An Act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985

Sponsor

Bill Morneau  Liberal

Status

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

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

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985 to provide a framework for the establishment, administration and supervision of target benefit plans. It also amends the Act to permit pension plan administrators to purchase immediate or deferred life annuities for former members or survivors so as to satisfy an obligation to provide pension benefits if the obligation arises from a defined benefit provision.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 16th, 2019 / 10:20 a.m.
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NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, today I have two petitions to table in the House.

The first is largely from the members of the Comox Valley, who call on the government to withdraw Bill C-27. The concern is that prior to the 2015 federal election, Canadians were clearly promised. in writing. that the defined benefits plans, which have already been paid for by employees and pensioners, should not be retroactively changed into target benefit plans.

The petitioners are very passionate about this and call on the government to do the right thing and withdraw Bill C-27.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 16th, 2019 / 10:15 a.m.
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NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, the people who signed this petition want to draw the government's attention to the fact that, before the 2015 election, the Liberals promised that the defined pension benefit plan that people had already contributed to would not be retroactively changed into a target benefit plan. However, that is exactly what the finance minister's Bill C-27 does.

The petitioners are calling on the government to withdraw this unfair bill.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 13th, 2019 / 3:15 p.m.
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NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise to present a petition on behalf of my constituents and other Canadians.

Petitioners are calling on the government to withdraw Bill C-27. They note that in the 2015 federal election, the Liberals promised Canadians in writing that defined benefit plans that have already been paid for by employees would not be retroactively changed into target benefit plans. Of course, after the election, the government changed that and Bill C-27 came into play.

Petitioners are calling on the government to withdraw the bill and to honour what it said it would do during the 2015 election.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 13th, 2019 / 3:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Alice Wong Conservative Richmond Centre, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise to present a petition to the House of Commons that calls for the withdrawal of Bill C-27, an act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985.

Bill C-27 tabled by the Minister of Finance precisely permits the change for defined benefits, therefore jeopardizing the retirement income security of Canadians who have negotiated defined benefit plans as a form of deferred wages.

The petitioners call on the government of Canada to withdraw Bill C-27, an act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 7th, 2019 / 10:05 a.m.
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NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present two petitions on the same subject.

The petitioners point out that before the 2015 federal election, Canadians were clearly promised in writing that defined benefit pension plans, which have already been paid for by employees and pensioners, should not be retroactively changed into target benefit plans.

They also point out that Bill C-27, tabled by the Minister of Finance, permits precisely this change, thereby jeopardizing the retirement income security of Canadians who have negotiated defined benefit plans as a form of deferred wages.

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

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 6th, 2019 / 3:05 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition here recognizing that before the 2015 election, Canadians were clearly promised in writing that defined benefit plans, which have already been paid for by employees, employers and pensioners, should not be retroactively changed to target benefit plans.

Therefore, the petitioners are clearly calling on the Government of Canada to withdraw Bill C-27, which was tabled by the Minister of Finance in this place.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 3rd, 2019 / 12:20 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present two petitions today. The first is from residents of the tri-cities of Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody in British Columbia, as well as the cities of Burnaby and Langley. These petitioners join their voices to those of thousands of Canadians who have already signed petitions that have been tabled in the House.

They are concerned about the promise that was made in the 2015 election that defined benefit pension plans would not be changed. Bill C-27, tabled by the Minister of Finance attacks directly the issue of defined benefit plans.

All of these petitioners—and I would say a big thanks to the BC Retired Teachers' Association and the National Association of Federal Retirees—are calling on the Government of Canada to withdraw Bill C-27, an act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act. They are concerned about gutting defined benefit pensions.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 3rd, 2019 / 12:10 p.m.
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NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to table three petitions from very active members in my constituency.

The first petition is a call to withdraw Bill C-27. This is an important issue for many of my constituents, because before the 2015 federal election, Canadians were clearly promised, in writing, that defined benefit plans, which have already been paid for by employers and pensioners, should not be retroactively changed to target benefit plans. The petitioners are calling on the Government of Canada to withdraw Bill C-27.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 1st, 2019 / 3:35 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to add more petitioners to the thousands of Canadians who are demanding that the government withdraw Bill C-27.

I would like to pay tribute to JoAnne and Dale Lauber and all the activists involved from the BC Retired Teachers' Federation who have been approaching members of Parliament and collecting signatures. These teachers have given all their lives to the community and continue to give to better our country.

All these petitioners, the thousands who have signed thus far, are saying that given that the government actually promised that it would not gut defined benefit plans, Bill C-27 should be withdrawn, because it would jeopardize the retirement income security of Canadians who have negotiated defined benefit plans as a form of deferred wages.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 1st, 2019 / 3:35 p.m.
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NDP

Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Madam Speaker, the second petition is from petitioners who are calling on the government to withdraw Bill C-27. They state that before the 2015 federal election Canadians were clearly promised, in writing, that defined benefit plans that have already been paid for by employees and pensioners should not be retroactively changed to target benefit plans.

The petitioners also state that Bill C-27, tabled by the Minister of Finance, would precisely permit this change, thereby jeopardizing the retirement income security of Canadians. Therefore, the petitioners are calling on the Government of Canada to withdraw Bill C-27, an act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 1st, 2019 / 3:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

Madam Speaker, this is a petition that was given to me by teachers in Fort St. John, Dawson Creek, Charlie Lake and Taylor. It talks about Bill C-27 stating that before the 2015 election, Canadians were clearly promised in writing that defined benefit plans, which have already been paid for by employees and pensioners, should not be retroactively changed into target benefit plans. It also refers to Bill C-27, tabled by the Minister of Finance, which would precisely permit the change.

The petitioners call on the government to withdraw Bill C-27, an act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985.

Opposition Motion—Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2019 / 6:20 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, after listening to the member for Winnipeg North's speech, I would just like to remind my colleagues that this is only day one of the remaining seven weeks, so we should all pace ourselves.

As always, in these dying days of the 42nd Parliament, it is a great honour to stand in this place. It is a real privilege to be the voice of the amazing constituents of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford. I appreciated, as I am sure all members did, the previous two weeks, when I got to go to my riding on beautiful Vancouver Island, where spring actually arrived when it was supposed to. I enjoyed the sunshine, speaking with constituents and going to many community events.

I was really excited when I saw the notice of the motion we had picked to debate today. I think it goes to the heart of the kind of message that we, as a party, want to put out there to differentiate ourselves from the other parties in this place.

Before I got into politics as an elected member, I used to work for a former member of Parliament, Jean Crowder. I can remember going to an event at someone's house and seeing an old poster by the CCF. The tag of the poster was “People Before Profits”. That is one of the principles that has always guided me personally, that the people of our great country are key.

We can look at the staggering amount of wealth that corporations have. Some people may see a corporation's wealth by how big its bank account is, how well its executives are paid and how well its shareholders do with dividends. However, in this corner of the House, we prefer to see the wealth of a company in the workers, the services they provide and the things they build. It is ultimately the workers of the company who are on the front line, providing those services to people and giving the company its reputation. In all of our efforts, by all parties, it would serve us well to remember that.

The main thrust of this motion today is that given the experiences over the last three and a half years of this Parliament, we feel there have been some demonstrations quite clearly that corporate executives and their lobbyists have had far too much access to and influence on the Government of Canada.

The most recent example of this, which I think many Canadians still quite clearly remember, is the SNC-Lavalin affair. When that news story broke in the The Globe and Mail on February 7, it very much altered the political landscape. I remember the Liberals first reaction to that story was to deny it, to say that it was not true, that there was no pressure. However, their narrative kept on changing as more facts kept coming out. Ultimately, what it resulted in was the loss of two of their most capable ministers, the member for Vancouver Granville and the member for Markham—Stouffville, the loss of the Prime Minister's principal secretary and the loss of the former clerk of the Privy Council.

Why is that whole affair relevant to the motion today? Last year, unbeknown to parliamentarians and even the Canadian public, a small section was hidden in one of the budget omnibus bills, which even the Liberal backbenchers found out about, with surprise, when they were studying the bill at the standing committee on finance. Of course that was the provision in the budget bill to bring in an amendment to the Criminal Code that would allow for deferred prosecution agreements. I am not against deferred prosecution agreements per se. They can in some cases be a very legitimate tool. The important thing, though, is that it is not up to me to decide that. It is not up to anyone in this chamber to decide that. That role falls squarely on the shoulders of the director of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada.

That brings me to the next step in this whole sordid affair. We found out that it was SNC-Lavalin that lobbied hard to get such an amendment into the Criminal Code and it succeeded with that. Then it started this coordinated orchestrated campaign with the Prime Minister's Office to get the former attorney general, the member for Vancouver Granville, to basically overrule the director of public prosecutions.

When I sat on the justice committee, I was at Ms. Kathleen Roussel's confirmation hearing. She is a very accomplished lady who has immense qualifications for the job. However, when she was looking at the request for a deferred prosecution agreement, she had all the relevant facts of the case before her, she knew what the provisions of the law were and in her capacity, she made the decision that the company was not eligible for a DPA. Of course, she referenced this to the former attorney general of Canada who agreed with that assessment.

The lobbying of the Prime Minister's Office to get the independence of that decision overturned is very worrying. Yes, no laws were broken, but the irony is that no laws were broken because of the efforts of the former attorney general of Canada, who very much stood on her principles and decided she would stand against that pressure and not overrule the director of public prosecutions. Ultimately, she was shuffled out of her cabinet post and then had to resign, followed by her colleague, the member for Markham—Stouffville. The two of them could no longer in good conscience sit in the cabinet and defend the government day to day when they knew the truth of what had really happened behind the scene.

That is item number one of the most clear and recent examples of the awesome power of corporate lobbying and what it was able to achieve with the current government.

I will take members back to 2016 to another example. The government introduced Bill C-10, an amendment to the Air Canada Public Participation Act. This was in spite of the fact that many Liberal MPs represented ridings where aircraft maintenance workers lived and worked and in spite of the fact that in the 2015 election campaign, the Prime Minister was right there with Avios workers, saying that he was there in solidarity with them and that he supported them. However, what did that government bill do? It basically amended the act so that Air Canada, which had done extensive lobbying of the government, would now be free to move its aircraft maintenance work offshore. It would no longer be constrained by the provisions in the act where it had to have maintenance facilities in places like Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. Again, this goes to the heart of where corporate lobbying led to a change in the law, which ultimately will and has hurt workers.

Of course, we have the Minister of Finance who brought in Bill C-27, which I am very happy to see remains in purgatory, stuck at first reading. The government has been far too timid to bring it forward for debate, because it knows the uproar that would happen. The Minister of Finance own company, Morneau Shepell, used to specialize in this kind of work of changing pension plans. The Liberals finally became aware of the uproar that would happen, and that bill has not proceeded any further, which I am glad to see. However, it did not stop the Minister of Finance who, in a clear conflict of interest, introduced that bill in the first place, showing what the Liberals' intent was all along.

Then, of course, I move to pharmacare. I was listening to the member for Winnipeg North as his volume got steadily higher and higher. We have short memories in this place. It was back in 1997, 22 years ago, when the old Liberal empire of the 1990s was at the height of its power. Members will remember that the Liberals won a majority in 1993, again in 1997 and again in 2000. This was a clear promise they made in 1997. They did not follow through with it then, they did not follow through with it in the 2000 government and here we are, three and a half years into the term of the current majority government, and what do we have? We have a paragraph in the budget, which is an intention to do more consultation. However, we can look at the lobbying records and the coordinated campaign that was brought about by the pharmaceutical industry. On average, pharmaceutical companies and their associations lobbied the government approximately 49 times, which is about the average over 11 years. However, in 2018 alone, it was 104 times.

The report by the Standing Committee on Health recommended a universal pharmacare plan, one that all Canadians can get behind, one that would save Canadian families $4.5 billion. On average, Canadian families would save about $550 and some families would save far more.

The proof is in the pudding, because instead of us being at a point where we could implement a national universal pharmacare plan, the lobbying has had its desired effect. What we are probably going to get from the Liberals, these masters of the long promise, the ones who like to tell people to re-elect them and they might get what they want, is that the lion's share of the national housing strategy is going to come after 2019, and the pharmacare plan is probably going to be some kind of a patchwork system. In other words, the pharmaceutical industry was able, through its lobbying efforts, to get what it wanted all along. It wanted to have a patchwork system where it still had that key role to play.

Finally, there is the Loblaws example. My friend from Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke had it perfectly in his intervention earlier when he asked why a company as wealthy as Loblaws is able to access $12 million, when it commands so much wealth and would have been able to do that itself, headed by a man who is worth more than $13 billion. For Mr. Weston, $12 million is pocket change. That is something he could lose in the blink of an eye, a rounding error for a billionaire.

The question is legitimate. Why is this money not being made available to the corner stores, to small businesses, which would use that $12 million to make significant upgrades to their bottom line to be energy-efficient. No one is arguing the fact that we need to take these steps. What we are trying to underline is the power of big corporations, the lobbying efforts they can employ with the government to get those kinds of corporate handouts, when small businesses, the ones that really need them, are being left behind far too often.

I appreciate this time to speak on behalf of the constituents of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford.

Opposition Motion—Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2019 / 5:50 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, whether it is the legislation that was put in the 2018 budget bill that helped out SNC-Lavalin or whether it is Bill C-27 that the Minister of Finance introduced but did not advance any further, we see concrete examples of legislation being changed to suit corporate interests.

One bill that passed three years ago now was Bill C-10, direct lobbying from Air Canada, to amend the Air Canada Public Participation Act so it had the freedom to move its maintenance facilities offshore. Lo and behold, Liberal MPs from ridings where those maintenance workers lived supported that legislation.

I would like my colleague to comment on that bill. Memories are short in this place and it would serve us all well to remind Canadians of that particularly egregious example back in 2016 and what the Liberal government was prepared to do for its corporate friends in Air Canada to the detriment of the maintenance workers.

Opposition Motion—Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2019 / 5:20 p.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, I am so proud to rise for the New Democratic Party today. I will be sharing my time with the member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques.

I rise to talk about the corrosive power of the 1% with the current Liberal government. We have a Prime Minister who won so much support from Canadians, because coming after the years of Stephen Harper and the ugly scandals with Nigel Wright and the dodgy senators the Conservatives appointed, such as Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy, we had the present Prime Minister promise to do government a different way. What we saw quickly after the Liberals came to power was the same old grotty, rum-bottle politics on the Rideau that have been the mark of the Liberal Party for the last 150 years. It is always about the friends. It is always about corruption.

When I talk to people back home, they cannot for the life of them understand why this Prime Minister thought it was a good idea to give $12 million to a guy who lives in a gated community in Florida, who fought against giving his employees a living wage and whose company was found guilty of cheating Canadian families out of bread. These are the people who belong to the Laurier Club, and these are the people who are invited to hang out with the Prime Minister and with the senior staff of the environment minister because they give money to the Liberal Party. Canadians know that it is wrong.

The Canadians I represent in the north work hard. They play by the rules. Many of them do not have pensions. Many of them are facing increasingly perilous short-term and contract work. We see not just an attack on the traditional working class but on the new white-collar working class of people who are working as professors with short-term contract work or as health care workers with short-term contract work. They see a system that is moving increasingly against them, yet they have this Prime Minister who said that the Liberals were there to support the middle class and those wanting to join it. This Prime Minister made them believe, but what we have seen with the current government is that it is always about the super-rich and the policies that favour them.

When we saw the Stelco pensions being undermined, just as the Nortel pensions before them had been undermined, and we saw the Sears workers being ripped off by hedge-fund predators, and we asked day after day in this House that the government do something, the Liberals were not going to do anything to help those pensioners. They got up and cried crocodile tears and showed their emotion, but the family business of the finance minister, Morneau Shepell, is the company that got the contracts to wrap up those pensions.

It is about the power of lobbyists. In fact, the Liberals are so tightly in with lobbyists that we had the present finance minister, in 2013, talk about the need to change legislation so that it would be easier for Morneau Shepell to take over the defined pension benefits. In 2014, Morneau Shepell gave recommendations about changing the legislation to make it easier for its business model. Instead of having to have a lobbyist, the company just got its guy elected as finance minister, and the very first thing he did was Bill C-27, which would have made it easy for the privatized pension industry to retroactively go after pension benefits. They were not here to represent working-class people. They were here to represent the investors and the 1%, of which this finance minister is a part.

We have been going after the Liberals for their unwillingness to go after international tax cheats. We have just heard from them that they are taking tax fairness seriously. Really? Loblaws has been found to have set up a Barbados bank. It is claiming that it was just holding the money, but hundreds of millions of dollars of tax money Canadians should have received to improve the system of services for Canadians are not being paid because of this offshore tax haven.

In Canada, when ordinary workers do not pay their taxes, the government comes down on them with all the power it has. However, when Loblaws does not pay its taxes because it has set up an offshore tax haven, it gets a $12 million gift. Then we get told how great it is for the environment. Thank God for Galen Weston.

Canadians might think I am just picking on Galen because he lives in a gated community in Florida and rips families off for the price of bread and does not want to pay a half-decent wage. Canadians might think I am just being mean; it is the whole class-conscious NDP who do not understand how things are with their betters. However, it is the pattern.

It is the pattern we saw with KPMG that established an international tax fraud scheme for the millionaires and billionaires. When it was caught, not a single person was found guilty. Nobody. I go back to folks back home, and my God if they got an overpayment on their EI, there is no mercy. However, KPMG set up this offshore account for rich billionaires to not have to pay taxes, and no one was charged. In fact, not only were there no charges, but, lo and behold, the same month that the Prime Minister stopped the investigation into KPMG, the Liberal Party of Canada hired a KPMG director to oversee the finances of the Liberal Party. I guess if they can set up offshore tax havens, they probably have the moral backbone to represent the Liberal Party.

