Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my good friend, the member for Elmwood—Transcona.
It is very revealing for me to listen to the Liberals here today. One after another, they want to tell us all about the inner and intricate workings of any committee in the House of Commons and want to debate sub judice rules and all sorts of protocols and doctrines rather than speak to the heart of what New Democrats have brought forward as a motion here today.
I thought my Liberal colleagues would have taken the motion seriously, because it deals with our very trust and confidence in government itself, never mind the day-to-day eroding of trust and faith in this particular government and its own credibility. Instead, Liberals have spent the entire day avoiding the elephant in the room, the very central questions that Canadians are asking about what exactly is going on in the Prime Minister's own office with this scandal. They refuse to believe that Canadians are somehow not going to be satisfied with the constantly evolving stories coming out of the Prime Minister's own mouth and the fact that every time they say there is nothing to see, another shoe drops, giving even more compelling reason for Canadians to suspect the allegations they first read about just over a week ago are of merit and may in fact be entirely true.
Let us walk ourselves back to exactly how we got here today, when New Democrats are moving a motion calling on the Prime Minister to waive his solicitor-client privilege, which has effectively silenced the former attorney general of Canada but has not silenced the Prime Minister. He has gone on day after day, talking about all their private conversations. He actually ends up contradicting his own version of events day after day. Meanwhile, his former attorney general cannot speak at all because the Prime Minister refuses to waive this privilege, maintaining that she is unable to speak without breaking that privilege.
We also asked for a public inquiry. Canadians, a surprising number of them, watched last week's emergency justice committee hearing as we sought to have the most fundamental elements of this story discussed and debated at committee and to call the most relevant witnesses. They watched a two-and-a-half-hour spectacle, as Liberals, claiming independence and innocence, stonewalled and refused every attempt to actually hear from people who were involved. They wanted to hear from witnesses who had no idea what actually went on between the Prime Minister's Office and the former attorney general. They only wanted to hear from those people, the current Attorney General and others, who had no clue what happened. However, when we asked for people such as Mr. Gerald Butts and the former attorney general and on down the list, the Liberals refused.
We asked them to also encourage the Prime Minister to waive solicitor-client privilege so the former attorney general could speak. The Liberals refused. At one point I said it would be really good for Canadians to hear from the former attorney general. One of the Liberal committee members said she agreed. I asked then why she had just voted against it; she said she had not, when 10 minutes before that, she had voted against that exact proposition.
I am not sure what world they are occupying, but it is a troubling one, because at the heart of this matter is the confidence Canadians must maintain, regardless of their political persuasion, in this institution and the ability of government to work on their behalf, not just on behalf of the wealthy and the well connected.
Dozens of times this very well-connected company met with the Prime Minister's Office, met with Gerald Butts, met with the Prime Minister's principal secretary in Quebec, pleading, asking, demanding for the law to be changed to allow a company that is convicted of fraud and bribery charges, as SNC-Lavalin has been, to continue to bid on federal government contracts.
The Liberals in fact buried that change in the law in a 550-page omnibus bill. Even Liberals on the finance committee said it was inappropriate. Even the chair of the finance committee said it was the wrong place to discuss it, and it was never discussed. The concerns we raised were dismissed, and the Liberals, one after another, voted for that change to allow companies to plead out—to admit guilt, take a fine, pay back the bribery charges, and then continue to bid on those lucrative contracts.
There are two sets of rules here. One is for average, ordinary Canadians who face obstruction of justice or bribery charges and face the full weight of the law. Another set of rules is for well-connected folks who can lobby the Prime Minister's chief adviser, lobby the chief architects and strategists of the government and lobby the Prime Minister himself in order to get the changes made.
After succeeding in getting those changes, the government needed one final step. It needed the public prosecution office to actually allow this company to plea out.
