House of Commons Hansard #15 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was liberals.

Topics

HousingOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

York South—Weston Ontario

Liberal

Ahmed Hussen LiberalMinister of Families

Mr. Speaker, only the New Democratic Party would consider a $1-billion investment in rapid housing to be “insignificant.”

We are proud of our response to the most vulnerable in this country. The $1-billion rapid housing initiative will build new housing and convert existing buildings to house the most vulnerable in our communities; $237 million for the reaching home program will go directly to communities as they respond to the needs of the most vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Indigenous AffairsOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Independent

Jody Wilson-Raybould Independent Vancouver Granville, BC

Mr. Speaker, the consequences of not recognizing Mi'kmaq jurisdiction and implementing their treaty rights is another high-profile example of why we need an indigenous rights recognition framework.

Across Canada, there are literally hundreds of issues, most with limited or no profile, that require a coordinated and comprehensive federal approach. Like the DFO, in relation to fish, the Department of Finance continues to set policy that impedes rights implementation.

As a specific example and question, why does the government not support self-governing first nations raising property taxes under the First Nations Fiscal Management Act?

Indigenous AffairsOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard—Verdun Québec

Liberal

David Lametti LiberalMinister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for the work she has done on the recognition of rights.

We are moving forward as a government on a number of different fronts. In my particular case, it is in my mandate letter to advance the passage of UNDRIP, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. That will present a first significant step in the recognition of rights, and from there we can move across the country and really advance the quest and path of reconciliation which we, quite frankly, are morally obligated to do in this country.

The House resumed consideration of the motion, and of the amendment.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Anti-CorruptionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I recommence, I would just like to wish everyone a great afternoon.

On the motion that the opposition brought forward on this opposition day, its main objective, as I stated prior, is to paralyze the government at a time when the entire Government of Canada, and frankly, all Canadians, are focused on keeping Canadians safe and healthy.

Simply put, the opposition cannot establish a committee looking into government corruption and at the same time claim it still has confidence in the government. We cannot have committees finding public servants in contempt without even providing them the opportunity to explain why they made lawful redactions to a small number of items within more than 5,000 documents released to the Standing Committee on Finance.

We cannot turn our committees into partisan tools to force private citizens to release personal information. Where does this end? We cannot have the Conservatives drowning the government in document requests with arbitrary deadlines designed to be impossible to meet, forcing public servants to drop their work on supporting Canadians during this pandemic.

I want to take a few moments to talk about the extraordinary work done by the public service these past few months. I think we can all agree that in these extraordinary times, no Canadian should have to worry about paying their bills, rent or putting food on the table, including those wonderful residents in my riding of Vaughan—Woodbridge.

Our government is unwavering in our commitment to support Canadians, our health care system and our economy. Allow me to outline and highlight some of the measures our government has taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This has been our focus, the government's focus, and our sole focus. This is where our efforts and time have gone to helping Canadians from coast to coast to coast. This is what Canadians elected us to do, what they expect us to do, and this is what we will continue to do.

Our government created the Canada emergency response benefit, CERB, to keep Canadians safe by encouraging them to stay home and help flatten the curve. As businesses closed, we knew we needed to respond quickly to support Canadians, and we did. Since March 15, nearly nine million people have received CERB. This is how families avoid financial crisis while keeping our economy afloat.

The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have been difficult for Canadians and their families, and frankly, these individuals are our friends, our neighbours and for some of us our family members. Even though employment is on the rise and many Canadians have returned to a full work schedule, others are still facing job insecurity or struggling to make ends meet.

As COVID-19 cases increase across the country, our government's priority is to ensure all Canadians have the resources they need to weather the second wave of the crisis. To continue support for Canadians while promoting economic recovery, we introduced further measures that encourage people to return to work and help those who have work but may still need some support due to COVID-19.

These measures include flexibilities to the EI program that will allow more Canadians to qualify and receive a minimum of $500 per week for at least 26 weeks; an EI premium rate freeze for the next two years for our small businesses, which will benefit employees and employers as it prevents the rise of EI premiums during a period of economic recovery; and the Canada recovery benefit for self-employed workers and workers not eligible for EI. Over 600,000 Canadians to date have applied and are now receiving the Canada recovery benefit. They are not alone and we will not leave them alone; we have their backs.

