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.

EthicsAdjournment Proceedings

December 4th, 2017 / 8:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak today to a matter of ethics as it relates to the Minister of Finance. The finance minister was told by the Prime Minister, through his mandate letter, what was expected of him when he was given the position of Minister of Finance for Canada. I will quote a little excerpt from that letter, which states:

As noted in the Guidelines, 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.

It is the contention of this side of the House that the mandate has not been met. I shall begin by setting out a brief outline of the events which transpired and then follow with my argument.

On November 4, 2015, the Minister of Finance implied to the CBC, when interviewed, that his assets would be put in a blind trust. Here there is a bit of a problem, because it is by convention that ministers of the crown place all their assets into a blind trust. A blind trust is exactly that: it is impervious to the view of the minister into his business affairs. It works both ways, creating an impervious shield.

The Minister of Finance, when explaining his situation, said that he had placed all his assets with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner and that she advised him that the best way to arrange his personal affairs would be to use an ethics screen. A screen is exactly that: it is a screen. It is not impervious. It allows for the movement of information and flow of goods back and forth, because in essence it is only a screen; it is not a blind trust.

However, he implied that his assets would be put into a blind trust and the Prime Minister's mandate letter indicated that the minister should embody the spirit of the law and that the obligation went beyond merely acting within the law. Acting within the law would have meant a blind trust. He chose not to go that route, but chose, rather, to use an ethics screen, and I submit that the two are very different.

On November 30, 680,000 shares in Morneau Shepell were sold for $10.2 million. A week later, the minister tabled the budget, introducing tax changes which would have caused the share value to drop by half a million dollars. No one has admitted to selling those shares yet and I would be curious to know exactly who sold those 680,000 shares.

On October 19, 2016, Bill C-27 was introduced, which would reform pension plans. This would potentially benefit the share value of Morneau Shepell's shareholders, the minister's own company. On September 22 of this year, the Minister of Finance disclosed his ties to a private company, but failed to disclose that private company for two years. This company held the villa in France. On October 31, the Ethics Commissioner levied a fine on the finance minister under the Conflict of Interest Act.

A minister of the crown has many privileges and rights that the average Canadian would not have. This is necessary for the proper functioning of the country. However, a minister of the crown has the responsibility to act ethically and to be seen to do so. It is not enough to follow the letter of the law. A government minister must embody the spirit of the law that he or she represents. The dual role of following the letter of the law and embodying the spirit of the law is all the more vital if the minister in question is the finance minister. It is to the finance minister that the business community looks for reassurance and to structure its long-term planning.

EthicsOral Questions

December 4th, 2017 / 2:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Milton, ON

Mr. Speaker, if the Ethics Commissioner gave her recommendations to the Minister of Finance, why is she now investigating him in three different cases?

Just days after the minister was found not to be in compliance, the Ethics Commissioner actually opened up yet another investigation. This time it has to do with whether he should have introduced Bill C-27, specifically since it would have directly benefited his family business. Again, this is another investigation of another conflict. How many more investigations must there be for this minister to step aside?

EthicsOral Questions

December 1st, 2017 / 11:30 a.m.
See context

Conservative

John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Mr. Speaker, there have been multiple issues with the finance minister: not having his assets in a blind trust after he said he did and would; controlling assets in numbered companies; not declaring a French corporation; introducing Bill C-27, for which he is now under investigation, a pension change that could directly affect his company; and now, this share issue.

Why can the finance minister not see how Canadians find it hard to trust him after he has broken their trust?

EthicsOral Questions

December 1st, 2017 / 11:30 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Mr. Speaker, what we have learned is that the Minister of Finance is quite forgetful. He forgot to disclose the company that held his French villa. He forgot to ask the Ethics Commissioner for clearance to introduce Bill C-27. He cannot seem to recall when he sold 680,000 shares in Morneau Shepell.

Perhaps he will remember this. Before he made his late November 2015 sale of those 680,000 shares, did the minister clear it with the Ethics Commissioner first?

EthicsOral Questions

November 29th, 2017 / 2:40 p.m.
See context

Regina—Qu'Appelle Saskatchewan

Conservative

Andrew Scheer ConservativeLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister and the finance minister cannot answer simple questions. We have asked them if the finance minister meet with the Ethics Commissioner before tabling Bill C-27. They cannot answer that. We have asked whether it was the finance minister himself who sold the shares just days before tax measures became public here in the House of Commons. They cannot answer that. They cannot hide behind sweeping dismissals based on personal accusations. It is up to them to answer these questions.

We have an obligation to defend the interests of taxpayers. Canadians need to know there is not one set of rules for Liberals and another set of rules for everybody else.

Will the finance minister finally do the right thing and resign?

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

November 28th, 2017 / 4:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a great honour to give my thoughts on Bill C-63 on behalf of the hard working and amazing constituents of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford. I have to once again note, on their behalf, how unfortunate it is that we have to debate this bill under the yoke of time allocation. This bill, like so many others, is being railroaded through the House. It seems like it is the only way the government can get its legislation through, rather than having meaningful dialogue with the opposition parties.

I want to start off by underlining some key facts and figures, and they are not pretty.

