Madam Speaker, today I am here to speak to the Conservative motion. The issue before us is a serious one. The last several weeks in Parliament have been ones of great conflict and serious debate about the ethical behaviour Canadians want to see in the people who represent them. In the midst of this drama and concern, the lives of the people of this country continue, and the struggles they face at times make it very hard to have time to consider these serious issues brought before the justice committee, the House and all Canadians.
In reflection of these realities, I would like to take a personal moment to recognize the fact that life happens outside of politics. I was sadly reminded of this on February 11 of this year, when my brother, Darius William Mould, died suddenly and unexpectedly of a massive heart attack. In the few weeks after his passing, the busy life I live, filled with working in my riding and making sure that its voice is heard loud and clear here in this place, was paused.
Yesterday my brother would have been 39. It was a sad day for my family, and I want to recognize them, as I believe we should all recognize the people who love us, as we ask them repeatedly to let us come to this place and do the important work we do here, rather than be with them through these difficult times.
My brother was a hard-working man. He has left a huge hole in the world with his passing, and it is very hard to adjust. My brother was a powerful singer, a man who turned friends into family, and the middle brother of five siblings. I am very grateful to my many constituents who sent cards and messages of condolence during that time.
It is moments like this when we remember that we are people. We do not know how much time we or our loved ones have in this world, and the people who we love are so very precious. As we are here doing the work that we must, I hope we all remember to appreciate those people who mean so very much to us. I have been sadly reminded of this with the loss of a very beloved brother.
Today we are here to speak about the case of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman. I am personally deeply concerned about the allegations that have been put forward about the Prime Minister and the Privy Council Office influencing federal prosecutors in the case of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman. While these allegations are unproven, it is troubling, given the alleged interference by the Prime Minister's Office in the case of SNC-Lavalin.
All of us here have been told that one politician is much like another. The level of cynicism in the world and in Canada concerns me greatly. The people of this country want us to focus on the issues that matter most to them.
The Government of Canada has the important duty of spending tax dollars in a responsible way, looking at opportunities that will benefit the people of this country, closing the gaps that leave too many far behind and having the institutions of Canada operate without any political interference.
When I speak with my constituents, they want to feel that their political representatives have their backs. I find that even disagreement is okay if I take the time to learn and understand.
In my riding of North Island—Powell River, many are worried about the environment. Today in Campbell River, local high schools are planning to strike to protest the lack of action on climate change. It is very important to listen to young people. I remember the late elder Ellen White telling me that young people had the energy and were quicker to see injustice. This makes their voices extremely valuable. We saw that in the House recently. I certainly hope that all of us here remember to listen to them.
I also hear from veterans who feel betrayed after many years of that experience with the former government. It is very exasperating for them to have to continue to fight for very basic supports.
Affordability continues to be a significant issue. In my riding, people are not sure how they will afford the most basic of necessities, such as the cost of housing and medication, as they continue to increase. Waiting for these issues to be addressed creates cynicism, and when the reality the former minister of justice brought to our attention is replayed in the media, Canadians are, reasonably, concerned.
Now we look at the motion before us today and we have heard that the lawyers of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman say that the Crown prosecutors have been politically influenced by lawyers from the Privy Council Office.
With the questions that have arisen from actions of the former Privy Council clerk and the Prime Minister, this is something that Canadians deserve to know more about. This is exactly why the New Democrats continue to insist on a public inquiry.
In an article in the Huffington Post regarding Vice-Admiral Norman, on February 11, it said:
Vice-Admiral Mark Norman’s legal team has raised questions about the independence of federal prosecutors after the Crown and lawyers from the department that supports [the] Prime Minister...spoke several times last year about “trial strategy”.
For the people across Canada who are working several jobs to make enough to pay for a loved one's medication or a person who is at risk of homelessness, this sounds like something so far from their everyday life and they have asked me why should they worry about this.
It is important because it speaks to the strength of our systems. It speaks to the ability of the Prime Minister's Office to politically interfere in the systems in which we have to put our faith. Vice-Admiral Norman's lawyers have made it clear that the Privy Council Office supports the Prime Minister and executes what the Prime Minister's Office wants. Therefore, Crown attorneys should not have discussed trial strategy with them as it is seen as influence on a Crown attorney that should be independent of politics.
Even the consideration that Crown attorneys are being put in the position of any political interference is something we should all be disturbed by. I will state here again that allegations have not been proven in court. I respect that. The fact that the allegations include the Prime Minister's Office inappropriately bypassing the office of the Attorney General and dealing directly with the Public Prosecution Service of Canada are ones that in the current political climate only worry me more.
Today we have a motion before us that asks:
That, given the recent allegations of political interference against the Prime Minister and given that Canadians reject the Prime Minister’s excuse for his actions as simply routine government business, the House call on the government to show respect for the rule of law and immediately
These are requests that must be considered carefully. I hope the members on the government side are considering heavily what has happened in this case and in the case we have most recently heard so much about.
I have the deep honour of representing the people of the former attorney general, the We Wai Kai community of the Laich-kwil-tach speaking people. The member for Vancouver Granville has often introduced me as her mother's member of Parliament, something I continue to be very honoured to be.
It was in a community I represent that the former minister of justice came for a traditional ceremony in the big house, a ceremony of honouring. As one elder said to me, "We are wrapping her up in our love.”