Other measures include the Canada recovery sickness benefit for workers who are unable to work because they are sick or must self-isolate for reasons related to COVID-19, as well as the Canada recovery caregiving benefit for eligible Canadians who have been unable to work because they need to care for a child or family member. Combined, these measures will help to ensure the health and safety of Canadians while protecting the businesses where they work.

Let me now turn to support for students. Shortly after the CERB was created, we followed up with the Canada emergency student benefit. With many young Canadians facing unprecedented challenges in the wake of COVID-19, whether having recently graduated and looking forward to starting their career, or still in school and counting on summer employment to pay tuition, our government had their backs. The CESB supported students and recent graduates who are not covered by the CERB in order to ensure they could continue their studies and pay their tuition. I am proud to report that over 700,000 students were assisted by the CESB.

From May to August 2020, the CESB provided a payment to eligible students of $1,250 for each four-week period, or $2,000 for each four-week period if one had dependants or a disability. We also helped students gain valuable work experience and serve their communities by making temporary changes to expand the Canada summer jobs program, which employs 70,000 young people each year in quality jobs in our communities.

We did not stop there. The government also introduced further measures to benefit students. This includes a six-month, interest-free payment moratorium on Canada student loans or Canada apprentice loans for all students, including graduate students.

Canada student grants were doubled for all eligible full-time students to up to $6,000 and up to $3,600 for part-time students. In addition, the Government of Canada increased existing distinctions-based support for first nations, Inuit and Métis nation students pursuing post-secondary education. We extended expiring federal grant research scholarships and post-doctoral fellowships.

These supports have helped young Canadians get through this crisis and have helped play a central role in ensuring Canada emerges from these challenges stronger than ever.

Just as our young people are key to our future, we owe our elders, our seniors a great debt for everything they have done in our past. They have sacrificed much to build this great country.

Many Canadian seniors have faced significant health, economic and social challenges due to COVID-19, isolation being among the most that I hear of from my seniors. They built our country and they have needed our help. Our government took action to provide seniors with greater financial security and gave them the help they needed during this crisis: issuing a one-time tax repayment of $300 for those who are eligible for the old age security pension; a further $200 for those who are eligible for the GIS or the allowance for the survivor, worth $500 for seniors who receive both; supporting new community-based projects to improve the quality of life of seniors and reduce social isolation through the new horizons for seniors program; ensuring the most vulnerable seniors continue to receive the benefits they depend on by temporarily extending GIS allowance payments if their 2019 income information has not been assessed.

As we go through this unprecedented challenge, our government will continue to be there for seniors, and not only seniors but Canadians living with disabilities.

I encourage all Canadians to file their taxes so they can receive the benefits and credits they deserve, including our seniors.

There is support for Canadian seniors living with disabilities. We know this pandemic has deeply affected the lives and health of all Canadians and disproportionately affected Canadians with disabilities in particular.

From the beginning, we have taken a disability inclusive approach to our emergency response to ensure Canadians with disabilities get the support they need. We announced a one-time payment of $600 for persons with disabilities to address these expenses. This payment will go to valid disability tax credit certificate holders, which includes parents with children or dependants with disabilities, seniors, veterans and many other Canadians who we know have costs associated with severe and prolonged disabilities. We are confident that this measure along with the other investments will greatly benefit Canadians with disabilities across the country.

We all benefit when everyone can participate equally in our economy and our society. We as a government have long stated that diversity is our strength, but I would argue that inclusivity is even more important.

This is just a snapshot of the hard work our government has done to support Canadians in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives want to formalize their inquisition through a so-called—

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Anti-CorruptionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I am going to have to cut it there.

Questions or comments, the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Anti-CorruptionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have enormous respect for my hon. colleague. I almost thought I was listening to part of his filibuster from earlier this week. It is the unwillingness to address the issue of what has been disrupting work at the ethics committee that has been concerning me.

We did reach out to the Liberals at the ethics committee to try to break the logjam. We said that we would not ask for documents relating to Margaret and Sacha Trudeau out of respect for the family and we would focus on the Prime Minister. However, the Liberals continued to talk the clock out, so we have gotten no further. My sense from the Liberals is that they are not serious about working with our committees to get answers to which Canadians have a right.

