Madam Speaker, I am very proud to take part in this virtual debate. I am here, at home, in the small town of Cobalt in northern Ontario.
It is a historic moment for me in my 16 years of Parliament to participate virtually, and we are doing this because we are in an unprecedented economic and medical crisis. It is the biggest crisis our country has faced in nearly a century. The pandemic has upended everything and it is actually inspiring to see how Parliament is attempting to find ways, including virtually, to maintain the integrity of voting and debate. I am very proud to speak for the people of Timmins—James Bay this morning on the concurrence motion on the ethics report on Mr. Peschisolido.
I have spent many years taking on corruption in Parliament and pushing on the issues of ethics. I have to admit, there was a moment this morning when I was saying, “What report was that? Oh yes, the 'Peschisolido Report',” because we have had so many ethics violations against the Liberals that they stack up. We have to keep track of them. This was about his role with his law firm and his failure to disclose his clear conflicts of interest.
Why does that matter? It matters because I was doing an interview recently with American journalists about the WE scandal. They said, compared with the scandals they have in the United States, how do we think our scandals are serious? I said to them that it is because we have the Conflict of Interest Act, the Lobbying Act, Elections Canada and the elections financing rules, and we expect politicians to maintain them, that we are not in a situation like the United States right now. The rule of law and the obligation of Parliamentarians to follow the rule of law has to be maintained as a primary principle.
We have had a number of scandals under the Liberal government, including the Mr. Grewal scandal. I wrote to the Ethics Commissioner about that scandal and that has gone on to the RCMP. The initial issue with the Grewal scandal was his using his position as a member of Parliament to further the financial interests of friends, and that was in the notorious India scandal.
Mr. Morneau, the former finance minister, quit in the midst of an unprecedented economic crisis because of his complete failure to even read the Conflict of Interest Act and to know he had been put in a position of conflict in his dealings with WE Charity. It is absolutely unacceptable.
The Prime Minister is now under his third investigation. The question at the heart of the WE scandal is how it is possible that a group who has built such close ties with all the key Liberals in power, in the midst of their own financial crisis, were able to get upwards of $500 million because of who they knew. We should not be running government like this. In the midst of an unprecedented pandemic, Canadians need to be assured that the government is not putting the needs of their friends before the needs of Canadians.
In my riding, the people of Kashechewan have been waiting for years for the government to sign off on basic things like a road so that they can begin to move to a new community. In April of this year, the community had to live in tents on the land because of COVID. They could not be evacuated and they had no safe place to go. When they heard about the WE scandal they asked me how it was possible that these guys could get $500 million so easily, when they have to fight and beg to get the government to recognize even the most basic changes in their communities.
That is the principle we have to keep front and centre when we are talking about conflicts of interest. It is about the role of powerful insiders who should not have that access. I am certainly looking forward to the return of our committees. The finance committee was doing excellent work on the WE scandal. We need answers. The official languages committee will be looking at the WE scandal because of the fact that this was a group completely unprepared to present their program in Quebec, let alone the rest of the country.
The ethics committee has certainly raised a number of questions about the relationships between key government ministers and the Kielburger brothers. We also have just had a finding of guilt against Liberal insider David MacNaughton, after I raised a questions to the Ethics Commissioner about the former ambassador's work on behalf of Palantir Technologies.
This is a huge issue. Palantir is a deeply problematic surveillance company. This is a company run by billionaire tech giant Peter Thiel, who has some very extreme right views and some very questionable views on democracy. This technology has been used to target migrant families, and we know about the horrific abuses that are taking place in the detention centres. We know that Palantir honed its technologies in Iraq. It has been tied to the CIA and the FBI. I do not think people can say that this company has Canadian values, yet, because it hired a top Liberal insider, it got an all-access pass to everybody, such as Rick Theis, the Prime Minister's confidant; the Deputy Prime Minister; the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry; and the chief of the defence staff.
How is it possible that people at a company like Palantir could get this kind of inside access just because they hired a top Liberal? I am certainly looking forward to having that discussion at the ethics committee, and I am hoping my colleagues in the Bloc, the Liberals and the Conservatives will support me in ensuring that Mr. MacNaughton comes to explain how he got this kind of access.
These issues of ethics and accountability are vitally important. However, we also need to remember that the discussion this morning is happening in the midst of a massive crisis that is facing us right now. The fact that the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament to escape accountability on the WE scandal is something we need to investigate. The reason we have an urgency this morning is that the Prime Minister did not let Parliament sit when it should have sat. The CERB benefits are ending and people are facing deep financial crisis right now. Our obligation at the end of the day is to ensure that we are there, rising up to meet the issues of the pandemic, because this second wave looks like it might be even outpacing the first wave very quickly.
In terms of what the CERB and its cut-off means, we know the Prime Minister and the Liberal government were looking to jail people who were not eligible for CERB but were getting it. The Liberals promised money for disabilities and they never delivered it. In their last trial balloon, when they modified CERB into its new form, they were going to cut it from $2,000 to $1,600 a month.
What would that mean for people who have lost work or who have no work to go back to? Just the other day, I spoke with a woman who just moved from Alberta to Ontario. She set herself up in a practice as a naturopath. She had taken on huge amounts of student debt. She set up the practice. She was going to be a self-employed businesswoman and then COVID-19 hit. She has had no ability to practise her work. Sixteen hundred dollars a month will be economically devastating. Two thousand dollars a month through the winter will get her through to the other side. That is the focus right now.
I was speaking with a woman who spent years as a self-employed broker, helping with tourism and tour plans for people. Well, there is no tourism going on and without this money, she is economically destitute.
Therefore, our priority right now has to be getting things fixed and being able to answer for the crisis we are in. As much as I enjoy and think it is really important that we get to talk about Liberal conflicts of interest, our priority this morning is to get back on the issue of dealing with the crisis and the pandemic, to start showing Canadians that we can work together in this Parliament to deal with issues for people who have to take time off work because they are sick, without being economically devastated, and ensure that the CERB gets through. It is about getting people through to the other side of this winter. This is going to be a hard winter and we have to be there for them.
As for the ethics violations, I think our committee is going to be very busy in the coming months, but we still have other issues as well.
I am very pleased to participate in this. I thank my colleagues in the Conservative Party for bringing this motion forward. It is a good motion; it is worthy of study. However, we need to get these measures passed today, so people can get some economic security at this time. They are looking to us to do this.