Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this today. One of the things that we have noticed over the course of the last two and a half years is that the hallmarks of the Liberal government seem to be arrogance and attacks, constant arrogance and constant attacks.
We heard it today from the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader. He used a common approach earlier today. The Liberals use this approach oftentimes whenever anybody criticizes the government. They refer to the election of 2015 as though, somehow, because 40% of the people that voted in Canada voted for them, there should be no opposition in this country.
When we take a look at what Canadians voted for in 2015, it is kind of interesting. They voted for a promise of democratic reform, for example, a promise that was completely broken by the Liberal party. We had opposition members from all parties come together on a proposal for electoral reform. A committee put together by the government recommended to the government an avenue, but because it was not the Liberal avenue, the avenue the Liberals wanted, they rejected it wholeheartedly. Then what did they do? Of course, they blamed the opposition.
The Liberals promised modest budget deficits in their platform and a balanced budget by the next year. Of course, we are nowhere near a balanced budget. We are going to be running deficits for decades to come. However, every time the opposition raises a question, a legitimate question about a promise that was made in the platform and completely ignored, all we get is attacks from the government.
The Liberals promised a new era of accountability and transparency. How did that go for them? We saw over the course of the last year, as we discussed in this place, the Prime Minister's visit to the Aga Khan's private island. There were legitimate questions that were ultimately borne out by the Ethics Commissioner in her report, a scathing report. All through that year, every single question, every legitimate question was met with accusations of mudslinging by the opposition.
We were promised sunny ways in this place, a new era of sunny ways. Then, this morning when we were raising a very legitimate question about our relationship with the world's largest democracy, the hon. parliamentary secretary referred to it as character assassination. Somehow by raising these legitimate questions it is character assassination because we have the gall to suggest as parliamentarians that a senior public servant would appear before a parliamentary committee. Somehow that is character assassination.
How did we get here? Let us take a look at that.
The parliamentary secretary talked about the contrast between former prime minister Stephen Harper and the current Liberal Prime Minister. I found a little research on that contrast. I found a Canadian Press article from 2012 after Prime Minister Harper visited India. Here was some of the coverage. This is symbolic of the coverage that came out at that point:
Harper has made encouraging the flow of trade between Canada and India the focus of his six-day visit to the rapidly growing South Asian nation.
He has said repeatedly that Canada needs to branch out past its usual trading partners if it wants to weather the international economic storm....
He went through all the elements of his government's strategy for bringing stability to the economy—the “five t's” he called it: more trade, lower taxes, more training, the transformation of government process to get rid of red tape, and support for technology and research.
Those were the good old days. Because the parliamentary secretary wants to contrast things today, we contrast this with a CNN article following the current Liberal Prime Minister's trip to India. Here is what CNN had to say. This is how Canada's Prime Minister is viewed on the world stage:
[The] Canadian Prime Minister...'s scandal-ridden trip to India may be over, but the controversy surrounding it refuses to go away.
[The Prime Minister] has become embroiled in a fresh spat, following his apparent endorsement of allegations that factions within the Indian government had actively sought to undermine his visit to the country last week.
The comments, made during [the Prime Minister]'s first parliamentary session since returning to Canada, provoked a swift rebuke from the Indian government, with a spokesman for India's foreign ministry labeling the suggestion “baseless and unacceptable.”
The CNN story goes on to talk a bit about the background and describes some of the bewilderment that Canadians must feel when they are looking at the situation. The article states:
It remains unclear how Atwal, a known militant who in 1987 was sentenced to 20 years in a Canadian court for his part in the attempted murder of a visiting Indian state minister, managed to obtain a visa to enter into India.
Atwal was one of four men who ambushed and shot Malkiat Singh Sidhu, a then-member of Punjab's cabinet, who was visiting Canada for a relative's wedding, badly wounding him.
In the sentencing, the judge called the crime “an act of terrorism in order to advance a cause.”
This is CNN's story, which I will read one more quote from, because it is unbelievable that this is the face of Canada on the world stage today because of this trip. It quoted India's Ministry of External Affairs as stating:
The Government of India, including the security agencies, had nothing to do with the presence of Jaspal Atwal at the event hosted by the Canadian High Commissioner in Mumbai or the invitation issued to him for the Canadian High Commissioner's reception in New Delhi. Any suggestion to the contrary is baseless and unacceptable....
That is the way the world is viewing the situation, and that is what is leading to some of the confusion that we are dealing with today.
Then we come to the debate in Parliament and an opportunity for the opposition to question the government on these conflicting stories. We come to some interviews that have been conducted, and members who are involved in the story commenting on some of these things.
On February 27, our leader asked this question of the Prime Minister:
Mr. Speaker, will the Prime Minister tell the House whether anyone in his office arranged, organized or participated in the media briefing provided to reporters that included the allegation that the Government of India was somehow involved in his embarrassing blunder in India?
Of course the Prime Minister replied, “When one of our top diplomats and security officials says something to Canadians, it is because they know it to be true.”
We have the Indian government saying it is not true and we have Canada's Prime Minister saying it is known to be true. Clearly, we have a problem here.
Further on, the member of the NDP caucus for Timmins—James Bay asked the Prime Minister another question. The Prime Minister, in his response, said, “The member responsible for the invitation has taken full responsibility, and I will be following up with that member later this afternoon.”
Now it is even more confusing. We have the Prime Minister, the same day in question period, saying that the story told by the senior diplomat is true but also that the member for Surrey Centre is fully responsible, which are two conflicting things.
Then we move on and we have the foreign affairs minister weighing in with an answer in an interview recently. She said, “So Evan, what I'd like to say about that is that obviously it was a mistake that Mr. Atwal was initially invited to that reception in Delhi, and it was the right thing to do to appreciate that this was a mistake and to withdraw the invitation; and, you know, it's very good that we did that. I was in Delhi on that day, and I had a meeting with my Indian counterpart...the Indian foreign minister”, and this is really interesting, she said, “I started off the meeting by saying to her that it had been an honest mistake and that the invitation had been withdrawn”.
The Indian government is saying that none of what was said by the senior Canadian official was true and we have our Minister of Foreign Affairs meeting with her Indian counterpart and starting off the meeting by saying to her that it had been an honest mistake and that the invitation had been withdrawn. We can understand that Canadians would be rightfully confused by the situation we are facing right now.
I have been a member of Parliament for 12 years. I have sat on many committees and had the opportunity to hear from dozens of public servants on issues that matter to Canadians. I want to know from the Liberal Party why this case is any different.