We have tried and reached out in good faith to find solutions so we can move forward. Are the Liberals going to continue to obstruct, interfere and even threaten the Canadian people with an election in order to avoid basic questions of accountability on this scandal?

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Anti-CorruptionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Timmins—James Bay for his movement on the motion. It was my very big concern, and I stated this many times and will continue to state this, that the Conservatives were overreaching on their motion to investigate non-public office holders and to look at investigating the mother and the brother of the Prime Minister. I thank the member opposite for acknowledging that.

I look forward to the next ethics committee and to continuing to work together to find a solution to move forward. That is the focus of the ethics commission. My focus here and in my riding is to continue to do the great work to serve Canadians and those impacted by COVID-19.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Anti-CorruptionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Hope, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals are trying to present this in a way that if we do not ask a question about COVID-19, we are failing Canadians; if every motion we move at a committee is not about COVID-19, we are failing Canadians; if every question on the Order Paper or every single activity that we perform in the House is not related directly to COVID-19, we are somehow letting down Canadians.

What would that member's response be to the WE scandal?

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Anti-CorruptionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

It is not a scandal.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Anti-CorruptionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Hope, BC

It is a scandal. The member Winnipeg North heckles. He does not get enough chance to talk in the House, I guess. However, it is a scandal. The program that was created by the government no longer exists because the Prime Minister has admitted his mistake. He has talked about how he should have recused himself. The former finance minister has quit and gone onto other things.

What should the response of the opposition be, if not to raise a motion to demand answers and accountability on behalf of all Canadians? Should we just sweep it under the rug and give the Liberals a free pass on their corruption?

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Anti-CorruptionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, the response from the opposition should be to work together with the government to put together a committee to look at the COVID-19 investments we have made for Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Anti-CorruptionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is really important for us to recognize that as parliamentarians on all sides of the House we all have a responsibility to reflect on the priorities that Canadians have today. Combatting the coronavirus and the pandemic, providing for the health and well-being of Canadians and looking at the economy and the things we can do to improve it are the priorities of my constituents.

I wonder if the member, like myself, gets a sense of frustration because of the obstructive attitude, particularly from the official opposition.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Anti-CorruptionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, what I have heard from many residents is the overreach the Conservatives have undertaken in pursuing investigations into the Prime Minister's mother. I find it abhorrent and wrong. I am glad the member for Timmins—James Bay has brought forward an amendment to our motion at the ethics committee to remove that element.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Anti-CorruptionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Hope, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to address the House. It is also a pleasure to be back in Ottawa to participate in the debate, after being away for a few months in my riding, doing work on behalf of my constituents who had been impacted by COVID-19.

I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Lethbridge.

The day is developing in an interesting fashion. For anyone watching, this is a day that is specifically allotted to the official opposition to choose whatever matter it wishes to bring before the House for debate. The idea that this is somehow hijacking Parliament or that we somehow are not doing our jobs by bringing forward a matter that we consider to be of importance to Canadians is outrageous. We are doing our jobs. This is a day that the government provides to the opposition to bring forward a matter that it believes should be addressed by the House. Therefore, we will take no lessons.

Repeatedly today the Liberals have been saying to the Conservative opposition that we should do whatever they are doing. They want to know why we are not working with them to come up with programs that benefit Liberal-friendly firms. They want us to step aside and let them railroad all over Parliament. When the Liberals shut down Parliament and prorogued it for weeks, they wondered why we did not agree with them. Why do we not all become Liberal members of Parliament and just embrace the government's agenda? That is what the Liberals are asking us to do today.

We have been working with the government on COVID-related matters for months. In fact, I was part of a group that sat down with leadership from all parties to discuss how we would go forward and govern ourselves during this pandemic. In good faith, we allowed for Parliament to take a break because we did not know what the pandemic would bring.

What was the response from the Liberal government? After that act of good faith and after working together to put the safety and security of Canadians first, what did the Liberals do? They tried to jam a bill down our throats that would have removed the power of Parliament until December of 2021. That was the Liberal response to working together.

Forgive me if I do not just stop doing my job as a member of the opposition and give the government a blank cheque to do whatever it wants. We have seen what it will do with it. The Liberals are asking us to just work on COVID-related matters.