Over the last 30 years, workers have helped grow our economy by over 50%. In spite of this, their salaries are stagnating and their retirements are becoming less secure. The inequality gap in Canada between the richest and the majority of Canadians is growing faster and wider than in other developed countries. The 100 richest Canadians now have the same wealth as the combined wealth of the 10 million less fortunate.

Employment insurance is becoming harder to access. Statistics show that less than four in 10 unemployed persons qualify for insurance when they need it. That statistic has not changed. In fact, none of these statistics have changed for quite some time now.

Closer to home, in my riding of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford and in my beautiful province of British Columbia, since the House of Commons passed a resolution in 1989 to eliminate child poverty in Canada, the child poverty rate has increased from 15.5% to 18.3% today. The richest 10% of B.C. families with children receive 24% of the total income, while the poorest half of families share 27%.

My own home town of Duncan has extremely alarming child poverty rates. It is especially severe in the city where almost three in 10 children live in poverty. As I said, these are not new statistics. Continuous Liberal and Conservative governments have been aware of these. We are now two years into the government's mandate and we still have some of the most disadvantaged families in the country, waiting for meaningful action to tackle many of these dreadful statistics.

A lot has been made of the Minister of Finance of late. It is worthwhile to talk about him because he is the sponsor of this bill. The opposition represents most of Canadians, given that about 60% of them voted for the parties on this side of the House, and most of them do not have any confidence in the minister.

Yesterday, and continuing through today, he has been unable to provide yes or no answers to simple questions from the member for Carleton. He will not reveal his assets in other numbered corporations so the House may have confidence in his abilities as the finance minister.

The real sticking point for our members in the NDP is that he sponsored Bill C-27, an act that would allow federally regulated sectors to change their pensions to targeted benefit programs, while he had shares in Morneau Shepell, a company that stands to benefit in extreme ways from the passage of that legislation. I would like to see Liberal members of Parliament have the courage to bring that bill forward for second reading debate and hear the arguments they put forward on how it would affect the retirement security of the middle class they claim to stand for each and every day in the House of Commons. I am so looking forward to that day.

Budgets are about choices. I want to go through some of the choices that exist in the bill and that the government has made.

One of its provisions will allow the Minister of Finance to transfer some $480 million to the Asian infrastructure bank, which was mentioned in the 2017 budget. Many members of the opposition have expressed concern about why Canadian money is flowing to that bank and about the good it could have done here in Canada. For those of us who represent rural communities, $480 million is untold riches of what it could do and build in our local communities.

This fits with the pattern of the government's spending choices. Right outside these doors, we have a hockey rink which cost $5.6 million. I know the government likes to talk about it as a legacy project, but it will be dismantled after February and it is only a block away from the largest skating rink in the world. Therefore, $5.6 million is a princely sum of money to be spending on something that will make the front lawn of Parliament look better for three months.

Also half a million, $555,000, was spent on a building wrap, while Canada Post headquarters gets renovated. The government spent over $200,000 developing the illustration on the cover of budget 2017.

When we start to see spending patterns and choices like this, it raises legitimate questions about the government's priorities.

This leads me to the second part. When we talk about those choices, what invariably comes up are the missed opportunities. The budget implementation bill, because it would implement certain measures of the budget announced earlier this year, gives members of Parliament a large amount of latitude to talk about some of the choices that were not made.

For example, we asked the Minister of Finance if he could include provisions to cap CEO stock options, CEOs who make use of this loophole to shelter some of their income. We asked him to actively fight tax havens. We asked him to establish an all-important $15 minimum wage for federal workers to show that kind of leadership to our provincial counterparts and to show that we actually cared about the workers of our country. We could have made huge investments in energy efficiency home renovations. We could have addressed accessibility problems linked to housing, drinking water, mental health services, and education in first nation communities. More important, we could have established a universal pharmacare program, a program that the parliamentary budget officer conservatively estimated would save Canadians over $4 billion. Unfortunately none of these provisions were implemented.

In March 2017, the government supported our party's motion to tackle tax havens and place a cap on those same tax loopholes for CEOs, as I just mentioned. However, while the government supported it, we are still waiting for that concrete action to address the problems caused by tax measures benefiting those at the top.

The previous Conservative speaker talked about a tax system that increasingly treated some at the top differently from those at the bottom. He used the term “nickel and diming”, and I could not agree more. Vulnerable sectors of our Canadian society, such as those suffering from diabetes, are unable to access the disability tax credit. I have seen the cost to these families to treat their diabetes. Meanwhile, high-flying millionaires, Liberals friends at the top, can use tax havens and measures about which none of us at the bottom could even dream.

This goes to a sense of fairness. We need to institute that fairness in our tax system. We need to see that the government is supremely confident and serious about tackling this widespread problem. The paradise papers have only released the tip of the iceberg of how deep this problem goes, how deep the rot goes, and it really needs to be addressed.

The government likes to talk about the child benefit. Of course, families receiving money is a good thing, but it still does nothing to address the chronic shortage of available child care spaces. I have families talk to me about this all the time. The fact is that they cannot afford to get a second job because the cost of child care is so high and the spaces are simply unavailable.

