Madam Speaker, I am greatly honoured to rise to speak on behalf of the people of Timmins—James Bay.
One of my Liberal colleagues said that we had to continue to show deference on this issue to the finance minister to reassure Canadians that they should have trust in the House. However, the question we are discussing today is a fundamental question about a breach of trust with Canadians. When I talk with Canadians across the country, quite frankly, they do not believe that Ottawa is interested in or will protect their basic interests, and we need look no further than the present finance minister.
We look at the situation today of the Sears workers who have been laid off thanks to the mismanagement by a hedge fund of what was once a stellar company. We see people whose basic pension benefits are at risk, and the most we hear from the Liberals is, “Well, that's really too bad, but it's before the courts.” It's the same thing we heard when Nortel went down, and the Abitibi workers lost their jobs, and the people across my riding who had their pension stolen by corporate executives like Peggy Witte. Members know that that kind of theft is not only legal in Canada, but also gets one bonuses for doing it. We will never see the government stand up and defend people whose pensions are being stolen from them, because they are fundamentally the party of the 1%.
I am not saying this in an exaggerated fashion, because we have only to look at our present finance minister who is the privatized pension king of this country. The issue today, hot off the presses after all of the major national attention, is that he has finally written the Ethics Commissioner about the fact that the shares he receives from Morneau Shepell give him $150,000 in pocket change a month, and an extra $40 million since he has come into government.
Now the Liberals would tell us that this kind of money is virtuous, because a man who makes that much money and offers himself for public service is someone we should admire, as he can only be doing it for the benefit of all of us little people. I would like to believe that, but if we look at the issue in terms of where Morneau Shepell has been and where the present finance minister has been, a blind trust will not cut it.
I will refer members to a speech by the minister in 2013. He summarized it by saying, “Elderly poverty is not a problem.” I guess one has to own a villa in the south of France to think that elderly poverty is not a problem in Canada. However, in that speech he also made a number of statements about the push to get rid of defined pension benefit plans. He said “A significant number of our clients have parent companies or sister companies in the...United Kingdom.” He went on to say that the movement away from defined pension benefits has been easier there than in Canada and that “We need legislation enabling Target Benefit Plans and Shared Risk Plans in all Canadian jurisdictions.” He told his shareholders that we needed to move on legislation. In that same speech, he said that “As defined benefit plan consultants and administrators, we’ve been in the front row.”
What was one of the first pieces of legislation the minister brought forward in his own name? It was legislation that would especially benefit Morneau Shepell, Bill C-27, which is an attack on defined pension benefits in this country. He said it was necessary to give his company the advantage.
When discussions on changes in defined pension benefits began with the previous government, Morneau Shepell wanted its investors to know that the idea came from it. The proposed DBP framework the government outlined in its consultation paper is clearly modelled after the shared risk pension plans introduced in 2012 in New Brunswick. Morneau Shepell's experts were heavily involved in the design of that, which is what they do for a living. This is why he makes $150,000 a month and his benefits have gone up by $40 million. If one introduces legislation that will benefit his company, obviously the shares will go up.
How is this an ethical problem? Well, of course, when one is a Liberal, one does not think there is a problem with ethics, because he is a nice guy.
We have been told that we have been picking on him because he forgot to announce that he had his private French villa through a private corporation. The Liberals over there have been saying that any one of us could have made that same mistake. Perhaps. It is not a fair question to ask in this House, because the amount of money people earn here is much higher than the folks back home. Can we have a show of hands? How many people here own a villa in the south of France? I do not see any, and the minister is gone on the Prime Minister's hide, so he is not here. I do not even know if he would have put up his hand.