Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today on this opposition day motion, presented by my colleague. The last bit of exchange was interesting. I hope Mary Dawson is listening to this, because it speaks to the arrogance taking place here in the way she and her office are being used by the government. Theparliamentary secretary just got up and said, “...trust me, Mary Dawson...will be in touch.”
The parliamentary secretary, while espousing the independence of Mary Dawson, has just indicated that she is going to take action. He is giving a directive to this chamber and to the public in general about someone else. This is one of the most disturbing things taking place today. Some of the defence that has been taking place, the shield of the ethics office, which operates under legislation made in this House with the dominance of the Liberal Party and its ethical perversions over the years, still has not resonated that it actually has the capacity to deal with the conflict of interest in this chamber. The member opposite is now suggesting that Mary Dawson is going to contact every single member of Parliament, and to trust him, she is going to do that. The amount of arrogance in that is profound. It comes to the real problem we are talking about, the confidence and trust of the people.
The motion we tabled in the House of Commons is simply to live up to the Liberals' standards and ethics. It is almost like we have to apologize, and Canadians have to apologize that the Liberals dined out on this in 2015. They said they were going to be different than their own selves. In fact, we would often hear their own members contradicting each other on the electoral campaign, including the member for Papineau talking about other Liberals in the past and their past indiscretions in regard to ethics, standards, and behaviours, going back to everything from the Chrétien years to the most recent being the former prime minister, Paul Martin. He was called out for sailing ships with different flags so he could save on taxes, and not actually have the people serving on those ships get the same standards that Canadians deserve in their own workplace. That is reality. That took place. The former finance minister used ships of convenience and flags of convenience of his own registered companies to get lower working standards, lower wages, and avoid taxation for his home country. Shame.
What have they learned from that? They have learned nothing. We are apologizing for the fact that they campaigned that they were going to be different. They said they had changed this time. They were going to drink from the other glass, not the same one they had been drinking out of during the Chrétien and Martin years, with all those ethical breaches and standards they had in the past from Dingwall, to Gagliano, to all those things in the past.
Here we are. They have created their own mess because their own Minister of Finance could not figure out a basic thing that all of us know: when something in front of us seems wrong, usually it is, and do the right thing. We have to stand here and apologize and basically call them out for the fact they have not lived up to what they promised to be.
The motion is crafted in a way to deal with the facts. The first one is “(a) after being elected to Parliament in 2015, led Canadians to believe that he had placed his shares in Morneau Shepell into a blind trust, while never having done so”. It was not someone else who led people to believe that. It was the finance minister.
I am so sorry that the finance minister promised to do something and he never did. I guess it is my fault. I guess it is my colleagues' fault. I guess it is Canadians' fault that he did not do what he said he was going to do. That is what we are talking about here. It was not thrust upon him. It was something he said. He willfully went to the public, built that trust, and said he was going to do that. He never did it.
The second one is “(b) used a loophole in the Conflict of Interest Act to place his shares in a private numbered company instead of divesting them or placing them in a blind trust”. What is important is, people have seen the key moments in modern history where there have been leaks about individuals using tax havens and loopholes, from the Isle of Man, to Bermuda, to Barbados, and other places.
People have had enough. They cannot get prescription drugs. They have a hard time paying the rent, are worried about the future, and their jobs are more precarious. At the same time, people in our own civil society are using the system that is supposed to defend them. This place, the House of Commons for the common people, has set in place a taxation process to be fair and equitable, and it allows people with an accountant and lawyer to skirt that. It is a cottage industry that has turned into an extreme example of the inequity in society.
This has to end. I hope people take this to heart, because this is the problem that comes with fairness. This system basically defends a colonial system of taxation of the poor versus the wealthy. We have created a system where the better an accountant and lawyer one hires, the less money one pays, even after paying them off, than the neighbour down the street who is trying to do a nine-to-five job and just wants to have 40 hours a week with benefits to make sure their child can go to school in the future. That is what is at odds here.
Look at the wording of the motion. Let us remind ourselves what a numbered company is, by its definition. A general definition states, “Numbered companies may include, but are by no means limited to, new companies that have not yet determined a permanent brand identity, or shell companies used by much larger enterprises for various purposes.”
Therefore, if one can afford a lawyer and a numbered company that does not have a permanent status, purpose, or anything, then one has the chance to shelter their money by using the tax laws, and those accountants and lawyers, to pay less taxes. It does not have to be a good idea or be innovative. No, not at all. It does not have to be any of those things. It could be a villa or something else that one dreams up or creates that then has a number to it.
Ironically, we talk in this motion about Bill C-27, which is the next point on this, an act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act. That is a conflict of interest, at least on appearances. My goodness, how can we have a finance minister not even understand that recusing himself would be the number one thing?
There is another piece of legislation that has been forgotten in the debate today, which is Bill C-25. Bill C-25 looks at a series of different things that relate to not only pensions but also shareholders and the Corporations Act, to find out how shares can be hidden and sheltered. What the members on the other side did is to create a piece of legislation that buffered the real debate out of Bill C-25 for issues that are complicated, bearer shares and all these different things. They were just more ways to squirrel away the money if you are rich versus that of anyone else. It slid on through here and reinforced that this place is no longer the House of Commons, but a house that represents a taxation system for the few who can have accountants and lawyers.
That bill passed, and we had amendments on it to provide more clarity and transparency. However, what did we get? Why is it that the minister chose random numbers for personal interest? When one looks back at that in the history of time, again, it is about sheltering personal interests. Sheltering personal interests and using the law to do so should not have to be explained here, if one came for that reason. It should not have been taught.
Most importantly, as I conclude here, it is what the Liberals said they would do differently. They said they would be different than themselves. That is who they said they would be different from at that time.
I remember these things. We can go back and watch debates and check out the former Prime Minister Paul Martin and Canadian steamships. This is the second time coming.