At least one party in the House consistently and constantly talks about these issues, whether standing up for minimum wage, adequate retirement security for our workers, or ensuring families get real breaks, and that is the NDP. It is why I joined this party. I will continue to stand with it to raise these issues on behalf of my wonderful constituents of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford to ensure we get the true progressive policies our country deserves.

Access to Information ActGovernment Orders

November 27th, 2017 / 5:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the minister speak, and as I sit in the House on a daily basis, as we all do, is it any wonder that we find it hard to believe that anything the government says it is going to do will actually come to fruition? We have seen broken promise after broken promise. If members do not believe me, just look at what some of those who are looking closely at Bill C-58 are saying. By ruling out the possibility to obtain information from ministers' offices and the Prime Minister's Office, the government is breaking its campaign promise to establish a government open by default. Moreover, the possibility to refuse certain access to information requests on an undefined basis jeopardizes the transparency and the openness of this government. That was from Katie Gibbs, the executive director of Evidence for Democracy group. However, there are more, and I will refer to more as I get through my speech today on Bill C-58.

I would be remiss if I did not go back a couple of hours, back to the future, and the egregious display of contempt for parliamentary democracy. It has been a practice in this place for many years that when opposition members ask questions directly and pointedly to the finance minister, as we did today, or to other ministers of the crown, that those answers are expected. They are expected on behalf of all Canadians. This is why we are elected to come to this place; it is to ask the type of hard questions that were asked today.

In the preamble to the movement of a motion to adjourn debate on Bill C-63, I will remind the House that we are talking about openness and transparency, which is something the government runs around saying. The Prime Minister stands up in front of microphones, posts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat that the government is more open and transparent than any other government in the history of Canada. I would suggest that nothing could be further from the truth.

I would again remind the House of what I said before I moved the motion to adjourn debate. I said to the Speaker that before I resumed my comments, I wanted to go back to question period and what I thought, quite frankly, was an egregious display of contempt for our parliamentary democracy. This minister was asked multiple times whether he had sold his shares in Morneau Shepell in advance of his tax reform announcement, and he failed to answer the question on multiple occasions.

Therefore, in the absence of the minister answering those questions on a bill that, quite frankly, he has influence over, I would call into question the ability of Canadians to have confidence in him conducting further business on the bill. It is confidence, and not just on this bill, but any bill. The Minister of Finance was asked a minimum of 14 times today in question period whether in fact he had sold his shares in Morneau Shepell in advance of his tax reform policies being announced, and each time he skirted the question. He would not answer. He went on about the middle class and those working hard to join it. Well, right now, it is a matter of the middle class and those working hard to stay in it because of the policies of the finance minister.

We are expected to sit in the House and accept not just what the President of Treasury Board talks about in terms of openness and accountability, but there are multiple people, stakeholders, who have a vested interest in what the President of Treasury Board is promoting and proposing in terms of this access to information legislation, and they are being critical of it. They are being as critical as we are being on the finance minister, because he needs to answer the questions.

The government needs to force the finance minister to answer the questions as to whether in fact he had any vested interest or knowledge of the sale of those shares. It speaks to credibility, to transparency, to accountability, which the government is good at talking about, but when it comes to implementing or living by that, it does not.

What was funny about Bill C-63 and the motion we put forward was that every single person, save one, I believe the member from the Green Party, voted in support of adjourning the debate on that bill. They did that because they do not want to talk about it.

All we are asking is that the minister answer the questions that have been asked of him by those who represent Canadians in this House, every single one of us who are not members of the Liberal Party.

We are actually hearing about Liberal members who are questioning their confidence in the ability of the finance minister to conduct the business of the country. Why? It is because he has failed to answer the questions. He has answered, but in generalities. He goes back to the fetal position of saying that they are working hard for the middle class and those working hard to join it. However, he refuses to answer the questions.

If we are talking about openness and transparency, and this government is proposing Bill C-58, why is the finance minister not being open and transparent with Canadians? We can speculate that perhaps he knows that Canadians will not be happy with the answers. They will not be happy with the villa in France and why he hid that from the Ethics Commissioner, that he had complete control over Morneau Shepell shares and shares in various corporations, or that perhaps he was the one who sold that $10 million worth of shares just ahead of making that announcement. Openness and transparency: what an absolute joke.

I also want to talk about some other individuals who have concerns about what the government is proposing in Bill C-58. The bill proposes a good amendment, and I will give some credit here, by requiring more proactive publication of some information by giving the Information Commissioner the power to order the publication of some information, but it does nothing to fill the huge gaps in the act, as was promised by the Liberals.

We need more changes to have a government that is transparent and open by default. Again, the Liberals talk about openness and transparency, but they do not act in that way.

"The bill is a step backwards in allowing government officials to deny requests for information if they think the request is frivolous or made in bad faith. Public officials should not be given this power, as they will likely use it as a new loophole to deny the public information it has a right know.” Dale Conacher, the co-founder of Democracy Watch, said that.

Stephane Giroux, the president of the Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec said, “The most interesting fact for us was to have access to documents from ministers' offices. False alarm. It was too good to be true.”

