of those things merit debate, and we as Conservatives want to have and win those debates, and we will.
However, the Prime Minister cannot simply bury this corruption scandal under $41 billion of deficit spending that he is piling up in this cover-up budget.
That is why I am standing here today and giving these extended remarks to all of our colleagues before the House of Commons.
Where are we today with this cover-up budget? We have a government that is using public money to try to drown out a scandal. The Liberals have added $60 billion to our national debt, three times what the Prime Minister promised. Instead of balancing the budget this year, we have another $20-billion deficit, debts that will inevitably lead to higher taxes if he is re-elected.
We have billions of dollars of additional spending announced in the budget without any way to pay for them except piling on more and more debt, and we are entering a period of high levels of risk in our world economy already saddled with excessive deficits and debt, with the budget significantly out of balance, leaving us no buffer whatsoever to cushion us against the blows that the world could very well deal us again.
It is so different from the way we went into the last global recession. Governments, both Liberal and Conservative, made the responsible decisions in the late 1990s and early 2000s to pay off hundreds of billions of dollars of debt. I credit the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien for being part of that consensus of balanced budget, which followed with Harper and Flaherty, who also paid off $40 billion of debt, so that when the great crisis struck in 2008, we were prepared and we had a rock-solid foundation. The reality is that every country went into deficit, but Canada had the smallest deficit. It was the last to go into the recession and the first to come out. It created a million jobs and left the country with a balanced budget.
If we were to have that kind of financial crisis today, we would go into it already $20 billion in the red, which means that every single dollar in additional economic damage would be paid for with borrowed money above and beyond that $20 billion per year. As more people go on EI and draw from the system, fewer people would be paying income and payroll tax. As corporate profits drop, corporate tax revenues fall with them. All those things would only worsen the budgetary balance of the country. That is precisely why it is important to pay down debt during the good times, to prepare for rainy days ahead.
Instead, the Prime Minister has squandered his inheritance. He inherited good fortune in his own life, and he inherited good fortune as a prime minister. In the latter job, he has squandered it. He took a balanced budget and turned it into a massive deficit. He took low taxes and turned them into high taxes. Now he is spending our children's tomorrow on his today. He is doing that because he has made a political calculation that if Canadians see dollar signs flying at them in the form of massive pre-election government spending, they will completely forget about the scandal that has engulfed his government and they will say, “What happened to that SNC-Lavalin thing?” “I don't know. Just work on catching those dollars as they fly by.”
However, Canadians have not been fooled. In my community of Carleton, the wise people of Manotick, Stittsville, Greely and so many other wonderful neighbourhoods have been so fixated on protecting the legal system in our country against the corruption the Prime Minister has tried to administer against it. I have knocked on tens of thousands of doors, and not one person has said a positive word about the cover-up budget, because they saw it for exactly what it was.
Canadians knew exactly what the Prime Minister was doing. They knew that he was carrying out the Kathleen Wynne three-step. We all know the Kathleen Wynne three-step: one, get into a massive scandal; two, massive deficit spending to distract from it; and three, massive tax increases to pay for it all after the election. That is the McGuinty-Wynne three-step. It was designed by its architect, Gerald Butts, and it is exactly what we have in the present budget.
It did not work, though. It is a testament to the wisdom of the Canadian people that they were capable of ignoring every ounce of political bribery that the government attempted to bestow upon them. As they saw their Prime Minister running around throwing wads of cash into the air, Canadians looked a little more carefully. They realized that he was pulling the money out of their wallets and said they were not going to be distracted: “Now, let us get some answers with respect to the SNC-Lavalin corruption scandal.”
That is why, wherever I go, people are telling me, “Get to the truth. Do not let the Prime Minister cover this up. It has gone too far. He has crossed the line.”
I am here with an offer to the government on the cover-up. Come to the justice committee, answer the questions, do it on the record, let the committee members write a report and let Canadians decide on the truth in October. Do not cling to the idea that it can all be swept under the rug today and then hope to hobble the way to October without anybody finding out what Liberals did.
It has not worked. It cannot work. There is too much scrutiny and too much interest in finding the truth for the Prime Minister to get away with covering it up any longer. The more he tries, the more difficult it becomes, and the harder and harder it is to prevent the truth from seeping out.
Here we are today, gathered in the House of Commons, the House of the common people, with an opportunity to convert this scandal into a moment of accountability, to prove that this chamber is capable of unearthing hidden facts and making known hidden truths, and holding to account the doers of the deeds. Surely, if the Prime Minister has nothing to hide, then he will agree to allow Parliament to do that.
I note now that I have been speaking directly to the Prime Minister, through you, Mr. Speaker, for a long time. I will note now to some of the members of the Liberal backbench. There have been some courageous individuals in their midst, who have been willing to do the right thing, who have put aside their own political interest and their careers to speak truth, first, to power, and then truth to the public. Liberals might look at them and say, “Jeez, I do not want to go down that road. The Prime Minister will grind me under his foot.”
Liberals should take another look, because they have something that could be preserved, their integrity. They go to their communities and they are rightly greeted as heros. I read this weekend that the former attorney general was honoured with a great feast in her community. People recognized the integrity she has demonstrated in doing her job. They have seen that what she did was very difficult and very rare.
Many sitting on the Liberal backbench might say that they do not have the courage to take on a prime minister, or that they think it is in their political interest to put their heads down, barrel forward, forget about the truth and just get through to October. Then after that, they can worry about whether the truth gets out. However, they will be remembered if that is the attitude they take, because eventually the truth will come out and the members who helped the Prime Minister cover it up will have been exposed as his servants rather than the people's servants.
We have to remind ourselves that we do not work for the government in this place; we work for the common people. That is why it is called the House of Commons. Sometimes people get the organization chart backward. It is the people at the top, under them is the House of Commons and its members, and under them the ministers and the government. That is why the word “minister” has its root in the word “servant”. It is because the ministers were first servants to the Crown, but ultimately servants to the commons, because the commoners can fire the government at any given time.
I know that some members have just been startled and think I am suggesting they should vote for non-confidence. They do not have to go that far that fast. Why do we not start by having a full investigation? What if Liberal backbenchers stood and voted in favour of that investigation in the House of Commons? What is the worst that could happen to them? Many of them have been passed over for cabinet already, and if truth be told, despite their thoughts to the contrary, do not have any hope of getting into cabinet anytime soon, regardless. However, they do have their integrity and could preserve that integrity by voting in favour of an end to the cover-up, by allowing witnesses to appear and the truth to be told. Then they could go back to their constituents and say that the party bosses came down hard on them, but they did the right thing. They would not be in cabinet but would be good servants of the people. That is why I am asking members across the way to join with Conservatives and put country ahead of party, to let the truth come out.
In October, all Liberal members are going to have to go back to their communities—