An Act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985


Bill Morneau  Liberal


Second reading (House), as of Oct. 19, 2016

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This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985 to provide a framework for the establishment, administration and supervision of target benefit plans. It also amends the Act to permit pension plan administrators to purchase immediate or deferred life annuities for former members or survivors so as to satisfy an obligation to provide pension benefits if the obligation arises from a defined benefit provision.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

June 19th, 2018 / 1:15 p.m.
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David Groves Committee Researcher

As you can see from the document I distributed, it is my assessment that there isn't an issue. I'm going to go through my assessment.

The potential issue with Bill C-405 revolves around whether it concerns a question that is currently on the Order Paper, an item of government business. Specifically, Bill C-405 amends section 29 of the Pension Benefits Standards Act, the same section of the PBSA that Bill C-27 amends.

However, Bill C-405 and Bill C-27 amend different subsections of that section, so there's no formal overlap, and the substance of their proposed amendments differ. Bill C-405 amends the PBSA to allow pension plan administrators to sell off pieces of plans they are managing. Bill C-27 proposes amendments to allow the regulation of target benefit plans. I apologize, but I don't know enough about pension benefit plans to know what that is, but it's unrelated. It's a type of plan that involves fixed contributions.

As for Bill C-406, the same rule is potentially at issue, whether it concerns a question that is on the Order Paper as government business. Bill C-76 and Bill C-406 both amend the Canada Elections Act, and both deal with issues of political financing. They do not amend the same sections of the CEA, however, so there's no formal overlap, and in terms of substance, they also deal with different issues. Bill C-406 places a prohibition on foreign contributions by third parties who engage in certain types of political spending. Bill C-76 amends the Canada Elections Act to provide an expanded list of the kinds of activities that third parties cannot engage in, using unknown contributions, as opposed to foreign ones. But it also changes the definition of what a foreign entity is.

In my assessment, there is no direct formal overlap, and they deal with different substance. However, Bill C-76 provides a new definition for foreign entity, which means it would have an effect on Bill C-406. Moreover, Bill C-406 includes a coordinating amendment, so if Bill C-76 were to pass, the language inserted by Bill C-406 would change as well.

We are returning to the same criterion that has been before this committee twice already this spring. The criterion is that bills and motions must not concern questions that are currently on the Order Paper or Notice Paper as items of government business.

Unfortunately, from the rule, as I said in an earlier meeting, it's not clear what is meant by “question”, and it's not clear what is meant by “concern”. However, judging by decisions made by this committee already—it has come up twice before in the last couple of months—there was a private member's bill that SMEM found non-votable because it sought to establish a national strategy for dealing with abandoned vessels while a government bill on the Order Paper would establish a federal framework for abandoned vessels. Furthermore, SMEM found another private member's bill non-votable because it would have extended protections to a series of bodies of water in British Columbia that would, under a government bill on the Order Paper, have received very similar levels of protection. In both cases, the determination that the committee made was that the private member's bill and the government bill addressed the same issue and dealt with it in a similar enough way that, were the two bills to advance at the same time, one would be redundant.

The way I have been interpreting the words “concern” and “question” is to see their being about preventing a few problems. One is pure duplication: two bills that exist to do the exact same thing in the exact same way. Another is conflict: two bills trying to achieve two opposing goals using the same section of an existing act, so they could not exist at the same time. The last is redundancy: two bills trying to achieve a similar enough objective that, should they pass, one or the other would be of little additional value.

The reason we care about these three criteria—duplication, conflict, and redundancy—as I understand them, is that this committee is interested in providing members the fullest opportunity possible to use their private members' time effectively, so that if the bill or the motion would have little or no effect, they should be given the opportunity to replace it.

In the two cases before the committee, I do not see duplication, conflict, or redundancy to be significant concerns. Each bill is concerned with a particular subject that the relevant government legislation has not addressed, and they do not overlap formally.

It's important to note, too, that SMEM in the recent past has permitted PMBs to move forward even if they touched on the same legislation as a pending government bill would, since they addressed different subjects within the ambit of that bill. Typically it has been Elections Act-related bills that we permitted to move forward on that basis.

It is my assessment that these bills do not trigger that rule and, therefore, that they can be declared not non-votable.

June 19th, 2018 / 1:15 p.m.
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David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

We haven't landed on anything. I just want to bring up a discussion on them. The concern that we have is that Bill C-405 risks conflicting with Bill C-27, and Bill C-406 risks conflicting with Bill C-76. I gave David, the analyst, a heads-up that I'd bring this up, so if he'd like to give us his analysis, then we can see if there's any merit to my concern or if we should just leave them the way they are.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

April 23rd, 2018 / 4:55 p.m.
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Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, I was hearing a lot of hyperbole and fiction and I was going to give my hon. colleague a pass because it is Monday, but then he started to talk about pensions. I mean, really? The Liberal government walked away on Sears workers. The finance minister came into the House to promote the interests of his family business, Morneau Shepell, and told investors that they needed legislation to take down defined pensions. Bill C-27 was the first pension bill the finance minister brought in; his family's company dealt with the Sears pensioners, and we expect the Liberal government to stand up for pensioners? This is ridiculous. The Liberals have a lot of gall to come into the House and pretend that they will do anything for pensioners.

EthicsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 23rd, 2018 / 3:10 p.m.
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Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to present a petition signed by thousands of people electronically.

Whereas the Minister of Finance until recently owned millions of dollars worth of shares in Morneau Shepell, a firm he was an executive of until elected and a firm with which the federal government does millions of dollars worth of business; that the passage of government bills introduced by the minister, such as Bill C-27, which targets pensions and would make retirement savings less secure and enrich the shareholders of Morneau Shepell, including, until recently, the finance minister himself; that the changes to the tax code proposed by the finance minister will incentivize businesses to move away from pension plans and help shareholders and firms like Morneau Shepell; that Morneau Shepell is handling the close-out of the Sears pension fund, and after emergency debate in the House on the subject of the company's bankruptcy, the government refused to take action, which will benefit the shareholders in Morneau Shepell, and until recently, the Minister of Finance; and that the pattern of the Minister of Finance's non-disclosure and retention of assets could be seen reasonably to be a conflict of interest that has caused Canadians to lose confidence; the undersigned call upon the Government of Canada to immediately withdraw Bill C-27, to disqualify Morneau Shepell from any government contract work, and to remove the finance minister from his position as finance minister.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 18th, 2018 / 3:25 p.m.
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Fin Donnelly NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to table this petition signed by constituents from my riding of Port Moody—Coquitlam, Anmore, and Belcarra, including Don and Marilyn Portelance and many others, who are worried about the changes proposed by the finance minister under Bill C-27. They say it threatens the retirement security of Canadians. They know that pensions are deferred wages and that they belong to the workers who earned them. They are asking the finance minister to withdraw this bill immediately.

Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner's ReportRoutine Proceedings

April 17th, 2018 / 11:25 a.m.
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Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, I have heard the Conservatives ask this question many times. Personally, I am more wary of putting a financial sanction on the Prime Minister of our country for a breach, because the office is so important. However, what I expect from the Prime Minister is full acceptance of responsibility for the actions that caused that breach. This is about the role of the Prime Minister of our nation. It is not simply about a politician or someone who has friends. It represents something greater. I feel that the Prime Minister failed us in this instance. We got a lot of glib talking points and did not get that level of accountability.

With respect to the finance minister, what strikes me is the fact that he forgot his villa and paid a fine of a couple of hundred dollars. He makes more money than that on his stock options by six o'clock in the morning. He probably did not notice it. I am much more concerned about his role with respect to Bill C-27, which I believe is a very clear conflict of interest that would help the pecuniary interest of his family business. That he was allowed to bring that bill forward, and that his company was allowed to be involved in the Sears bankruptcy while the government refused to help the Sears workers, is to me is a very disturbing abuse of the public interest.

Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner's ReportRoutine Proceedings

April 17th, 2018 / 11:05 a.m.
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Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, I am always proud to rise in the House and represent the people of Timmins—James Bay. It is particularly interesting to rise now after listening to what could be called a political screed by my friend from Winnipeg.

When we talk about closing ethical loopholes, it always upsets Liberals. There is something about ethical breaches and Liberals that go hand in hand. It is about their idea of friendship.

The Aga Khan was a close personal friend of the Prime Minister, apparently, when the Prime Minister took his trip to billionaire island, yet he had not really seen him in 30 years. We were told it was just a friend.

Liberals said it is not fair for me to question a billionaire who pays the Prime Minister and some key politicians to come and hang out with him, paying their way while he is lobbying, because they are just friends. They said, “Don't you have friends who invite you to places?”

Yes, certainly. I am from northern Ontario. I get invited to fish huts all the time during the winter. For the price of a six-pack of Labatt's, I might get paid back in a little pickerel. That is not the same as Liberals who hang with billionaires who are lobbying the same government for favours.

I want to talk about this idea of friendship and the Liberals, because it is a fundamental question about ethics that they do not understand. The reason we have the Lobbying Act and the Conflict of Interest Act is so that friends do not have insider access.

The problem goes back to the pork-barrel days of the Liberals when it was about who you knew in the PMO. Buddy from the Liberal Party, tied to the Prime Minister, would step out and go into private practice. Then the would call up his friend in the Prime Minister's Office, and changes would be made.

We have realized that this is not ethical. What is ethical is that there has to be a standard for lobbying so that we know who is lobbying and why they are lobbying. A little transparency goes a long way.

The issue of closing an ethical loophole matters, because what we do in Parliament is about reassuring Canadians that they can trust us. They do not have to pay attention to all the details of the vote. In fact, there is not a single voter who would agree with every single thing we do as parliamentarians, because we are called upon to make decisions on all manner of issues. However, our voters should be able to trust that we are acting in the best interests of the Canadian people and that when we meet with large financial interests that are trying to influence government policy, it is being done in a transparent manner and for the benefit of Canadians.

This is why I want to get back to this notion of friends and Liberal friends. We have the situation of the Prime Minister, who flew to billionaire island and contravened numerous sections of the Conflict of Interest Act. It is actually unprecedented that a Prime Minister has been found guilty of breaching the Conflict of Interest Act for accepting gifts, for accepting favours, yet the Prime Minister did not think anything was wrong because he said the guy he had not seen in 30 years was a personal family friend. It is though they were above the law and it is very embarrassing.

I would chalk that up. I do not think there was malice on the part of the Prime Minister. My Conservative friends always think there was some kind of skulduggery; I do not. I think the Prime Minister thought, “He knew my dad and he is a billionaire; I like hanging out with billionaires, and I get a free trip to an island.” However, the Prime Minister needs to understand that he has to set a better example, because he promised a better example. He promised it in the 2015 election when he said it would not just be the letter of the law, but the spirit of the law. My God, how the Liberals have fallen since then.

The other guest who hung out on the beach on billionaire island, who is now the Veterans Affairs minister, did not even bother to report the trip. The Prime Minister did not report the gifts he received from the Aga Khan because he said that since they were inappropriate gifts, he did not need to say what they were.

Over the many years I have been here, I have heard all manner of hogswallop when it comes to defending abuse, but I have never heard someone use a loophole to say that since it was inappropriate, they were not obligated to say what it was, and therefore they were somehow protected. I want to know if the member who is now the Veterans Affairs minister used this same logic when he decided that just because he took a trip to billionaire island, he did not need to report it. In fact, we need to report everything we do to the Ethics Commissioner. It is up to the Ethics Commissioner to decide whether it is appropriate or not. It is not for the individual member to say, “Well, I accepted this free gift because, hey, it was a free gift, and it does not affect my political work.” Everything does. It is about accountability.

Speaking of friends of the Liberal Party, let us talk about Stephen Bronfman. This man is one of the most powerful men in Canada, and he is certainly a powerful Liberal fundraiser. In fact, he is so powerful that he raised $250,000 for the Liberal Party and his personal friend, the Prime Minister, in two hours. That is an amazing power.

The Prime Minister would say they are just friends, because the Prime Minister certainly loves hanging out with billionaires. The Prime Minister held a recent fundraiser with billionaires and the super-rich in Montreal, and he told us that the reason they were there was to get tough on the one per cent. Can members imagine that? Do they imagine that the reason that the billionaire class is paying money to the Liberal party is so that it can get tough on the one per cent? That is not how life works.

How it does work was shown when Stephen Bronfman was named in the paradise papers scandal, a scandal that identified powerful people around the world who were evading their tax responsibilities through tax havens. When Stephen Bronfman was one of the Canadians named, the Prime Minister immediately intervened and said that no investigation was necessary, and no investigation happened. That is the power of friends in the Prime Minister's Office.

It was also highly inappropriate, because it is not up to the Prime Minister of this country to decide in advance whether tax laws in this country are being broken or they are not just because someone is, first, his personal friend, and second, he raises money for the Liberal Party. That is not an ethical standard that we can trust, but it seems to work for the current government.

This issue needs to be called out.

In the recent debacle in India, the Prime Minister's trip seemed to be much more about trying to shore up domestic ridings to win than about international diplomacy, international security, or international credibility. We had the bizarre and unprecedented situation of a convicted terrorist getting on the all-access pass list because he was very powerful in local B.C. Liberal politics. We also have the case of the member for Brampton East who went on that trip. After he got elected, he went into business. For folks back home, it is very rare that someone decides to go into business after becoming an MP. For the few who do, there have to be clear laws in place so that they are not using their desk in Parliament to help their friends. However, the member for Brampton East, we are told, invited his business partner to have access to the Prime Minister and to key Liberal members and ministers on that India trip.

Does that pass the smell test? It certainly does not, and it raises a question about the lack of ethics and accountability in the Liberal caucus right now, since the Liberals seem to think that this is perfectly okay. In fact, we have heard from every senior voice in the Liberal government on these ethical breaches, and not once did they take these issues seriously. They seem to think it is okay because he is a good guy, the other guy is a good guy, and they are all friends. It is this culture of friends and using the position of power within politics to further the interests of friends that is wrong.