In spite of the fact that the President of the Treasury Board is standing up and saying that all these changes have occurred within Bill C-58, the reality is that there are still significant concerns. I think there is concern among Canadians. This past weekend, I had lots of events in my riding, and one of the things I kept hearing about is confidence in the finance minister to continue to do his job, given the circumstances and the besieged state he has been in over the last while. The fact that every single member of the Liberal caucus voted to adjourn debate on this issue calls into question not just Canadians' confidence in the finance minister but the Liberal backbenches' confidence in the finance minister.

The Hill Times today reported that there are concerns among Liberal backbenchers that this is going to affect them in 2019. Do members know the reason they gave for that concern? Many of them will have been here for one term of four years. They are concerned about their pensions. That is what it said in the paper.

How about being concerned about the process of democracy in this country and making sure that no one benefits from having holdings, in the case of the finance minister, that they have not brought forward and been transparent about?

Never mind pensions, we should be focused on what the finance minister is doing by not being transparent and accountable to Canadians and question whether some of the legislation he is putting forward, such as Bill C-27, actually benefits him.

I would remind the House as well that it is not just a matter of benefiting him. What about the benefit to his family? What about his wife? What about his kids? What about his father? How many Morneau Shepell shareholders, or anyone directly or indirectly associated with that family, are benefiting as a result of the policies the finance minister is putting forward? We talk about being open and transparent, but the finance minister has been anything but, and we certainly saw that egregious display today in the House.

As parents, we teach our kids about the difference between right and wrong. We tell our kids what they cannot do and explain it to them. We tell them what they can do and explain the reasons why. We talk often to our kids about character. School systems, through the policies of education, speak about character. They speak about honesty and integrity, yet the finance minister is showing none of those character traits to Canadians with his actions.

We are dealing with a piece of legislation, Bill C-58, that, quite frankly, is difficult to support for many reasons, the least of which is the government not showing any strong movement toward openness and transparency. It is a very top-down approach by the government.

The former information commissioner, from 2007 to 2008, said, “there's no one [in government departments] to review what they choose not to disclose, and I think that goes against the principle of the statute. They've taken the commissioner out of the loop. If you ask for these briefing notes...[and parts of them had been blacked out], you had someone to appeal to.”

This is no longer the case with Bill C-58.

He went on, “We can't even go to a court. It's one step forward, two steps back.”

We have seen a lot of one step forward and two steps back with the government. My fear is that the openness and transparency the Liberals ran on are not there anymore. We have seen that the finance minister cannot even answer a simple question. He will not even answer a simple question. Quite frankly, after seeing this display we have been seeing over the course of the last several months to questions being asked, how can we have any faith? If the finance minister will not even answer a simple question, how can we expect the whole of government to be open, honest, and transparent?

I am saddened by what I see, quite frankly, as a new parliamentarian. I know the other side is going to say that there were circumstances in the past when similar issues happened. We are not talking about circumstances in the past. The Liberals were the same opposition that stood and talked about the egregiousness of the actions of previous governments. They ran to be different. They said that they were going to impose real change. We have seen nothing to suggest anything different. We are seeing a government that is more inward. We are seeing a government that is controlled from the top down. We are seeing a government where the Prime Minister's Office runs everything. Not just on this issue but on multiple issues, anything but what they said has come true.

Conservatives are not going to support Bill C-58. I certainly call into question the finance minister. I call into question his ability to manage the financial affairs of the country, given the circumstances we have seen over the course of the last several months.

Despite their campaign promises, the Liberals have failed to increase government openness and transparency with this bill. As I have said, it is no surprise. This is effectively a government that chooses to publish when it is accountable to Canadians. It is not being accountable all the time. It is going to pick and choose when it wants to be accountable to Canadians. In practice, what the Liberals have effectively done is give themselves the power to refuse to respond to access to information requests they find embarrassing. Under the principle of openness and transparency, should not everything be responded to?

I understand that there might be matters of national security that are not in the public interest, but this is something different from what they ran on, as far as openness and transparency goes. With the changes proposed by the Liberals, less information would be available to Canadians. Moreover, the Liberals would do nothing to address unacceptable delays, so we would continue to see that information punted down the field and would have unacceptable delays in when that information would be put forward to Canadians.

I spent some time talking about Bill C-58, but in the context of openness and transparency, I cannot emphasize enough the egregious nature of the issue we have been dealing for the last couple of months with the finance minister. Again today there was zero accountability, zero transparency, and zero openness. It is a pattern that has evolved with the Liberal government over the course of the last two years. It should concern all of us. It certainly concerns stakeholders who have an interest in this. However, it is not just a concern to all of us who are here to represent Canadians. It is a concern to all Canadians, because it is the small stuff that leads to the big stuff. If we cannot get simple answers to simple questions in this place of openness and transparency, how can we expect to get that information from a government that proves, day after day, that it is not interested in openness? It is not interested in transparency and accountability, in spite of the fact that it ran on that very thing.

They said they were going to be different. The reality is, and we have seen it over the course of the last two years, that nothing could be further from the truth. With the display of the finance minister over the course of the last couple of months, and certainly today, there is not much faith in the ability of the government to be open, transparent, and accountable. That is why Bill C-58 is flawed. We continue to be concerned about the actions of the finance minister and how the Liberal government and these Liberal backbenchers can continue to endorse the display we are seeing here on a daily basis.