It is the same with SNC-Lavalin. The government does not understand why it is in trouble. It thinks that getting someone to call into the Prime Minister's office because they worked on the Trudeau Foundation or they go to the same country clubs that it is, “Hey, what is the problem? We were just trying to change the law.” The law on deferred prosecutions was actually rewritten for SNC-Lavalin, and it still did not meet the criteria.

They had a whole series of efforts to intervene and undermine, and get to the director of public prosecutions, which is why the OECD anti-bribery unit is investigating and watching Canada. It said that the government's actions have lit all the alarm bells. We could go on about the SNC issue all day.

However, what I thought was fascinating is that the SNC lawyer fighting Canada is Frank Iacobucci. Michael Wernick told the former attorney general that she had to be careful with this guy, that he was not a shrinking violet. He is also the same guy who was appointed by the Prime Minister to oversee the Trans Mountain consultations. It is the same little circle of friends who look after each other time and time again.

We have a situation here. We need to have a system where Canadians can trust that there is fairness. They cannot have belief and trust when what is being run in Ottawa are the phone calls into the Prime Minister's office to change laws, to do favours, because of who people know in the PMO. That is the fundamental rot that makes people not believe in the system.

We are looking at the environmental crisis we are facing. The government came back, after the Prime Minister showed off his Haida tattoo, and said they would make everything work. It decided that it would stick with Stephen Harper's greenhouse gas emission targets and with Stephen Harper's investments into the oil sector. Our greenhouse gas emissions, because of what is going on in the oil sands, are higher this year than they were last year, which was higher than it was the year before. Year in, year out, the gas keeps rising. Year in, year out, the government continues to subsidize.

The government tells us that if we give $12 million to Galen Weston to fix his fridges, it will show a whole new commitment to environmental change. What it is really showing is that those who are the super-rich, the super-powerful, those who can get invited to the Laurier Club, can get the lobbyists in to see the key ministers and the Prime Minister and go to cash-for-access events will get their way. That is the broken trust that the Prime Minister is going to have to explain to the Canadian people.

I am more than willing to take questions.

Opposition Motion—Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2019 / 12:05 p.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, corporate executives and their lobbyists have had too much access to and influence over the Government of Canada, setting working Canadians and their families back by:

(a) encouraging attempts by the Prime Minister to undermine the independence of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada and the integrity of Canada’s rule of law;

(b) forcing Canadians to pay high prices for prescription drugs by blocking the establishment of a single, public and universal drug insurance plan;

(c) providing huge subsidies to large oil and gas companies, while putting corporate interests over the protection of Canada’s Pacific coastal waters in the Kinder Morgan pipeline approval process;

(d) motivating the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to give a handout of $12 million to a multi-billion-dollar corporation owned by one of Canada's wealthiest families;

(e) giving Canada's most profitable banks the chance to review and revise a report intended to shed light on anti-consumer banking practices; and

(f) leaving intact a host of tax loopholes that allow the richest Canadians to avoid paying their fair share for Canada’s public services like health care, pensions and housing;

and that therefore, as a first step toward addressing these failings, the government should immediately move to recover the $12 million given to Loblaws and reinvest it to the benefit of working Canadians and their families.

Mr. Speaker, there has been a fair bit of outrage across the country lately at examples of major corporations getting special treatment by the Liberal government.

We think, of course, of the many weeks of the SNC-Lavalin saga. Here the government stands accused of having interfered in what should be Canada's independent legal system on behalf of one particular corporation in an attempt to avoid having it face criminal charges for alleged international bribery. That is an example of a big ask by a corporation. It asked the government to pass a whole new body of legislation in order to create an exit ramp out of the criminal charges, and we saw the entire artifice of government jump to the pump to try to get it done. When some people in government stood up to that, said no and said that they thought it was wrong, they were shown the door. That was the case of a very big ask, and we saw just how willing the government was to try to make that happen for a large corporation.

On the other end of the spectrum, we had what appeared to be a relatively small ask, which was $12 million for Loblaws. The thing about Loblaws is that it is one of the biggest and most profitable corporations in the country. One of Canada's billionaires with one of the most profitable companies came cap in hand to the government and asked for $12 million to help upgrade fridges, and the government was all too happy to say yes. It did not say that the $12 million could be better used to leverage new investment from companies that do not already have the capital to green their infrastructure and operations. It did not say that it wanted to make sure public dollars were spent in the most efficient way possible to help those who otherwise would not have any investment at all and who would not otherwise be reducing their emissions at all. Instead, the government was quick to say that it sounded like a great announcement happening at Loblaws and wanted to know what it would cost to get to the podium. The government wanted to know how it could get a piece of that action and be part of a good-news story.

That is not the way to fight climate change. It might be the way to fight an election, but it is not the way to fight climate change. That is an example of just how prepared the Liberals are to accede to demands by corporate Canada, no matter how small. The big asks get the yes and the small asks get the yes, and it seems that everything in between gets a yes too.

What will it take? What is the threshold? What will it take for this government to say that the interests of large corporations are not in line with the interests of everyday working Canadians?

This will not come as an epiphany to anybody listening at home, but it may came as one to some members on the government bench, given their behaviour: Sometimes the interests of large corporations are not in line with the interests of everyday working Canadians. That happens, but we would not know it from looking at the activity of this government. When big companies come with an ask for the government, the answer is yes. Companies know it is going to be a yes, more and more, which is why the asks are getting more and more outrageous, right down a $12-million ask to supplement what Loblaws was already doing in order to upgrade and green its infrastructure.

That is where the sense of outrage comes from. What our motion today is trying to do is name the elephant in Ottawa, which is corporate influence. It is trying to draw what we believe is the very direct line between the influence those big corporations have here in Ottawa with the government and governments of the past and the pocketbooks of Canadians, as well as the effects this kind of friendly relationship between the Canadian government and corporate lobbyists have on the quality of life of everyday Canadians across the country.

To put that sense of outrage in context, it is because these big corporate asks and acquiescences by government are coming at a time when almost half of Canadians are within $200 of not being able to pay their bills and having to declare insolvency.

That is a real hardship. It is of course a hardship for people who have a loss of employment, a serious health issue, or other situations that mean they may not be able to report to work every day and make that extra $200, and therefore they end up in a financial catastrophe and have to declare bankruptcy. It also a real issue for those living with the stress and anxiety of knowing that if something takes a wrong turn or does not go quite right, they could end up there as well. Even if it does not happen to them, it could happen to their neighbour, friends or family, and they have to live with the stress of knowing that it may happen to them.

Therefore, in the NDP we believe that the goal of government activity and government policy should be to try to bring together people who are facing all of these common challenges, such as the common challenge of finding reasonably affordable child care close to home, the challenge of ensuring that everybody who is retiring from work has an adequate pension income to allow them to continue to live with dignity, and the common challenge of getting good access to health care services in their community.

In my community right now, the big battle is making sure that the provincial Conservative government does not close the Concordia emergency room, as it has promised to do and seems hell-bent on doing this June. That would mean that for the entirety of northeast Winnipeg, there would be no 24-7 access to the health care system close to home in their community. For Canadians across the country, there is the issue of the high cost of prescription drugs, because we know that Canadians pay among the highest costs for prescription drugs.

The NDP approach is to bring together people who are facing those common challenges, and the job of government is to implement solutions that bring those costs down and make life easier for Canadians through facing our challenges together. It is not to hobnob with corporate lobbyists at receptions in Ottawa and then change the law for their benefit. It is not to let them off the hook for their big tax bills, which are not measured in the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, but in the tens of millions and hundreds of millions of dollars. When we talk about the tax havens they use to hide their money so that they do not have pay their fair share, we are talking about tens of billions of dollars. It is not the job of government to look out for those guys and their interests, and that is what we are here to say today. That has been going on for far too long, and it is time that Canadians got to see this place act in their interests.

It is in this context that Canadians are rightly angry when they hear these stories, whether it is a big story like the SNC-Lavalin story or the smaller story like the money given to Loblaws to repair its fridges, which is a symbol. It is not just the amount of money; it is a symbol of government just never really being willing to say no when corporate Canada comes asking.

When it comes to Canada's effort to tackle climate change and reduce our carbon footprint, corporate interests once again get in the way, so much so that the government decided to spend over $4 billion of Canadians' money not to buy a new pipeline, not to build a new pipeline, but to buy an existing pipeline, just as a gift to Kinder Morgan for having come and tried but not being able to get it done. “Thanks for trying, so we will give you billions of dollars in taxpayers' money.”

That money could have been invested in other priorities. It could provide job training for workers in the energy sector to help their skills align better with the new energy economy that is already under way and already developing. It could also be used to invest in new infrastructure projects that would create more of those kinds of jobs and more opportunity for on-the-job training in that new sector and new economy.

However, we did not see that and we did not get that.

Instead, what we have seen is a government that was silent and has not done anything for workers like those at Stelco and Sears who, when their companies went bankrupt, lost their pension income. Workers still do not have protection to prevent that from happening again. Not only did the government do nothing for them except remind them that they could apply for EI, but it has not done anything for workers of the future to head off the problems that we know are coming because of the sorry example of Sears and Stelco workers. A long time ago, when we knew these kinds of things would be happening and the NDP was proposing that we protect workers' pensions, the government did not come to their defence and did not put laws on the books to protect them,

The government also turned its back on GM workers in an award-winning plant known for its productivity when GM said that it was closing the doors and moving the plant out of Canada. Once again the Liberals were there to remind them that they too could apply for employment insurance, as if that was something they did not already know or as if that was all they expected from the government.

This is a government that did not require VIA, a publicly owned corporation, to have a Canadian content requirement when sourcing a renewal of its railcar fleet. That should have been a requirement, because when public funds are being used at that level of investment, we should be ensuring that Canadians are getting a piece of the action and that we are creating employment in Canada.

The current government has not only favoured corporate interests over those of ordinary Canadians by doing nothing, and there has been a lot of that, it has gone out of its way to help corporate interests when they conflict with the interests of everyday and working Canadians.

One of the first real acts of the government was to change the law for Air Canada to make it easier for it to outsource its aircraft maintenance work. That was a shame, particularly in light of the Liberals protesting with those same workers before the election, saying that the previous government should apply the law. I suppose the current government is applying the law, because it changed it to make it easy for Air Canada to outsource its work and is now applying the law that does not protect workers.

The Liberals have signed trade deals, which were negotiated and applauded by the Conservatives, that enshrine and give real protection of law to corporate rights, but only pay lip service to the rights of workers and the environment.

When Canada Post, another Crown corporation, was in a conflict with its workers in the fall, instead of changing management or giving it a direction to bargain in good faith, the current government passed back-to-work legislation and rewarded the intransigence of Canada Post's management instead of standing up for those workers.

Subsidies to large oil and gas companies continue, even though we know we have to transition to a green economy. That money could be used to retrain workers from the energy sector. It could be used to invest in projects like what the NDP has announced, which is to retrofit every home in Canada to improve efficiency, to not just reduce our carbon footprint but also the monthly heating costs of Canadians. That money could be used for a fund to help Canadians and their pocketbooks while also reducing our carbon footprint. Instead, it is going to the largest oil and gas producers in the country, whose production continues to go up while royalty revenue goes down and the effects of climate change manifest evermore seriously and urgently.

The promises made by the Liberals to eliminate tax loopholes and havens have been ignored. That is all revenue that can go to a just transition to a greener future, lowering the cost of prescription drugs or building more affordable housing. It is not innocent that the money goes away or that it does not have an impact on Canadians. The fact that we do not see it does not mean it is not having an impact when we compare it to what we could be doing if that money were here and people were paying their fair share, as they should. Canadians are seriously losing out.

Internet giants are another example. They are competing with Canadian businesses that are paying their taxes, but they do not have to pay any themselves. That comes at a real cost to Canadians.

All of these things are a continuation of an approach that we saw under the last Conservative government, which was to deregulate, privatize and give major corporate tax cuts, presumably to invest in the economy. The late Jim Flaherty said to corporate Canada at the time that the money was supposed to be invested back into the economy and that it ought to be doing that. That is a nice thing to say, but he did not compel it or raise the corporate tax rate back up, because they were keeping it for themselves, their investors and executives instead. He let them have the money. That money still sits either in bank accounts in Canada or across the world where those executives and investors pay less tax.

When we see the lengths to which the government is willing to go to get SNC-Lavalin off the hook, which was a big ask, and even what it is willing to do with respect to the smaller things, we can start to understand the sense of outrage.

The purpose of our motion today is to shine a light on the corporate influence that pervades Ottawa and draw attention to the very real and concrete effect this has on Canadians who work hard every day, who are worried about the cost of their prescriptions and their housing, and who want to fight climate change.

They see a government that makes promises but refuses to deliver on them when those promises are not in line with the interests of big business. It has failed to take action and will never do anything to enable us to tackle climate change, lower the price of prescription drugs and protect our cultural industries. We need to stand up to large corporations like Netflix and insist that they pay their fair share of taxes to support our cultural industries.

These are the issues. There has been a lot of frustration about the SNC-Lavalin affair. People have talked about it a lot, and although they think something wrong has happened in the case, they are not sure of the way forward. They are concerned about a lot of other issues as well.

How does this all tie together? People should care about that issue, not just because it appears that the rule of law is being undermined in Canada, which has a lot of long-standing consequences, but for the reasons I mentioned.

Canadians who are looking for income security in retirement should be concerned that the government has done nothing to legislate against the kind of pension theft we saw in in the case of Sears workers. The government has not done it. It has talked about it in the budget, but it did not put this in the budget bill in the way that deferred prosecution agreement clauses were put in the budget bill. Let us see the government put the pension theft provisions into the budget bill. Then, we will know that the government is serious. It does not do this, because with regard to workers, it pays lip service. With regard to corporations, it takes real, tangible action. We can see this in the news, in the House and in the behaviour of the government.

The finance minister, who comes from the retirement benefits industry, introduced legislation in the House, Bill C-27, that is an attack on Canadians' pensions. There has been no degree of separation such that the government is responding to corporate lobbying. In that case, the corporate lobbyists are in government, doing the job of that industry from the seat of the finance minister. That is how closely tied the government is to the corporate lobby.

We have not seen any action when it comes to pay equity. We know pay equity will come at a cost to Canadian companies, and rightly so. This is the money that Canadian women have been working to earn for decades. They deserve to be paid. However, the government has dragged its feet. It did not drag its feet with respect to DPAs or when Galen Weston asked for $12 million to replace his fridges. We have watched the government drag its feet for three years on the issue of pay equity. Canadian women deserve to get paid fairly for the work they are doing.

Where is the action on that? Where is time allocation on that? Where is that in the omnibus budget bill? It is not there. In the budget, there is also no money for implementation either. There is a pittance in the budget to begin consultative work on how to implement pay equity. It is about the same amount that Galen Weston got for his fridges this year.

Let us talk about pharmacare. With respect to the importance of reducing the cost of prescription drugs for Canadians, study after study has said that the best way to do this is to have one universal publicly administered plan that covers everyone from coast to coast to coast, no matter where people live or how much money they make. What we hear from the Liberals all the time are hints that the plan they are proposing will not protect Canadians against the high cost of prescription drugs but will protect the pharmaceutical industry's profits and the insurance industry's profits. This is from a policy that would create an expansion of service to Canadians while reducing the overall cost of prescription drugs.

We already spend the money it would cost to create a proper pharmacare plan. In fact, we spend more than that. The NDP proposes that we spend less and cover more people. We know that this is possible.

The call to action in the motion asks the government to get the $12 million back and invest it concretely in some of the ways I have suggested today. This will provide a real benefit to working families. The $12 million amount over the entire federal budget may not sound like a lot, but it is an important symbol of the government finally finding the spine to say no to corporate interests and putting the interests of regular everyday working Canadians first.

We have been waiting for the government to do this. It has not done it yet. This is the smallest possible start to this that the government could make, so let us get started and keep going.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 5th, 2019 / 12:20 p.m.
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NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to rise and table a petition on behalf of constituents from Port Alberni, Coombs, Nanoose Bay, Parksville and Qualicum Beach.

The petitioners call on the government to withdraw Bill C-27, an act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985.

The petitioners point out that during the 2015 federal election, Canadians were clearly promised in writing that defined benefit plans that have already been paid for by employees and pensioners would not be retroactively changed into target benefit plans.

Bill C-27 was tabled by the Minister of Finance. It would permit this change, thereby jeopardizing the retirement income security of Canadians who have negotiated defined benefit plans as a form of deferred wages.

The petitioners call on the Government of Canada to withdraw Bill C-27, an act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985, and protect their pensions.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 5th, 2019 / 12:20 p.m.
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NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Madam Speaker, the third and final petition that I have today calls for the withdrawal of Bill C-27, an act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985. I have tabled several of these petitions in the House.

People in my riding are significantly concerned. They want to make sure that their benefits are protected and that pensions are protected.

We hope to see this action taken soon.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 1:10 p.m.
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NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is from pensioners across British Columbia who point out that before the last federal election Canadians were clearly promised in writing that defined benefit plans, which had already been paid for by employees and pensioners, should not be retroactively changed into target benefit plans. They have called on the Liberal government to withdraw Bill C-27, which they believe will negatively impact the retirement security of many Canadians and pensioners.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

February 28th, 2019 / 10:15 a.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to table a number of petitions.

First, I am honoured today to table a petition on behalf of my constituents from the great communities of Williams Lake, 150 Mile House, Quesnel and Prince George in the incredible riding of Cariboo—Prince George. They call on the Government of Canada to withdraw Bill C-27, an act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985. In doing so, my constituents add that this is yet another broken promise by the Prime Minister.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

February 20th, 2019 / 3:45 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on behalf of constituents of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford to table a petition where they recognize that before the 2015 federal election, Canadians were clearly promised in writing that defined benefit plans, which have already been paid for by employees and pensioners, should not be retroactively changed to target benefit plans. Bill C-27, which was tabled by the Minister of Finance, precisely permits this change. Therefore, the petitioners are clearly calling on the Government of Canada to withdraw Bill C-27, an act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

February 7th, 2019 / 10:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured today to table a petition on behalf of my constituents from the great community of Quesnel in the incredible riding of Cariboo—Prince George. They call on the Government of Canada to withdraw Bill C-27, an act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act.

