moved that the third report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, presented on Thursday, March 31, 2022, be concurred in.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise this morning to speak to the third report of the committee, and I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Battle River—Crowfoot.
All of us can recall the summer of 2020 when news was emerging about the WE Charity scandal and how impactful that was to the debate in this country. Of course, Canada was at the height of a pandemic, and we were seeing all kinds of programs being announced. The WE Charity scandal came to light as a result of media reports that spoke specifically of sole-source contracts to WE Charity for the implementation of a program that the government in some way felt was going to benefit young people. However, what it was benefiting was the Liberals' friends at WE Charity, the Kielburgers.
All of us were seized, through the summer of 2020, with the committee reports and the committee proceedings. The Prime Minister testified. Other very serious allegations were made. People testifying before the committee talked about the impact this was having on Canada in general and about the fact that the $900 million given to the charity for a program was a direct financial benefit to that organization.
Canadians were definitely seized with this, but again, this was a pattern throughout the hundreds of billions of dollars that were being spent. The deficit at the time was $400 billion, and we saw an increase of $1.3 billion. Many programs were being put out to help support Canadians, and the Conservatives initially supported many of those programs at the onset. However, then we started seeing a pattern develop. It is a historical pattern with the Liberal Party whereby its members start taking care of their friends and family, the connected and corrupted insiders who were benefiting directly as a result of this.
There are numerous examples of this that have been publicized, not the least of which is former Liberal MP Frank Baylis receiving $237 million for ventilators that were never delivered. There was the $150 million provided to SNC-Lavalin for mobile hospital beds. I am still waiting for a response to a letter I wrote to the Auditor General about what happened to that money.
However, nothing came to the attention of Canadians more than the WE Charity scandal, and the opposition party at the time was really trying to get to the bottom of what was going on. Of course, subsequently we heard concerns about fraud within the organization. I remember that a witness from the United States, Reed, whose full name I forget, was talking about the money that he had given to the WE Charity thinking it was purposefully being used for good. However, we saw exposés on television shows about how the WE Charity was recycling announcements about money and people were calling into question where that money was going.
Our job is not to provide an indictment of the WE Charity. It is to provide oversight, despite the fact that I think the government does not want us to do this. As the official opposition, it is our constitutional obligation to hold the government to account, verify, account for and provide transparency so we know where this money was going.
As the committee studied this issue, numerous reports were produced, not the least of which was the third report of the ethics committee on this issue. There were serious concerns about the minister at the time possibly providing false information to the committee.
There was contempt. Despite the will of Parliament, there was contempt on the part of three connected members of the Prime Minister's Office and the government. They did not show up and were told to obstruct the work of the committee by not showing up. Within this timeline, numerous questions of privilege and points of order have been raised on this. However, at the end of the day, what ultimately happened was the government used procedural tactics to avoid any and all accountability related to the WE scandal.
When things got really hot for the government, members will recall that the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament. In 2015, when he ran, he said that he was never going to use prorogation as a tool to dodge accountability and transparency. However, things really started heating up, and it was a political firestorm at that time in 2020, when not just the official opposition party but all parties, including the Bloc Québécois and the NDP, were forcefully trying to get to the bottom of the WE Charity scandal.
We believe there are unanswered questions. We believe there is still work the ethics committee can do with respect to the issues that I brought forward about ministerial accountability and about the accountability of the individuals who were directly involved in this scandal. They should come before committee and answer the questions that need to be answered to get to the bottom of the involvement of those particular individuals as it relates to the WE Charity scandal.
As I said, in 2020, the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament. He reset and had a throne speech, and everything that was on the Order Paper and on the table was basically off the table at that point because that is what prorogation does. The committee reports and committee studies that were being done were basically ended at that point. However, that did not end this issue, because there were still questions that needed to be answered.
As Parliament resumed again, which was well in advance of this coalition agreement that has now come to light between the NDP and the Liberals, the NDP was forceful. I remember watching those committee hearings and listening to the member for Timmins—James Bay and the member for New Westminster—Burnaby. They were forceful in getting to the bottom of the WE Charity scandal. However, what we are hearing now is relative silence from those members; they do not want to talk about it anymore. Of course, the Prime Minister went to an election just last year, and any of the work that was continuing fell off the table again because the Prime Minister decided to use an election to hide all of the issues. The reason these types of scandals are so profoundly scandalous is that there are well-connected insiders who are benefiting as a result of this pandemic.
I rise today to propose an offer to the government House leader. The offer is that we move through this debate for the next couple of hours and then have a vote on it. We can find out exactly how all members intend to vote. With a recorded division, members will have to stand up, including NDP members. If we get to that point, I will make the offer to the government House leader that we extend the sitting this evening to do the work that Motion No. 11 calls for and debate what the government deems as important pieces of legislation. I apologize, but we are giving enough notice to extend the sitting into tonight.
We have to get to the bottom of this. We have to be able to vote on this motion to refer it back to committee so that the committee can continue the work and pick it up. I am hopeful that despite the Liberal-NDP coalition, the NDP will do the right thing, vote on the motion and get this back to committee so that we can get to the bottom of it.