Speaker's RulingBudget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

November 27th, 2017 / 1:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are certainly a lot of holes in the budget that need to be addressed. We do not have time to address all of those today, but my colleague did mention some of the ill-thought-out tax proposals that the government presented in the summer of this year. I had a big response in my riding from small business owners, farmers, and from professional corporations. I also heard from doctors who are working in under-serviced areas and providing good medical care. That was a huge issue that my riding dealt with.

My question goes to a different level. People in my riding are very cynical about the current finance minister and some of his ethics breaches when it came to disclosing his assets. They are also concerned about his part in Bill C-27, which clearly favours the company that he incorporated.

I wonder if my colleague is hearing those kinds of concerns from her constituents as well.

Speaker's RulingBudget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

November 27th, 2017 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, today we are in this House debating Bill C-63. This is the second bill to implement provisions of the budget. There are a few noteworthy elements in the bill that I will address today. Most importantly, my remarks will focus on what is not in the budget implementation act.

Financial issues have been the main focus in this House during this session. Many Canadians are concerned and have been watching with disappointment. The sponsor of Bill C-63, the Minister of Finance, is embroiled in so many scandals that I do not even know where to begin. Prior to many allegations coming to light, people from North Island—Powell River, my riding, came to my office, wrote me letters, and sent emails protesting and expressing deep concern around Bill C-27, a bill that would weaken pension obligations. When Canadians later learned that the sponsor of that bill, the Minister of Finance, still owns shares in Morneau Shepell, they were concerned. I was asked whether this means that the minister will make millions off the prospect of the bill. They were concerned that the minister would make even more if the bill were passed. This is one of the clearest cases of conflict of interest that we have seen in years. That is why we need a formal investigation into the minister's actions.

Imagine, as well, the sudden influx of calls, emails, and mail in constituency offices across Canada. when the finance minister started his so-called consultation on the small business tax. The minister failed to respect Canadian small business owners in this process. In my riding, I represent many small businesses. In our region, our economy has had many challenges. We have seen a significant change, from a very focused resource-based economy, broadening to include a strong and growing small business community. In the summer, many of the farmers and owners of tourism-based businesses contacted my offices. Many of them simply did not have time during the summer to participate in any consultation.

I also had the honour of meeting with some doctors in my region. What was most disheartening was hearing how hurt they were when the Prime Minister of Canada talked about the so-called rich doctors. In many rural and remote communities across Canada, finding health professionals is hard, and it is getting harder. The doctors who spoke with me were very concerned about the divisive nature of those comments and the impacts on their work in their communities.

Returning to the finance minister, the people from my riding are very concerned about the minister hiding his wealth from the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. I do not know many Canadians who would have forgotten their house in the south of France. So much for a transparent government. The same minister still has a series of numbered accounts stashed away from public scrutiny. This raises more troubling questions. Let us not forget that the Ethics Commissioner came to exist as a part of the Federal Accountability Act in 2007, after another series of Liberal moral and ethical failings. Today the Liberals have found more ways than ever to protect their friends, the tax cheats, by not addressing the sophisticated systems that can only be used by the wealthiest and most connected.

Bills like the one we are debating here today would not change much for hard-working Canadians, and my riding is full of everyday hard-working Canadians. Bills like Bill C-63 would keep protecting cheaters from scrutiny and justice, and that is not right. As the paradise papers are still unravelling, I cannot say that I have much confidence in the current government, other than having a good sound bite for the media. One thing to keep in mind is that the paradise papers are a result of a leak from only one firm. There are many other firms out there carrying trusts and offshore companies linked to Canadians. It is a matter of finding them, and CRA is simply not doing enough.

The latest report from the Auditor General was not friendly to the Canada Revenue Agency. While tax cheats are not its main focus, the report highlights a total mismanagement of CRA call centres. The AG's report indicates that the CRA has been blocking over 50% of Canadians' calls for help. Even worse, CRA agents are providing misleading or inaccurate information almost 30% of the time. The Auditor General's report also focused on the failings of the Liberals' responsibility to implement the Phoenix program. In fact, the AG pointed out that the Liberals have no idea of the full extent and causes of the Phoenix problem. It is estimated that it will take years before solving pay problems, and will most likely cost Canadians around $1 billion.

However, this is about so much more than just $1 billion. It is about civil servants across Canada not receiving their pay. It is about Canadians losing their homes, having to go to food banks, having their credit destroyed, and family stress. It is very important that, in this House, we recognize that civil servants are still going to work every day even when they are not getting paid. These people are dedicated to their work and to Canadians. Many of my constituents have asked why the government does not have someone writing cheques until this is figured out, because they just need to be paid. I have taken the time to talk about this failing, because I know Canadians want this problem fixed. What better way to fix it then in a budget implementation bill?