They would like to add that this is yet another promise broken by the Prime Minister.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

December 3rd, 2018 / 3:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to table on behalf of my constituents.

One petition calls on the Government of Canada to withdraw Bill C-27, due to the petitioners' belief that it may harm retirement security for seniors.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

November 26th, 2018 / 3:10 p.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by some 200 people from Smithers and Telkwa and Babine Lake describing their frustration and concern over Bill C-27, which is a pension bill the government introduced at one point but that we have not seen for some time.

Their concern is about moving the defined benefit plans people have been paying into for, in some cases, their entire working lives out to targeted benefit plans, which, of course, is a great reduction in their pensions. Many of these petitioners are not public servants but are supporting public servants and others who have paid into these pension plans with the clear expectation that the law would be followed. They reject Bill C-27 and hope the government continues to ignore its existence.

Pension Benefits Standards ActPrivate Members' Business

November 23rd, 2018 / 2 p.m.
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NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin my remarks by saying that today is indeed a very black Friday for workers.

In addition, the government has introduced a bill to require Canada Post mail carriers to return to work, despite the fact that they were in the middle of negotiating a collective agreement freely and in good faith. After only 11 months, the government has decided to intrude on these negotiations and force them back to work. We are being allowed less than three hours of debate for the bill, which we have already started debating and will continue to debate this afternoon. This is abominable conduct from a government that says that workers' rights should be very important. It says it respects bargaining rights, but its actions paint a different picture.

What is more, in 2011, when the Conservatives imposed back-to-work legislation for these same Canada Post employees, the Liberals got all worked up, saying that it was terribly disrespectful and violated workers' rights. Now they are doing exactly the same thing, with even fewer scruples, because they are giving MPs even less time to debate and defend workers.

In addition, today, the Conservatives are introducing a bill that will make pension benefits even more precarious. Bill C-405, an act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985 and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act with respect to pension plans, which was introduced by the member for Durham, seeks to transfer all the risks of deferred wages to workers by replacing defined benefits. Under defined benefit plans, when someone is working, a portion of their salary is deferred, set aside for their retirement. They know exactly how much money they will receive every year from the day they retire.

The Conservatives are doing the same thing as the Liberals did with Bill C-27. However, that bill has been put on hold for the time being because of the outcry from workers. It actually made the headlines. The NDP denounced the situation. My colleague from Hamilton Mountain did a tremendous job of demonstrating how this change would put the future of workers at risk and create two pension plans, one for those who have already accumulated some pension money and another for young people who are just entering the workforce. The young people would get a different and much more precarious pension plan. I will explain as I go along.

The end result would be that even though people would continue to have a known fixed amount at retirement, instead of receiving a fixed payment, the benefits would vary depending on the performance of the investments and the market. That is what the Conservatives are proposing. We know that investments sometimes do very well. They can yield a good amount one year, and then the next year, if the performance is negative, there might be no money for pensioners.

Do workers really want an income that fluctuates from year to year, an income that they cannot predict? I do not think so. Do they want a negative differential of $15,000 from one year to the next? How can they budget for renovations? How can they deal with a contingency? How can they plan a trip? Pensioners have contributed and set aside money their entire lives, but that money could go up in smoke because of this bill.

This goes against NDP values. It should also be contrary to what the Liberals are proposing in the way of protections for workers. This really puts the future of workers at risk.

That is like telling young people entering the workforce that even though they do the same work and make the same contributions to their pension, they might not get the same pension as those who have been working for the same company for 10 years. That is what will happen under Bill C-405. Is it fair for every worker to pay the same amount but not get the same pension at the end of the line? No. I think the answer is obvious.

The NDP is strongly opposed to this type of bill. Just look at what happened in the Sears scandal. Legislation is indispensable for protecting workers' pensions when businesses go bankrupt, and Canada's legislation in this area is woefully inadequate.

Pensions are supposed to be paid, and deferred wages are supposed to be paid for by creditors, but that is not happening. Under the current Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, secured creditors always get paid first. Workers' pension funds always come second. In fact, that money is always the last to get paid out. In almost every case, there is practically nothing left to pay back the workers' pension fund.

Retired Sears employees were not the first to be severely affected by the bankruptcy of a Canadian company. Many will remember the collapse of Nortel. The star of Canada's high-tech industry was snuffed out in 2009. It was one of the largest bankruptcy cases in Canadian history. Thousands of Canadians lost their jobs, with no severance or termination pay. Nortel's pension plan had a $2.5-billion shortfall. After eight years of negotiations, Nortel employees learned that their pension benefits would be cut by 30% to 45%.

Let us go back to the Sears case, which happened not long ago. Thousands of employees were laid off without severance or termination pay. However, we know that Sears executives paid themselves bonuses totalling several billion dollars, while their employees were thrown out on the street. Many of them had to find new jobs, which can be hard for people who worked in the same place for 25, 30 or 40 years. Some had no degrees. They found themselves in a tough spot, because it is extremely difficult to find a job at age 50 or 55 these days.

The NDP supports the idea of making it illegal to pay loyalty bonuses to executives who drove a company into bankruptcy. We also want companies to be required to keep their pension plans solvent and to limit unfunded liability. When companies are allowed to get out of these payments, they are essentially stealing workers' pensions, and this is unacceptable.

I do not find this legislation particularly surprising coming from the Conservatives. However, on this dark November 23, at a time when the government is trying to stop free negotiation for postal workers, this bill comes at a bad time.

We will certainly oppose this bill because we want to protect workers' pension plans for all generations, including workers in my generation and our children's generation, and we want to make sure that the risks are shared. In fact, the NDP does not want there to be any risk at all. We believes that all generations of workers who contribute should receive fair, defined benefits.

Pension Benefits Standards ActPrivate Members' Business

November 23rd, 2018 / 1:35 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, my apologies. I was not exactly sure which bill we were debating today.

My colleague's bill, Bill C-405, deals with Canadians' pension benefits. Clearly, this is an extremely delicate subject, as we were able to see with the government's approach to Bill C-27. This sought to allow Crown corporations, and ultimately all other employers in Canada, to change the category of defined benefit retirement plans to target benefit plans.

The direction that the government took is really bad. Thanks to the pressure from many Canadians and from unions, the government seems to have decided to keep the idea of introducing target benefit plans on hold. That means that retirees' benefits will change over time.

When you sign a collective agreement and a defined benefit pension plan, you know what to expect when you retire. With Bill C-27, the government was ready to move forward and change that standard, replacing it with a target benefit plan, that is, one in which benefits can change over time. If that were the case, employees would not get the same amounts as if the defined benefits were maintained.

My colleague's bill is similar to that one. It seeks to enable employers who already offer defined benefit pension plans to convert them into target benefit plans or defined contribution pension plans, which are slightly different, and thereby transfer all of the risk to workers and absolve employers from the obligation to provide their employees with predictable pension benefits.

Pension plans are deferred wages. As I said earlier, they are often negotiated as part of collective agreements.

This bill would change benefits that were negotiated ahead of time and, as I just mentioned, it would also transfer the burden to employees since, in a defined benefit pension plan, the burden is on the employer to deliver what it promised to its employees.

In target benefit plans or defined contribution pension plans, the burden is on employees, who are forced to bear the brunt of any losses that may occur if a company, Crown corporation or government can no longer fulfill its retirement obligations. There has been a lot of debate about that in 2018. This reality has been catching up with workers over the past several years. Employers, whether government or private, are waking up to the fact that, in the future, they will not be able to fulfill the working conditions and retirement pensions that they promised to employees, even though they signed agreements to that effect, and so they are changing the benefits along the way. They are changing conditions that were negotiated. That is unacceptable. It goes completely against the spirit of negotiation and violates a signed agreement to which the two parties agreed and in which both parties must keep their commitments.

Unfortunately, we know what side the Conservatives are on in this kind of debate that affects workers and employers. They always side with the employer. What we are seeing today with Bill C-405 is nothing new.

The bill before us is diametrically opposed to the NDP's proposed approach to correcting major shortcomings in Canada's bankruptcy and insolvency legislation and protecting Canadian workers' and retirees' pensions and benefits. This is 2018, and workers are facing a whole new reality. We have seen it in the past, and we saw it again recently with Sears. Not only can the pension benefit terms and conditions be changed, but pensions can be cancelled altogether. I know workers in Sherbrooke, my region, who worked for 30 years and then suddenly found themselves in that very situation. The employer went bankrupt and closed up shop, and workers' pensions evaporated.

Those employees worked for years to build up their pensions. That money belongs to them. It is deferred income. They worked their whole lives to save that money, and then from one day to the next, their employer was no longer in a position to give the money that belongs to them.

Sears is the latest example, but this is something we have seen in Estrie as well. I know a person who worked at Olymel in Magog. That person, along with everyone else who worked there, lost their pension because their employer suddenly announced that it was no longer able to honour the conditions they had initially agreed to. The workers' money went up in smoke.

That leads to very sad situations. Some of these people are elderly and have to go back to work because they lost all the benefits they were promised initially. They are left in the lurch. They have to go back to work and, for some of them, the working conditions are not nearly as good as when they were working for a business that was thriving and prospering but suddenly had to shut down.

Unfortunately, the Conservatives are unlikely to surprise us today with such a bill to stop executives from giving themselves excessive bonuses in any liquidation and bankruptcy procedures.

I mentioned Sears, but there have been other cases of bankruptcy where the executives took off with the employees' savings. That money does not necessarily always go to the creditors. Sometimes it winds up in the pockets of the executives of those companies. Then the executives or shareholders tell the board of directors that after liquidating the company's assets, that is, before putting the money in their own pockets, there is nothing left for everyone else. There is nothing left for the other creditors.

We in the NDP believe that workers are the priority creditors. That has always been our position. When a company goes bankrupt, the priority creditors are the workers. Whether it is salaries, unpaid sick leave or pensions, priority must be given to what has already been promised, before the banks are even consulted to proceed with the liquidation and pay out the creditors. The workers should always come first.

Unfortunately, once again, we know whose side the Conservatives are on: the employers and the executives. They allow these unacceptable situations to continue, and that is a shame. Bill C-405 does not solve anything. On the contrary, it makes matters worse.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

November 19th, 2018 / 3:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is with respect to pensions. The petitioners indicate that the Prime Minister promised in writing that defined benefit plans, which had already been paid for by employees and pensioners, should not be retroactively changed into targeted benefit plans. They also say that Bill C-27, tabled by the Minister of Finance, precisely permits this change that the government promised would not happen.

The petitioners call for the Government of Canada to withdraw Bill C-27.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

October 19th, 2018 / 12:05 p.m.
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NDP

Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to present a petition on behalf of the residents primarily from my community of Nelson, British Columbia. The petition concerns Bill C-27.

People have put away money from deferred wages into their pension plans for years and they are very much concerned about the possibility that these defined benefit plans will be changed to target benefit plans.

The petitioners therefore ask that the Government of Canada to withdraw Bill C-27, which is an act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act of 1985.

October 18th, 2018 / 12:20 p.m.
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Gerald Jennings National Association of Federal Retirees

Thank you.

My name is Gerald—Gerry, please—Jennings. I'm here representing the National Association of Federal Retirees, and I'll get right at it.

Canadian seniors are living longer than ever before and are on course to reach 25% of Canada's population by 2030. Defined pension benefits are the most effective means of achieving retirement income security. Retirees with defined pension plans are less likely to rely on government assistance, such as guaranteed income supplements.

A barrier to retirement security is House of Commons Bill C-27, an act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985. Bill C-27 will enable defined benefit pension plans to be replaced by targeted benefit plans. Defined benefit pension plans invest in Canadian equities, real estate and infrastructure such as railways, bridges, airports, utilities and pipelines. Pension funds are uniquely poised to invest in Canada and Canada's Infrastructure Bank.

The National Association of Federal Retirees asks the government to withdraw Bill C-27 to ensure that Canadian retirees continue to contribute to our economy and economic growth and not become a burden upon it.

Thank you.

October 16th, 2018 / 8:50 a.m.
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Patricia Baye As an Individual

Thank you and good morning to everybody.

I'm here representing the National Association of Federal Retirees, which has branches all across Canada, and I am from the branch here in Victoria, which has approximately 4,000 members. On behalf of the branch, there are a couple of items I would like to point out to the pre-budget committee for consideration.

As a seniors group, we would like to look after not just seniors from our group but also all Canadian seniors. We would like the committee to consider having a comprehensive national seniors strategy for the provinces and territories. We would like you to address affordable and appropriate housing to promote friendly communities and combat the isolation of seniors and ageism.

We would also like to see that you ensure robust and sustainable social services and improve the focus on seniors' housing, community care and caregivers. We would also like you to consider creating a feasible and affordable pharmacare program for all Canadians. Also, we would like you to guarantee income security for all Canadians and ensure that retirement savings regimes are effective and that Canadian retirement security needs are met to assist Canadians in building improved retirement security.

We would like the government to honour the promises made to retirees when pension plans change. We would also like you to immediately withdraw Bill C-27 and to continue to improve the Canada Pension Plan and the old age security.

We would hope that this report would be out by the spring so we can look at it and see everything that has gone, and we hope too that this government will resolve by 2019 the Phoenix pay system so that all issues are cleared up and that all retirees and employees are properly compensated.

Thank you.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

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

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

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

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

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

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

Hello, Mr. Chair.

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you and have a pleasant day.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

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

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

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

Good morning.

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

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

Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

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

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

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

Alain Trépanier

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

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

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

Thank you very much.

June 19th, 2018 / 1:15 p.m.
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David Groves Committee Researcher

As you can see from the document I distributed, it is my assessment that there isn't an issue. I'm going to go through my assessment.

The potential issue with Bill C-405 revolves around whether it concerns a question that is currently on the Order Paper, an item of government business. Specifically, Bill C-405 amends section 29 of the Pension Benefits Standards Act, the same section of the PBSA that Bill C-27 amends.

However, Bill C-405 and Bill C-27 amend different subsections of that section, so there's no formal overlap, and the substance of their proposed amendments differ. Bill C-405 amends the PBSA to allow pension plan administrators to sell off pieces of plans they are managing. Bill C-27 proposes amendments to allow the regulation of target benefit plans. I apologize, but I don't know enough about pension benefit plans to know what that is, but it's unrelated. It's a type of plan that involves fixed contributions.

As for Bill C-406, the same rule is potentially at issue, whether it concerns a question that is on the Order Paper as government business. Bill C-76 and Bill C-406 both amend the Canada Elections Act, and both deal with issues of political financing. They do not amend the same sections of the CEA, however, so there's no formal overlap, and in terms of substance, they also deal with different issues. Bill C-406 places a prohibition on foreign contributions by third parties who engage in certain types of political spending. Bill C-76 amends the Canada Elections Act to provide an expanded list of the kinds of activities that third parties cannot engage in, using unknown contributions, as opposed to foreign ones. But it also changes the definition of what a foreign entity is.

In my assessment, there is no direct formal overlap, and they deal with different substance. However, Bill C-76 provides a new definition for foreign entity, which means it would have an effect on Bill C-406. Moreover, Bill C-406 includes a coordinating amendment, so if Bill C-76 were to pass, the language inserted by Bill C-406 would change as well.

We are returning to the same criterion that has been before this committee twice already this spring. The criterion is that bills and motions must not concern questions that are currently on the Order Paper or Notice Paper as items of government business.

Unfortunately, from the rule, as I said in an earlier meeting, it's not clear what is meant by “question”, and it's not clear what is meant by “concern”. However, judging by decisions made by this committee already—it has come up twice before in the last couple of months—there was a private member's bill that SMEM found non-votable because it sought to establish a national strategy for dealing with abandoned vessels while a government bill on the Order Paper would establish a federal framework for abandoned vessels. Furthermore, SMEM found another private member's bill non-votable because it would have extended protections to a series of bodies of water in British Columbia that would, under a government bill on the Order Paper, have received very similar levels of protection. In both cases, the determination that the committee made was that the private member's bill and the government bill addressed the same issue and dealt with it in a similar enough way that, were the two bills to advance at the same time, one would be redundant.

The way I have been interpreting the words “concern” and “question” is to see their being about preventing a few problems. One is pure duplication: two bills that exist to do the exact same thing in the exact same way. Another is conflict: two bills trying to achieve two opposing goals using the same section of an existing act, so they could not exist at the same time. The last is redundancy: two bills trying to achieve a similar enough objective that, should they pass, one or the other would be of little additional value.

The reason we care about these three criteria—duplication, conflict, and redundancy—as I understand them, is that this committee is interested in providing members the fullest opportunity possible to use their private members' time effectively, so that if the bill or the motion would have little or no effect, they should be given the opportunity to replace it.

In the two cases before the committee, I do not see duplication, conflict, or redundancy to be significant concerns. Each bill is concerned with a particular subject that the relevant government legislation has not addressed, and they do not overlap formally.

It's important to note, too, that SMEM in the recent past has permitted PMBs to move forward even if they touched on the same legislation as a pending government bill would, since they addressed different subjects within the ambit of that bill. Typically it has been Elections Act-related bills that we permitted to move forward on that basis.

It is my assessment that these bills do not trigger that rule and, therefore, that they can be declared not non-votable.

