Mr. Speaker, I sat in the House all day today and had the opportunity to hear members' views on both sides of the House. As I listened to them speak, a couple of premises came through. I have heard members opposite say that this is not about the member for Mississauga—Streetsville, then I have heard some pretty uncharitable comments about the member for Mississauga—Streetsville. I have heard others say that he apologized deeply for what he did, then I heard others say that it was not a good enough apology or that it was not an apology at all.
In fact, I recall the member for Vancouver Quadra, just a few moments ago, saying that the member for Mississauga—Streetsville did not apologize at all. I found that very interesting.
I would like to read if I may, the apology, to ensure that it is put on the record. I have found that we are imperfect beings trying to do perfect jobs, or at least as perfect as we can. I think my colleague opposite, who just made some comments about how we do what we do, said in some of her earlier comments that we do not always get it right. That is true.
In any event, let me, if I may, address what the member for Mississauga—Streetsville actually did say. He said:
I would like to sincerely apologize to all Canadians and to all members of the House for the statement that I made. It was never my intention, in any way, to mislead this House, for which I have the greatest amount of respect.
I might end my comments this evening with that quote again, just to make the point of what he said.
Am I here to challenge his motives? My goodness, in all the years I have been a member of Parliament, I have seen and heard members on both sides that have frankly given rise to shameful conduct in this House. The Speaker has had to sort out a person for over-speaking or calling people names or attributing titles to them that, quite frankly, were not deserved. It is the lowest of parliamentary conduct for all of us in this House when we resort to that level of name-calling, and frankly, babbling.
My Cape Breton mother once said to me, and she said it very sincerely, “Ed, you have two things in your life. You have your name and you have your integrity, and you don't mess up one without messing up the other”.
I think of the member for Mississauga—Streetsville and I think about the circumstances he has found himself in. Here is what has happened. He over-spoke, misspoke, call it as one might, then too late for some, he withdrew the comment. After he withdrew the comment, he apologized, and he apologized, I thought, with a sincerity that frankly this House could benefit from if we listened.
By the way, am I here to canonize the original comments or the member for doing that? I do not think so. Do we not think that this member, by having to go in front of the House, as he has had to do, and saying what he has had to say, was correct to do that? Frankly, he had no choice. He had to do it. Was it the right thing? It was absolutely the right thing to do.
Let us be measured, colleagues, by always doing the right thing, even if sometimes it takes a little longer.
The other point is that the whole country, at least some of those who watch CPAC, and I hope every Canadian does, would be aware that this member of whom we are speaking, our colleague, had to stand in front of this House and sincerely apologize in front of this House, in front of all of us, and in front of Canadians. For those who say that this is not about him, that is not what it has sounded like to me.
If members do not think that is paying a price for doing something, I can assure them that it absolutely is, whether or not he stood up after that and made representations about why he might have done what he did. Frankly, we are all here as members of the House of Commons to ensure that we protect the integrity of this House and represent Canadians the best way we can.
Was that Canada's finest moment or this House's finest moment? I would suggest not. However, what cheek to say what is in his heart or what he meant by that? I am prepared to accept it at face value when someone says to me, “I deeply apologize”. I want to come back to the words, “...sincerely apologize to all Canadians and to all members of the House...”.
I am prepared to accept that member's statement at face value. I am not sure why others would not. If I said that to members, I would hope that my colleagues would accept it with the same spirit and intention as I meant it.
Here is what is troubling. In response, here is what a few folks have said. I mentioned that the member for Vancouver Quadra said that there was not an apology made. I heard the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley say, “Let us take the words directly from the member for Mississauga—Streetsville. He said in his alleged apology...”.
For shame. By what right would any member imagine that it was an alleged apology, unless we were trying to play politics? I am sure that is not the intent of members opposite and not the intent of members on this side either.
The member for Toronto—Danforth said, “The second thing is the retraction. I am not going to call it an apology because that is not the way it was phrased”.