Bill C-63 lays the foundation for Canada's membership in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which we believe will cause many problems. In fact, Bill C-63 allows the finance minister to transfer $480 million Canadian to the bank. Since the bank was only recently launched, the government cannot fully evaluate the risks of privatizing infrastructure in countries where the bank will invest. Some experts have raised concerns about the lack of provisions regarding environmental impact assessments, labour rights, or anti-corruption reforms, as is generally the case with loans made by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

It is difficult to say with any certainty, because the bank has only been in existence for one year, whether it will be respecting international standards. We need better assurances from the government about these concerns, and we need proof that the bank will not contribute to privatization of infrastructures, the degradation of the environment, and the violation of labour rights. The government cannot pay its own federal employees, but we can spend $480 million on a foreign initiative that may privatize infrastructure. The government cannot catch tax cheats or fix our revenue agency, but it can spend $480 million on a foreign initiative that degrades the environment. It cannot understand the realities of small businesses, but it can spend $480 million on a foreign initiative that will potentially violate labour rights.

Let us recap what progress has been made on the first budget implementation bill, including the Canadian infrastructure bank. A few months in, and the federal government has moved in predictable Liberal fashion, with a board made up largely of Liberal donors and promoters of privatization. This list includes James Cherry, the former president and CEO of Aéroports de Montréal, who has previously advocated for airport privatization. How surprising. I cannot wait to read the AG report on this.

However, wait, there is more. The bank will be subject to audits at a lower standard and with less transparency than the Auditor General has over direct government departments, despite the $35 billion in public funding to establish the bank. Again, so much for a transparent government.

Before the budget was tabled, our finance critic wrote the finance minister to ask him to include some provisions to create a fairer and greener society. For example, we asked him to cap CEO stock options for large companies; actively fight tax havens; establish a $15-per hour minimum wage for workers; invest in energy-efficient home renovations; address accessibility problems linked to housing, drinking water, mental health services, and education in first nations communities; and establish a universal pharmacare system. None of these provisions were implemented.

After two years of listening to the government talk about the middle class and those working to join it, this budget demonstrates, for a fact, that Liberals have no idea who those people are.

I cannot support this bill. It clearly has too many gaps that leave the most vulnerable with little, and does not address the important parts of moving towards a fair tax system.

EthicsOral Questions

November 24th, 2017 / 11:30 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Shannon Stubbs Conservative Lakeland, AB

Madam Speaker, the Liberals keep blaming the Ethics Commissioner when they break the rules. They say she is there to safeguard the integrity of the House. However, I think Canadians send MPs here to always stand up for their best interests, trusting we all know how to follow the rules and that we are ethical.

Instead, the finance minister designed Bill C-27, which will enrich his billion dollar family business. He is now one of three Liberals, including the Prime Minister, under investigation by the Ethics Commissioner.

Do the Liberals actually know the difference between right and wrong?

EthicsOral Questions

November 24th, 2017 / 11:30 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, this sounds like an episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

A rich businessman wonders how he can grow his fortune and realizes that requires amending some laws. Since the government does not want to do it, he runs for office and becomes the Liberal finance minister. He introduces Bill C-27, and lo and behold, it works and he rakes in the dough.

Except, oops, the minister gets caught by the media, the Ethics Commissioner, and the opposition. He sells his shares, gets the profits, donates them to charity, and will get a generous tax refund.

The Minister of Finance has lost the trust of Canadians. When will he come down to earth and come clean on all of his financial affairs?

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's AssetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2017 / 5 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.

As the member of Parliament for the riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, located in the heart of the Ottawa Valley, I am pleased to be allowed this honour to thank the constituents for the trust they have placed in me to represent their interests in the Parliament of Canada.

I also take this opportunity to congratulate my eastern Ontario colleague, the MP from Carleton, for his exemplary service to Canadians as the shadow finance minister and author of the motion we are debating today.

The motion presented by the Conservative Party, Canada's government in waiting, calls on the finance minister to reveal all of the assets he has bought, sold, or held within his private companies or trust funds since he became the finance minister to determine if his financial interests have conflicted with his public duties.

I have heard from many Canadians that they do not trust the finance minister, the member for Toronto Centre. They see him as a one percenter who made his money helping other Toronto wealthy one percenters avoid paying their fair share of taxes through the use of complicated tax avoidance schemes like offshore bank accounts. They do not believe the silly, repetitious talking points prepared for them by Gerald Butts in the Prime Minister's Office, and they do not believe the controversial Ben Chin, the recently hired excuse writer for the hon. member from Toronto.

Ben Chin is a refugee from Kathleen Wynne's Toronto Liberal Party. His specialty is finding ways to increase people's power bills. Explaining tax increases to pay for bad deficit spending is his current job description. He is doing a lousy job, and Canadians are not buying what his party is selling. What Canadians see is a very greedy, rich Liberal Party insider.

Let us be clear. The Toronto Centre MP has seen his personal financial holdings substantially increase since he was appointed finance minister by his fellow one percenter and trust fund beneficiary, the Prime Minister.

Morneau Shepell, the family company that we think the finance minister holds a million or two shares in, but do not know the exact number because he refuses to come clean with Canadians, reported a 2017 third-quarter profit of $9.7 million. That is up a whopping 85.3% from the same period in 2016. The Toronto Centre MP knows about the big jump in profits because he neglected to put his vast personal holdings in a blind trust, which is what he was required to do, and he misled Canadians into believing he had done so. We know he broke the law because he was found guilty by the Ethics Commissioner of Parliament and fined for not setting up a blind trust.