June 19th, 2018 / 1:15 p.m.
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Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

We haven't landed on anything. I just want to bring up a discussion on them. The concern that we have is that Bill C-405 risks conflicting with Bill C-27, and Bill C-406 risks conflicting with Bill C-76. I gave David, the analyst, a heads-up that I'd bring this up, so if he'd like to give us his analysis, then we can see if there's any merit to my concern or if we should just leave them the way they are.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

April 23rd, 2018 / 4:55 p.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, I was hearing a lot of hyperbole and fiction and I was going to give my hon. colleague a pass because it is Monday, but then he started to talk about pensions. I mean, really? The Liberal government walked away on Sears workers. The finance minister came into the House to promote the interests of his family business, Morneau Shepell, and told investors that they needed legislation to take down defined pensions. Bill C-27 was the first pension bill the finance minister brought in; his family's company dealt with the Sears pensioners, and we expect the Liberal government to stand up for pensioners? This is ridiculous. The Liberals have a lot of gall to come into the House and pretend that they will do anything for pensioners.

EthicsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 23rd, 2018 / 3:10 p.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to present a petition signed by thousands of people electronically.

Whereas the Minister of Finance until recently owned millions of dollars worth of shares in Morneau Shepell, a firm he was an executive of until elected and a firm with which the federal government does millions of dollars worth of business; that the passage of government bills introduced by the minister, such as Bill C-27, which targets pensions and would make retirement savings less secure and enrich the shareholders of Morneau Shepell, including, until recently, the finance minister himself; that the changes to the tax code proposed by the finance minister will incentivize businesses to move away from pension plans and help shareholders and firms like Morneau Shepell; that Morneau Shepell is handling the close-out of the Sears pension fund, and after emergency debate in the House on the subject of the company's bankruptcy, the government refused to take action, which will benefit the shareholders in Morneau Shepell, and until recently, the Minister of Finance; and that the pattern of the Minister of Finance's non-disclosure and retention of assets could be seen reasonably to be a conflict of interest that has caused Canadians to lose confidence; the undersigned call upon the Government of Canada to immediately withdraw Bill C-27, to disqualify Morneau Shepell from any government contract work, and to remove the finance minister from his position as finance minister.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 18th, 2018 / 3:25 p.m.
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NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to table this petition signed by constituents from my riding of Port Moody—Coquitlam, Anmore, and Belcarra, including Don and Marilyn Portelance and many others, who are worried about the changes proposed by the finance minister under Bill C-27. They say it threatens the retirement security of Canadians. They know that pensions are deferred wages and that they belong to the workers who earned them. They are asking the finance minister to withdraw this bill immediately.

Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner's ReportRoutine Proceedings

April 17th, 2018 / 11:25 a.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, I have heard the Conservatives ask this question many times. Personally, I am more wary of putting a financial sanction on the Prime Minister of our country for a breach, because the office is so important. However, what I expect from the Prime Minister is full acceptance of responsibility for the actions that caused that breach. This is about the role of the Prime Minister of our nation. It is not simply about a politician or someone who has friends. It represents something greater. I feel that the Prime Minister failed us in this instance. We got a lot of glib talking points and did not get that level of accountability.

With respect to the finance minister, what strikes me is the fact that he forgot his villa and paid a fine of a couple of hundred dollars. He makes more money than that on his stock options by six o'clock in the morning. He probably did not notice it. I am much more concerned about his role with respect to Bill C-27, which I believe is a very clear conflict of interest that would help the pecuniary interest of his family business. That he was allowed to bring that bill forward, and that his company was allowed to be involved in the Sears bankruptcy while the government refused to help the Sears workers, is to me is a very disturbing abuse of the public interest.

Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner's ReportRoutine Proceedings

April 17th, 2018 / 11:05 a.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, I am always proud to rise in the House and represent the people of Timmins—James Bay. It is particularly interesting to rise now after listening to what could be called a political screed by my friend from Winnipeg.

When we talk about closing ethical loopholes, it always upsets Liberals. There is something about ethical breaches and Liberals that go hand in hand. It is about their idea of friendship.

The Aga Khan was a close personal friend of the Prime Minister, apparently, when the Prime Minister took his trip to billionaire island, yet he had not really seen him in 30 years. We were told it was just a friend.

Liberals said it is not fair for me to question a billionaire who pays the Prime Minister and some key politicians to come and hang out with him, paying their way while he is lobbying, because they are just friends. They said, “Don't you have friends who invite you to places?”

Yes, certainly. I am from northern Ontario. I get invited to fish huts all the time during the winter. For the price of a six-pack of Labatt's, I might get paid back in a little pickerel. That is not the same as Liberals who hang with billionaires who are lobbying the same government for favours.

I want to talk about this idea of friendship and the Liberals, because it is a fundamental question about ethics that they do not understand. The reason we have the Lobbying Act and the Conflict of Interest Act is so that friends do not have insider access.

The problem goes back to the pork-barrel days of the Liberals when it was about who you knew in the PMO. Buddy from the Liberal Party, tied to the Prime Minister, would step out and go into private practice. Then the would call up his friend in the Prime Minister's Office, and changes would be made.

We have realized that this is not ethical. What is ethical is that there has to be a standard for lobbying so that we know who is lobbying and why they are lobbying. A little transparency goes a long way.

The issue of closing an ethical loophole matters, because what we do in Parliament is about reassuring Canadians that they can trust us. They do not have to pay attention to all the details of the vote. In fact, there is not a single voter who would agree with every single thing we do as parliamentarians, because we are called upon to make decisions on all manner of issues. However, our voters should be able to trust that we are acting in the best interests of the Canadian people and that when we meet with large financial interests that are trying to influence government policy, it is being done in a transparent manner and for the benefit of Canadians.

This is why I want to get back to this notion of friends and Liberal friends. We have the situation of the Prime Minister, who flew to billionaire island and contravened numerous sections of the Conflict of Interest Act. It is actually unprecedented that a Prime Minister has been found guilty of breaching the Conflict of Interest Act for accepting gifts, for accepting favours, yet the Prime Minister did not think anything was wrong because he said the guy he had not seen in 30 years was a personal family friend. It is though they were above the law and it is very embarrassing.

I would chalk that up. I do not think there was malice on the part of the Prime Minister. My Conservative friends always think there was some kind of skulduggery; I do not. I think the Prime Minister thought, “He knew my dad and he is a billionaire; I like hanging out with billionaires, and I get a free trip to an island.” However, the Prime Minister needs to understand that he has to set a better example, because he promised a better example. He promised it in the 2015 election when he said it would not just be the letter of the law, but the spirit of the law. My God, how the Liberals have fallen since then.

The other guest who hung out on the beach on billionaire island, who is now the Veterans Affairs minister, did not even bother to report the trip. The Prime Minister did not report the gifts he received from the Aga Khan because he said that since they were inappropriate gifts, he did not need to say what they were.

Over the many years I have been here, I have heard all manner of hogswallop when it comes to defending abuse, but I have never heard someone use a loophole to say that since it was inappropriate, they were not obligated to say what it was, and therefore they were somehow protected. I want to know if the member who is now the Veterans Affairs minister used this same logic when he decided that just because he took a trip to billionaire island, he did not need to report it. In fact, we need to report everything we do to the Ethics Commissioner. It is up to the Ethics Commissioner to decide whether it is appropriate or not. It is not for the individual member to say, “Well, I accepted this free gift because, hey, it was a free gift, and it does not affect my political work.” Everything does. It is about accountability.

Speaking of friends of the Liberal Party, let us talk about Stephen Bronfman. This man is one of the most powerful men in Canada, and he is certainly a powerful Liberal fundraiser. In fact, he is so powerful that he raised $250,000 for the Liberal Party and his personal friend, the Prime Minister, in two hours. That is an amazing power.

The Prime Minister would say they are just friends, because the Prime Minister certainly loves hanging out with billionaires. The Prime Minister held a recent fundraiser with billionaires and the super-rich in Montreal, and he told us that the reason they were there was to get tough on the one per cent. Can members imagine that? Do they imagine that the reason that the billionaire class is paying money to the Liberal party is so that it can get tough on the one per cent? That is not how life works.

How it does work was shown when Stephen Bronfman was named in the paradise papers scandal, a scandal that identified powerful people around the world who were evading their tax responsibilities through tax havens. When Stephen Bronfman was one of the Canadians named, the Prime Minister immediately intervened and said that no investigation was necessary, and no investigation happened. That is the power of friends in the Prime Minister's Office.

It was also highly inappropriate, because it is not up to the Prime Minister of this country to decide in advance whether tax laws in this country are being broken or they are not just because someone is, first, his personal friend, and second, he raises money for the Liberal Party. That is not an ethical standard that we can trust, but it seems to work for the current government.

This issue needs to be called out.

In the recent debacle in India, the Prime Minister's trip seemed to be much more about trying to shore up domestic ridings to win than about international diplomacy, international security, or international credibility. We had the bizarre and unprecedented situation of a convicted terrorist getting on the all-access pass list because he was very powerful in local B.C. Liberal politics. We also have the case of the member for Brampton East who went on that trip. After he got elected, he went into business. For folks back home, it is very rare that someone decides to go into business after becoming an MP. For the few who do, there have to be clear laws in place so that they are not using their desk in Parliament to help their friends. However, the member for Brampton East, we are told, invited his business partner to have access to the Prime Minister and to key Liberal members and ministers on that India trip.

Does that pass the smell test? It certainly does not, and it raises a question about the lack of ethics and accountability in the Liberal caucus right now, since the Liberals seem to think that this is perfectly okay. In fact, we have heard from every senior voice in the Liberal government on these ethical breaches, and not once did they take these issues seriously. They seem to think it is okay because he is a good guy, the other guy is a good guy, and they are all friends. It is this culture of friends and using the position of power within politics to further the interests of friends that is wrong.

The issue before us today is about closing loopholes. I have spent many years on this file, and it always surprises me that even when we think we have done our best to make sure that people will follow the spirit of the law, there will be always those who try to find a way to slip around it.

As exhibit A, I present the finance minister. I have been told by the Liberals that I am completely out of line because this finance minister is virtuous, that people who are that rich who offer themselves to public service have to be somehow more virtuous by nature because they do not need to come to Ottawa. That is fair play, but the finance minister, when he was head of Morneau Shepell, his family business, announced to his investors that we needed legislation in Canada to be able to change the defined pension benefits and allow the targeted pension plans that were the whole focus of Morneau Shepell's business. He said that there was an enormous opportunity and that his company, Morneau Shepell, was in the driver's seat.

He offered himself as a candidate for public service. The very first order of business he brought forward was the Bill C-27 legislation that would directly benefit the company and the industry that he represented. That is extraordinary, and the Prime Minister supported it. There was no recusing at cabinet of a man who had a pecuniary financial interest.

Later we found out, of course, that he still had his financial interest. He was making about $150,000 a month from his Morneau Shepell shares while he was pursuing an interest that would benefit Morneau Shepell. He became famous because he was so rich that he forgot that he owned a château in the south of France. Again, the Liberals said that we were being mean and that was really unfair. A lot of people forget things. I mean, I forget things all the time. When I was leaving the House the other day, I forgot my car keys. I could not find where they were. However, I do not know anybody in the House who forgets that they own a château in the south of France. That is the level of disconnect of the 1% from the rest of us.

The reason this matters is that the fundamental economic issue of our time around the world is the growing disparity between the super-rich, whose interests have been advanced year after year after year, and the growing new working class, both white collar and blue collar, who are finding it harder and harder because they are dealing with large levels of student debt and precarious work. The Liberal government is deeply embedded within that 1%, using its position and political agendas to advance friends and help their friends. The Liberals say that this is all perfectly okay because they are all nice people. That is not an ethical standard of accountability.

Today we have an opportunity to close an ethical loophole that was clearly identified. I would think that when we identify these loopholes, it is incumbent upon all of us within the political realm to say that we should just do the right thing here to make sure that this kind of abuse does not happen in the future and close that loophole.

I return to what the Prime Minister promised in the 2015 election. I was so impressed when he stepped forward and talked about openness and transparency and transparent government, principles that Canadians across the political spectrum agree with.

There are issues that we have always had with the ethics code and the Lobbying Act. Certainly with the ethics code it has always been that if one did not find a person falling down dead with another person holding a smoking gun in their hand and the Ethics Commissioner walking in at the time, intent could never be proven. The lobbying commissioner has pointed out time and time again that it is about the spirit of the act. It is the power of people to influence politicians that has to be clearly defined, because super-powerful people do not have to register for lobbying. That is because they know the people in the PMO. They are the friends, the ones who hang out on the beach on the private islands with key politicians. They make a phone call, and the job gets done.

When the Prime Minister said that he would establish a higher standard, a standard that represented the spirit of the law and not just the narrow letter of the law, I was deeply encouraged, yet here we are with ethical scandal after ethical scandal, and every time, the Prime Minister or his front-bench people step up in defence, because technically no one was caught on anything. They are our friends. The people we hang with are nice people, and there is no need to address these loopholes.

I find that to be an appallingly low standard.

There is a new line that the Liberals use. They used it for my colleague from Brampton and then my colleague from Newfoundland, who took the trip to billionaire island. They say they always “work very closely with the Ethics Commissioner”. What they need to put as a prefix is “after we get caught”. After we get caught, we work closely with the Ethics Commissioner. That is what the Prime Minister and his minions have told us: that the Prime Minister worked very closely with the Ethics Commissioner.

The Prime Minister started to work with the Ethics Commissioner after the complaint was lodged and after he had been found guilty of numerous breaches, such as accepting inappropriate travel and inappropriate gifts from someone in a position to lobby. He did not recuse himself from decisions that could have benefited that powerful lobbyist.

If the Prime Minister and his caucus stood by the principle of working closely with the Ethics Commissioner, they would have phoned the Ethics Commissioner prior to these issues, prior to inviting a business partner to meet with the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers on the India trip. They would have asked if it was okay for them to open some doors for a business partner. The Ethics Commissioner would have responded. That is how we work closely with the Ethics Commissioner. We work with the commissioner in advance to make sure that we are not caught in illegalities or a breach of the rules. We do not wait until we get caught. We do not wait until it becomes a newspaper story and then say that we will make sure we do not do it again. That is a lower standard and a standard that, unfortunately, the Prime Minister and his government seem to have worked their way toward.

There are moments when we have to take a breath in Parliament and say that breaches have happened. When they do happen, we need to then come forward with a credible set of responses.

This brings us back to the defeat of the Liberals in 2006, when there were so many ethical breaches, so many legal breaches in the sponsorship scandal, that we needed to bring forward new legislation, which we did. That legislation was about lobbying. It was about limiting the influence of insiders on political decisions. It was about making sure that we had a higher standard of accountability.

The previous government had many failures and falls as well. There was the notorious Bev Oda, who spent thousands of dollars on limousine rides bombing around Toronto. Bev thought it was perfectly okay. Paul Calandra lobbied, while he was a parliamentary secretary, for FM licenses. If I remember correctly, that money was returned, because it was deemed inappropriate. Bruce Carson was invited into the PMO. He was convicted of fraud. He then left the office and came back trying to sell water plants to desperately poor indigenous communities. His case of inappropriate illegalities went all the way to the Supreme Court.

There will always be politicians who abuse the system. That is part and parcel of public life. When an egregious loophole appears, it is incumbent upon all political parties to close that loophole. It is fairly straightforward. We cannot assume that all politicians will be either moral enough to do that or bright enough to pay attention to the act and understand the implications of using their offices to help friends.

It is an interesting report on the Prime Minister and the Conflict of Interest Act. The Ethics Commissioner found that the Prime Minister “contravened section 11 of the Act when he or his family accepted the gifts of hospitality from the Aga Khan and the use of his private island in March and December 2016.”

The Ethics Commissioner found that the exception for gifts from relatives and friends, under paragraph 11(2)(b) of the act, did not apply, because the Prime Minister's “relationship with the Aga Khan was based on a family connection rooted in a friendship” with the Prime Minister's father that existed 30 years earlier. The Prime Minister accepted inappropriate gifts and said that they were personal family gifts, when he had not met the guy in 30 years.

This is really important. The report said that section 21 of the act was deliberately contravened by the Prime Minister:

he did not recuse himself from discussions that provided an opportunity to improperly further the private interest associated with one of the institutions of the Aga Khan and that he contravened section 5 for failing to arrange his private affairs as to avoid such an opportunity.

That is a serious breach, because that is a question about gifts from powerful people to powerful politicians. It is the power to influence political decisions, and that is what the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner was concerned about.

There was, of course, the contravention of section 12 of the act.

I see I am running out of time. I could go on all day about the ethical breaches of the present government, but I will close on that note.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2018 / 4:10 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Madam Speaker, I am going to start off where my Liberal colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood left off, where he talked about economic fundamentals.

What are the economic fundamentals right now of Canada? The economic fundamentals are that we are living through the period of greatest inequality in our nation's history. That is an economic fundamental that both this budget and previous Conservative budgets completely ignored. We now have two Canadian billionaires who have the same wealth as 30% of the Canadian population, or 11 million Canadians.

Another fundamental that this budget does not touch in any way, shape, or form is the fact that Canadian families are now struggling with the worst debt burden, not only in our nation's history but in any industrialized nation's history. The average family debt now is a crushing burden. That, of course, was created by Conservative policies and has been enhanced by Liberal policies. However, these are economic fundamentals that this budget does not take into account in any way, shape, or form.

This budget is a cruel hoax for all those Canadians who actually believed that this government was going to do what it said it wanted to do in the 2015 election. We have seen a whole host of broken promises. My colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley certainly could speak to the broken promise around democratic reform, but we have seen a whole host of broken promises. This budget just enhances what has been a drive toward more inequality and an unjust tax system.

Madam Speaker, I would like to start with the inequalities and the Liberals' broken promises. Several weeks ago, our leader, Jagmeet Singh, and I held a press conference. We wrote to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Finance to talk about the ever-increasing inequality across the country and to talk about the major changes needed to help all Canadian families.

We said that the government must go after tax havens. The government must close tax loopholes, including tax havens, instead of continuing to allow major corporations and wealthy Canadians to avoid paying taxes. Instead, the government signed even more treaties with notorious tax havens. I am talking about the Cook Islands, Antigua and Barbuda, and Grenada. Even the Conservatives did not want to sign agreements with those countries. Now these agreements exist and they allow companies to not pay taxes.

