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.

Opposition Motion—Minister of Finance and Conflict of Interest ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2017 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

I stand corrected, Madam Speaker; the member for Hochelaga says it can happen once or twice.

Despite its constant refrain about the middle class and those working hard to join it, it seems like all of the decisions made by this government actually benefit the top 1%, the very elite to which the finance minister belongs. I will come back to this.

The Liberal government brags that it has helped middle-class Canadians by lowering the tax rate for some of them. However, bear in mind that the Liberal tax cut primarily benefits people earning at least $120,000 a year. Anyone who earns less than $45,000 a year falls under their radar. They do not exist. People who earn $30,000, $35,000, or $42,000 a year do not fit in the Liberal Party's definition of the middle class and do not need help. Bear that in mind, because it is important to remember that the people who benefited most from the personal income tax rate adjustment scheme were those earning more than $120,000 a year. It is unbelievable.

Furthermore, the Liberals broke their promise to put an end to CEO stock-option tax loopholes, which cost us $800 million a year. The Liberals are not going to go after CEOs or the richest 1% because that would mean going after their Bay Street buddies. Instead they will keep picking on the little guy.

Not only is the tax cut utterly laughable, as it will not help the low-income Canadians who need help the most, but a tax loophole that benefits CEOs remains untouched, and Canada is still doing business with tax havens.

In March, the NDP moved a motion in the House, and all of the Liberal Party members voted in favour of it. Among other things, the motion called on the government to take a close look at all of our tax treaties with tax havens, such as Barbados and the Cayman Islands. The Liberals went ahead and did that. Then they said the list was incomplete and that there might be one more to add to it.

The NDP was so naive. We thought the Liberal vote meant the government would shorten the list of countries with which it does business, but the government is actually making that list longer. It added the Cook Islands, a British protectorate down around New Zealand whose corporate tax rate is zero. People who stash money there pay no tax. Then they bring it back to Canada, claim that it was taxed in another jurisdiction, and avoid paying tax in Canada.

Here is a very conservative estimate I am sure my friends will like: every year, we lose between $5 billion and $8 billion because of tax havens. Those numbers come from Statistics Canada. It is probably much more than that because we have no real way of knowing.

In that same vein, the Liberals never attack people who take advantage of the system and use the personal income tax rate, the CEO loophole, and tax havens to avoid paying their fair share. What do the Liberals do instead? They introduce Bill C-27, a direct attack on our country's employee pension plans, which were negotiated in good faith with employers. These pension plans provide employees with a guaranteed amount once the employees reach old age. These are defined benefit pension plans, which means that these people know that they can count on getting a certain amount every month on retirement. This allows them to budget for expenses such as rent and vacations, and for helping out their grandchildren financially when they go to university.

The Liberal government is attacking defined benefit pension plans with Bill C-27. The thing is, the Minister of Finance's company, Morneau Shepell, specializes in managing pension plans.

Opposition Motion—Minister of Finance and Conflict of Interest ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2017 / 1:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.

Today we are debating what the finance minister would like Canadians and parliamentarians to believe was just a series of misfortunate events, a “distraction”, to use the minister's own words.

I do not share the Minister of Finance's assessment of the matters we are debating today. Instead, respectfully, I would say what has transpired for the minister is not a distraction, is not an administrative error, and certainly is not of the making because of the advice of the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Commissioner, but instead an error in judgment made by the minister. The minister must now find a way forward, so that Canadians can trust that their interests are first and foremost in his mind.

Let me share specifically what we are debating today since we have gone a bit off track when we heard from members on the other side.

What are these so-called distractions?

After being elected to Parliament in 2015, the Minister of Finance led Canadians to believe that he had placed his shares in Morneau Shepell into a blind trust while having never done so. He 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.

On October 19, 2016, the minister sponsored Bill C-27, a bill that would reasonably be expected, by reasonable people, to profit Morneau Shepell and the Minister of Finance in light of his continued ownership of shares in Morneau Shepell and through a company he also controls.

The minister remained in charge of regulating the pension industry in which he has a personal economic interest.

Finally, he has failed to live to up to the ethical standards set forth by the Prime Minister in his mandate letter to the minister.

The motion also clearly outlines what needs to happen going forward, a proposal so that the Minister of Finance is not distracted by circumstances of his own making and can resume his focus on the important work of a finance minister.