The issue before us today is about closing loopholes. I have spent many years on this file, and it always surprises me that even when we think we have done our best to make sure that people will follow the spirit of the law, there will be always those who try to find a way to slip around it.

As exhibit A, I present the finance minister. I have been told by the Liberals that I am completely out of line because this finance minister is virtuous, that people who are that rich who offer themselves to public service have to be somehow more virtuous by nature because they do not need to come to Ottawa. That is fair play, but the finance minister, when he was head of Morneau Shepell, his family business, announced to his investors that we needed legislation in Canada to be able to change the defined pension benefits and allow the targeted pension plans that were the whole focus of Morneau Shepell's business. He said that there was an enormous opportunity and that his company, Morneau Shepell, was in the driver's seat.

He offered himself as a candidate for public service. The very first order of business he brought forward was the Bill C-27 legislation that would directly benefit the company and the industry that he represented. That is extraordinary, and the Prime Minister supported it. There was no recusing at cabinet of a man who had a pecuniary financial interest.

Later we found out, of course, that he still had his financial interest. He was making about $150,000 a month from his Morneau Shepell shares while he was pursuing an interest that would benefit Morneau Shepell. He became famous because he was so rich that he forgot that he owned a château in the south of France. Again, the Liberals said that we were being mean and that was really unfair. A lot of people forget things. I mean, I forget things all the time. When I was leaving the House the other day, I forgot my car keys. I could not find where they were. However, I do not know anybody in the House who forgets that they own a château in the south of France. That is the level of disconnect of the 1% from the rest of us.

The reason this matters is that the fundamental economic issue of our time around the world is the growing disparity between the super-rich, whose interests have been advanced year after year after year, and the growing new working class, both white collar and blue collar, who are finding it harder and harder because they are dealing with large levels of student debt and precarious work. The Liberal government is deeply embedded within that 1%, using its position and political agendas to advance friends and help their friends. The Liberals say that this is all perfectly okay because they are all nice people. That is not an ethical standard of accountability.

Today we have an opportunity to close an ethical loophole that was clearly identified. I would think that when we identify these loopholes, it is incumbent upon all of us within the political realm to say that we should just do the right thing here to make sure that this kind of abuse does not happen in the future and close that loophole.

I return to what the Prime Minister promised in the 2015 election. I was so impressed when he stepped forward and talked about openness and transparency and transparent government, principles that Canadians across the political spectrum agree with.

There are issues that we have always had with the ethics code and the Lobbying Act. Certainly with the ethics code it has always been that if one did not find a person falling down dead with another person holding a smoking gun in their hand and the Ethics Commissioner walking in at the time, intent could never be proven. The lobbying commissioner has pointed out time and time again that it is about the spirit of the act. It is the power of people to influence politicians that has to be clearly defined, because super-powerful people do not have to register for lobbying. That is because they know the people in the PMO. They are the friends, the ones who hang out on the beach on the private islands with key politicians. They make a phone call, and the job gets done.

When the Prime Minister said that he would establish a higher standard, a standard that represented the spirit of the law and not just the narrow letter of the law, I was deeply encouraged, yet here we are with ethical scandal after ethical scandal, and every time, the Prime Minister or his front-bench people step up in defence, because technically no one was caught on anything. They are our friends. The people we hang with are nice people, and there is no need to address these loopholes.

I find that to be an appallingly low standard.

There is a new line that the Liberals use. They used it for my colleague from Brampton and then my colleague from Newfoundland, who took the trip to billionaire island. They say they always “work very closely with the Ethics Commissioner”. What they need to put as a prefix is “after we get caught”. After we get caught, we work closely with the Ethics Commissioner. That is what the Prime Minister and his minions have told us: that the Prime Minister worked very closely with the Ethics Commissioner.

The Prime Minister started to work with the Ethics Commissioner after the complaint was lodged and after he had been found guilty of numerous breaches, such as accepting inappropriate travel and inappropriate gifts from someone in a position to lobby. He did not recuse himself from decisions that could have benefited that powerful lobbyist.

If the Prime Minister and his caucus stood by the principle of working closely with the Ethics Commissioner, they would have phoned the Ethics Commissioner prior to these issues, prior to inviting a business partner to meet with the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers on the India trip. They would have asked if it was okay for them to open some doors for a business partner. The Ethics Commissioner would have responded. That is how we work closely with the Ethics Commissioner. We work with the commissioner in advance to make sure that we are not caught in illegalities or a breach of the rules. We do not wait until we get caught. We do not wait until it becomes a newspaper story and then say that we will make sure we do not do it again. That is a lower standard and a standard that, unfortunately, the Prime Minister and his government seem to have worked their way toward.

There are moments when we have to take a breath in Parliament and say that breaches have happened. When they do happen, we need to then come forward with a credible set of responses.

This brings us back to the defeat of the Liberals in 2006, when there were so many ethical breaches, so many legal breaches in the sponsorship scandal, that we needed to bring forward new legislation, which we did. That legislation was about lobbying. It was about limiting the influence of insiders on political decisions. It was about making sure that we had a higher standard of accountability.

The previous government had many failures and falls as well. There was the notorious Bev Oda, who spent thousands of dollars on limousine rides bombing around Toronto. Bev thought it was perfectly okay. Paul Calandra lobbied, while he was a parliamentary secretary, for FM licenses. If I remember correctly, that money was returned, because it was deemed inappropriate. Bruce Carson was invited into the PMO. He was convicted of fraud. He then left the office and came back trying to sell water plants to desperately poor indigenous communities. His case of inappropriate illegalities went all the way to the Supreme Court.

There will always be politicians who abuse the system. That is part and parcel of public life. When an egregious loophole appears, it is incumbent upon all political parties to close that loophole. It is fairly straightforward. We cannot assume that all politicians will be either moral enough to do that or bright enough to pay attention to the act and understand the implications of using their offices to help friends.

It is an interesting report on the Prime Minister and the Conflict of Interest Act. The Ethics Commissioner found that the Prime Minister “contravened section 11 of the Act when he or his family accepted the gifts of hospitality from the Aga Khan and the use of his private island in March and December 2016.”

The Ethics Commissioner found that the exception for gifts from relatives and friends, under paragraph 11(2)(b) of the act, did not apply, because the Prime Minister's “relationship with the Aga Khan was based on a family connection rooted in a friendship” with the Prime Minister's father that existed 30 years earlier. The Prime Minister accepted inappropriate gifts and said that they were personal family gifts, when he had not met the guy in 30 years.

This is really important. The report said that section 21 of the act was deliberately contravened by the Prime Minister:

he did not recuse himself from discussions that provided an opportunity to improperly further the private interest associated with one of the institutions of the Aga Khan and that he contravened section 5 for failing to arrange his private affairs as to avoid such an opportunity.

That is a serious breach, because that is a question about gifts from powerful people to powerful politicians. It is the power to influence political decisions, and that is what the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner was concerned about.