The WE Charity scandal was borne out of an attempt to rush money out the door and do it in a way that benefited a Liberal-friendly charity. Charities all over the country are suffering right now. Their donations are down. They do not know how they will make ends meet. The people who they serve are not getting the same level of support.

However, not all those charities have paid half a million dollars to the Prime Minister's family. Therefore, they did not get a half-a-billion program designed by themselves from the government.

The fact that the program has now been abandoned in its entirety tells us that it was a complete and total failure. If the government actually believed in the program, it would have stuck it out. It would have stuck with WE and continued down the road of a completely flawed program that did not serve the people it was intended to serve, but rather served people who had served the Liberal Party through the Prime Minister's family. It also also produced some fantastic propaganda videos for the Prime Minister in the past and pumped his tires wherever it could. It was a Liberal-friendly charity that got Canadian taxpayer dollars. That is what we are talking about today.

The motion we are talking about today calls for the creation of a parliamentary committee so the Liberals will finally stop blocking the work of the finance committee, the ethics committee and now the health committee. Right now they are blocking any attempts to get work done at those committees. They have been talking non-stop for days to avoid votes coming to the floor at those committees.

Why would they do that unless they were afraid of what those motions call for? The motions call for the production of papers for documents that had previously been agreed to be released, before the Prime Minister shut down Parliament just days before those documents were set to be released. It was supposed to be for a historic reset. The Liberals needed time to get the brains around the table, as was said in QP today, to come up with a new plan that would launch Canada into the new reality that we would face in COVID-19, post-COVID-19 or a “living with COVID-19” world.

What did they do instead? It was just a rehash of things they have not delivered on over the last five years. There was no grand vision that was launched. There was no reset. It was just a rehash, a warming over of previous Liberal promises that have not been delivered on. Liberals prorogued Parliament to prevent those documents from coming forward. However, the Prime Minister said it was just temporary and that, when Parliament came back, if parliamentarians wished, they could ask for the information again. This was not shutting down investigations; it was just a little delay.

Of course now they have switched tactics and will not allow votes to come forward at those committees, which has prompted us to come forward with this motion.

What is the response to a motion to create a committee? The response is that before they let that happen there will be an election. That is what we are hearing today from the Prime Minister. He bragged about it today. The House leader was similarly threatening to plunge Canadians into an election over the creation of a committee and the release of documents that have been previously ordered released.

These are the reasons the government is giving for threatening an election. What the Liberals are really doing is threatening members of Parliament. They are threatening members of Parliament by saying, if we vote for the creation of this committee, if we vote to have these documents released as was previously voted on and agreed to by all parties, it is go time. It is time for the election. It is time to get signs out, go door knocking in a pandemic. It is “we will stop at nothing”. The ultimate nuclear weapon in a minority Parliament is to threaten an election.

The Liberals have done it to protect the Prime Minister from whatever is in those documents. I do not know what is in the documents. Canadians would like to know. The motion calls for the documents to be examined in camera. The Liberals are threatening an election over letting 12 parliamentarians see documents and not be able to talk about them in public. That is enough to threaten an election.

Conservatives will not be intimidated. We will do our jobs. We will talk about the pandemic and, quite frankly, I resent the use of health workers, small businesses and the people in my community to suggest that if we bring forward this motion to demand accountability, somehow we are not supporting them during COVID. What a ridiculous assertion.

To use health care workers, who did not have PPE at the beginning of this crisis because of the inaction of government, to say that the Liberals are standing up for health care workers and if we vote for this motion, we are not, that is outrageous. To say about small business owners, who are hanging on by their fingernails because the government failed to secure the borders early enough because the government gave bad advice from the start, that somehow if we vote for the creation of a committee we are voting against those small business owners, that is outrageous.

My constituents will not allow the COVID-19 pandemic to be used as a fig leaf to cover up Liberal corruption. I am tired of hearing it. I have heard it all day long. If we do not talk about that every moment of every day, stay tuned. We have another day that is allotted to us to talk about the issues we wish to raise later this week, and not by obstructing the work of the House.