The motion provides a way forward for all ministers and all parliamentarians by asking the government to close the loopholes in the Conflict of Interest Act as recommended by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.

Two years ago, like many Canadians I believed that the then newly elected Liberal government was going to lead differently and bring real change. I personally, along with many others here in the House, made the decision to run for political office to change Parliament and government for the better so that we could better serve all Canadians. More specifically, I ran to advocate for the constituents of Saskatoon West, the community where I have lived and worked for over 30 years.

I have taken every opportunity to point out when I believe the government has followed through on commitments that help my constituents, when, as the labour critic, the government has made important policy changes that support workers' rights and make workplaces safer. I have also pointed out when the government did not follow through on commitments and promises that it made during the election.

When I read the Prime Minister's mandate letters to his cabinet ministers, I was optimistic that we would see a different kind of government, not only in stark contrast to the previous government but a different kind of Liberal government than we have seen in the past. I believed that what was written down on paper in the ministerial mandate letters would be acted upon and would be more than just words.

Here are some excerpts from the finance minister's mandate letter that stood out for me personally and led me to be optimistic that real change was not just possible but indeed would happen:

“We have promised Canadians a government that will bring real change—in both what we do and how we do it”.

“We have also committed to set a higher bar for openness and transparency in government”.

“Its important that we acknowledge mistakes when we make them.”

Finally, the phrase most relevant to today's debate, “...you must uphold the highest standards of honesty and impartiality, and both the performance of your official duties and the arrangement of your private affairs should bear the closest public scrutiny. This is an obligation that is not fully discharged by simply acting within the law.”

Last week, the finance minister, because of pressure from the opposition and an investigation by journalists, did the right thing and after two years as the finance minister, divested himself and his family of all shares in Morneau Shepell. This was the right thing to do.

Madam Speaker, I would say that the finance minister still has more to do to live up to the Prime Minister's expectations, as stated in his mandate letter. Let me elaborate by focusing on Bill C-27.

The tabling of Bill C-27 by the finance minister when he still had business interests in his company, and thus would benefit if the bill were enacted, also put the minister at odds with what was asked of him in his mandate letter from the Prime Minister. This clearly was a conflict of interest. It is possible that he may have indeed personally benefited from simply tabling Bill C-27. I say this because we know that shares in Morneau Shepell increased in value after the bill was tabled.

We also know from news reports that the Minister of Finance, while still in private life, advocated for such a bill. The bill would amend the pension act, allowing employers to change their current commitment to defined pension plans to target benefit pension plans. Morneau Shepell is a major provider of these types of benefit plans.

Bill C-27, should it be enacted, would erode pension security for thousands of federally regulated workers by allowing employers to remove their legal obligations to current and future retirees by converting defined pension plans, even retroactively, to target benefit plans. The bill would allow all the financial risk in future pension benefits to be shifted to individual workers.

Beyond the fact that the Minister of Finance would have benefited financially from the bill, and beyond the fact that he presented a bill that would make changes in regulations that he advocated for in his private life as a business owner, Bill C-27 was introduced without any consultation with Canadians, pensioners, or unions. As well, it broke a specific election promise made by the Prime Minister. When the previous Conservative government proposed similar legislation, it was met with such opposition by retirees and other stakeholders that the effort was abandoned.

I ask the minister why he introduced the legislation. Does he not see how Canadians and parliamentarians would be somewhat suspicious about in whose interest the minister acted when tabling Bill C-27? I would respectfully ask the minister to do the right thing and tell Parliament and Canadians that he will not proceed with Bill C-27.

I believe that Canadians expect the Minister of Finance to go above and beyond, not simply to technically be in compliance with ethical guidelines but to do in word and deed as he was asked by the Prime Minister in his mandate letter, and that is to carry out his duties so that his actions can “bear the closest public scrutiny. This is an obligation that is not fully discharged simply by acting within the law.”

Canadians deserve a finance minister who does not see questions about ethics as distractions. Canadians deserve a finance minister who acknowledges that he has made a mistake.

I believe I have outlined a number of actions the government and the finance minister could take to move forward for the benefit of all Canadians, such as eliminating loopholes in the Conflict of Interest Act, protecting federally regulated defined pension plans, and following through on commitments made by the government during the election.

There is always an opportunity to do the right thing. I urge the Minister of Finance and the government to do the right thing as soon as possible.