There was, of course, the contravention of section 12 of the act.

I see I am running out of time. I could go on all day about the ethical breaches of the present government, but I will close on that note.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2018 / 4:10 p.m.
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Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Madam Speaker, I am going to start off where my Liberal colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood left off, where he talked about economic fundamentals.

What are the economic fundamentals right now of Canada? The economic fundamentals are that we are living through the period of greatest inequality in our nation's history. That is an economic fundamental that both this budget and previous Conservative budgets completely ignored. We now have two Canadian billionaires who have the same wealth as 30% of the Canadian population, or 11 million Canadians.

Another fundamental that this budget does not touch in any way, shape, or form is the fact that Canadian families are now struggling with the worst debt burden, not only in our nation's history but in any industrialized nation's history. The average family debt now is a crushing burden. That, of course, was created by Conservative policies and has been enhanced by Liberal policies. However, these are economic fundamentals that this budget does not take into account in any way, shape, or form.

This budget is a cruel hoax for all those Canadians who actually believed that this government was going to do what it said it wanted to do in the 2015 election. We have seen a whole host of broken promises. My colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley certainly could speak to the broken promise around democratic reform, but we have seen a whole host of broken promises. This budget just enhances what has been a drive toward more inequality and an unjust tax system.

Madam Speaker, I would like to start with the inequalities and the Liberals' broken promises. Several weeks ago, our leader, Jagmeet Singh, and I held a press conference. We wrote to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Finance to talk about the ever-increasing inequality across the country and to talk about the major changes needed to help all Canadian families.

We said that the government must go after tax havens. The government must close tax loopholes, including tax havens, instead of continuing to allow major corporations and wealthy Canadians to avoid paying taxes. Instead, the government signed even more treaties with notorious tax havens. I am talking about the Cook Islands, Antigua and Barbuda, and Grenada. Even the Conservatives did not want to sign agreements with those countries. Now these agreements exist and they allow companies to not pay taxes.

We also talked about web giants that do not pay taxes like Netflix and Facebook. These companies are effectively stealing from Canadian businesses, and communities are struggling as a result. These web giants were not addressed at all in this budget. This is yet another failure.

When we talk about all of these tax havens, when we talk about these special fiscal arrangements that allow some of the world's biggest businesses to not pay one cent of tax in Canada, when we talk about what that actually means, there is a cost to Canadians, a huge cost to Canadians. My colleague, the Liberal member, was talking about fiscal discipline. This government has shown absolutely no fiscal discipline whatsoever, in the same way that the Conservatives did not. With the Conservatives it was a free-for-all. Every month they would sign another special treaty with an overseas tax haven. Now the Liberals are in the process of doing the same thing.

What is the cost to Canadians? The Parliamentary Budget Officer and a whole host of think tanks in Canada, whether we are talking about the CCPA or the Conference Board of Canada, have evaluated what it costs Canadians to have this free-for-all, this most egregious signing of taxation-free agreements, which allow money that is made in Canada to go overseas and not be taxed one cent.

The cost for the web giants alone is over $1 billion, which could be money that serves collectively for all of us to fight the inequalities that I mentioned earlier, to provide the programs that Canadians desperately need, and yet the government is not willing to touch that.

When we talk about tax havens, depending on the estimates, we are talking about a minimum of $10 billion a year. We are talking about up to $40 billion a year. These should be those common resources that all Canadians in solidarity use to make sure that their families are taken care of when there are health care problems, when they need medication, and so that they can actually provide child care for their children. Canadians have said very clearly, certainly in the last election, that they believe in a society where we collectively provide those resources and those supports for families. However, Conservatives and now Liberals have been frittering away tens of billions of dollars each and every year by refusing to close all of these tax loopholes.

There was a brave paragraph in the budget, and I am going to praise the government for this very brave paragraph. On page 69 in the English text, the finance minister and the Liberal government actually say that they are going combat tax evasion and tax avoidance, and that the government will invest money to address the issues of tax evasion and tax avoidance, which, as I mentioned earlier, are in the realm of tens of billions of dollars each and every year.

This is what the budget says. This is what all Liberal MPs stand behind. “As the CRA has a proven track record of meeting expectations from targeted compliance interventions,” which is the combat of tax evasion and tax avoidance, “Budget 2018 accounts for the expected revenue impact of $354 million over five years.”

About $70 million a year with that enhanced compliance is what the Liberals are expecting to get. Now, each and every question period when we raise the egregious issue of the massive amounts of money going offshore for tax havens, the Liberals have responded by saying that they are going to spend over $1 billion over 10 years to get some of that money back. Now we know what they are targeting. They are spending $1 billion, or half a billion over five years, and are expecting to get back $354 million, and remember, Liberals very rarely meet their targets. They would spend half a billion to get back $354 million. It is almost laughable. It would be a comedy if it did not have such a profound impact on Canadians.

Here are some of the other things the Liberals refuse to close.

There is the stock option loophole, which was evaluated a few years ago as benefiting, to the tune of half a billion dollars, 75 of Canada's wealthiest corporate CEOs. Those are figures under the Conservatives, but the figures today would be similar. Seventy-five wealthy Canadians, because of the stock option loophole, got an average of $6 million each. That is half a billion dollars in taxpayers' handouts to some of Canada's wealthiest people on Bay Street, yet the same Liberals who are defending this budget will stand up and say that we cannot afford child care, housing, or pharmacare. They are saying that because they have a complete absence of the fiscal discipline to say to the wealthiest in our country that they have to pay their fair share of taxes, the fiscal discipline that means standing up to the corporate sector, which now has a real effective tax rate of less than 10%. It is 9.8% as evaluated by the CCPA.

Ask a tradesperson, a nurse, or someone who works in a mill if they can get by with a 9.8% effective tax rate. They cannot, of course, but Canada's wealthiest enterprises, courtesy of Conservative and Liberal policies, can get by with that small a rate of taxation.

We have said that we need a fair tax system, and I can tell members that in this corner of the House we are not going to stop until there is a fair tax system in this country that allows us to invest and provide for families when they are in need. Canadians, because of the record level of family debt and because of the record level of inequality, have never been more in need than they are now.

It is not just what the Liberals refuse to do, which is establishing any sort of fiscal framework. It is what the results have been. That is why we tabled the subamendment to the budget decrying how undisciplined this fiscal framework has been in giving most of the nation's resources and wealth to a very few Canadians, and virtually nothing to Canadians who are struggling.

I will start with housing. On page 78 of the budget, we see that $31 million has been allocated to build more rental housing for Canadian families.

As we know, this means that only a few dozen apartments across the country would be affordable for Canadians.

All amounts combined, including those elsewhere in the budget, represent less than 10% of what is needed this year to deal with the housing crisis that exists across Canada. Even I am affected by this crisis, and my fellow citizens, who are my bosses, feel it every day in New Westminster—Burnaby. In fact, the cost of housing is increasing and more and more people are finding it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to access affordable housing. Take Hélène, for example, a deaf woman who could not afford an apartment even when she was working. She had to turn to a local organization that provides services to deaf people.