In this place there is not, sadly, a deep understanding of the words that the former minister spoke to the justice committee, when she said quote:
...I was taught to always be careful what you say because you cannot take it back. I was taught to always hold true to your core values and principles, and to act with integrity. These are the teachings of my parents, my grandparents and my community. I come from a long line of matriarchs, and I'm a truth-teller in accordance with the laws and traditions of our big house. This is who I am, and this is who I always will be.
I believe that these words will be written in history books. When I heard them spoken, I was moved. I could feel what she was telling people, something that so few were able to understand. For me, this was a statement of fact, of identity, identity in a sense of she knows where she comes from, the matriarchs who have worked hard for several generations to put her in the place she is today. That is a dedication and a responsibility that one does not take lightly because those generations are watching and they gave up so much.
I believe the member has fulfilled this responsibly, and I am very proud to know her and her family. To trust the institutions that oversee the justice of our country, Canadians need to know that political interference is something that those institutions are simply not exposed to. We all know, because of the people we hear from in our ridings and those responding to different articles across this country, that right now and right here in this country there is significant doubt.
In January of 2017, Vice-Admiral Norman was suspended from his role as the military's second in command. Last March, he was charged with one count of breach of trust. It has been alleged that he was leaking government secrets on a shipbuilding deal. This is a serious charge. In the 41st Parliament, New Democrats supported the national shipbuilding strategy. In fact, all parties supported it.
I recently spent the day in Port McNeill, a beautiful community in my riding, with the Canadian navy. Commodore Topshee brought several ships to visit the community and do the important work of outreach. It is moments like these when it is easy to be proud of the Canadian Armed Forces. The trip I had on an Orca patrol craft was amazing. This experience showed me the high level of skill and dedication those men and women in uniform have. I was very impressed.
Although I did not speak to anyone about the shipbuilding strategy on that trip, I was reminded of a comment I heard from someone about the continuous reduction of support we have seen in this country to the military over the last 20 years. As a constituent said to me, the military has become very efficient, and at some point, it is impossible to become more so. At some point, it will just need more resources to get the job done.
I hope that in the context of this conversation we are all mindful of this, especially as we face the realities of climate change. Our Canadian Armed Forces are some of the most concerned about these issues, and I have heard those worries expressed at the national defence committee. It is also Canadian Armed Forces members who are trained to protect us. In the case of natural disasters, it is important they have the proper resources to do the jobs they are asked to do.
Returning to the vice-admiral, he has denied all wrongdoing and his trial is scheduled to begin in August. When we look at this case before us, there are serious conversations that we need to be having, and Canadians are having those conversations across this country. The Liberals are currently facing two allegations of influencing Crown attorneys, who are supposed to be independent of political interference. If these allegations are proven true, it calls into question the impartiality of the Crown attorneys and will throw the office of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada into disrepute. This is certainly not something I want to see happen.
When I look at the history of our Canadian Armed Forces, we have seen so many things go awry. Successive governments have continued to play politics with the lives of the men and women who serve our country. When it comes to the current government, it promised a new fighter jet, one with an open and fair competition. It has failed to deliver this. Instead, the competition is delayed until after the next election, and the plan that has been discussed is to buy used Australian jets.
As the member representing 19 Wing Comox, this is something that I have had to share my alarm about, and I have done so by communicating that concern to the Minister of National Defence. I see the hard-working people in the 19 Wing in my riding, and I appreciate their dedication to the community and the amazing work they do. It is very important that at no point we put them at risk by not getting the proper equipment they so desperately need. Again, it is unfortunate that they have had to wait so long.
During the last election, the Liberals promised a return to peacekeeping for Canada, but so far they have considerably under-delivered on that promise. The RCN needs ships now to meet domestic security requirements and international obligations. Any delay or changes to the national shipbuilding strategy would result in lost jobs for Canadians and a further capability gap in the navy. That is something that we just cannot have.
I remember the Canadian navy officials coming to speak to the defence committee and talking about the challenges they were facing in providing safety and support to the Arctic region of this country. Unfortunately, some people think that the ice is gone. Tourists are going up with boats that are simply not going to do the job and they are put in very risky and unsafe situations. We need to make sure that the Royal Canadian Navy has the resources that it needs to address these issues.
Sadly, this has been the reality of our armed forces for far too long, doing their very best with the limited resources they have. The last Conservative government led to 10 years of drastic cutbacks across all of the Canadian Armed Forces. The fact is that the former government failed to get the procurement under way for all branches of the Canadian Armed Forces and the current capability gaps are a direct result of a decade of inaction that has been followed up by another over three years of inaction. This is disappointing in this country. Like so many Canadians, the Canadian Armed Forces are just being asked to wait, to just continue to wait a bit longer. That is simply not okay. I will continue to do my work to change this.
I will be supporting this motion. In the face of the many allegations, there is a sense of disquiet in Canada. Releasing information to the lawyers of Vice-Admiral Norman is appropriate. Having the Prime Minister's Office and the Privy Council Office keep out of any so-called trial strategy is, again, only appropriate.
What Canadians want to see is transparency. They want to see accountability. They want to believe that the institutions here in this place are sacred and held sacred, and not full of political interference. Sometimes it is just time to accept what is before us, and I certainly hope that the government will do so.