Opposition Motion—Minister of Finance and Conflict of Interest ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2017 / 1:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague and applaud him for his undeniably Canadian turn of phrase.

There is no doubt that finance ministers should not get involved, and above all, should avoid any conflict of interests. If the minister was fortunate enough to be able to grow his business when he was in the private sector, then he would be obligated to set up a blind trust or to sell all his shares in order to act freely.

That is not what happened, however. He designed, tabled and debated Bill C-27, which has a direct impact on pensions and is directly linked to the business he worked with. This is exactly what we were saying. Regreattably, he did not take the necessary steps to distance himself from his past affairs before taking on his current duties.

Opposition Motion—Minister of Finance and Conflict of Interest ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2017 / 1:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech. He is quite the orator; it should be said from time to time.

However, beyond the litany of offences to democracy showcased in the many examples he gave involving the government, it is really beyond the pale to think that the Minister of Finance would work on Bill C-27, which benefited him directly, without first placing his assets in a blind trust.

I would like to hear the member's thoughts on that.

Opposition Motion—Minister of Finance and Conflict of Interest ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2017 / 12:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent.

I rise today regretfully to speak in support of the motion before us. I am regretful, not because I do not support the motion moved by the third party, which I certainly do, but because we find ourselves debating not only the finance minister's original deliberate violation of the spirit of the Conflict of Interest Act and his subsequent actions, which, by all accounts, have enriched the minister as a result of his original decisions, but as well, the minister's apparent inability and refusal to recognize his several lapses of judgment, his unwillingness to accept responsibility for his poor decisions and actions, his attempt to shift responsibility and to blame the Ethics Commissioner, and, as important, his refusal to apologize to Canadians.

When an adult faces choices, he or she exercises judgment. For decades, long before the Conflict of Interest Act, with its various provisions, was passed into law in 2004, ministers of the crown either placed their wealth, including those fortunate enough to have family fortunes, into blind trusts or divested themselves of those holdings, which otherwise might benefit from their actions as public office holders, that is, as ministers.

The Prime Minister's mandate letter to the finance minister, when he was sworn in two years ago, was not specific in these details, but the PM stated, “As Minister, you must ensure that you are aware of and fully compliant with the Conflict of Interest Act”. As well, the Prime Minister stressed that “you must uphold the highest standards of honesty and impartiality, and both the performance of your official duties and the arrangement of your private affairs should bear the closest public scrutiny.” I repeat, “closest public scrutiny”. “This is an obligation that is not fully discharged by simply acting within the law.”

The Prime Minister also pointed out:

If we want Canadians to trust their government, we need a government that trusts Canadians. It is important that we acknowledge mistakes when we make them. Canadians do not expect us to be perfect—they expect us to be honest, open, and sincere in our efforts to serve the public interest.

Canadians have learned very well that the Liberal government is far from perfect. In fact, in so many ways it is far from perfect, but we are here today because trust has been violated. We are talking about standards here, and because neither the finance minister nor the Prime Minister has been willing to acknowledge the many mistakes made by both in this sorry affair, this scandal is entirely of their own making. The finance minister has told us that the Ethics Commissioner advised him to choose a third choice between a blind trust or divestment, a choice not taken by any other minister of the Liberal government.

The Ethics Commissioner is on the public record saying that she informed the finance minister that there was that third way. We do not know whether she specifically red-flagged that third alternative in so many words as a loophole that she had already recommended the government should close, but I believe that any reasonable adult, certainly anyone with the business experience of the finance minister, not to mention the many financial advisors he has at his beck and call, would see that third way as a loophole that offends not only express intent of the Conflict of Interest Act but also the spirit of the law.

Then there is the matter of Bill C-27, the act tabled in the finance minister's name, that would make a number of significant amendments to the Pension Benefits Standards Act. The minister, in his previous life, spoke of the need for exactly these same sorts of amendments, amendments that his family firm, Morneau Shepell, would use to expand its client base and grow the company. We know that by not divesting all of his millions of shares in the family company, the minister had already seen his shares increase significantly in value. At the time of his election, shortly before being appointed finance minister, the shares of Morneau Shepell traded at around $15 a share. They have since increased to more than $20 a share.

However, worse than the basic violation of the spirit of the Conflict of Interest Act was the minister's sponsorship of Bill C-27, which would, as the motion before us states, “reasonably be expected to [further] profit Morneau Shepell and the Minister of Finance in light of his continued ownership of shares...through [a numbered] company he controls”, which he will continue to profit from until his belated decision to sell those shares in what he described as an “orderly” fashion. We see here a clear and evident example, a textbook example, of conflict when the minister is in charge of regulating an industry in which he has a significant personal interest.