In Canada, half of the people who are currently homeless, and we are talking about tens of thousands of people, are people with disabilities. As we can see, this crisis is profoundly affecting people with disabilities and other poor people.

It is not just disabled Canadians who are impacted. I am talking about John Young, a pensioner who worked all his life. He paid into a pension and has a modest pension. However, because of the increase in rent in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, in my riding, he struggled to keep his apartment but could not, because he was going further into debt. He then tried to room with a friend, which did not work out, so he ended up in a parkade in downtown New Westminster.

These are the victims of the lack of fiscal discipline of the government, which allows people to be homeless and not have the services they need while it feeds tens of billions of dollars to offshore tax havens. These are extraordinarily poor choices. These are the kinds of choices that should force the government out of office in 2019.

It is not just about housing. Let us talk about first nations. We have a government that committed to ending boil water advisories within a couple of years, yet the funding in this budget is only pennies of what is needed to end boil water advisories in this country. It does not even come close to the $320 million that is needed this year. It is pennies on the dollar. It is a cruel hoax for all those first nations communities across the north and across this country that expected that the government would care enough to actually make those investments.

As well, the government falls lamentably short of the nearly $1 billion that is needed this year alone for housing for first nations communities, to address what has been a chronic absence of funding by the federal government. Since the former Liberal government eliminated the national housing program, Canadians, in so many cases, have been forced to make incredibly difficult choices. In first nations communities, only a fraction of the money that is needed this year is actually being provided in this budget.

Let us talk about universal child care. It is not here.

Any sort of investment to deal with the industries that are facing what is an intense push from the new Trump administration against Canadian industries is not there.

My colleague from Hamilton Mountain has done an extraordinary job of protecting pensions. As he has said many times, there is nothing in this budget, and there will be nothing in the budget implementation act, that actually addresses the theft of pensions that is hurting so many Canadians.

The reply of the government was to introduce Bill C-27, which would of course help the finance minister with Morneau Shepell, but it would not help Canadians who are struggling to keep their pensions. Sears pensioners losing their pensions are only the latest who have seen the money they have invested over a lifetime evaporate because there is no pension protection in this country.

As well, I can mention Phoenix, where the government has to make a phenomenal investment, a significant investment, to address the Phoenix pay system, and it chose not to in this budget. The Parliamentary Budget Officer and even the Australians, who would have warned the Liberals not to implement Phoenix, say that it costs $1 billion to $5 billion to fix it. The Liberals have only pennies on the dollar in this budget, not enough to fix it, and not enough to make sure our public servants receive the paycheques they so richly deserve in working so hard for our country.

With regard to pay equity, I mentioned earlier that there is not a cent.

The most cruel hoax is the issue of pharmacare. In the days prior to the budget, the Liberals leaked out that they would be taking real action on pharmacare. We have repeatedly brought to this House motions directing the government to enact pharmacare, and the Liberals have refused to vote for them. However, in the buildup to the budget, they said that this time they really meant it.

It made a lot of sense that they would enact pharmacare. Even the Parliamentary Budget Officer has said very clearly that all Canadians would save money if we have a universal pharmacare system. The cost of drugs, over $30 billion a year, can be reduced remarkably if there is a single-payer system. We saw that in New Zealand, with costs being reduced by 90%. Provincial and territorial governments can save billions of dollars, and so can businesses and individuals. Canadians who cannot afford to pay for their medication now and take the medication they so desperately need would actually have that medication provided.

In the past, I have quoted Jim, who is right outside Parliament Hill begging every day for the $580 he needs for the medication that will keep him alive. After all that buildup, what the Liberals gave was a cruel hoax to Canadians who are desperate to have a pharmacare system in place. The cruel hoax is that they just decided to study it for another couple of years. They will make another promise in 2019, if they get re-elected.

My point is that the budget is a cruel hoax. The Liberal government has repeatedly broken promises it made back in 2015. On the basis of this budget, the government not only does not deserve the support of the House of Commons for this budget, but it does not deserve the support of Canadians in 2019. The Liberals have kept the same cruel fiscal framework that allows the gross inequalities we see in our country, the tens of billions of dollars that go to offshore tax havens and stock options, the whole range of loopholes. None of those are shut down.

What the government is saying is that for those Canadians who want to see pharmacare, instead of struggling and having to choose between putting food on the table or paying their rent and paying for the medication their doctor has prescribed, there is no hope. The Liberals are just offering a study. For the tens of thousands of Canadians who are out on the streets and parks of our nation tonight, there is not going to be any housing coming. There is a little bit, but not nearly enough to actually address the size and scope of the crisis that has befallen Canadians.

If people are looking for pay equity, for their pensions to be protected, or for support for their industry being attacked by Donald Trump, they should not look in this Liberal budget.

This budget is a cruel hoax. Canadians deserve better. Canadians expected better. In 2019, they will be able to get better.

PensionsStatements By Members

February 12th, 2018 / 2 p.m.
See context


Fin Donnelly NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, proposed changes to pensions in Bill C-27 have constituents in my riding of Port Moody—Coquitlam, Anmore, and Belcarra worried about their future.

This bill would allow defined benefit plans to be converted to unsecured targeted benefit plans, placing all the financial risk on workers. This is short-sighted, ill-advised, and unfair.

Pensions are deferred wages, and they belong to the workers who have earned them. After working all their lives and sacrificing pay and benefit improvements to secure a reliable pension plan, Canadians deserve a fair, decent pension that they can count on.

New Democrats strongly oppose Bill C-27 and ask that it be withdrawn immediately.

Opposition Motion—Conflicts of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 6th, 2018 / 4:30 p.m.
See context


Tracey Ramsey NDP Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, the NDP supports this motion, but we have to understand that this motion needs to be more than just a political stunt. There actually needs to be some change that happens in this House when we guide ourselves.

I definitely agree that the Prime Minister's violation of the Conflict of Interest Act is unacceptable, but this has to be more than just an attempt to have the Prime Minister pay back the money. It needs to go further. It needs to reach further to make sure that we are implementing some changes for every member who sits in this House today.

The Conservative motion would impose this penalty on the specific case of the Prime Minister, but it would still leave the actual statutory penalties of the Conflict of Interest Act completely ineffective. New Democrats believe that if a motion or a bill is brought into the House or committee, there should be substantial ideas and reforms that would improve the institutions in which we work and which we all abide by.

When the Liberals were elected in 2015, they came in with their sunny ways. Their Prime Minister clearly put forward “Open and Accountable Government 2015”, a guide which sets out core principles regarding the rules and responsibilities of ministers in Canada's system of responsible parliamentary government. I have to say that Canadians were hopeful when they saw this document. They felt this was a signal that things were going to be different, and yet here we are, more than two years later, and Canadians who were hopeful have been seriously let down by the Liberal government.