If the government does not cause its own defeat over this motion, we will talk about the failures of the government on COVID-19. We will talk about where we have worked together, but what we will not be is intimidated into silence, into sweeping Liberal corruption under the rug simply because that is what the government wants to threaten us with, saying there will be an election if we vote in favour of a committee. What a ridiculous thing. We are here to work for Canadians, but we are not here to turn a blind eye to Liberal corruption.

We will be voting in favour of this motion and so should all members of Parliament who actually want to get to the bottom of the WE scandal and the Liberal corruption in it.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Anti-CorruptionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have known the member for some time, not terribly well, but I respect his role in the House. I certainly respect the role his father played in the House, serving in the capacity of Speaker for a period of time.

I am surprised, however, that a few times today the member put on the record something that he must know to be a simple mistruth, which is that $500 million did not go to the WE Charity organization. That money was for students. There was $43 million that was going to go to WE from the government for administering the program, and that money was going to be reimbursed. I am not saying that the government did not make mistakes on the file. It did, and I said that earlier today.

Why is the member not putting facts on the record and allowing hyperbole to guide his rhetoric here today?

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Anti-CorruptionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Hope, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a fact that parliamentarians agreed to have certain documents released to the committee prior to the Prime Minister's coming in with the hammer and proroguing Parliament for no reason, in the middle of a pandemic, when the CERB was about to expire and when other matters needed to be considered by this Parliament.

All parliamentarians on those committees had agreed that those documents should come forward. The Prime Minister prorogued the House and said they could pick it up again when we came back in September. Of course, the Liberals will not allow for that to happen. Therefore, they prorogued, they bought some time, they have tried to get it off the national radar, and now they are blocking those documents from coming forward. There is no hyperbole in that. It is clearly laid out in the motion.

Unless they have something to hide, these members will vote in favour of the creation of this committee and release the documents.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Anti-CorruptionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my Conservative colleague for his speech, and I have a question for him.

This summer, as a member of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, I had to travel to Ottawa to urgently study the impacts of the pandemic. We were supposed to send a letter to our minister, then study what has been done this fall and report back.

Women have been particularly affected, and as my party's critic for seniors, I can say that the same is true for senior women. This morning in committee, I managed to get a priority motion passed that will allow our committee to pick up where we left off with our work this summer, so that we can continue working on mitigating the impacts of the pandemic on women and senior women.

Then we have this government playing games, threatening to trigger an election that would once again put all our work on hold smack in the middle of a pandemic. This is urgent.

Why not examine the WE affair, agree to this committee and let us continue our work as parliamentarians? This is how we look after people.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Anti-CorruptionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Hope, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

I think it is a good one, because the government no longer seems to care about committee work.

No work is acceptable to the government anymore. Government members will not accept any work plan. They are filibustering every committee. They are shutting down the health committee now. They are shutting down the finance committee. They are shutting down ethics. They are standing in the way of the work of the status of women committee, and they have the audacity to say that we are the ones causing the problem.

I would say to them, on the WE Charity scandal, along with all of the other scandals that involve COVID-19 spending that has benefited Liberal interests, to get it out of those other committees and put it in a special committee. We can consider it there, and let status of women, health, finance and ethics get on with the work of the nation.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Anti-CorruptionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Green

Paul Manly Green Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, this WE scandal does need to be looked into. We did not like the program when it was announced. We did not think it was fair to be giving the equivalent of $10 an hour to students for volunteering for non-profits.

In my riding, we were short $500,000 in the Canada summer jobs program. When this unfolded in July, I immediately sent letters to various government ministers, saying that these funds should go into the Canada summer jobs program so that we could help students and non-profits through this pandemic. What does the hon. member think happened to that $900 million that was supposed to help students and non-profits? We have students who did not get the summer jobs they needed, who are now in a position where they are financially strapped and who are paying tuition fees that are extremely high. They need help.

What does the hon. member think should have been done with that funding?

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Anti-CorruptionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Hope, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is what made this thing so unbelievable. For the government to say that the public service was unable to deliver a program for students, when there is already a program that exists to deliver job experience for students, is outrageous. We all participate in that program every year, the Canada summer jobs program.