I will reflect back on the Prime Minister's mandate letter to the Finance Minister, and the specific direction that he arrange his private affairs to bear the closest public scrutiny. Someone, the Finance Minister, and any who were aware of his choice two years ago, should have heard alarm bells, which brings me to questions that the Finance Minister and the Prime Minister have refused to answer in the House or anywhere else: When did the Finance Minister inform the Prime Minister? When did the Prime Minister learn that the Finance Minister had neither put his holdings into a blind trust or divested all of his shares two years ago?

Last week, the latest revelations from investigative journalists, the Ethic Commissioner herself in media interviews, and finally the Finance Minister himself, confirmed that he had been informed by the commissioner of a technical gap in the Conflict of Interest Act, a capital “L” loophole, if you will, that no other member of the current Liberal cabinet, and no other member of previous governments, to my knowledge, exploited. However, he used it again, in clear and deliberate violation of the spirit of the act, to push his considerable stock holdings in the company that bears his name through that loophole. This is in stark contrast to the months of hollow, so-called consultations on tax reform proposals dropped on Canadians in the middle of the summer, which were aimed at alleged loopholes too long exploited, it was said, by hard-working, middle-class small businesses, in effect characterizing Canada's hardscrabble, hard-working, middle-class small business owners as tax cheats.

It is important to remember that this is an attack on plumbers, pizza shop owners, farmers, dentists, and doctors. These so-called reforms have been pitched by bureaucrats, academics, and theoreticians inside the Finance Department for years. It is also important to remember that these reforms have been pitched to a succession of previous finance ministers, both Conservative and Liberal, and flatly rejected for all of the reasons put forward now by practising tax and pension management experts, and the thousands of middle-class self-employed entrepreneurs who see this as an unfair and destructive attack on family businesses and their employees.

There was a way that the Finance Minister might have avoided the deepening outrage and protest across the country. He might have responded by saying that he was surprised by the tens of thousands of responses, and that he needed to extend the so-called consultation period, with real consultations across the country, to familiarize himself with the multitude of different ways his reforms would negatively impact hard-working taxpayers. Instead, the Finance Minister and the Prime Minister doubled down and framed their refusal to amend or scrap the worst of the proposals in language that came dangerously close to the divisive characterizations of class war.

The Finance Minister, as has been previously quoted, has described the nation-wide opposition and our criticism of his clumsily proposed tax reforms as a distraction. It is a distraction, and a day-to-day still-deepening distraction of his own making. Now, the Prime Minister seems to have lost confidence in the Finance Minister. The PM's bigfooting of the Finance Minister at a press conference last week, saying that he would answer the minister's question, sent an ominous, not to mention arrogant message to the minister and to Canadians.

The motion before us calls on the government to immediately close these loopholes and apologize to the House and to all Canadians.

Opposition Motion—Minister of Finance and Conflict of Interest ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2017 / 12:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Madam Speaker, the parliamentary secretary again recycled a lot of talking points, but on the weekend on The West Block, he said that since Bill C-27 had not been adopted by Parliament, there was no conflict of interest for the Minister of Finance. When people hold something in a blind trust, they are not aware if the shares have been sold or diversified. When they hold their shares in a numbered company as the Minister of Finance has done, as a loophole so to speak, the markets react to that. Again, the efficient market hypothesis says that publicly available information is immediately digested by the markets. When we table a piece of legislation, the markets respond, putting the minister in a conflict of interest.

Does the parliamentary secretary not understand that he is actually putting up a false front for the minister? Where the heck is the minister? Should he not be coming here to speak to his own actions—

Opposition Motion—Minister of Finance and Conflict of Interest ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2017 / 12:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, I know this is a difficult thing to weigh in on, yet today, in terms of staying on topic, my friend is not even making an attempt. Usually we require some attempt to at some point glance back to the topic at hand. Reciting the government's economic plan has literally nothing to do with the topic we are talking about today. At some point he has to at least reference ethics, the Ethics Commissioner, or Bill C-27.

I know there is a lot of discretion, and we allow a lot of latitude. However, I have listened to the first number of minutes of my friend's speech, and he has not made reference to what we are talking about here today once. It is just hard to say that this is an attempt, even a small attempt, to try to talk to the matter before Parliament today.