The principle that was put forward states that public officeholders have an obligation to perform their official duties and arrange their private affairs in a manner that will bear the closest public scrutiny, an obligation that is not fully discharged by simply acting within the law. Those were some really lofty words that sounded incredibly hopeful, that sounded like there was going to be a change inside of government, inside this House. Sadly, it is not binding. Clearly, it is not of interest to the Prime Minister himself or to his fellow cabinet ministers, like the Minister of Finance. I am going to talk a little about the Minister of Finance.

The non-recusal of the Minister of Finance from consideration of Bill C-27 may not be seen as a problem for the government, but it is a huge conflict for Canadians. In particular, pensioners are very worried.

People and retirees in my riding have contacted me because they are worried about the changes to their pension plans. It is important to note that for working people, which I was before I came to this chamber, pensions are deferred wages. Pensions are not something that a company just gives people to hopefully live their retirement life in dignity. People contribute to their own pension, based on every hour that they have worked in the workplace, through an agreement with their employer. People work their entire lives for these pensions and they count on them to support them in their later years.

Now we have Bill C-27 which threatens public pensions. We know that when it starts with public pensions, it will soon move over to private pensions. Certainly the finance minister stands to benefit from this, from Morneau Shepell and its involvement in all of these pension plans. We have seen this play out unfortunately with Sears workers in our country right now.

There are many dangers to Bill C-27. This shamefully removes the legal obligation, allowing for the conversion of defined benefit plans to targeted benefit plans, which could potentially lower benefits for both current and future retirees.

I want everyone in this House to think for a moment that if they retire, if they have worked 30 years at a workplace and then retire, knowing that they are going to receive a set amount every month, their decision to retire will actually hinge on whether or not they can afford to live on that amount per month.

For people who are already retired, they could now be contacted by those running the pension plan for the company which they previously worked for and could be told that the amount of the pension is going to be reduced because the company is not doing as well as it had hoped. Essentially seniors could be put in precarious situations after the implementation of Bill C-27.

Our pension legislation in Canada is designed to protect plan members from employers simply abandoning their commitments to them after years of hard work and walking away from their pension obligations. In Bill C-27, the government is proposing to withdraw that legal protection, leaving employees at the mercy of employers who now want to back out of those pension commitments that they made to the workers years and years ago.

This is an attack on the retirement security of all workers and retirees and could undermine the stability of workplace relations and fuel labour disputes in our country. This is very serious, and our Prime Minister and finance minister have shown absolutely no remorse. Our finance minister is quite content to leave Bill C-27 sitting on the table as a constant threat and reminder to working people in our country that they could lose their retirement as they see it right now. This is not a government that is standing up for working people.

The NDP stands up for retirees and working people and has legislation on the table right now to protect workers in insolvency. However, we will not stop until Bill C-27 is removed from the House. It is not good enough to let it sit and languish. I get that it is good enough for the finance minister, because he stands to personally gain from the bill, and, as has been mentioned in the House many times, has potentially already gained from Bill C-27.

This is very serious. Our Prime Minister and our finance minister cannot see past their own privilege. I see that disconnect daily in the House. It is something that is palpable here. When the Prime Minister is speaking about working people and the middle class, it is very clear to me that he does not know anyone, or have someone in his family, who is a member of the working class, the middle class, people who are out there working hard every day and struggling.

I am not surprised that this level of disconnect has led to this type of motion today where there is an attempt to force the Prime Minister to do the right thing. The Prime Minister himself sees nothing wrong with private vacations on islands, and the finance minister sees nothing wrong with legislation that could potentially benefit his family business. This is a very serious problem.

They cannot seem to recognize the wealth they have, and they are using it as an excuse for this ethical breach. To say, as my colleague referred to earlier, that they are friends with someone they have seen twice in the last 15 years, so of course they accepted a private invitation to their island made me laugh. We do not typically bring everyone along with us on a vacation that we are being gifted from someone. For those of us who travel with our families, we are often all together in one small room, and we certainly would not invite another member of Parliament and their spouse. We would not invite the leader of our party. It is simply not feasible. However, to the Prime Minister, this seems as though it was nothing and he had done nothing wrong. That is the root of why we are discussing this here today.

There are some things that the New Democrats feel strongly we could do that would help to end this kind of abuse of privilege. The NDP is the only party in the House that is talking about real substantial reforms. If we are going to make some real advancements, we need to reform the act and give it teeth. We believe that the commissioner should be empowered to impose a penalty where an examination results in the finding of a contravention of any part of the act, which could include financial penalties, removal from a position, suspension from voting on issues for 30 days, or permanent recusal on specific issues.

The other thing is that we think the commissioner needs the power to give real fines and other punishments, including suspension. This is to allow the public to complain to the commissioner, to tighten the post-employment rules, reduce the gift disclosure threshold, and expand the definition of the public office holder to include Governor in Council appointments. To submit indirectly held assets to the same rules and scrutiny as directly held assets is among some of the reforms that the New Democrats are bringing forward today in the House.

We believe that the PM could easily pay this amount. Why he has chosen not to is beyond me. He certainly has the kind of money to be able to reach into his pocket, pull it out, and make sure he is returning the money to taxpayers. However, what we see, unfortunately, is a theme, and it is continuing on from previous Liberal and Conservative governments. It is that these scandals and ethical breaches are accepted.

We have the first sitting prime minister to be in violation of this statute, and I can promise that Canadians across the country are talking about this issue. They are saying that the Prime Minister is completely out of touch with Canadians, and they are looking to those in the House to hold him to account.

Opposition Motion—Conflicts of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 6th, 2018 / 4:30 p.m.
See context


Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Montcalm for his comment. I would like to remind members that, when it comes to conflicts of interest, the Minister of Finance was also caught red-handed because he forgot to disclose that he owns a villa in France. That is not something that would happen to most people. The finance minister is also under investigation for a potential conflict of interest surrounding Bill C-27, which is a direct attack on defined benefit pension plans. Let us not forget that the finance minister's own company manages pension plans. I look forward to seeing the end of this investigation into this other Liberal scandal.

Opposition Motion—Conflict of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 6th, 2018 / 11:25 a.m.
See context


Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, one of the important points my colleague has been making is the importance of having some kind of consequence, and particularly the ability to assess some kind of financial penalty on members of the government who break the Conflict of Interest Act.

I am just wondering if the member wants to highlight for us what that would mean in terms of some of the other conflicts of interest for government. I am thinking, in particular, of the questions surrounding the finance minister and Bill C-27, and also the earlier point that the motion, as written, would not really allow for any obvious penalty to be assessed against the finance minister if he were found definitely to be in a conflict of interest.

How would the approach suggested by my colleague encompass those kinds of cases in addition to the case of the Prime Minister?

Opposition Motion—Conflict of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 6th, 2018 / 11 a.m.
See context


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured, as always, to rise in this House to represent the people of Timmins—James Bay and to speak to this very serious issue: the unprecedented situation of a sitting Prime Minister having been found guilty on numerous counts of breaching the Conflict of Interest Act.