The Liberals said it could not be done by public servants, and then they picked an organization that could not operate in French. It could not deliver a national program. It is an absolute joke that they think we are going to swallow, hook, line and sinker, their line that the public service said they could not do the job and demanded we give it to WE, and WE just happened to give the Prime Minister's family half a million dollars.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Anti-CorruptionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, 338 of us sit in the House of Commons as elected representatives. We have been given the voice of the Canadian public. We occupy a place of sacred trust. It is not our right to be in Parliament but rather our privilege, and it should be stewarded as such. It is a tremendous honour.

Sadly, this summer we learned that the Prime Minister gave $912 million to the WE Charity Foundation. He gave the money to it in the name of running a youth grant program. This seemed innocent at first, but upon closer examination it was found that the Prime Minister and a number of his ministers enjoy close ties with the co-founders of this charity. In fact, almost half a million dollars have been funnelled through WE to the family members of the Prime Minister and his former finance minister. This is a classic case of using one's position of power to reward friends.

What this ultimately comes down to is trust. Canadians want to know that the government is stewarding the trust that has been placed in it. Canadians rightly want to know that they are not being misled, deceived and taken advantage of by those who they have elected to represent them in the House of Commons.

What the Conservatives are proposing today is that a special committee be set up to look into this matter. The proposed committee would examine the misuse of taxpayers' dollars during what the Liberals, by their own admission, are calling the worst crisis since World War II.

One of the Prime Minister's campaign promises in the last election had to do with strengthening Parliament and public institutions. In fact, on the Liberal Party website it says, “Parliament works best when its members are free to do what they have been elected to do: be the voice for their communities, and hold the government to account.” It goes on to promise that Liberals will take steps to strengthen Parliament. We are giving the Prime Minister and his members an opportunity to do just that. We agree with the Prime Minister that trust does need to be restored in this Parliament, and one of the best ways to do that is to bear in mind his own advice: to let the sunshine in.

Before entering public life, in one of the leadership roles I carried, I had the responsibility of managing bank accounts and signing cheques. When I assumed the role, only one signing authority was necessary. I insisted on having the process changed so that two signing authorities were required. Why did I do this? I wanted it to be done this way for two reasons: one, it held me accountable by ensuring that a second person would see the amount that I was spending and what I was spending it on; and two, it protected me from being perceived or accused of wrongdoing. I had nothing to fear because I had nothing to hide, but I had a lot to gain from the extra element of accountability and the protection that was granted by adding a second signing authority.

Similarly, if the Liberals have nothing to hide, then the establishment of this special committee should be welcomed. In fact, it should be wanted. It would simply affirm what the government claims to be true: It would increase public trust and would make us, the opposition, look ridiculously silly if the Liberals are in fact telling the truth.

The Liberals would have the opportunity to watch their numbers grow. The polls would rise and they could call an election. Things would be great for them. Unfortunately, if things are false or not as they claim, they do in fact have a lot to fear. This would explain why they are trying to shut this down. They keep fighting us. Could it be because they are guilty?

The Liberals continue to utter the mantra “nothing to see here”, yet they have spent dozens of hours filibustering at committee meetings. They have put their thumbs over the camera to pretend there is a technical glitch. They have gone as far as to shut down Parliament during most of August and September, when the Prime Minister prorogued it, and now they are threatening to force an election should we continue to push for a special committee. This scandal must be really bad if they are willing to go through this much work and effort.

In August, when the Prime Minister shut down Parliament to block investigations into his scandal, he claimed, “When Parliament resumes in the fall there will be ample opportunities to continue to ask whatever questions committees or members want to continue to do,” yet we see the exact opposite happening. This is a massive cover-up, but it makes sense. This is not the first time the Prime Minister has been caught in a breach. It is not the first time that he has taken advantage of Canadians.

The Prime Minister is facing his third investigation by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner in less than five years. This is unprecedented. No other prime minister in Canada's history has ever been convicted of an ethics violation, let alone being found guilty of two and under investigation for a third time.

With regard to the WE scandal, there are a few things we know for sure. The Prime Minister's mother, wife and brother have received almost half a million dollars from WE. We know the charity was to receive $912 million from the Prime Minister to administer a youth grant program. We know that $43.5 million of that was to be kept at the WE Charity Foundation for administrative costs. The rest was supposed to be issued directly to young people. We know the Canada student service grant was announced on April 22. We know someone from the Prime Minister's Office spoke with WE about its proposal on May 5, which also happened to be the same day that WE was allowed to start charging expenses for administering the program. We also know that cabinet did not actually approve this proposal until almost 20 days later, on May 22.