Opposition Motion—Minister of Finance and Conflict of Interest ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2017 / 12:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to add to everything my honourable colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley just said.

Today's motion is extremely important because it relates to a fundamental principle that everyone in the House of Commons should respect and an issue that we should all be deeply concerned about. In the context of the motion and the Minister of Finance's actions, we have to ask ourselves whether the Minister of Finance should apologize for misleading Canadians and whether the Liberal government should immediately close the tax loophole uncovered in the Conflict of Interest Act that made these actions possible.

One thing is clear, and my colleague set out the facts. For two years after the election, the minister knew that he probably had to put his Morneau Shepell shares in a blind trust. He said so himself. His colleagues, including the member for Spadina—Fort York, thought that he had done so. The media were told that his shares were in a blind trust. The Minister of Finance himself told his company that his shares were in a blind trust. However, a little while ago, we learned that this was not the case.

The only explanation here is that he misled Canadians. This is important, because the company in which he holds shares handles pension plans. The Minister of Finance advocated for legislation such as Bill C-27, which is extremely important and which will affect the pension funds of federal employees, before he even became a member of Parliament. When the Minister of Finance introduces measures for which he had previously advocated and which will have a direct impact on the shares he still owns, it can only be described as a conflict of interest.

Do members of this Liberal government have such poor ethical judgment that they do not remember what happened before? Two incidents that are directly related to this situation occurred over the past 15 years on the watch of the Liberal government of the time. In 2002, the Minister of National Defence, Arthur Eggleton, was forced to resign from cabinet after awarding a $36,000 contract to a company that was owned by an ex-girlfriend.

I will rephrase that. The Liberal defence minister in 2002 had to resign from cabinet because he had given a $36,000 contract to a company owned by an ex-girlfriend. That same year, the current agriculture minister, who was at the time solicitor general, had to resign from cabinet because he have given a contract worth over $6 million to a college that belonged to his brother. Now we are in a situation where the Finance Minister, despite the fact he said he would put his interests in a blind trust did not do so and stood to personally benefit from the decisions he made. According to the current government and its members of Parliament, that does not put him in a conflict of interest.

Let us remember that a conflict of interest does not mean that he purposely tried to benefit from his actions. However, he placed himself in a situation where he could benefit from his actions and decisions, and that is it. Now he is trying to hide behind some smokescreen or loophole.

He claims that he was not in a conflict of interest. He told the Ethics Commissioner what he was going to do and how he was going to protect himself, by divesting himself of his shares in Morneau Shepell. However, we have learned that he divested of his shares by putting them into a numbered company where he is the sole shareholder. This trick allowed him to indirectly do what he could not do directly. He banked more than $125,000 a month in dividends from his company, Morneau Shepell.

I do not understand how the Minister of Finance, who is a smart man, did not see that he was in a conflict of interest. When he came to the House to answer questions on this subject, it was shocking to see that he did not even seem to regret his actions or the fact that he is perceived to be in a conflict of interest. On the contrary, he never admitted that he had made a mistake and that he should have acted otherwise. Rather, he seemed to want congratulations from members on this side of the House for doing things he should have done two years earlier, when he was elected.

How then can the Liberals vote against the motion that is before us today? All the motion does is ask the Minister of Finance to apologize for misleading Canadians. The motion also calls on the government to recognize that there is indeed a loophole in the Conflict of Interest Act and to do something to fix it as soon as possible.

As my colleague mentioned, the government said, both during the election campaign and after it took office, that ministers must not only follow the letter of the law but also go the extra mile to ensure that their actions bear the closest public scrutiny. However, the government is holding to the letter of the law, which clearly allowed the finance minister to maintain control of a company in which he holds shares.

I am therefore calling on the members of the Liberal government to take action and adopt this motion in order to join the opposition in saying that the finance minister should apologize for misleading the media, his colleagues, his company, and Canadians. This motion criticizes the Minister of Finance for not telling the truth and asks him to immediately take steps to remedy the situation so that members of this and future government cabinets are no longer tempted to enter into conflict of interest situations.

This is about the credibility of the Canadian government in the eyes of Canadians, who go to the polls every four years to vote on who will represent them in the House. They have the right to know that their representatives and their government are not in a position to personally benefit from any of the measures taken here.