The Parliamentary ethics officer is investigating the contravention of Canada's ethics laws by the Toronto Centre MP from his introduction of legislation that could personally benefit his vast private fortune. That legislation, Bill C-27, has been identified by outsiders as a massive conflict of interest.

Canadians will not be able to judge the conflict of interest until the finance minister reveals all of the assets he has bought, sold, or held within all his private companies or trust funds since he became the finance minister. Only then will Canadians be able to determine if his financial interests have conflicted with his public duties and whether Bill C-27 is worth supporting.

One thing Canadians know for certain is that $9.7 million would pay for a lot of snowsuits and warm boots. This is particularly true in my riding in eastern Ontario, where many parents are forced to choose to heat or eat, thanks to the corrupt environmental policy of the Toronto Liberal Party. Taxpayers ask how corrupt the policy is. With figures from Stats Canada, there are between 550,000 and 700,000 households at risk of having to choose either to heat or eat in Ontario.

Another example of bad deficit spending this year is that the Toronto Liberal Party will add $660 million to the provincial deficit to pay for the bad hydro policy it has blamed on man-made global warming, not including the $40 billion in deferred taxes that will have to be collected after the next election to pay for the unfair hydro plan.

The finance minister and his Toronto Bay Street buddies do not care about seniors who are impoverished by their energy bills. They avoid paying their fair share of taxes using complicated tax schemes and offshore tax shelters. Canadians know this is the case, as the amount of taxes collected from the wealthiest Canadians has been dropping since the finance minister was appointed.

This is not the first time that smart voters in Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke have made the connection between Liberal Party insiders and the attack on seniors, veterans, and pensioners by the finance minister. In the 2011 election, the finance minister's party parachuted a Toronto Bay Street lawyer into my riding, Christine Tabbert, a partner at the Toronto Bay Street law firm Fasken Martineau DuMoulin, which included then Liberal Party president Alfred Apps. In a clear demonstration of how smart Ottawa Valley voters are, parachuted Liberal candidate Christine Tabbert came fourth in that election, behind even the NDP, the worst ever Liberal Party showing in Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke.

Ms. Tabbert would go on to seek the Liberal nomination for the Toronto riding of Trinity—Spadina, only to be convinced to withdraw from a nomination race marked by controversy and legal challenges. She was rewarded for dropping out of the nomination with a political appointment after the last election, only to find herself losing that position after the minister she was chief of staff for was demoted for failing to help veterans.

Ms. Tabbert came to the attention of the Liberal Party and Mr. Apps by being counsel for Kerry (Canada) Inc., representing the company against a group of company pensioners. The employees lost their case to be protected from the company's withdrawing of funds from their pension plan.

The lawyer who represented the former Kerry employees said the big losers in this case were members of defined pension plans. The lawyer said that the decision would lead to the erosion of defined benefit plans. In particular, he stated, “I don't believe this is in the best interest of workers in this province or in this country.” The lawyer for one of the intervenors in the case, the Association of Canadian Pension Management stated, “A number of companies were already doing this.... They would have been exposed if the decision went the other way.”

Morneau Shepell, the company the finance minister held shares in, is currently an executive member of the Association of Canadian Pension Management, so Canadians know that the finance Minister was closely informed of this court case.

Could it be that before he was finance minister, he was advising companies to raid workers' pension plans?

Could it be that when he was appointed finance minister by our entitled Prime Minister, he knew there was a problem that required a fix? Could it be that the fix was Bill C-27?

Canadians need answers.

On September 18, The Globe and Mail revealed that retired postal workers had warned the Ethics Commissioner in a letter that the finance minister could be in a conflict of interest over the pension legislation, Bill C-27, and its potential benefits for Morneau Shepell. The same letter was delivered to the Toronto Centre MP's office on Sept. 18.

It is now over two months later, and still the finance minister refuses to practice openness and transparency with all Canadians.

The Conservative Party believes that all parliamentarians, regardless of their professional background, need to follow the rules and disclose their private interests publicly. Canadians expect openness and transparency from their government.

Canadians have a right to know if the member for Toronto Centre is profiting from his position as finance minister and whether or not his financial interests have conflicted with his public duties.

Currently, three members of the Liberal cabinet are being investigated by the Ethics Commissioner, including the Prime Minister and the finance minister. The finance minister was caught exploiting loopholes to shelter his wealth, and secretly profited in the millions of dollars from a publicly traded company while implementing policies and regulations that directly impact that company. Now he is under investigation for introducing pension legislation that could profit that company, Morneau Shepell.

It is time for the Prime Minister to come clean with Canadians and order his finance minister to reveal all of his assets. Let Canadians be the judge of whether his government is suffering from conflicts of interest.

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's AssetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2017 / 4:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

We are here to serve Canadians. Our focus is on service. We did not get all dressed up to put on a dog and pony show. The government members always seem ready to take selfies and make the headlines, but we are here to serve our constituents.

I would like to remind all of the Canadians who are watching at home that Bill C-27 could benefit a company like Morneau Shepell or serve the interests of an MP or minister, and that is not right.

Earlier, I spoke about people who plan to hold a protest on EI because they are having difficulty making ends meet. The infamous spring gap has still not been resolved. These are the sorts of issues that we should be dealing with as MPs, fundamental issues, not superficial ones.

