So everyone can sleep soundly tonight, here is the transcript of Michael Ignatieff’s apparently first scrum on the Dhalla matter.
Michael Ignatieff: Good afternoon. Bonjour.
Question: Happy birthday.
Michael Ignatieff: Thank you. I’m glad somebody wished me happy birthday, yes.
Question: Happy birthday.
Michael Ignatieff: I’m 140 years old. Looks pretty good, no? Who’s going to –
Question: Can we start with Ruby Dhalla? You haven’t said much beyond your statement on Friday and I think people would like to know what you’re thinking about all this, what you’re seeing in caucus. Do you have any views on what you’ve heard so far?
Michael Ignatieff: I think Ruby made a vigorous defence of her integrity, her honour and her treatment of these – the people in her employ. She also said something else that’s very important which is that she’s concerned I think all Canadians should be that people who are temporary caregivers on these visas not be subject to abuse and mistreatment of any kind. So the morale (sic) I draw from this difficult story is that it’s cast a needed light on a problem that Parliament and when we get into government we’re going to need to look at to make absolutely sure that none of the good people who come to this country are ever subjected to abuse because of their immigration status. That seems to be the key issue. So – but she herself made that point and I was glad she did.
Question: (Inaudible) de son innocence, qu’elle n’a rien à se rapprocher?
Michael Ignatieff: Je crois qu’elle a fait une défense formidable de sa position. Elle a nié les allégations mais elle a aussi dit que c’est très important que tous les assistants à domicile comme ça qui ont un statut d’immigration particulière doit être toujours traités avec respect. Il doit être jamais maltraité. Et toute cette histoire nous révèle l’importance d’avoir une bonne politique dans ce domaine et moi comme en politique ça m’a donné beaucoup de matière à réflexion afin d’être sûr à l’avenir quand nous sommes au gouvernement qu’ils sont traités d’une façon digne et selon les règles.
Question: M. Ignatieff, qu’est-ce que vous pensez de l’idée de légiférer pour limiter les salaires des dirigeants d’entreprises? C’est l’idée de Mme Hervieux-Payette.
Michael Ignatieff: De légiférer?
Question: Pour limiter le salaire des dirigeants, des administrateurs des entreprises qui reçoivent du financement (inaudible).
Michael Ignatieff: J’ai pas — j’ai pas de position dessus mais mes réflexes politiques me dit non, avec respect. C’est une idée mais je crois que le gouvernement du Canada n’a pas de rôle valable en légiférant dans ce domaine-là.
Question: (Inaudible) seemed to be saying that the nannies or caregivers are lying. If you accept her story, do you accept that they were lying?
Michael Ignatieff: I’m not going to characterize anybody’s testimony in that manner. It seems to me that what has happened shows that our system works. Allegations have been made about a Member of Parliament. The persons who made those allegations have come to Parliament, been allowed to testify. They’ve done so. The public will judge and then the question will then follow as to whether there needs to be any further action taken by either the federal or provincial governments. And I have asked Ruby and she’s accepted to be fully transparent and appear before committee. I don’t want to characterize anybody’s testimony here. The system is working the way it should. And, as I say, it gives us all something to think about here. We want to be absolutely sure that people who provide care either to the very young or very old and come to Canada on visas never are subjected to any form of misuse or abuse or mistreatment relating to their visa status.
Question: Who do you believe, the nannies or Ms. Dhalla?
Michael Ignatieff: My view is that Ms. Dhalla made a very clear defence of her position and she has – and what she said today is consistent with what she has told me.
Question: But that’s not quite an answer to that question, sir. I mean you talked about a full and vigorous defence. You haven’t quite offered her the same thing. Why is that?
Michael Ignatieff: I’ve given her a very strong defence of her position. But the facts of the matter are that a member of my caucus has been accused of a serious, serious issue. She’s mounted a vigorous and convincing defence of the accusations and I take her at her word. But the point I’m trying to make here is that in this difficult story we must not lose sight of the fundamental issue of policy which is that people who come to this country on this visa status must never be abused. And it my belief that they were not abused in this case. But we want to make darn sure that we don’t have unpleasant stories like this again.
Question: So you take her at her word but not the nannies? You can’t have both.
Michael Ignatieff: Merci.
Question: What are mayors telling you about the infrastructure program?
Michael Ignatieff: Sorry?
Question: What are mayors telling you about infrastructure funding?
Michael Ignatieff: Well, I’m glad somebody asked me about the economy because that it seems to me is also a subtext here. Everybody wants a little distraction from the main event and the main event is that in Budget 2007 they had two million – billion dollars at least which they didn’t spend. Had that money been spent by the government, there’d be Canadians working right now. What the mayors and councillors are telling me right across the country is where’s the money? Where is the money that this Parliament voted for infrastructure? This is a serious matter because our return to growth will be slowed down unless the money gets out the door and it is not getting out the door and that’s why we’re up in the House of Commons every day on that issue and we’ll continue to do until we get some results. Thank you.