I am going to be speaking to the issue of conflict of interest today. I understand why the official opposition brought this motion forward. I have some problems with it, and I am going to talk about them. However, I find it very frustrating that we have a Prime Minister who shows his contempt for Parliament by not bothering to show up to answer questions. I believe that we are in a dangerous position across the world of moving into post-democratic politics. Our Prime Minister is a great example of that. If he does push-ups in the Bronx, it will make international news. I do not mind that he makes international news, but he does have an obligation to come to the House to answer questions.

We were told at the ethics committee that the Prime Minister should not come to the committee to explain being found guilty by the Ethics Commissioner, because the proper place is in the House of Commons. I agreed with that. That was fair. However, members may have noticed that the Prime Minister showed up when Parliament returned, answered a few questions, and then sat down and refused to answer the leader of the official opposition. That is disrespect for this House. I am not here to take the position of leader of the opposition, but this is about respect for the House.

On the first Wednesday, the Wednesday the Prime Minister told us would be the day he answers all manner of questions, he skipped town to do a television town hall. He had a month and a half to do television town halls, but he skipped Ottawa. To me, this is a serious issue.

On the issue of the Prime Minister being found guilty of breaching the Conflict of Interest Act, the New Democrats differ somewhat from the Conservatives. To me, the fact that he went off to billionaire's island with a family friend showed a major breach of judgment. We are not dealing with a criminal act; we are dealing with a breach of judgment. The question of the judgment of this Prime Minister is his extremely close relationship with the 1%, the insiders.

The government always talks about the middle class and how it is here to do everything for the middle class, but if we look at the growing conflict of interest issues around the Prime Minister, it is about the government's failure to even understand what the middle class is.

I have often said that I think the Prime Minister and I grew up in a different middle class. My father joined the middle class when he was in his forties. He had to quit school as a teenager, as did my mom, to go work. It was not until my dad was in his forties that he was able to go back to school, get an education, and eventually become a professor of economics.

The middle class was built not just through hard work but by a whole social and economic structure that made it possible for kids from working class backgrounds who got an education to move beyond. We are seeing that the notion of the middle class is disappearing year after year with growing levels of student debt and growing precariousness of work.

We have a Prime Minister who decided to go off to billionaire's island to hang out with the Aga Khan, his friend, who is lobbying the Government of Canada. That is a problem. Liberals do not seem to think it is a problem. As the ultimate insider party in the country, they are saying that they are their friends. However, the reason we have laws is so friends who are powerful cannot call up the Prime Minister and make changes. The law should apply to everyone. This Prime Minister does not seem to think it applies to him.

In the case of the breach of the Conflict of Interest Act, he broke it on numerous points. He should have known that it was a conflict of interest to accept a gift from someone that powerful who was lobbying the government. The government's response was very disturbing.

Section 12 of the Conflict of Interest Act, on travel, states:

No minister of the Crown, minister of state or parliamentary secretary, no member of his or her family and no ministerial adviser or ministerial staff shall accept travel on non-commercial chartered or private aircraft for any purpose unless required in his or her capacity as a public office holder or in exceptional circumstances or with the prior approval of the Commissioner.

The Prime Minister decided to go on the Aga Khan's private helicopter to get to his private island. In his defence, the Prime Minister said that there was a difference in the language used in the French act and the English one. The French used the more specific term “avions” and not “aircraft”. The Prime Minister felt that this specifically exempted helicopters, which was a ridiculous response. It showed not only a lack of judgment but showed someone who would go to the extent of saying that it did not specifically say “helicopters“ to find a way to slip through the rules and abuse the act.

I have not agreed with many of Madam Dawson's decisions over the course of many years. However, she said that the Prime Minister's position would be to create a legal absurdity and a complete abuse of the act.

I am going to say quickly that I have a problem with the Conservative motion to pay back travel, because when the Prime Minister travels, there are enormous costs. There are issues of security if a prime minister wants to take a vacation anywhere. When Stephen Harper went to see a Boston Red Sox game, there was an enormous cost to the taxpayer. However, the Prime Minister does not get to travel on public aircraft. If the Prime Minister is going anywhere, there are going to be costs. We accepted it for Stephen Harper. People were asking how much money was spent for him to go to a ball game. He was the prime minister. He was not able to take cheap WestJet flights. There were going to be costs.

Therefore, I have a question about the propriety of the House ordering the Prime Minister to pay it back for his bad judgment.

That being said, the problem with our Conflict of Interest Act is that the commissioner does not have the power or ability to render the appropriate penalty. Should the Prime Minister pay a penalty from his personal money for this abuse of the act? Certainly. I think it behooves us within this House to say that we need to overhaul the Conflict of Interest Act to make sure that we do not have sitting prime ministers or cabinet ministers abusing the act and that the commissioner has the power to levy financial fines to force compliance, because if the Prime Minister believes he is above the law, it sends a very disturbing message to his cabinet.

On the issue of overall conflict of interest and the Prime Minister, I am seeing a disturbing pattern emerging. It emerged right after the election. I was so impressed with his talk during the campaign of creating a new, open, and transparent notion of parliamentary accountability. He seemed to follow through with his letters of commission to each of his ministers that talked about the need to have a higher standard. It was not just about the legal obligation but about being seen meeting that legal obligation. I was thinking that here was a Prime Minister who would be willing to do stuff differently, and for a moment, the sun was shining on accountability in Ottawa, but then our Prime Minister decided to go for cash for access.

To me, it is the most grotty thing possible for a sitting prime minister to make himself available to be lobbied for cash. He said that they were not lobbying. Who would pay $1,500 a pop to sit at a private CEO's condo if not to get the ear of the Prime Minister? Was it because they thought he was a funny guy and just wanted to hang out with him?

Chinese billionaires met with the Prime Minister. When he was confronted, the Prime Minister said that they were talking about the middle class. I guess I grew up in a different middle class. Can members imagine for a minute that Chinese billionaires came over to Canada, paid $1,500 a pop to talk to the Prime Minister at a private function, and were worried about folks who are just getting by? I do not think so. The idea that the Prime Minister would use his office to collect those funds for the Liberal Party to me set a disturbing pattern, and it is a pattern that has been repeated.

We saw the issue of the KPMG fraud scheme. KPMG, which has received millions of dollars in federal contracts, set up a scheme so that powerful Canadians did not have to pay their share.

I think of a single mom I dealt with in my riding over Christmas who was not able to pay for her kids' Christmas presents, because every year, CRA cuts her off, because it claims that she has to prove once again that she actually has children. We were calling and calling. There was a seven-week period CRA had to go through, because it had to do due diligence, as it has done three times in three years, to prove that this single mother actually has children, and she was not able to buy Christmas presents. We see the CRA's willingness to go after any ordinary Canadian who owes it money. It shows no mercy. However, when the rich insiders who were caught in the KPMG scandal were found out, CRA offered them immediate amnesty. That is not standing up for the middle class. That is standing up for the 1%.

What did the Prime Minister do after this scandal? He appointed a senior KPMG representative to be the treasurer of Liberal Party finances. To me, that sends a very disturbing message. It shows contempt for taxpayers who work hard and pay their bills. The Prime Minister looked at that KPMG scandal and said, “This is a great guy. I like how these guys are operating. Let us get them to handle Liberal Party finances.” That is a very disturbing tone.