We also talked about web giants that do not pay taxes like Netflix and Facebook. These companies are effectively stealing from Canadian businesses, and communities are struggling as a result. These web giants were not addressed at all in this budget. This is yet another failure.

When we talk about all of these tax havens, when we talk about these special fiscal arrangements that allow some of the world's biggest businesses to not pay one cent of tax in Canada, when we talk about what that actually means, there is a cost to Canadians, a huge cost to Canadians. My colleague, the Liberal member, was talking about fiscal discipline. This government has shown absolutely no fiscal discipline whatsoever, in the same way that the Conservatives did not. With the Conservatives it was a free-for-all. Every month they would sign another special treaty with an overseas tax haven. Now the Liberals are in the process of doing the same thing.

What is the cost to Canadians? The Parliamentary Budget Officer and a whole host of think tanks in Canada, whether we are talking about the CCPA or the Conference Board of Canada, have evaluated what it costs Canadians to have this free-for-all, this most egregious signing of taxation-free agreements, which allow money that is made in Canada to go overseas and not be taxed one cent.

The cost for the web giants alone is over $1 billion, which could be money that serves collectively for all of us to fight the inequalities that I mentioned earlier, to provide the programs that Canadians desperately need, and yet the government is not willing to touch that.

When we talk about tax havens, depending on the estimates, we are talking about a minimum of $10 billion a year. We are talking about up to $40 billion a year. These should be those common resources that all Canadians in solidarity use to make sure that their families are taken care of when there are health care problems, when they need medication, and so that they can actually provide child care for their children. Canadians have said very clearly, certainly in the last election, that they believe in a society where we collectively provide those resources and those supports for families. However, Conservatives and now Liberals have been frittering away tens of billions of dollars each and every year by refusing to close all of these tax loopholes.

There was a brave paragraph in the budget, and I am going to praise the government for this very brave paragraph. On page 69 in the English text, the finance minister and the Liberal government actually say that they are going combat tax evasion and tax avoidance, and that the government will invest money to address the issues of tax evasion and tax avoidance, which, as I mentioned earlier, are in the realm of tens of billions of dollars each and every year.

This is what the budget says. This is what all Liberal MPs stand behind. “As the CRA has a proven track record of meeting expectations from targeted compliance interventions,” which is the combat of tax evasion and tax avoidance, “Budget 2018 accounts for the expected revenue impact of $354 million over five years.”

About $70 million a year with that enhanced compliance is what the Liberals are expecting to get. Now, each and every question period when we raise the egregious issue of the massive amounts of money going offshore for tax havens, the Liberals have responded by saying that they are going to spend over $1 billion over 10 years to get some of that money back. Now we know what they are targeting. They are spending $1 billion, or half a billion over five years, and are expecting to get back $354 million, and remember, Liberals very rarely meet their targets. They would spend half a billion to get back $354 million. It is almost laughable. It would be a comedy if it did not have such a profound impact on Canadians.

Here are some of the other things the Liberals refuse to close.

There is the stock option loophole, which was evaluated a few years ago as benefiting, to the tune of half a billion dollars, 75 of Canada's wealthiest corporate CEOs. Those are figures under the Conservatives, but the figures today would be similar. Seventy-five wealthy Canadians, because of the stock option loophole, got an average of $6 million each. That is half a billion dollars in taxpayers' handouts to some of Canada's wealthiest people on Bay Street, yet the same Liberals who are defending this budget will stand up and say that we cannot afford child care, housing, or pharmacare. They are saying that because they have a complete absence of the fiscal discipline to say to the wealthiest in our country that they have to pay their fair share of taxes, the fiscal discipline that means standing up to the corporate sector, which now has a real effective tax rate of less than 10%. It is 9.8% as evaluated by the CCPA.

Ask a tradesperson, a nurse, or someone who works in a mill if they can get by with a 9.8% effective tax rate. They cannot, of course, but Canada's wealthiest enterprises, courtesy of Conservative and Liberal policies, can get by with that small a rate of taxation.

We have said that we need a fair tax system, and I can tell members that in this corner of the House we are not going to stop until there is a fair tax system in this country that allows us to invest and provide for families when they are in need. Canadians, because of the record level of family debt and because of the record level of inequality, have never been more in need than they are now.

It is not just what the Liberals refuse to do, which is establishing any sort of fiscal framework. It is what the results have been. That is why we tabled the subamendment to the budget decrying how undisciplined this fiscal framework has been in giving most of the nation's resources and wealth to a very few Canadians, and virtually nothing to Canadians who are struggling.

I will start with housing. On page 78 of the budget, we see that $31 million has been allocated to build more rental housing for Canadian families.

As we know, this means that only a few dozen apartments across the country would be affordable for Canadians.

All amounts combined, including those elsewhere in the budget, represent less than 10% of what is needed this year to deal with the housing crisis that exists across Canada. Even I am affected by this crisis, and my fellow citizens, who are my bosses, feel it every day in New Westminster—Burnaby. In fact, the cost of housing is increasing and more and more people are finding it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to access affordable housing. Take Hélène, for example, a deaf woman who could not afford an apartment even when she was working. She had to turn to a local organization that provides services to deaf people.

In Canada, half of the people who are currently homeless, and we are talking about tens of thousands of people, are people with disabilities. As we can see, this crisis is profoundly affecting people with disabilities and other poor people.

It is not just disabled Canadians who are impacted. I am talking about John Young, a pensioner who worked all his life. He paid into a pension and has a modest pension. However, because of the increase in rent in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, in my riding, he struggled to keep his apartment but could not, because he was going further into debt. He then tried to room with a friend, which did not work out, so he ended up in a parkade in downtown New Westminster.

These are the victims of the lack of fiscal discipline of the government, which allows people to be homeless and not have the services they need while it feeds tens of billions of dollars to offshore tax havens. These are extraordinarily poor choices. These are the kinds of choices that should force the government out of office in 2019.

It is not just about housing. Let us talk about first nations. We have a government that committed to ending boil water advisories within a couple of years, yet the funding in this budget is only pennies of what is needed to end boil water advisories in this country. It does not even come close to the $320 million that is needed this year. It is pennies on the dollar. It is a cruel hoax for all those first nations communities across the north and across this country that expected that the government would care enough to actually make those investments.

As well, the government falls lamentably short of the nearly $1 billion that is needed this year alone for housing for first nations communities, to address what has been a chronic absence of funding by the federal government. Since the former Liberal government eliminated the national housing program, Canadians, in so many cases, have been forced to make incredibly difficult choices. In first nations communities, only a fraction of the money that is needed this year is actually being provided in this budget.

Let us talk about universal child care. It is not here.

Any sort of investment to deal with the industries that are facing what is an intense push from the new Trump administration against Canadian industries is not there.

My colleague from Hamilton Mountain has done an extraordinary job of protecting pensions. As he has said many times, there is nothing in this budget, and there will be nothing in the budget implementation act, that actually addresses the theft of pensions that is hurting so many Canadians.

The reply of the government was to introduce Bill C-27, which would of course help the finance minister with Morneau Shepell, but it would not help Canadians who are struggling to keep their pensions. Sears pensioners losing their pensions are only the latest who have seen the money they have invested over a lifetime evaporate because there is no pension protection in this country.

As well, I can mention Phoenix, where the government has to make a phenomenal investment, a significant investment, to address the Phoenix pay system, and it chose not to in this budget. The Parliamentary Budget Officer and even the Australians, who would have warned the Liberals not to implement Phoenix, say that it costs $1 billion to $5 billion to fix it. The Liberals have only pennies on the dollar in this budget, not enough to fix it, and not enough to make sure our public servants receive the paycheques they so richly deserve in working so hard for our country.

With regard to pay equity, I mentioned earlier that there is not a cent.

The most cruel hoax is the issue of pharmacare. In the days prior to the budget, the Liberals leaked out that they would be taking real action on pharmacare. We have repeatedly brought to this House motions directing the government to enact pharmacare, and the Liberals have refused to vote for them. However, in the buildup to the budget, they said that this time they really meant it.

It made a lot of sense that they would enact pharmacare. Even the Parliamentary Budget Officer has said very clearly that all Canadians would save money if we have a universal pharmacare system. The cost of drugs, over $30 billion a year, can be reduced remarkably if there is a single-payer system. We saw that in New Zealand, with costs being reduced by 90%. Provincial and territorial governments can save billions of dollars, and so can businesses and individuals. Canadians who cannot afford to pay for their medication now and take the medication they so desperately need would actually have that medication provided.

In the past, I have quoted Jim, who is right outside Parliament Hill begging every day for the $580 he needs for the medication that will keep him alive. After all that buildup, what the Liberals gave was a cruel hoax to Canadians who are desperate to have a pharmacare system in place. The cruel hoax is that they just decided to study it for another couple of years. They will make another promise in 2019, if they get re-elected.

My point is that the budget is a cruel hoax. The Liberal government has repeatedly broken promises it made back in 2015. On the basis of this budget, the government not only does not deserve the support of the House of Commons for this budget, but it does not deserve the support of Canadians in 2019. The Liberals have kept the same cruel fiscal framework that allows the gross inequalities we see in our country, the tens of billions of dollars that go to offshore tax havens and stock options, the whole range of loopholes. None of those are shut down.

What the government is saying is that for those Canadians who want to see pharmacare, instead of struggling and having to choose between putting food on the table or paying their rent and paying for the medication their doctor has prescribed, there is no hope. The Liberals are just offering a study. For the tens of thousands of Canadians who are out on the streets and parks of our nation tonight, there is not going to be any housing coming. There is a little bit, but not nearly enough to actually address the size and scope of the crisis that has befallen Canadians.

If people are looking for pay equity, for their pensions to be protected, or for support for their industry being attacked by Donald Trump, they should not look in this Liberal budget.

This budget is a cruel hoax. Canadians deserve better. Canadians expected better. In 2019, they will be able to get better.

PensionsStatements By Members

February 12th, 2018 / 2 p.m.
See context

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, proposed changes to pensions in Bill C-27 have constituents in my riding of Port Moody—Coquitlam, Anmore, and Belcarra worried about their future.

This bill would allow defined benefit plans to be converted to unsecured targeted benefit plans, placing all the financial risk on workers. This is short-sighted, ill-advised, and unfair.

Pensions are deferred wages, and they belong to the workers who have earned them. After working all their lives and sacrificing pay and benefit improvements to secure a reliable pension plan, Canadians deserve a fair, decent pension that they can count on.

New Democrats strongly oppose Bill C-27 and ask that it be withdrawn immediately.

Opposition Motion—Conflicts of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 6th, 2018 / 4:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Tracey Ramsey NDP Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, the NDP supports this motion, but we have to understand that this motion needs to be more than just a political stunt. There actually needs to be some change that happens in this House when we guide ourselves.

I definitely agree that the Prime Minister's violation of the Conflict of Interest Act is unacceptable, but this has to be more than just an attempt to have the Prime Minister pay back the money. It needs to go further. It needs to reach further to make sure that we are implementing some changes for every member who sits in this House today.

The Conservative motion would impose this penalty on the specific case of the Prime Minister, but it would still leave the actual statutory penalties of the Conflict of Interest Act completely ineffective. New Democrats believe that if a motion or a bill is brought into the House or committee, there should be substantial ideas and reforms that would improve the institutions in which we work and which we all abide by.

When the Liberals were elected in 2015, they came in with their sunny ways. Their Prime Minister clearly put forward “Open and Accountable Government 2015”, a guide which sets out core principles regarding the rules and responsibilities of ministers in Canada's system of responsible parliamentary government. I have to say that Canadians were hopeful when they saw this document. They felt this was a signal that things were going to be different, and yet here we are, more than two years later, and Canadians who were hopeful have been seriously let down by the Liberal government.

The principle that was put forward states that public officeholders have an obligation to perform their official duties and arrange their private affairs in a manner that will bear the closest public scrutiny, an obligation that is not fully discharged by simply acting within the law. Those were some really lofty words that sounded incredibly hopeful, that sounded like there was going to be a change inside of government, inside this House. Sadly, it is not binding. Clearly, it is not of interest to the Prime Minister himself or to his fellow cabinet ministers, like the Minister of Finance. I am going to talk a little about the Minister of Finance.

The non-recusal of the Minister of Finance from consideration of Bill C-27 may not be seen as a problem for the government, but it is a huge conflict for Canadians. In particular, pensioners are very worried.

People and retirees in my riding have contacted me because they are worried about the changes to their pension plans. It is important to note that for working people, which I was before I came to this chamber, pensions are deferred wages. Pensions are not something that a company just gives people to hopefully live their retirement life in dignity. People contribute to their own pension, based on every hour that they have worked in the workplace, through an agreement with their employer. People work their entire lives for these pensions and they count on them to support them in their later years.

Now we have Bill C-27 which threatens public pensions. We know that when it starts with public pensions, it will soon move over to private pensions. Certainly the finance minister stands to benefit from this, from Morneau Shepell and its involvement in all of these pension plans. We have seen this play out unfortunately with Sears workers in our country right now.

There are many dangers to Bill C-27. This shamefully removes the legal obligation, allowing for the conversion of defined benefit plans to targeted benefit plans, which could potentially lower benefits for both current and future retirees.

I want everyone in this House to think for a moment that if they retire, if they have worked 30 years at a workplace and then retire, knowing that they are going to receive a set amount every month, their decision to retire will actually hinge on whether or not they can afford to live on that amount per month.

For people who are already retired, they could now be contacted by those running the pension plan for the company which they previously worked for and could be told that the amount of the pension is going to be reduced because the company is not doing as well as it had hoped. Essentially seniors could be put in precarious situations after the implementation of Bill C-27.

Our pension legislation in Canada is designed to protect plan members from employers simply abandoning their commitments to them after years of hard work and walking away from their pension obligations. In Bill C-27, the government is proposing to withdraw that legal protection, leaving employees at the mercy of employers who now want to back out of those pension commitments that they made to the workers years and years ago.

This is an attack on the retirement security of all workers and retirees and could undermine the stability of workplace relations and fuel labour disputes in our country. This is very serious, and our Prime Minister and finance minister have shown absolutely no remorse. Our finance minister is quite content to leave Bill C-27 sitting on the table as a constant threat and reminder to working people in our country that they could lose their retirement as they see it right now. This is not a government that is standing up for working people.

The NDP stands up for retirees and working people and has legislation on the table right now to protect workers in insolvency. However, we will not stop until Bill C-27 is removed from the House. It is not good enough to let it sit and languish. I get that it is good enough for the finance minister, because he stands to personally gain from the bill, and, as has been mentioned in the House many times, has potentially already gained from Bill C-27.

This is very serious. Our Prime Minister and our finance minister cannot see past their own privilege. I see that disconnect daily in the House. It is something that is palpable here. When the Prime Minister is speaking about working people and the middle class, it is very clear to me that he does not know anyone, or have someone in his family, who is a member of the working class, the middle class, people who are out there working hard every day and struggling.

I am not surprised that this level of disconnect has led to this type of motion today where there is an attempt to force the Prime Minister to do the right thing. The Prime Minister himself sees nothing wrong with private vacations on islands, and the finance minister sees nothing wrong with legislation that could potentially benefit his family business. This is a very serious problem.

They cannot seem to recognize the wealth they have, and they are using it as an excuse for this ethical breach. To say, as my colleague referred to earlier, that they are friends with someone they have seen twice in the last 15 years, so of course they accepted a private invitation to their island made me laugh. We do not typically bring everyone along with us on a vacation that we are being gifted from someone. For those of us who travel with our families, we are often all together in one small room, and we certainly would not invite another member of Parliament and their spouse. We would not invite the leader of our party. It is simply not feasible. However, to the Prime Minister, this seems as though it was nothing and he had done nothing wrong. That is the root of why we are discussing this here today.

There are some things that the New Democrats feel strongly we could do that would help to end this kind of abuse of privilege. The NDP is the only party in the House that is talking about real substantial reforms. If we are going to make some real advancements, we need to reform the act and give it teeth. We believe that the commissioner should be empowered to impose a penalty where an examination results in the finding of a contravention of any part of the act, which could include financial penalties, removal from a position, suspension from voting on issues for 30 days, or permanent recusal on specific issues.

The other thing is that we think the commissioner needs the power to give real fines and other punishments, including suspension. This is to allow the public to complain to the commissioner, to tighten the post-employment rules, reduce the gift disclosure threshold, and expand the definition of the public office holder to include Governor in Council appointments. To submit indirectly held assets to the same rules and scrutiny as directly held assets is among some of the reforms that the New Democrats are bringing forward today in the House.

We believe that the PM could easily pay this amount. Why he has chosen not to is beyond me. He certainly has the kind of money to be able to reach into his pocket, pull it out, and make sure he is returning the money to taxpayers. However, what we see, unfortunately, is a theme, and it is continuing on from previous Liberal and Conservative governments. It is that these scandals and ethical breaches are accepted.

We have the first sitting prime minister to be in violation of this statute, and I can promise that Canadians across the country are talking about this issue. They are saying that the Prime Minister is completely out of touch with Canadians, and they are looking to those in the House to hold him to account.

Opposition Motion—Conflicts of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 6th, 2018 / 4:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Montcalm for his comment. I would like to remind members that, when it comes to conflicts of interest, the Minister of Finance was also caught red-handed because he forgot to disclose that he owns a villa in France. That is not something that would happen to most people. The finance minister is also under investigation for a potential conflict of interest surrounding Bill C-27, which is a direct attack on defined benefit pension plans. Let us not forget that the finance minister's own company manages pension plans. I look forward to seeing the end of this investigation into this other Liberal scandal.