How would it look if the Minister of National Defence possessed holdings in an arms company that does business overseas and he decided not to sign an agreement that would limit opportunities to sell his company's weapons? The minister would be in a conflict of interest. It would also raise some questions if the Minister of Agriculture owned a dairy farm and made decisions regarding supply management that could be to his benefit because of his interests in the farm. We are dealing with the same sort of situation here.

I therefore call on the Liberal members to do what Canadians expect of them. I ask them to call on the Minister of Finance to humbly apologize for having misled Canadians. I ask them to call on the government to immediately correct the situation and close the loophole, which is something that the Ethics Commissioner has been recommending since 2013. It is about time that something was done about this.

Opposition Motion—Minister of Finance and Conflict of Interest ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2017 / 12:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the motion before us. I know the member has raised concerns about Bill C-27.

Over the weekend, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance was trying to clean up, I guess, the minister's mess. In regard to that, a question was asked whether the minister had profited from his position by putting forward Bill C-27. Of course, the parliamentary secretary said no.

However, would the member not agree that efficient market theory says that all information that is publicly available is immediately valued into the price of a stock? Therefore, does the member believe the minister has profited on the pension legislation by the corporate structure he has undertaken by holding those shares in Morneau Shepell?

Opposition Motion—Minister of Finance and Conflict of Interest ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2017 / noon
See context

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

moved

That, given the Minister of Finance:

(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;

(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;

(c) on October 19, 2016, sponsored Bill C-27, An Act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985, a bill that would reasonably be expected to profit Morneau Shepell and the Minister of Finance in light of his continued ownership of shares in Morneau Shepell through a company he controls;

(d) was and remains in charge of regulating the pension industry in which he has had a personal economic interest; and

(e) has failed to live up to the ethical standards set forth by the Prime Minister in his mandate letter to the Minister;

the House call on the Minister of Finance to apologize to the House and to Canadians for breaking their trust, and the House call on the government to immediately close the loopholes in the Conflict of Interest Act as recommended by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, in order to prevent a Minister of the Crown from personally benefiting from their position or creating the perception thereof.

Mr. Speaker, I will start by suggesting the brilliant idea that I should split my time with my friend, the member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques. This is the best idea I may have had all week.

This incredibly important motion the New Democrats are raising today is of the most serious nature. This is what some have referred to as a motion of censure. This is not a task we take lightly and is borne directly out of the respect we have for this place, out of an understanding of the role cabinet ministers play, and the important role they play in the lives of Canadians. In order to play that role, they require the trust of Canadians and must conduct themselves in the highest ethical standard.

The Prime Minister gave an explicit order to his cabinet ministers that they would not just follow the letter of the law when it came to ethical behaviour, but they would go beyond that to fully encompass the spirit of the law of conflict of interest. He also ordered his cabinet ministers to make fully public their personal assets and their controlling interests “to be above and beyond” reproach. This clearly has not been the case.

Let us start with the facts of the matter. It is always important, when setting out an argument, to talk about what we know to be true. In 2015, after being elected to Parliament, the Minister of Finance led Canadians to believe he had placed his shares in Morneau Shepell into a blind trust. He told this to the CBC, he let it be known to his former company, Morneau Shepell, and he indicated that to colleagues in the Liberal Party. Beyond that, for two years, when this mistruth was repeated publicly on social media by Liberals and others, he allowed that mistruth to exist. That is a fact.

The second fact is that the minister exploited a loophole within the Conflict of Interest Act that allowed an individual to place his or shares in a private numbered company, instead of divesting them or placing them into a blind trust. That is now known as a fact. That was only revealed by the media digging and finding out the reality and the truth.

The third fact is that on October 19, 2016, the minister sponsored a bill. The same Minister of Finance, under his name, sponsored Bill C-27, an act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985, work in which Morneau Shepell, his former company, the company he still had shares in and derived benefit from, receiving payment cheques on a monthly basis, almost in excess of his yearly salary as a member of Parliament, would directly benefit. Morneau Shepell had done work in this field of pensions, with a great amount of benefit to the company. This bill, by the way, not parenthetically I suppose, does great harm to the pension security of Canadians by passing the risk from a shared view between the employer and the employee, almost entirely to the employee. He sponsored the bill, a bill that his company, which he still had assets in, and he would have directly benefited from.