I am going to go back to the phrase “I would like to sincerely apologize”. I am not going to second-guess our colleague.
By the way, our colleague happens to be a Conservative, but he is our colleague. I am not going to impugn his motive when he gave an apology. I am not sure why we would want to do that unless there was some kind of gain. I wondered about that, because I have heard comments back and forth. A lot of what I heard today did not refer so much to the member for Mississauga—Streetsville as to the issues surrounding the fair elections act. I respect that members on the other side of the House may not necessarily agree with our position on that, and that is fair. However, it feels to me like this situation is being used as a whipping post to make a different point at the expense of a member. How low does that go? That is just not right. When individuals give us their word, we accept that word. We have an obligation to do that.
I know that the thought was to take this to committee to see how much more we could get out of it. When the member stands up and says that he made an error and then says that he withdraws that comment and after that apologizes, is there more that would come from committee than has been explored in this House?
The Speaker referred it originally to this House to review. We are kind of like a court. I am not sure if I would call it a tribunal or a preliminary court. When that happens, we actually get to hear the evidence. We have what the individual said on record, not only the misstatement but the apology. When we get both of those sides, we as members of the House can evaluate whether we accept it. However, to impugn motive, when we do not know what it was, is the part I have the most difficulty with. Could it have been exaggeration and excitement or whatever? I am prepared to say to any member of the House that if he or she has anything to tell us and comes back and says “I sincerely apologize”, I would accept that.
We all know that, when someone withdraws a comment, sometimes at the urging of the Speaker, sometimes not, or apologizes for over-speaking, we all applaud that individual. We thank that person for showing class and dignity for doing that. It begs the question why we are not prepared to offer that same class and dignity.
I said in an earlier question that to err is human and to forgive is divine, something my Cape Breton mom taught me. Why can all of us not just do that? When somebody deeply apologizes, why can we not accept that at face value, unless there is another motive behind it? It would not be proper for me to assign any motivation behind that.
Ironically, we might not have heard about the member's comment except he stood up and said “oops”. I am not trying to make an oops sound casual here. What I am saying is that, if the member had never stood up and said he made a mistake, apologized, and withdrawn his comment, we might not ever have known. However at least he had the class to do that.
We could show more class ourselves by taking him at face value. That is an obligation of every member of Parliament. Any of us could find ourselves in that position. If we find ourselves in that position, would it not be nice to see a bit of charity from the other side? Would it not be nice for members on the other side to say they understand that might happen and accept at face value that the statement is being withdrawn and the individual is apologizing?
I imagine being in this place and in that position. Would I want members to condemn me for the rest of my life, saying I lied, that I misled the House, that I did inappropriate things? That would not be fair or proper. That would not show any charity at all. It would not show what we as members of the House of Commons should be doing, which is getting on with the business of the House and never letting anything slide that should not slide.
We should acknowledge the fact that the member stood up and retracted his comment and apologized. I would challenge any member to do that if found in that position. Would a member not want me to forgive him or her? I would ask a member to forgive me if I over-spoke. I would hope to have the support of the House were I to make that mistake. Not being perfect, I may well make many mistakes. I have been here long enough to have made a few, and I am sure a few more will happen.
I would like to remind my colleagues that the member has been humbled in the House. I want to repeat his apology just so it is crystal clear. I want to read his apology, so no one in the House can say he did not apologize. It is important that it be re-read for the record. As I read it, I would ask all members to listen to it one more time, because if any of us were in the same situation, we would expect that same sense of charity that I would expect we would offer to him or to any member of the House if found in that circumstance. Here is his apology:
I would like to sincerely apologize to all Canadians and to all members of the House for the statement that I made. It was never my intention, in any way, to mislead the House, for which I have the greatest amount of respect.
I have the deepest respect for the House of Commons and all members within it. I am proud to call them all colleagues, whether they are in my party or another party. I would ask that the same sense of spirit go forward as we make every effort to clear this issue and get on with the business of the House.