Opposition Motion—Conflict of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 6th, 2018 / 11:25 a.m.
See context

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, one of the important points my colleague has been making is the importance of having some kind of consequence, and particularly the ability to assess some kind of financial penalty on members of the government who break the Conflict of Interest Act.

I am just wondering if the member wants to highlight for us what that would mean in terms of some of the other conflicts of interest for government. I am thinking, in particular, of the questions surrounding the finance minister and Bill C-27, and also the earlier point that the motion, as written, would not really allow for any obvious penalty to be assessed against the finance minister if he were found definitely to be in a conflict of interest.

How would the approach suggested by my colleague encompass those kinds of cases in addition to the case of the Prime Minister?

Opposition Motion—Conflict of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 6th, 2018 / 11 a.m.
See context

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured, as always, to rise in this House to represent the people of Timmins—James Bay and to speak to this very serious issue: the unprecedented situation of a sitting Prime Minister having been found guilty on numerous counts of breaching the Conflict of Interest Act.

I am going to be speaking to the issue of conflict of interest today. I understand why the official opposition brought this motion forward. I have some problems with it, and I am going to talk about them. However, I find it very frustrating that we have a Prime Minister who shows his contempt for Parliament by not bothering to show up to answer questions. I believe that we are in a dangerous position across the world of moving into post-democratic politics. Our Prime Minister is a great example of that. If he does push-ups in the Bronx, it will make international news. I do not mind that he makes international news, but he does have an obligation to come to the House to answer questions.

We were told at the ethics committee that the Prime Minister should not come to the committee to explain being found guilty by the Ethics Commissioner, because the proper place is in the House of Commons. I agreed with that. That was fair. However, members may have noticed that the Prime Minister showed up when Parliament returned, answered a few questions, and then sat down and refused to answer the leader of the official opposition. That is disrespect for this House. I am not here to take the position of leader of the opposition, but this is about respect for the House.

On the first Wednesday, the Wednesday the Prime Minister told us would be the day he answers all manner of questions, he skipped town to do a television town hall. He had a month and a half to do television town halls, but he skipped Ottawa. To me, this is a serious issue.

On the issue of the Prime Minister being found guilty of breaching the Conflict of Interest Act, the New Democrats differ somewhat from the Conservatives. To me, the fact that he went off to billionaire's island with a family friend showed a major breach of judgment. We are not dealing with a criminal act; we are dealing with a breach of judgment. The question of the judgment of this Prime Minister is his extremely close relationship with the 1%, the insiders.

The government always talks about the middle class and how it is here to do everything for the middle class, but if we look at the growing conflict of interest issues around the Prime Minister, it is about the government's failure to even understand what the middle class is.

I have often said that I think the Prime Minister and I grew up in a different middle class. My father joined the middle class when he was in his forties. He had to quit school as a teenager, as did my mom, to go work. It was not until my dad was in his forties that he was able to go back to school, get an education, and eventually become a professor of economics.

The middle class was built not just through hard work but by a whole social and economic structure that made it possible for kids from working class backgrounds who got an education to move beyond. We are seeing that the notion of the middle class is disappearing year after year with growing levels of student debt and growing precariousness of work.

We have a Prime Minister who decided to go off to billionaire's island to hang out with the Aga Khan, his friend, who is lobbying the Government of Canada. That is a problem. Liberals do not seem to think it is a problem. As the ultimate insider party in the country, they are saying that they are their friends. However, the reason we have laws is so friends who are powerful cannot call up the Prime Minister and make changes. The law should apply to everyone. This Prime Minister does not seem to think it applies to him.

In the case of the breach of the Conflict of Interest Act, he broke it on numerous points. He should have known that it was a conflict of interest to accept a gift from someone that powerful who was lobbying the government. The government's response was very disturbing.

Section 12 of the Conflict of Interest Act, on travel, states:

No minister of the Crown, minister of state or parliamentary secretary, no member of his or her family and no ministerial adviser or ministerial staff shall accept travel on non-commercial chartered or private aircraft for any purpose unless required in his or her capacity as a public office holder or in exceptional circumstances or with the prior approval of the Commissioner.

The Prime Minister decided to go on the Aga Khan's private helicopter to get to his private island. In his defence, the Prime Minister said that there was a difference in the language used in the French act and the English one. The French used the more specific term “avions” and not “aircraft”. The Prime Minister felt that this specifically exempted helicopters, which was a ridiculous response. It showed not only a lack of judgment but showed someone who would go to the extent of saying that it did not specifically say “helicopters“ to find a way to slip through the rules and abuse the act.

I have not agreed with many of Madam Dawson's decisions over the course of many years. However, she said that the Prime Minister's position would be to create a legal absurdity and a complete abuse of the act.

I am going to say quickly that I have a problem with the Conservative motion to pay back travel, because when the Prime Minister travels, there are enormous costs. There are issues of security if a prime minister wants to take a vacation anywhere. When Stephen Harper went to see a Boston Red Sox game, there was an enormous cost to the taxpayer. However, the Prime Minister does not get to travel on public aircraft. If the Prime Minister is going anywhere, there are going to be costs. We accepted it for Stephen Harper. People were asking how much money was spent for him to go to a ball game. He was the prime minister. He was not able to take cheap WestJet flights. There were going to be costs.

Therefore, I have a question about the propriety of the House ordering the Prime Minister to pay it back for his bad judgment.

That being said, the problem with our Conflict of Interest Act is that the commissioner does not have the power or ability to render the appropriate penalty. Should the Prime Minister pay a penalty from his personal money for this abuse of the act? Certainly. I think it behooves us within this House to say that we need to overhaul the Conflict of Interest Act to make sure that we do not have sitting prime ministers or cabinet ministers abusing the act and that the commissioner has the power to levy financial fines to force compliance, because if the Prime Minister believes he is above the law, it sends a very disturbing message to his cabinet.

On the issue of overall conflict of interest and the Prime Minister, I am seeing a disturbing pattern emerging. It emerged right after the election. I was so impressed with his talk during the campaign of creating a new, open, and transparent notion of parliamentary accountability. He seemed to follow through with his letters of commission to each of his ministers that talked about the need to have a higher standard. It was not just about the legal obligation but about being seen meeting that legal obligation. I was thinking that here was a Prime Minister who would be willing to do stuff differently, and for a moment, the sun was shining on accountability in Ottawa, but then our Prime Minister decided to go for cash for access.

To me, it is the most grotty thing possible for a sitting prime minister to make himself available to be lobbied for cash. He said that they were not lobbying. Who would pay $1,500 a pop to sit at a private CEO's condo if not to get the ear of the Prime Minister? Was it because they thought he was a funny guy and just wanted to hang out with him?

Chinese billionaires met with the Prime Minister. When he was confronted, the Prime Minister said that they were talking about the middle class. I guess I grew up in a different middle class. Can members imagine for a minute that Chinese billionaires came over to Canada, paid $1,500 a pop to talk to the Prime Minister at a private function, and were worried about folks who are just getting by? I do not think so. The idea that the Prime Minister would use his office to collect those funds for the Liberal Party to me set a disturbing pattern, and it is a pattern that has been repeated.

We saw the issue of the KPMG fraud scheme. KPMG, which has received millions of dollars in federal contracts, set up a scheme so that powerful Canadians did not have to pay their share.

I think of a single mom I dealt with in my riding over Christmas who was not able to pay for her kids' Christmas presents, because every year, CRA cuts her off, because it claims that she has to prove once again that she actually has children. We were calling and calling. There was a seven-week period CRA had to go through, because it had to do due diligence, as it has done three times in three years, to prove that this single mother actually has children, and she was not able to buy Christmas presents. We see the CRA's willingness to go after any ordinary Canadian who owes it money. It shows no mercy. However, when the rich insiders who were caught in the KPMG scandal were found out, CRA offered them immediate amnesty. That is not standing up for the middle class. That is standing up for the 1%.

What did the Prime Minister do after this scandal? He appointed a senior KPMG representative to be the treasurer of Liberal Party finances. To me, that sends a very disturbing message. It shows contempt for taxpayers who work hard and pay their bills. The Prime Minister looked at that KPMG scandal and said, “This is a great guy. I like how these guys are operating. Let us get them to handle Liberal Party finances.” That is a very disturbing tone.

We saw it repeated for Samuel Bronfman, who is the good, close friend of the Prime Minister and a key Liberal fundraiser. Mr. Bronfman was named in the paradise papers, an international scandal in terms of the uber rich not paying their share while they turn around and tell Canadians that they do not have services.

We can make comparisons to understand how this plays out. This past week, the Prime Minister looked a Princess Patricia's veteran in the face, Brock Blaszczyk, a man who lost his leg serving his country, and told him that veterans are asking for more than what the government is willing to give. These are people who were willing to give their lives and their health in service to the nation who came back and have been ripped off on their basic pensions. The Prime Minister can look a veteran in the eye and say that he is asking for more than Canada is willing to give.

The Prime Minister's personal friend, Samuel Bronfman, was then named in the paradise papers for a business scheme he had been involved in. The Prime Minister said that there was absolutely no issue, because the Liberals had been assured that Samuel Bronfman followed all the rules. It is completely inappropriate for a sitting prime minister to interpose himself in a question of a tax case, or potential tax fraud, and tell Canadians that there is nothing to be seen here. Why? It is because Samuel Bronfman is not only a personal friend but raised $250,000 in two hours for the Liberal Party. He is a very powerful person.

We brought in the Accountability Act when the last Liberal government fell to try to close these kinds of loopholes so that powerful insiders who raise money for the party and hang out with the Prime Minister on billionaire's island do not get this kind of access. This brings us back to the Aga Khan. The Aga Khan was lobbying the government for money, and the Prime Minister received a gift. The Liberal Party does not seem to understand that there is a problem with that.

We will go to the next issue. There is a very disturbing pattern of conflict of interest emerging in a government that says it is there for the little guy and the middle class, but time and again, it is looking after the uber rich.

We can talk about the privatized pension king of Canada, who is the finance minister. He is a man who told investors about the enormous opportunities in getting rid of defined pension plans, a man whose company was involved in the largest pension meltdowns in Canadian history: Nortel, Stelco, and now the Sears pension windup. We have a finance minister who is unwilling to do anything to end this kind of corporate pension theft. Well, it would certainly affect the bottom line of his family business.

He brought in pension legislation. In fact, the very first thing he did was bring in pension legislation, and that legislation, Bill C-27, will make it easier to go after other defined pension plans. However, the Prime Minister did not think there was a potential conflict of interest.

Again, I guess the Prime Minister and I grew up in a different middle class. The people I know, who save so hard to get a basic pension, see what is happening to the Sears workers and say, “That could be me.”

Younger people, who see that they will never have a pension, are asking where this government is in dealing with the pension crisis. Well, the government is making sure that the privatized pension king of Canada, who is the finance minister, who is driving the agenda on pensions, is not going to be in a position to be pulled from the file. The government is going to do nothing to help Sears workers, and it is continuing to push ahead with Bill C-27, which is a direct attack on defined pensions.

Over the years in Parliament, I have seen many politicians telling Canadians that they are going to give them a better deal. Sometimes it is like the crocodile saying, “Trust me. Let's go on a picnic down by the riverside. I have your best interest at heart”. However, when one puts in the Samuel Bronfmans, the top people from KPMG, and the privatized pension king in this country to deal with the issue of pensions, one cannot be saying that one has Canadians' interests at heart.

This goes back to the importance of the motion to have the Prime Minister found guilty of using his position in getting a benefit from a billionaire to vacation on a billionaire's island. Again, I will not say that this is an illegal act. To me, this was an astounding lack of judgment. It is within the purview of Parliament to insist that the Prime Minister meet a level of accountability, which he has not done because he has left Parliament and he has not answered these questions.

However, to be clear, I have a problem with the Conservatives' argument that he should pay back the cost of the trip, because wherever the Prime Minister goes, there will be enormous costs associated with the issue of security. However, there does need to be the ability under the ethics act to deal with financial monetary penalties for the abuse of office, and for the failure to live up to the standard. The Prime Minister has set the bar very low for the rest of his cabinet. We need to be working across party lines to ensure that these loopholes in the Conflict of Interest Act are shut down and that the Prime Minister is held accountable so that he can restore the trust of Canadians on this fundamental issue.

On the overall issue of conflict of interest, as New Democrats we will continue to hold the government to account. We are not afraid to congratulate it if we believe it is doing something good. We do not have to be oppositional on everything. However, to see the government time and time again favour the interests of the 1% and the insiders while paying lip service to people who are falling behind is simply not acceptable.

We will continue to address these issues and the need to deal with the toxic nature of big money's influence in political life, which is as important now as it was when we had to bring in the Federal Accountability Act back in 2006. I remember at that time we had the corrupt Liberal government up on charges. We had such abuse with lobbyists and insiders. The line back then was “It's who you know in the PMO”.

This struck Canadians as fundamentally wrong, because most Canadians never get the opportunity to call in. Most Canadians never get their cases fixed, except when they go through the system, and that is the way it is supposed to be for the lobbyists and the insiders. There has to be a system. It has to be accountable. It has to be transparent so that the people know why and how decisions are being made. However, with the current government, there is too much of a slip back to the bad old days of insiders and friends.

This is an instructive motion. Hopefully, the Prime Minister will listen to it, and I think the Prime Minister does need to tell Canadians that he will make some manner of restitution to show that he understands the seriousness of having been found guilty on numerous counts of breaching the Conflict of Interest Act.

Opposition Motion—Conflict of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 6th, 2018 / 10:20 a.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. leader of the official opposition for his remarks. He did a good job in capturing the sense of frustration we feel on this side of the House, and that Canadians are feeling with a Prime Minister who has been found to have broken the law and does not seem to be suffering any consequences for having done so.

On this side, we are also very much aware of some of the other ethical challenges with the Liberal government with respect to conflict of interest. In particular, I am thinking about the finance minister and the controversy around Bill C-27, which is going to have a financial impact for Canadians far above the $200,000 that the Prime Minister's trip had. For that reason, we are wondering: why the narrow focus of this motion?

We agree that there should be consequences for the Prime Minister. We support that principle. However, we know there are a lot of other problems with conflicts of interest with the Liberal government. We wonder why the official opposition chose to have such a narrow focus rather than using this as an opportunity to ensure there are consequences for any of the members of government who violate conflict of interest provisions.

EthicsAdjournment Proceedings

February 5th, 2018 / 6:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Hope, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is true that the Ethics Commissioner cleared the finance minister of one of the allegations that were made. He also continues to investigate whether or not the finance minister was in a conflict of interest when he tabled legislation, Bill C-27, which would change the way that pensions are administered in this country. Only a very few companies in this country are set up to administer those types of pensions, and one of them happens to be Morneau Shepell, his former family company.

Can the parliamentary secretary confirm whether the finance minister has met with the new Ethics Commissioner to discuss those allegations of conflict of interest?

EthicsAdjournment Proceedings

February 5th, 2018 / 6:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Hope, BC

Mr. Speaker, last October, I asked the finance minister about when he had sold his shares in Morneau Shepell. He had about $20 million or $30 million in Morneau Shepell, which he told Canadians he had put in a blind trust. Of course, we found out that was not true, and it kicked off quite a fall for the finance minister.

Here we are, four months later, and the Liberals are once again embroiled in an ethical scandal where the Prime Minister, this time, has been found guilty of breaching the conflict of interest provisions that are provided to ministers and members of Parliament. He has been found guilty by the Ethics Commissioner of improperly arranging his personal affairs, guilty on the charge of accepting illegal gifts, guilty on the charge of illegally accepting a ride on a private aircraft, and guilty on the charge that he engaged illegally in discussions about government business.

We know that the finance minister had similar issues. He was found to have breached the code, as well, for failing to disclose the nature of the foreign corporation that held his French villa.

They certainly kept Mary Dawson, the previous ethics commissioner, quite busy. Her term has expired, and we have a new Ethics Commissioner, and he is now going to be investigating. We anticipate that he will continue the investigation into whether the Minister of Finance was in a conflict of interest when he introduced pension legislation, Bill C-27, that could have directly benefited his former family company, Morneau Shepell, while he was still in control of those shares in that company.

I am wondering if the parliamentary secretary could confirm whether the new Ethics Commissioner has met with the finance minister to discuss that potential conflict of interest with Bill C-27, and whether or not he has answered those questions about whether that directly benefited his personal company.

PensionsOral Questions

January 29th, 2018 / 2:40 p.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, when the Prime Minister was hanging out with his billionaire friends at Davos, he made very clear his indifference to the corporate pension robbery at Sears. Those retirees have no friends in this government. Let us look at the finance minister. His family business, Morneau Shepell, had the contract to roll up the Sears pension fund. He has told the investors about the opportunities of going after defined plans, and he has brought in the legislation, Bill C-27, to make it possible.

At the very least, will the finance minister withdraw Bill C-27 and recuse himself from any discussions about the Sears workers?

EthicsOral Questions

December 13th, 2017 / 2:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, facts are facts. They can be checked.

Let us look at the Minister of Finance's record: he imposed a tax reform to raise taxes on small businesses; he was fined by the Ethics Commissioner because he failed to declare one of his companies that owned one of his villas in France; he failed to put his assets in a blind trust; he sold $10 million worth of shares in his company days before introducing tax measures that he himself put in place; and he introduced Bill C-27, which earned his family's company more than $5 million.

When will the Prime Minister call for his Minister of Finance to resign?

EthicsOral Questions

December 13th, 2017 / 2:45 p.m.
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NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday in committee, the nominee for Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner that the Liberals imposed on us would not confirm whether he plans to pursue the investigations into the Prime Minister's trip and the Minister of Finance's involvement in Bill C-27. Canadians are really concerned. These investigations are important to Canadians and certainly to our democracy, but the Liberals do not seem to realize that.

Do the Liberals think the commissioner should continue the investigations his predecessor started?