We saw it repeated for Samuel Bronfman, who is the good, close friend of the Prime Minister and a key Liberal fundraiser. Mr. Bronfman was named in the paradise papers, an international scandal in terms of the uber rich not paying their share while they turn around and tell Canadians that they do not have services.

We can make comparisons to understand how this plays out. This past week, the Prime Minister looked a Princess Patricia's veteran in the face, Brock Blaszczyk, a man who lost his leg serving his country, and told him that veterans are asking for more than what the government is willing to give. These are people who were willing to give their lives and their health in service to the nation who came back and have been ripped off on their basic pensions. The Prime Minister can look a veteran in the eye and say that he is asking for more than Canada is willing to give.

The Prime Minister's personal friend, Samuel Bronfman, was then named in the paradise papers for a business scheme he had been involved in. The Prime Minister said that there was absolutely no issue, because the Liberals had been assured that Samuel Bronfman followed all the rules. It is completely inappropriate for a sitting prime minister to interpose himself in a question of a tax case, or potential tax fraud, and tell Canadians that there is nothing to be seen here. Why? It is because Samuel Bronfman is not only a personal friend but raised $250,000 in two hours for the Liberal Party. He is a very powerful person.

We brought in the Accountability Act when the last Liberal government fell to try to close these kinds of loopholes so that powerful insiders who raise money for the party and hang out with the Prime Minister on billionaire's island do not get this kind of access. This brings us back to the Aga Khan. The Aga Khan was lobbying the government for money, and the Prime Minister received a gift. The Liberal Party does not seem to understand that there is a problem with that.

We will go to the next issue. There is a very disturbing pattern of conflict of interest emerging in a government that says it is there for the little guy and the middle class, but time and again, it is looking after the uber rich.

We can talk about the privatized pension king of Canada, who is the finance minister. He is a man who told investors about the enormous opportunities in getting rid of defined pension plans, a man whose company was involved in the largest pension meltdowns in Canadian history: Nortel, Stelco, and now the Sears pension windup. We have a finance minister who is unwilling to do anything to end this kind of corporate pension theft. Well, it would certainly affect the bottom line of his family business.

He brought in pension legislation. In fact, the very first thing he did was bring in pension legislation, and that legislation, Bill C-27, will make it easier to go after other defined pension plans. However, the Prime Minister did not think there was a potential conflict of interest.

Again, I guess the Prime Minister and I grew up in a different middle class. The people I know, who save so hard to get a basic pension, see what is happening to the Sears workers and say, “That could be me.”

Younger people, who see that they will never have a pension, are asking where this government is in dealing with the pension crisis. Well, the government is making sure that the privatized pension king of Canada, who is the finance minister, who is driving the agenda on pensions, is not going to be in a position to be pulled from the file. The government is going to do nothing to help Sears workers, and it is continuing to push ahead with Bill C-27, which is a direct attack on defined pensions.

Over the years in Parliament, I have seen many politicians telling Canadians that they are going to give them a better deal. Sometimes it is like the crocodile saying, “Trust me. Let's go on a picnic down by the riverside. I have your best interest at heart”. However, when one puts in the Samuel Bronfmans, the top people from KPMG, and the privatized pension king in this country to deal with the issue of pensions, one cannot be saying that one has Canadians' interests at heart.

This goes back to the importance of the motion to have the Prime Minister found guilty of using his position in getting a benefit from a billionaire to vacation on a billionaire's island. Again, I will not say that this is an illegal act. To me, this was an astounding lack of judgment. It is within the purview of Parliament to insist that the Prime Minister meet a level of accountability, which he has not done because he has left Parliament and he has not answered these questions.

However, to be clear, I have a problem with the Conservatives' argument that he should pay back the cost of the trip, because wherever the Prime Minister goes, there will be enormous costs associated with the issue of security. However, there does need to be the ability under the ethics act to deal with financial monetary penalties for the abuse of office, and for the failure to live up to the standard. The Prime Minister has set the bar very low for the rest of his cabinet. We need to be working across party lines to ensure that these loopholes in the Conflict of Interest Act are shut down and that the Prime Minister is held accountable so that he can restore the trust of Canadians on this fundamental issue.

On the overall issue of conflict of interest, as New Democrats we will continue to hold the government to account. We are not afraid to congratulate it if we believe it is doing something good. We do not have to be oppositional on everything. However, to see the government time and time again favour the interests of the 1% and the insiders while paying lip service to people who are falling behind is simply not acceptable.

We will continue to address these issues and the need to deal with the toxic nature of big money's influence in political life, which is as important now as it was when we had to bring in the Federal Accountability Act back in 2006. I remember at that time we had the corrupt Liberal government up on charges. We had such abuse with lobbyists and insiders. The line back then was “It's who you know in the PMO”.

This struck Canadians as fundamentally wrong, because most Canadians never get the opportunity to call in. Most Canadians never get their cases fixed, except when they go through the system, and that is the way it is supposed to be for the lobbyists and the insiders. There has to be a system. It has to be accountable. It has to be transparent so that the people know why and how decisions are being made. However, with the current government, there is too much of a slip back to the bad old days of insiders and friends.

This is an instructive motion. Hopefully, the Prime Minister will listen to it, and I think the Prime Minister does need to tell Canadians that he will make some manner of restitution to show that he understands the seriousness of having been found guilty on numerous counts of breaching the Conflict of Interest Act.

Opposition Motion—Conflict of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 6th, 2018 / 10:20 a.m.
See context


Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. leader of the official opposition for his remarks. He did a good job in capturing the sense of frustration we feel on this side of the House, and that Canadians are feeling with a Prime Minister who has been found to have broken the law and does not seem to be suffering any consequences for having done so.

On this side, we are also very much aware of some of the other ethical challenges with the Liberal government with respect to conflict of interest. In particular, I am thinking about the finance minister and the controversy around Bill C-27, which is going to have a financial impact for Canadians far above the $200,000 that the Prime Minister's trip had. For that reason, we are wondering: why the narrow focus of this motion?

We agree that there should be consequences for the Prime Minister. We support that principle. However, we know there are a lot of other problems with conflicts of interest with the Liberal government. We wonder why the official opposition chose to have such a narrow focus rather than using this as an opportunity to ensure there are consequences for any of the members of government who violate conflict of interest provisions.

EthicsAdjournment Proceedings

February 5th, 2018 / 6:50 p.m.
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Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Hope, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is true that the Ethics Commissioner cleared the finance minister of one of the allegations that were made. He also continues to investigate whether or not the finance minister was in a conflict of interest when he tabled legislation, Bill C-27, which would change the way that pensions are administered in this country. Only a very few companies in this country are set up to administer those types of pensions, and one of them happens to be Morneau Shepell, his former family company.

Can the parliamentary secretary confirm whether the finance minister has met with the new Ethics Commissioner to discuss those allegations of conflict of interest?