The fourth fact is the minister remains to this day in charge of regulating the pension industry in which he has had a personal economic interest, and remains with a personal economic interest. The Prime Minister, as we note in our opposition day motion here, called upon the Minister of Finance to live up to a very high ethical standard, not just the explicit minimum. The Prime Minister explicitly told cabinet ministers they had to divulge, to full public disclosure, their personal assets. That was not done in either case.

We call on two specific things, because we do not just seek to point out the facts of the case, we also seek to make things better.

The first thing is that if the Minister of Finance, and the government, is truly interested in attempting to restore the trust lost between his office, between him and the business community, and the larger Canadian public, it would seem to me that an apology is in order. One of the hardest things in politics may be to say “I'm wrong and I'm sorry. I was wrong to exploit this loophole. I apologize for having done it. I will make amends the following way.”

I was personally surprised, and I have heard this from many Canadians over the weekend, that the Minister of Finance's tone last week was “How wonderful am I. Look at me now, divesting, maybe eventually, my interests in an industry in which I will continue to regulate. How wonderful am I that I allowed this lie to exist for two years in the public, that I never corrected it, and that I will still not apologize for. How wonderful am I that when the media asks for more information, I say I am not accountable to you.”

EthicsOral Questions

October 20th, 2017 / 11:30 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Shannon Stubbs Conservative Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, that was not the question.

In October last year, the finance minister himself introduced Bill C-27, which would set up the same target benefit plans that he previously called for as executive chair of Morneau Shepell. The minister's family company called the bill a “positive step” and not surprisingly, welcomed its introduction. The fact is the finance minister's billion dollar family company will benefit directly from Bill C-27.

So again, specifically and clearly: why did the finance minister not recuse himself from discussions about Bill C-27?

EthicsOral Questions

October 20th, 2017 / 11:30 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Shannon Stubbs Conservative Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, in 2013 when the current finance minister was the executive chair of Morneau Shepell, he said, “We need legislation enabling Target Benefit Plans”. Then, once he became finance minister, he introduced that legislation. The finance minister has been receiving tens of thousands of dollars a month from Morneau Shepell the entire time. That is a really obvious conflict. Why did the finance minister not recuse himself from discussions about Bill C-27?

EthicsOral Questions

October 20th, 2017 / 11:30 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, if he answered our questions, we would not have to be so noisy.

It took two years for the finance minister to carry out his plan, which he announced in 2013, to change the law so that his firm could make millions of dollars. That is how long it took for the minister to personally profit from a decision made by his government. Now, two years and millions of dollars later, the minister is telling us that he will sell his shares.

Does he take us for complete idiots? Does the Minister of Finance realize that this fairy tale for visionary millionaires is entirely unethical? Did he recuse himself from matters relating to Bill C-27, yes or no?

EthicsOral Questions

October 20th, 2017 / 11:25 a.m.
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Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, this week, Canadians witnessed something never before seen in federal politics.

They watched as the Minister of Finance floundered around on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. He was caught red-handed attempting to get small business owners, their employees, and farmers to foot the bill for his deficit spending.

We also discovered that he pocketed millions thanks to a bill he himself introduced, which is indisputably unethical.

Now that he has collected his bonus, will the Minister of Finance tell us if he participated in cabinet decisions about Bill C-27?

October 20th, 2017 / 8:50 a.m.
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Fiona Price As an Individual

Good morning. My name is Fiona Price. I'm here as one member of 180,000 National Association of Federal Retirees. I'm the vice-president of Peel-Halton, number 34.

Today I speak to Bill C-27, the act to amend pension benefits.

The suggested change causes trepidation. Will it affect those of us who are already retired? When we became government employees, we signed on in good faith and agreed to deferred compensation in exchange for our employment. To imply now that you are going to change how our monies are to be returned to us, after we have retired on a fixed income, is not in good faith. It's improper.

In 2015 Prime Minister Trudeau clearly promised our association in a letter to the then-president that defined plans, which “have already been paid for by employees and pensioners, should not be retroactively changed”. This seems to have been forgotten.

Retirement income security is essential for those of us who are already retired. Going forward, if you want to change the program, there will be no surprise to the younger generations signing on to work for the government, and they will be allowed to plan accordingly, as we did.

This topic also lends itself to ask that a minister for seniors be created, as we do need a dedicated voice advocating on our behalf. Seniors are the largest-growing demographic in Canada, contributing more than ever to our communities and economies.

I thank you for your time.