Listen to the Liberals as they talk about this, about jobs and how they need this plea deal for this company to protect jobs. Written into the law itself is that one cannot argue economic missed opportunities to get a plea deal. One cannot say that because there may be job losses, a company should be allowed to avoid the full weight and punishment of the law. One cannot apply a plea deal. Properly, the public prosecution office has refused to do that.
The allegations that appeared told us that. Someone from the Prime Minister's Office was applying pressure to the former attorney general of Canada to push for this plea. When she resisted, she may have been fired. It was inexplicable why eight months before an election, and just six months after a cabinet shuffle, the Prime Minister needed to shuffle her out of justice and out of serving as the attorney general. She was the first female indigenous attorney general and justice minister in Canadian history.
We all watched the swearing-in ceremony. The former attorney general was clearly not pleased. She was clearly upset with what the Prime Minister did.
When the Prime Minister eventually saw her leave his cabinet, did anyone notice that he did not have anything nice to say about her? Did anyone notice that in his public utterances, it took him more than a week to deny the sexist and racist smear campaign against her that was coming out of the Prime Minister's own office? It took him seven days to say how terrible the comments were that she was prickly and difficult to work with. As one Liberal member said anonymously, if she thought that being a woman and being indigenous protected her somehow, she was wrong. Think about that. A Liberal MP went, on background, to a national newspaper to say that she must have thought that because she was indigenous and a woman, it somehow protected her.
The Prime Minister, a so-called feminist, has said that there is no relationship more important to him than the one with indigenous peoples. It took him a week to publicly denounce those comments, comments that may have come out of his own office. One wonders what exactly is going on.
At the very heart of this is the independence of our courts to apply the law equally to all Canadians. We have a Liberal Party that stated that it was going to be different. The Liberals were going to be open by default. They were going to be transparent. However, when we sought that openness and transparency, what did the Liberals do? They voted against all our efforts and then said that the committee should go in camera, behind closed doors, to discuss sensitive things. They want to talk about these witnesses, but they do not want to talk about those witnesses. It is incoherent.
The good thing about telling the truth, I would offer the Prime Minister, is that it is easy to repeat, because it does not change. I noticed that with the Prime Minister, day by day the story was different: the allegations were entirely false; the evidence that nothing untoward happened was that his former attorney general was still in cabinet. The next day, where was she? She was out of cabinet, having resigned.
The Liberals know how bad this is. If they do not, shame on them. They stand up, one after another, and say that the Prime Minister does not need to waive solicitor-client privilege, that we do not need to hear from the former attorney general at the justice committee and that the Prime Minister's word is good enough for them. The Prime Minister's word has not been consistent at all in this scandal.
I will remind my Liberal colleagues, because many of them were not here, that back in 2013, there was an opposition day motion the Liberals moved in Parliament:
That the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics be instructed to examine the conduct of the Prime Minister’s Office regarding the repayment of Senator Mike Duffy’s expenses; that the Prime Minister be ordered to appear under oath as a witness before the Committee for a period of 3 hours, before December 10, 2013; and that the proceedings be televised.
That is what the Liberals thought in opposition when the whole Nigel Wright-Mike Duffy payoff was going on. They thought that a good person to hear from was the Prime Minister himself. Now they flip over to being in government and they say, “Oh my, the Prime Minister told us several versions. We believe them all. We are Liberals. We are somewhat morally flexible when it comes to the truth."
The Prime Minister said something on Monday that was different on Tuesday and changed again on Wednesday, but it all sounds right to the Liberals. Canadians are left wondering who these guys are. They are three years into governing and cannot find the truth with both hands.
The Liberals are looking around and wondering why no one believes them when the head of the Liberal Party, the Prime Minister of Canada, has implicated himself in a scandal that goes right to the heart of our faith and belief not only that government but that our courts are independent and that all Canadians, regardless of their stature or connections, will experience a fair hearing and trial.
We see two sets of rules in place, one for well-connected and wealthy people and another for everyone else. Canadians deserve the answers. Canadians will eventually get the answers. It is only a question of when and how.