Something smells fishy. It doesn't quite add up. Why was the WE Charity assured it could start charging expenses and spend taxpayer money for a program that was not even approved yet? That is odd, right? Could it be because the Prime Minister was doing a favour for his friends, who had done numerous favours for him in the past? This is one of the reasons we need this committee. We have important questions. Canadians have important questions, and they need them answered.

Winston Churchill famously said, “The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.” The Liberals can fight as hard as they want to keep the truth hidden. They can shut down Parliament, try to change the channel and filibuster for dozens of hours. However, here is the thing. The truth always comes out. It always reveals itself.

The Liberals continue to accuse us of being out of step with Canadians because we are calling for this study and are not solely focused on the pandemic. This is an incredibly egocentric thing to say. Suggesting that Canadians are only concerned with COVID-19 and could not possibly simultaneously care about something like ethics, morality or the strength of democracy is extremely naive, paternalistic and condescending of the government.

Let us put aside the Liberals' folly for just a moment. Let us consider the fact that the WE scandal is currently being investigated by three different committees, including the finance committee. Setting up a special committee dedicated solely to the WE investigation would allow other committees to return to their important work, with a strong focus on helping Canadians get through the pandemic and look after their livelihoods. In other words, if the Liberals truly want Parliament to focus its time and energy on responding to COVID, they should vote yes for the formation of this special committee. That is unless the Liberal virus known as corruption is more dangerous than the COVID virus.

The Prime Minister said it well when he said that the best disinfectant is to let the sun shine in. Why is he so afraid to let the special committee come together? Why is he afraid of having his decisions examined? Why is he afraid of being held accountable? What is the Prime Minister covering up? The answers to these questions lie within the formation of this committee. It would allow the other committees to get back to their important work and serve Canadians well while simultaneously getting to the bottom of the WE scandal.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Anti-CorruptionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, five years ago I would have said the priority of the Conservative Party was to look for ways to talk about ethical issues that discredit the leader of the Liberal Party. Even when he was the leader of the third party, the Conservatives went out of their way to discredit him.

Absolutely nothing has changed. One would think that during a worldwide pandemic, the Conservatives would maybe put the brakes on this for a little while and start dealing with the priority of Canadians, which is the health and welfare of Canadians and our economy. Instead, they want to talk about a scandal that is not a scandal. I would welcome a discussion or debate on this with a university class of the member's choosing. I do not quite understand why even during a pandemic they do not see the value of putting their five-year-long ethical question on hold.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Anti-CorruptionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is rich of this member to once again assume that he knows exactly what the needs and desires of Canadians are, and to tell them. He is telling Canadians that they are not interested in this scandal. He is telling Canadians that they are not interested in accountability. He is telling Canadians that they are not interested in morality, ethics or the protection of democracy. The member is telling Canadians what they are interested in and what they are not interested in. That is inappropriate. He has the responsibility to listen to what Canadians are saying, rather than to dictate to them where their interests should lie.

The vast majority of emails, phone calls and social media comments that my office has received have to do with the WE scandal and holding the Prime Minister to account. I will continue to do so.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Anti-CorruptionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

October 20th, 2020 / 3:45 p.m.

Bloc

Martin Champoux Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is a very simple principle: when a person has nothing to hide, they generally do not hesitate to open their books or disclose information. When a person has nothing to hide, they let others check the evidence.

That is not what is happening here. The government is prepared to force the country into an election when we are going through the worst crisis since the Second World War, or so they say.

What we know right now about the WE Charity scandal is enough to horrify anyone who has the slightest bit of respect for the notion of ethics. We could write a soap opera with what already know about the WE Charity scandal, but we would probably be sent back to the drawing board because the story would not seem credible. It would be too far-fetched.

If we begin to extrapolate the reasons why the Liberal government does not want us to dig any deeper into the WE scandal, what might we find? We are extrapolating, talking. We are trying to imagine what could be worse than what we already know.

I would like to hear what my colleague has to say about that.