PensionsStatements By Members

December 12th, 2017 / 2 p.m.
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NDP

Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, the proposed government changes to pensions, as laid out in Bill C-27, would allow defined benefit plans in federally regulated businesses to be converted to targeted benefit plans. In other words, the financial risk would be shifted from employers to workers.

These changes represent a serious risk to the retirement security of Canadians, and the proposal was met with an outcry of opposition from my riding of Kootenay—Columbia and from across Canada. As one of my constituents said, “It is important for Canadians to have security in retirement, because poverty in retirement creates a myriad of social problems.”

The NDP presented a motion calling on the Liberals to withdraw this attack on Canadian pensions, but to no avail. At this special time of year, filled with peace, joy, and love, the best present the Liberal government could give Canadians is to take Bill C-27, put it in a box, and return it to the Minister of Finance, stamped “Bah humbug, return to sender, no postage required”.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2017 / 1:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Now I have nine and a half minutes, Mr. Speaker, but thank you.

I am pleased to rise today on Bill C-24. I spoke to Bill C-24 in an earlier reading at which time I named this legislation “the Seinfeld bill”, because it is a bill about nothing. As my colleague the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands said, this is an inconsequential bill.

The bill goes back to 2015, when we had a freshly elected government that, with great fanfare, announced its gender-balanced cabinet. Someone in the media pointed out that five of the 15 women cabinet ministers were so-called junior ministers, ministers such as the Minister of Status of Women, etc., so it really was not gender balanced. The government immediately said they are all equal and they are all going to get paid the same.

At committee we asked the government House leader about this and her comment was that all 30 members already receive the same salary and this has been the case since the first day in office and it will not change with this legislation. I then asked why we are bothering with the bill. We were told that without the bill, ministers of state would not be full ministers and would not have equal voices at the cabinet table.

The Prime Minister spends a lot of time overseas and when he is not busy showing off his new socks, he is talking about how he is a feminist prime minister. As partisan as I am, I cannot believe that the Prime Minister sits at the cabinet table and ignores good ideas from someone who is a minister of state just because of a title. So again, why do we have this legislation?

Maybe it is about gender equality. I am all about a gender-balanced cabinet but what I am not about is having a quota system that forces the government to ignore better qualified MPs and pushes them to the back to fill the front benches with unqualified men, such as the defence minister.

Think where we would be without a quota system. We would not have a defence minister who claims to be the architect of someone else's work. We would not have a defence minister who has so badly bungled the purchase of fighter jets. First, he is not going to allow F-35s, so we are going to buy sole-sourced Boeing until Boeing gets into a trade conflict with Bombardier, so we are not going to buy Boeing. Instead, we are going to buy used Boeing. That makes sense.

The defence minister bungled shipbuilding. There was delay upon delay. Every single month, according to the parliamentary budget officer, it costs taxpayers $250 million.

If we did not have a quota system, maybe we would not have the finance minister, the same gentleman who is under an ethics investigation for proposing Bill C-27, which would just happen to include the same changes he lobbied for as a private citizen that would have benefited him. He tabled that legislation in the House.

We would not perhaps have the sport minister, the same minister who insulted victims of thalidomide, the same minister who said he hopes they die 10 years from now because it would be less of a burden on the government.

What did Liberal MPs have to say about this legislation? On second reading the Liberals framed Bill C-24

EthicsOral Questions

December 7th, 2017 / 2:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance has not answered any of the reasonable and fair questions we have asked regarding his conduct.

What we have discovered is that the minister was actively managing shares in Morneau Shepell while he was promoting Bill C-27, which would directly benefit his family business.

Why will the minister not answer this simple question? Was he the one who signed the memo to approve Bill C-27?

EthicsOral Questions

December 7th, 2017 / 2:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance has become an expert at avoiding giving answers to Canadians. He hid his shares in a numbered company. He hid the date of the sale of some of those shares. Today, new documents show that the minister is continuing his practice of hiding information from Canadians. When asked simply if he as minister signed the memorandum approving Bill C-27, he refused to answer.

If the minister refuses to be transparent about something as simple as this, will he not just resign?

EthicsOral Questions

December 7th, 2017 / 2:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Maxime Bernier Conservative Beauce, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance has become quite skilled at avoiding Canadians' questions.

Yesterday, the House Leader of the Official Opposition asked the minister a simple question. She asked whether he was the one who signed the memorandum to cabinet for Bill C-27. Can my colleagues guess what happened? We are still waiting for an answer.

If the Minister of Finance is unable to answer our simple, softball questions, then I would ask him to issue a press release announcing his immediate resignation.

EthicsAdjournment Proceedings

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

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 want to thank my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent once again for his fabulous speech. He is a man of conviction, and I learn something from him every day. Although we do not always share the same values, I want to commend him on his work and compliment him on his beautiful bow tie. It suits him quite well.

To get back to the serious matter at hand, I listened carefully to his speech. It raised a number of concerns for me.

Does my colleague think that, with everything going on in relation to the alleged conflict of interest and the introduction of BIll C-27, which related directly to a financial benefit for the Minister of Finance, Canadians' trust in our Minister of Finance could be affected, especially since he holds the key to Canada's finances?

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's AssetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

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

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, we pay all our respects to the Ethics Commissioner, but the Ethics Commissioner was misled three times by the finance minister. First, he said that “...all my assets will go into a blind trust”. He said that, but he did not do that. Second, he forgot his villa in Provence, France—forgot to tell the commissioner. Third, he said he collaborated with the Ethics Commissioner on Bill C-27, which is false. He did so afterwards.

This is why the minister was wrong, three times in a row. One, two, three, and he is out.

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's AssetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2017 / 4:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take the floor in this debate. It seems some people are surprised to see me wearing a bow tie. I have received a few oblique and humorous comments about it on Twitter. I just want to say that it is in support of my colleague from Hull—Aylmer, who is my MP when I am here in Gatineau, and the Movember movement.

Today’s motion is about ethics, and there is no more sensitive and serious topic in politics than ethics. Debates are never more fierce and passionate than when the subject of ethics comes up, because ethics are so very dear to our hearts, and should be closely monitored. Today we are talking about the Minister of Finance's ethics.

For almost a year, I had the pleasure and honour of being the official opposition’s finance critic, so the finance minister was my counterpart at the time. I have expressed the respect and esteem I have for this man on several occasions, and I would like to do so again, even despite his serious ethical problems.

When a man of his calibre, a Bay Street baron, goes into politics and decides to help Canada in his own way, the political class as a whole is the better for it. However, as a high-profile minister, he must meet the highest ethical standards, and there is the rub. Unfortunately, the minister’s ethics seem to have eroded over time.

What happened when this fantastically successful businessman, an inspiration to all Canadian entrepreneurs, entered the political arena? What did he say? On November 4, 2015, a few weeks after the election, on CBC’s Power and Politics, a show then hosted by Rosemary Barton, who now co-anchors the evening news, the Minister of Finance said the following:

He said, “I resigned my position as chair of the firm that I was chair of before and I expect that all my assets will go into a blind trust. I’ve already communicated with the ethics commissioner in that regard and I do need to work through that process and will do in the appropriate time frame.” I repeat that he stated, “all my assets will go into a blind trust.”

That day, the Minister of Finance said that all of his assets would go into a blind trust. Well, two years later, when we looked for this blind trust, we realized that we had been utterly misled. The Minister of Finance had been playing semantics. That is the sad part.

The hon. members across the aisle keep repeating that the minister followed the Ethics Commissioner’s recommendations, but we know he was playing semantics. He said that he did not hold any shares in his company directly, but that he did own a numbered company that just happened to run his company. Playing semantics means playing fast and loose with one's ethics, and above all, one's honour. As Global News reported:

Records show that before the 2015 election Morneau held nearly 2.07 million common shares in Morneau Shepell through the Alberta numbered company, 1193536 Alberta Ltd. There is no public data about his current holdings in the company. At their current value of just over $20 per share, those holdings would be worth more than $40 million.

It seems, then, that the Minister of Finance was playing semantics. Rather than acknowledging that he had a company and that he had direct access to Morneau Shepell, he played semantics, saying that it was a numbered company. The Ethics Commissioner was misled just like the rest of Canadians. Every month, the Minister of Finance was receiving $65,000 in dividends from this numbered company. That is considerable.

Then, we learned that he hid information from the Ethics Commissioner about the numbered company, which, among other things, owns a villa in Provence, France.

In my riding, I have had a condo for the past 15 years or so; I am very proud of it. I presume that some of my colleagues have a principal residence, a cottage and things like that.

However, forgetting that you have a house in Provence, France, probably does not happen very often. It is only when the minister was caught with his hand in the cookie jar that the Ethics Commissioner investigated and found him guilty. That is why he was ordered to pay a measly $200 fine.

Once all of his numbered companies and the villa in Provence had been exposed, what did the minister do? Recognizing that he had been caught with his hand in the cookie jar, he decided to do what he should have done from the start: sell his shares. He also decided to donate all of his company’s profits to charity. I cried a little when I heard that.

If that is not an admission of guilt, I do not know what is. If I suddenly decided to sell something that I insisted for two years I had nothing to do with, it might be because I wanted to clear my conscience.

That is the saddest part of this whole mess. Unfortunately, this senior member can be forgetful and enjoys playing semantics. He is acting only now that he has been caught with his hand in the cookie jar; he should have taken the appropriate action two years ago. Canadians are not fooled by this sad state of affairs. Remember that the minister’s assets increased by $5 million in the past two years. He is Minister of Finance, and Morneau Shepell, a company founded by his father and built up by the minister himself, is in direct conflict of interest with the Minister of Finance.

Let me explain. Morneau Shepell is one of the biggest players in pension plans. The Minister of Finance establishes the government’s financial and tax policy. This is a direct conflict of interest. I know what I am talking about. I used to work at TQS, whose pension plan just happens to be administered by Morneau Shepell. When I received the envelope seven or eight months ago, I was amused, and I even mentioned it to the minister. He had simply forgotten to tell me that, at the time, he was still in control of the company, which he also forgot to tell Canadians.

I am getting to the heart of the matter. The minister himself introduced Bill C-27. Morneau Shepell, his family company, specializes in pension plans. Bill C-27 is a bill that directly concerns pension plans. That, right there, constitutes a direct conflict of interest. Worse still, Morneau Shepell is the company that designed the pension plan for the Province of New Brunswick. Bill C-27, it just so happens, is largely based on what Morneau Shepell did with New Brunswick’s pension plan. That is the definition of conflict of interest.

What did the minister say then? He said that he his actions were sanctioned by the Ethics Commissioner. That is not true. He went to see the Ethics Commissioner after introducing the bill. That is the most crooked part in all this. He played semantics with his numbered company, he forgot his house in Provence, and then he claimed to have worked with the Ethics Commissioner, even though he only met with the Ethics Commissioner after he introduced the bill. How can you trust someone who changes his story every time he gets caught with his hand in the cookie jar?

That is what is so sad and unfortunate in this case. That is why, as we speak, the Minister of Finance is being investigated by the Ethics Commissioner. The Prime Minister is, as well. For the first time in the history of Canada, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance are both under investigation by the Ethics Commissioner.

It is sad to see that the Minister of Finance, who has a noble, rich and exciting past and who is such an inspiration for all business people or would-be politicians who are now in business, has burned away all of his prestige by making basic errors of ethical judgment. It is unfortunate.

That is why we have introduced this motion calling on the Minister of Finance to declare all of his assets once and for all, like all members of Parliament must do, and that he disclose what assets he holds in his numbered companies.

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's assetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2017 / 3:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Alex Nuttall Conservative Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, ON

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

Today, we have the honour to debate a motion that was put forward by the opposition, which reads:

That the House agree with the Prime Minister’s statement in the House on November 1, 2017, that “sunshine is the best disinfectant”; and call on the Finance Minister to reveal all assets he has bought, sold or held within...his private companies or trust funds since he became Finance Minister, to determine if his financial interests have conflicted with his public duties.

I would also like to read a quote from the Prime Minister, which states, “he trust Canadians have in public institutions—including Parliament—has, at times, been compromised. By working with greater openness and transparency, Parliament can restore it.”

That is what is happening today. Parliament is overseeing and debating a motion that seeks to restore what has been compromised by the finance minister over the past couple of years.

I have another quote from the Prime Minister, which states:

We have also committed to set a higher bar for openness and transparency in government. It is time to shine more light on government to ensure it remains focused on the people it serves. Government and its information should be open by default. 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.

Those are the words of the Prime Minister to the finance minister in his mandate letter.

We are speaking on this subject today, because the finance minister has broken trust with Canadians through a pattern of perhaps half-truths or premeditated dishonesty, we do not know for sure. However, for two years the finance minister held shares. worth approximately $20 million, in Morneau Shepell, a company that he now regulates as finance minister. He held these shares outside of a blind trust, despite his colleagues, on both sides of the House, believing his shares were in a blind trust.

While he held these shares, the finance minister introduced Bill C-27, which would create a targeted benefit pension plan. TBPs are highly specialized products offered by, guess who, Morneau Shepell. Only after the finance minister was revealed to be not holding his assets in a blind trust did he acknowledge any wrongdoing and agree to sell those assets.

The finance minister is under investigation by the Ethics Commissioner for tabling Bill C-27 while continuing to hold shares in Morneau Shepell. The Prime Minister and the finance minister are two of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, officials in the country. Canadians must trust that they will act in the public interest rather than in their own private personal interest.

As the Prime Minister has said, sunshine is the best disinfectant. Therefore, let us throw open the shades and reveal the assets of the finance minister.

To quote the Prime Minister again, he stated, “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.” That is from the Prime Minister to the finance minister. Therefore, let us test that.

We know the finance minister neglected to put his assets in a blind trust, even though he was advised to. We know he told Canadians he was going to put them in a blind trust. We know the finance minister is sponsoring legislation that will directly benefit his family company Morneau Shepell. These are the same shares that he said he would put in a blind trust and did not. We know the finance minister misled or, at the very least, neglected to let the Ethics Commissioner know about the villa in France. We know the finance minister paid $200 for this “omission”. We know he continues to hold assets in at least six numbered companies, but the assets held within those numbered companies are not publicly known. These are undeniable facts.

Is the finance minister being open and transparent with his current personal holdings and numbered companies even after he was caught with holdings outside of blind trusts? The answer is no. Is the finance minister being sincere when he is sponsoring Bill C-27, when his friends, his family, and his indeed own finances stand to benefit greatly? The answer is no.

We know they will benefit because he said so as much when he was in an executive position at Morneau Shepell. The only thing the finance minister is being sincere about is himself, helping himself and his cronies. It is clear he failed to live up to the mandate letter he received from the Prime Minister on the first day being an office-holder of the Government of Canada. What other assets did he conveniently forget to tell the Ethics Commissioner about? It is because of this clear and established pattern of perhaps misinformation coming out of the finance minister that we have brought forward this opposition motion today.

Everyone knows how much I love quoting the Prime Minister so I am going to continue to do it. This is again from the Prime Minister to the finance minister, “Government and its information should be open by default. If we want Canadians to trust their government, we need a government that trusts Canadians.” How can the government expect its citizens to trust it when the Prime Minister has allowed this finance minister to flagrantly ignore the ethical standards the Prime Minister set himself?

This finance minister has demonstrated to Canadians that he does not trust them by refusing to provide us with the information about his numbered companies, by failing to disclose his villa to the Ethics Commissioner, and by introducing legislation that benefits himself, his friends, and his cronies. In addition, over the course of the last few months, the finance minister decided to tackle the issue of tax avoidance. It sounds great, it sounds full of integrity, but instead of targeting his friends in the trust fund world who are actually engaged in overseas tax avoidance schemes, the Liberal government has relentlessly gone after the average, run-of-the-mill, middle-class Canadian.

One of the groups the finance minister and Prime Minister have singled out are small business owners. Apparently they are tax cheats. Consultation never happened before they introduced what they were planning on turning into legislation. It does not sound like they trust small business owners. Family farmers, who work from dusk to dawn and feed our cities, are apparently tax cheats. Canadians suffering from diabetes have apparently been cheating the system so they need to change it and take away the disability tax credit or the RDSP. Families dealing with autism or mental health issues are thrown into the exact same basket. We never thought we would hear this but we have. Now even wounded veterans are seen in this same light.

“I believe in sunny ways. I believe in staying focused on Canadians, and that is exactly what we are doing. I believe that sunshine is the best disinfectant. Openness and transparency is what Canadians expect. That is what we will always stand for.” That was the Prime Minister's statement not even 30 days ago. Not even a month has gone by since he stated this in the House of Commons.

We have a bill and a Speech from the Throne that said we need to trust the government and the government needs to trust its people first. We have a mandate letter from the Prime Minister to the finance minister that talked about honesty, truth, sincerity, openness, about trusting the people of Canada. We have the Prime Minister's own words not even a month ago stating that it is, in fact, openness and transparency that Canadians expect, and apparently that is what they will always stand for. However, we question today whether they will stand and vote for openness and transparency when this motion is heard.

The media and members of this House have opened the shutters and have found out about the finance minister's villa in France. We have pulled back the curtains and found out that the finance minister's shares in Morneau Shepell were not held in a blind trust and that legislation he was sponsoring would greatly benefit his personal finances. We drew back the blinds, and again we found the finance minister holding assets in at least six unnamed numbered companies.

Now is the time for the finance minister to face the audience and come clean with Canadians about what assets he has in these numbered companies. Now is the time for the finance minister to let the sun shine in.

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's assetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2017 / 3:50 p.m.
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NDP

Tracey Ramsey NDP Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am sitting here listening to the arrogance dripping from the other side.

I am very curious if, when there is knocking on door, people who have public pensions, people who are part of organized labour are telling the member how much they love Bill C-27 and how much they love that the minister has put this on the table.

I do understand why the member does not want to stay on topic, does not want to answer questions, because, to be quite honest, it is indefensible. Here is the question, and I would like the answer to be yes or no.

