An Act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985

Sponsor

Bill Morneau  Liberal

Status

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

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-27.

Summary

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.

Elsewhere

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.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

October 15th, 2018 / 3:15 p.m.
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NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions, both regarding pension policy in Canada.

These petitioners point out that in the 2015 federal election, Canadians were clearly promised in writing that defined benefit plans, which had already been paid for by employees and pensioners, should not be retroactively changed into target benefit plans, and that Bill C-27, tabled by the Minister of Finance, precisely permits this change, thereby jeopardizing the retirement income security of Canadians who have negotiated defined benefit plans as a form of deferred wages.

These petitioners call on the Government of Canada to withdraw Bill C-27, an act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act.

October 3rd, 2018 / 8:50 a.m.
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Serge Boisseau National Association of Federal Retirees

Hello, Mr. Chair.

My name is Serge Boisseau. I'm the second vice-president of the National Association of Federal Retirees, Quebec branch. The association has 175,000 members in Canada.

We are calling on the government to help Canadians improve their retirement security, to keep its promises to retirees when it amends the pension programs, and to continue to improve the Canada pension plan and old age security.

The first step in that direction would be the immediate withdrawal of Bill C-27, which enables employers to break pension-related promises to their employees. The defined benefit pension plan is the most effective way of ensuring retirement security.

In short, retirees are important to our economy. Their retirement security benefits not only them but also their communities and the entire country.

Retirees continue to be active consumers, whether it be by travelling, paying taxes or making consumer purchases. Good retirement income security leads to better health, which reduces the burden on the health care system.

Thank you and have a pleasant day.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

October 2nd, 2018 / 10:05 a.m.
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NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, today I am tabling a petition, largely from members of my riding in Port Hardy and Port McNeill, who have serious concerns and are calling to see the withdrawal of Bill C-27, an act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act.

People in my riding are very concerned. They were promised in writing that the defined benefit plans, which have already been paid for by employees and pensioners, should not be retroactively changed into target benefit plans. The tabling of this bill by the Minister of Finance permits precisely this change, thereby jeopardizing the retirement income security of Canadians who have negotiated defined benefit plans as a form of deferred wages.

The petitioners are calling on the Government of Canada to withdraw Bill C-27, an act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act. I hope that the government will take this petition from these communities seriously.

October 2nd, 2018 / 8:45 a.m.
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Marie Lorraine Scott National Association of Federal Retirees

I'm Lorraine Scott. I'm president of the National Association of Federal Retirees here in the Saint John district, covering from Sussex all the way down to St. Stephen at the border.

I'm here basically to talk about pension security for seniors in regard to Bill C-27. Federal government employees have a pension. The average pension of a government employee is $23,000 per year. We're afraid of Bill C-27 being implemented, because we'll go from a deferred pension plan to a targeted pension plan, which will affect the members of the retirees association—all retirees and future retirees. Too many government employees, and many of you yourselves, could be affected by this change.

We would like to see Bill C-27 reneged. We want it removed so that the pension plans that we have will remain the same, remain targeted and be fully indexed. That is our mission from the national association.

Thank you.

October 1st, 2018 / 8:55 a.m.
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Shirley Pierce Advocacy Officer, Prince Edward Island, National Association of Federal Retirees

Good morning.

I'm happy to be here on National Seniors Day. I represent the National Association of Federal Retirees. It has about 180,000 members, who are retirees of the public service, the Canadian Armed Forces, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, as well as retired federal judges. Our association has advocated for improvements to the financial security, health and well-being of our members and all Canadians for more than 50 years. I have some recommendations.

The first one is that, along with our provinces and territories, the federal government lead the implementation of a comprehensive national seniors strategy that addresses the social determinants of health, including access to affordable and appropriate housing, retirement income security, and robust and sustainable social services. This must include taking action on improving senior-focused home and community care, developing and promoting age-friendly community principles, increasing support for caregivers, and combatting isolation and ageism.

The second is that this government help Canadians build better retirement security, honour the promises made to retirees when pension plans are changed, and continue to improve CPP and OAS. A good first step in achieving this would be the immediate withdrawal of Bill C-27.

Third is that the federal government follow through on the budget 2018 commitment to consult on retirement security. To ensure that our current retirement savings regimes are effective and that Canadian retirement security needs are met, hold public, transparent consultations by spring 2019 with retirees and pensioner organizations, veterans, academics, policy experts, labour and business leaders, and others to map Canada's path to retirement security.

Last is that this government ensure that retirees and employees are properly compensated and invest appropriate funds and continue to work with labour and retiree partners to resolve the Phoenix pay system issues.

Thank you.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

September 27th, 2018 / 10 a.m.
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NDP

Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to present a petition on behalf of my constituents who are concerned about the future of their pensions and particularly related to Bill C-27, An Act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985.

Security in one's retirement is really important to all Canadians, certainly important to the people of Kootenay—Columbia. Basically, they are asking that the government withdraw Bill C-27.

September 26th, 2018 / 6:55 p.m.
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As an Individual

Alain Trépanier

Mr. Chair, my name is Alain Trépanier. I am from Vancouver, British Columbia. I represent the National Association of Federal Retirees.

Our second recommendation is that this government help Canadians build better retirement security, honour the promises made to retirees when pension plans are changed and continue to improve CPP and OAS. A good first step in achieving this would be the immediate withdrawal of Bill C-27.

Our third recommendation is that the federal government follow through on the budget 2018 commitment to consult on retirement security to ensure that current retirement savings regimes are effective and that Canadians' retirement security needs are met. This should include a consultation process with retiree and pensioner organizations, veterans associations, academics, subject matter experts, labour, business leaders and others to map our country's path to retirement security.

Thank you very much.

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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Liberal

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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NDP

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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NDP

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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NDP

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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NDP

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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NDP

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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NDP

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.