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's AssetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2017 / 4:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my wonderful colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue.

I am proud to rise today to speak to an issue that is very important for all Canadians.

This government brags non-stop about how open and transparent it is. In the mandate letter that the Minister of Finance received from the Prime Minister, it says:

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...

That is exactly what the NDP wants. We want this government to be transparent and for the Minister of Finance to disclose all the assets that he bought, sold, or held in every one of his private companies or in his trusts since being appointed Minister of Finance.

How many times over the past few months has the opposition asked the minister to be accountable? How long have we been trying to get clear and precise answers? If the minister had nothing to hide, he would have stood up only one time, answered the first question he was asked on the matter and we would have moved on. We would not be talking about it today in the House.

Unfortunately, that is not what happened, and this circus has been going on for weeks. I cannot believe that we are spending yet another entire day debating this issue. We could be spending our precious time here in the House debating important issues, such as poverty, to make life better for people in our communities.

We could talk about the workers who get up every morning to work long hours so they can join the middle class, as they are being led to believe. We could talk about employment insurance. Tomorrow, people will again be forced to take to the streets to protest the spring gap and the government's failure to do anything to help seasonal workers. We could even talk about softwood lumber or about amending the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act to protect employees' pensions.

On its website, the Government of Canada pledged to strengthen open government by focusing on three key areas: open data, open information, and open dialogue. According to the website, the idea is to promote transparency.

To reflect these principles of open government, Employment and Social Development Canada even provides free access to information on the use of public funds so that all Canadians can hold Parliament, government, and public officials to account. It is written in black and white.

I believe that this rule also applies to all of us. The mandate letter also states the following:

As minister, you will be held accountable for our commitment to bring a different style of leadership to government. This will include: close collaboration with your colleagues; meaningful engagement with opposition members of Parliament...

I somewhat doubt that the minister, by hiding the truth, has been true to his mandate letter.

The Minister of Finance has repeatedly broken the trust of Canadians. Initially, he let them believe that he had placed his Morneau Shepell shares in a blind trust. He did not. He then introduced a bill that would directly benefit Morneau Shepell and, consequently, the Minister of Finance himself. The minister used a loophole in the Conflict of Interest Act to put his shares in a private numbered company rather than divest himself of them or put them in a blind trust.

During the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics’ 2014 legislative review of the act, the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner recommended that this loophole be closed

The minister’s efforts to promote Bill C-27 look a lot like conflict of interest and could very well be a serious violation of the rules governing conflicts of interest. It is undeniable that, if Bill C-27 were to pass, Morneau Shepell would benefit from significantly more business and revenues and, as a major investor in the company, the minister would derive a personal financial benefit.

The more we learn about this business, the more we understand why the minister does not take more vigorous measures to tax the very wealthy, like closing the tax loophole related to stock options for CEOs. New Democrats believe that the government should work for all Canadians, not only a few friends of the government, and not only for those at the top of the food chain. The minister should apologize for betraying Canadians’ trust.

The Minister of Finance introduced Bill C-27, which would increase the use of pension plans known as “target benefit plans”. Morneau Shepell just happens to be a strong proponent of target benefit plans and an administrator of related services. The company could be one of the only four companies in the country to benefit from the new pension administration rules if Bill C-27 passes.

Bill C-27 would increase Morneau Shepell’s business and revenues, since the company would be able to help its current clients transition to target benefit plans requiring yearly actuarial valuations, while current pension plans require actuarial valuations only every three years.

The Minister of Finance either directly holds, or held, over two million shares in Morneau Shepell, evaluated at $43 million. Bill C-27 is a government bill introduced by the minister himself as Minister of Finance, and he forgot to declare a conflict of interest.

Five days after the minister’s bill was introduced, the value of his Morneau Shepell shares rose by almost 5%, or $2 million. That looks a lot like a conflict of interest, since the minister was in a position to improve his private interests in the execution of his public duties as Minister of Finance.

Recently, thinking he could put a lid on the issue, the Minister of Finance said he would donate any income from his Morneau Shepell shares since he took office to charity. What he did not tell us, however, is what would happen with the tax refund from his donation. We are not fools. We know very well that the donation will decrease the minister’s own income tax. He could benefit from a tax credit of up to 29% of the amount of the donation. How very charitable of him.

In conclusion, we are not here to improve our own lives as members of Parliament or ministers. We are here to improve the lives of those we represent in our ridings across Canada. We must be transparent. If I get my credit line increased, I would have to contact the Ethics Commissioner. I would fill out the forms. It is our responsibility. All we are asking is that the minister take responsibility and declare his assets, nothing more.

I sincerely believe that he should apologize. Any conflict of interest, whether it is the one we are talking about today or the others we have been talking about over the past few weeks, serve only to fuel cynicism regarding all politicians.

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's AssetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2017 / 4:25 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Ethics Commissioner is the ethics watchdog, but she needs accurate information in order to do her job.

However, on three occasions, the Minister of Finance failed to provide her with accurate information. First, he said he was going to put his assets in a blind trust. Then, he forgot all about his villa in Provence. Then, he said he collaborated on Bill C-27, but only after the fact.

One, two, three strikes and he is out.