When the member ran in 2015, did he promise his voters that a Liberal finance minister would take advantage of an ethical rule loophole, all the while misleading everyone into believing his assets were in a blind trust, yes or no?

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's assetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2017 / 3:45 p.m.
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NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to get this straight. When the finance minister was elected, he put his $21 million in Morneau Shepell shares into a numbered company in Alberta, and that company has made $5 million since he was elected. In fact, we have learned that the minister's investments grew 5% the day that Bill C-27 was tabled, which benefited Morneau Shepell.

The member seems to think that this is okay, that the recommendations were made by the Ethics Commissioner. Maybe he can clarify this. Did the Ethics Commissioner recommend to the finance minister that he take his Morneau Shepell shares, put them in Alberta into a numbered company, and use this loophole so he could protect his assets? It would be nice to get clarification on this. While I am at it, I would like the member to tell me whether anyone in his riding has said that he or she thinks this ethical and okay?

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's assetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2017 / 3:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Alex Nuttall Conservative Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, ON

Mr. Speaker, when we look at the finance minister putting forward Bill C-27, being fined $200 because of his place in France, and saying everything would be in a blind trust when it was not, those things seem to erode the trust of the Canadian people. Could the member comment on that?

EthicsOral Questions

November 23rd, 2017 / 2:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, on November 1, the Prime Minister said, “sunshine is the best disinfectant”.

Today, Canadians all know that the Minister of Finance put himself in a direct conflict of interest with Bill C-27 and that he earned millions of dollars, a fact that he is now trying to sweep under the rug.

The Minister of Finance is the most senior minister in this country. He used his privileged position to grow his own fortune. He broke the trust of 35 million Canadians.

Will the Minister of Finance finally let the sun cast some light on his personal finances or will he continue to hide in the shadow of his many numbered companies?

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's assetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2017 / 1:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise on behalf of my constituents.

The way this place works oftentimes is that the Canadian public decides who is going to be in government and who is going to be in opposition and they do so because they want to provide contrast. Today, Her Majesty's loyal opposition I am proud to report will be offering some contrast to the bromides we have heard from the government.

When I was first elected to this place one of the very first things I did was to read the member's handbook. We all know that is a lengthy read. One of the first things it impressed upon me was the great number of rules that have accumulated over the years. Some are extremely specific and others are quite obscure. With others, we question if it really needs to be said. We all know why we have such a variety of rules. Over time, someone invariably did something that he or she should not have done, and that individual was caught. Typically, when that situation occurs the excuse is that there is nothing specific in the rules which says it could not be done so therefore nothing wrong was done. Does that sound familiar? Let us look at this case.

We do not have a rule that specifically says a minister must place his or her assets into a blind trust. We do have a rule that says that a minister may not hold publicly traded securities directly and if those securities are not sold, they must be held in a blind trust. We know about this loophole and I imagine others will explore the loophole as the government has said no to closing said loophole. When we have a situation where the rules are not explicitly clear, one could say I am following the rules.

According to our rules, I have to ask permission to share time with the MP for Edmonton West. I hope that will be accommodated.

We know that the finance minister told his former firm that he expected he would put his assets into a blind trust. This has been said publicly. Why do we think the minister said that to his former firm? I would submit to this place that the minister is an intelligent man and he knew full well that placing his assets into a blind trust was the correct thing to do, which is why at that time he made that comment.

Despite having made the comment and clearly knowing the importance of blind trusts to our system of ensuring that those who lead the country do not personally profit from activities of their own office, the minister ultimately refused to do so. I will leave it up to this place to speculate on the reasons why.

Unfortunately, things only get worse from here.

We also know that at the same time, the finance minister continued to knowingly hold shares indirectly in a company that would significantly benefit from Bill C-27. At no time did the minister recuse himself from that legislation and that is deeply troubling.

Lest we not forget, we only learned of these details as they slowly leaked out. At first the minister claimed he was not in any conflict. Then, under pressure, the minister finally sold all of the shares that he accumulated, dividends most likely that he profited from. Then in question period this week, he told us that he is no longer in a conflict position because he has sold the shares in question. The problem with that is if not owning the shares means he is not in conflict, what did it mean when the Minister of Finance did own the shares? Once again I will leave it up to this place to contemplate that.

More troubling is that when the Prime Minister was asked when he first learned that his finance minister had not placed his assets into a blind trust, as many believe he had, the Prime Minister refused to answer this question.

One thing we have learned about this particular Prime Minister is that the only time we get a clear answer is when the answer is not politically damaging. Let us not forget the Prime Minister tells this place very little about his own ethics investigation.

Now we have this problem. Canadians thought they had a finance minister who had placed his assets into a blind trust and by extension when he failed to do this, he introduced a bill that caused those shares to increase in value.

Yes, he may well have since sold those shares, after the fact I might add, and donated those profits away, but that does not change the fact that this was all after the fact, once someone else leaked that information. When we learned that the finance minister did not recuse himself from Bill C-27 and that there was no ethics screen, I asked this question: What would happen had no one leaked that these shares were not in a blind trust? I will leave it to those in this place to contemplate that.

However, one thing that is clear is this. When all of these things occurred on the part of the finance minister, it created a serious credibility problem. Of course, that is why we are here today, because we know that the finance minister has other numbered companies. What we do not know is what assets are in those companies. If the finance minister truly has nothing to hide, then surely he would just disclose those assets. The finance minister is an intelligent person and would know this. However, despite knowing this, he continues to refuse to provide the necessary transparency, and he now has the gall to question this as somehow being an attack on his character.

I can assure the finance minister and this place that there is no such thing. Instead, it is an opportunity for transparency to help restore badly needed confidence. After all, why do we have conflict of interest guidelines? Why do we have a Conflict of Interest Act? It is to ensure that public office holders, and in particular ministers of the crown, do not personally profit from the decisions they make that are meant to be for the public benefit. It is a matter of trust. This is not a new thing. Why were blind trusts first created? Why did the Prime Minister publicly disclose he was using a blind trust? Why are other members of the cabinet using blind trusts? Why have previous ministers of the crown used blind trusts? We all know the answer to these questions. I do not have to leave it up to this place to contemplate that. It is all about transparency and how ministers of the crown honourably conduct themselves.

Before I close, I would like to leave members with this one question. There is no doubt that they will hear many times throughout the discussion today that the Prime Minister, as we all know, came into this place and said, “sunshine is the best disinfectant.” Why do we think the Prime Minister said that? Did he say it because it was politically convenient to do so at the time? Did he say it because the principle should only apply to everyone else but a Liberal finance minister, or because it happens to be true? At the end of this debate, when we vote on this motion, the Prime Minister will have an opportunity to show his commitment to his own words of wisdom, as will all members of this place. Will we vote for transparency or will some choose to vote for the continued cloak of darkness and secrecy?

I look forward to hearing the good questions that members have for me today.

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's assetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2017 / 1 p.m.
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Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, it is what he has done and it is what he has not done. We know that he has not claimed a certain corporation in the south of France that owned a beautiful chateau. He did not want Canadians to know about it. He did not want the Ethics Commissioner to know about it. He failed to report it and was found guilty, as charged by the Ethics Commissioner, and paid a fine. We know that is one thing he did not do.

One of the things that concerns me about what the minister did was that he brought bringing forward the new legislation, Bill C-27. I am not going to get into the positives and negatives of Bill C-27, but all we know is that with that one piece of legislation, the minister stands, and indeed stood, to profit massively. We know that his family company's expertise is in target benefit plans. We know that the company has been used to help formulate the target benefit plan in New Brunswick. The minister has not reported his own corporations, he has not reported his own assets to the Ethics Commissioner. He has withheld that, but he has come in the backdoor with legislation. The legislation may be alright, but his company will benefit from it.

When I signed on as a minister, I signed on recognizing that the code says that I should not bring forward anything that would benefit me financially or my family members. It may even say “friends”. I cannot recall right now. Here is the problem. This is why all the opposition parties have joined together and asked why the Prime Minister will not allow this—

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's assetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2017 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House and speak during the debate on the opposition day motion calling on the Liberal government's finance minister to reveal all assets he has bought, sold, or held within all his private companies and trust funds since he became a finance minister.

We all heard, and we all know, about the Prime Minister's statement in the House on November 1, 2017, where he said, “sunshine is the best disinfectant”. In his quote, the Prime Minister was referring to his election pledge, promising to provide Canadians with open and transparent government. His belief was that his cabinet ministers would be above all reproach, and the best way to prove it was to be able to shine this sunshine on it and use it as a disinfectant.

We all know about the multiple failures the Prime Minister and his Liberal government have had when it comes to fulfilling their election promises. It is a terrible record of failure. They have disappointed many Canadians who believed in the campaign promises. They believed the deficit would only be $10 billion, and Liberals missed it by another $18 billion.

The finance minister has, for weeks now, refused to use the disinfectant that the Prime Minister recommends to cleanse himself of the shroud of secrecy that clouds his tenure as finance minister. The finance minister refuses to come clean and tell Canadians about his personal wealth.

Before we go on further, I will be splitting my time with the member for Calgary Shepard.

Has the finance minister intentionally refused to conduct himself under the open and transparent rules that the Prime Minister promised Canadians? Has the Prime Minister a-okayed the finance minister's constant and continuous refusal to tell Canadians what investments he owns? Has the Prime Minister a-okayed the fact that the finance minister is using his position to enrich his personal finances and his family's firm?

Is the finance minister wilfully disobeying the Prime Minister? Or is the Prime Minister backing down, succumbing to threats made by the finance minister as he refuses to confess what he owns and how he is using Canadian law, or how he used it, to enrich his own family portfolio?

The Prime Minister talks about his family fortune, so it is possible that the Prime Minister understands his fellow multi-millionaire finance minister's stubborn refusal to share with the Canadian public the details concerning the numbered companies that the finance minister owns. This refusal to be honest and open is disrespectful to all Canadian taxpayers, to the Canadian public, and to middle-class Canadians. No one can trust someone who refuses to tell the truth.

Worse, the finance minister has been playing what we call “silly games” with Canada's Ethics Commissioner for two years. The Ethics Commissioner, contrary to what the former member said, has found him guilty, and I am reading from the nature of the violation that she printed, of “Failure to include in a Confidential Report a corporation”, one of the minister's corporations, “established in France and an estimate of its value”, and it was the corporation that controlled the interest of his chalet in southern France; and “failure to include in the Confidential Report his directorship of that corporation”.

The finance minister is playing games with the Ethics Commissioner. He is playing games with Canadians. That is why he belittled the NDP for joining together with Conservatives. I think every member of Parliament, including many on the Liberal side, are very much concerned with the direction they see this finance minister going. Canadians understand the process.

When someone is named to cabinet, they declare their assets, and the Ethics Commissioner helps the new cabinet ministers sort out their assets so that the new cabinet minister is free to work on policies and government business without a conflict of interest. Everyone does it. Well, everyone is supposed to do it. It is actually easy unless there is something to hide.

We had a prime minister, the Right Hon. Paul Martin, who was also a cabinet minister. He was the minister of finance. He is very wealthy man. His family was famous for owning ships, and paying some taxes in Canada. These were massive ocean liner-sized cargo ships that operated all over the world.

Paul Martin immediately placed his holdings into a blind trust so he could be free to be finance minister, and then prime minister. Canadians had a reasonable assurance that he was not writing laws aimed at enriching his personal wealth. However, the current Prime Minister and his rich finance minister do not seem to understand that, or if they do, they do not care.

Paul Martin took his job and his wealth seriously, more seriously than the present Prime Minister and finance minister do. Both of them have come to Parliament fairly recently and maybe they are just uncertain. Maybe they think there are two different laws for Canadians, the wealthy and those not quite so fortunate. The current Prime Minister was born into his family fortune and considers it a privilege.

The Ethics Commissioner makes certain that these types of issues should not come to the front, and when concerns do come to the fore, she judges them. She has already found him guilty. She is already going through another investigation of the finance minister, the Prime Minister, and of other cabinet ministers.

Canadians do not need or want to hear the details of every asset, but they do want the watchdog to be satisfied that these rich politicians are doing their job without a conflict of interest between the work they do and their personal wealth. Canadians want to be sure that legislation put forward by a finance minister is not above and beyond what normal legislation is. They do not want legislation that would enhance the wealth of the finance minister.

That is part of the concern with Bill C-27, but it is not why we are here. We are here because we want to see what corporations, what assets, the finance minister has held in the last two years, and he is refusing to tell Parliament. He has refused in question period for weeks now.

The paradise papers released a few weeks ago unveiled $250 billion owned by Canadians in offshore tax havens, where no Canadian taxes are paid on the investment profits they generate. Instead of chasing these investments and the rich Canadians who own this $250 billion, the finance minister and the Prime Minister think it is better to raise government tax revenues off the backs of the working class, the middle class, lower income people, small business owners, farmers, waitresses, fishermen, and more.

That is why Canadians are upset about this. They see a double standard. Canadians are upset because they see one set of rules for the finance minister and another set of rules for every other politician, and yet they bear the brunt of the finance minister's attacks. This is disgraceful.

We are watching the 1% right here in action in the House of Commons on that Liberal side. They take care of their own.

I chair the public accounts committee and this morning the Auditor General issued a report on the Phoenix system, a report on the Canada Revenue Agency, and a report on Syrian refugees. Part of what he said in his report is disappointing. He said,

I was hoping that I would be able to talk about something other than results for citizens. I keep delivering the same message that the government does not understand its results from the citizen's perspective....

It appears that our message is not being heard at a whole-of-government level.... Getting these requires a concerted effort across government to understand and measure the citizen experience.

We have the same issue with the Liberal government. It simply does not understand that the people who are being governed are asking for certain responsible measures to protect them from those who govern. That is what the Ethics Commissioner does.

That is why we need to shine a light on the finance minister, so we can see exactly what the House has been asking for, namely, what corporations did he own and what corporations benefited from the measures he has put in place.

For all we know, he could own shares in any number of companies across this country that the government has lent, granted, or given money to, including Bombardier, marijuana grow plants, all kinds of things. All we want is the information. Canadians deserve it.

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's assetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2017 / noon
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Conservative

Alupa Clarke Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, a lot of people in Beauport—Limoilou are listening to us right now, and I want to say hello to them.

Our political system is a parliamentary democracy. I believe that it is the best system in the world, and I think all members of the House would agree.

In this system, ministerial responsibility is the most important thing we carry out every day, primarily in question period and through opposition days like today. Ministerial responsibility was acquired as a result of long debates and long military campaigns.

Les Patriotes were not all French Canadians; they included some English Canadians, too. They fought in the 1820s and 1830s to obtain ministerial responsibility, which the British monarchy and British Parliament granted us with the Act of Union, creating a united Canada in 1841.

What we are doing today with our opposition day is exercising that ministerial responsibility and ensuring that it is fulfilled. One of the ways this is done is through investigative journalism, which is very important and which we on this side of the House take very seriously. In fact, with the help of its sponsor here, the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent, a senator in the other place managed to get a bill passed that provides greater protection to whistleblowers and the confidential sources of investigative journalism.

What have investigative journalists discovered in recent months? The Minister of Finance did three things, or overlooked three things, or made three serious mistakes.

Need we remind members that the finance minister is second in command in the Government of Canada. He is second in command not because he is more important than other ministers, but it can still be argued that a country's finances are critical given their implications for education, health, and the well-being of Canadians. For that reason, the position of finance minister is held in high regard and the incumbent must do everything possible to ensure that Canadians' confidence in the minister is never in doubt or undermined.

Unfortunately, the three things that the finance minister did in two years, which were reported by investigative journalists in recent months, have slowly and surely undermined Canadians' confidence in the minister.

In my view, the attitude, behaviour, and actions of all members in their day-to-day activities both inside and outside the House must always be guided by three principles: a sense of duty, a sense of responsibility, and a sense of honour.

I urge my Liberal colleagues to listen carefully. The Minister of Finance, like all of us, had the solemn, legal duty to disclose his assets to the Ethics Commissioner right away. He had six months to do so, using a form that is pretty easy to fill out. It may have been more difficult for him, since he has so many assets. However, he had a duty to disclose all of his assets, in black and white, clearly and openly, leaving no doubt and leaving nothing out. He had a duty, and he did not properly fulfill it. I will get back to this and explain why.

The minister also had the responsibility, and still does today, to inform the Ethics Commissioner of any changes to his personal situation throughout his term. Such changes would include a new acquisition, a boat in the Bahamas, or, who knows, a second villa in France.

As a member of Parliament, I receive updates from the Ethics Commissioner reminding me of my responsibility and duty to disclose any new assets, throughout my term. For example, I recently declared that I purchased a home for my lovely little family; I was happy to do so. All members of Parliament have this responsibility.

In my opinion, however, honour is even more important than duty or responsibility. When members of Parliament are guided by a sense a honour, their actions are naturally guided by a sense of duty and responsibility. The Minister of Finance failed in his duty and his responsibility as an elected official, minister, and member of Cabinet over the past two years, and I will talk about this failure in a few seconds. Unfortunately for him and for this government, he sullied his honour.

First, two years ago, when he was made to fill out the much-discussed form disclosing his assets, interests, and so on to the Ethics Commissioner, he forgot, nay, omitted to declare a company incorporated in France that owns a luxurious villa in Provence in the south of France. I imagine it is very luxurious and quite expensive. That is unbelievable.

I have here a public notice of penalty issued under the authority of the Conflict of Interest Act. This is not a joke. These are not allegations or opposition attacks. This is fact. The Ethics Commissioner issued a penalty just a few weeks ago and fined the Minister of Finance $200 for violating paragraphs 22(2)(a) and 22(2)(d) of the Conflict of Interest Act by failing to include in a confidential report a corporation established in France and an estimate of its value and, crucially, by failing to include in the report his directorship in that corporation. This is serious business.

The Minister of Finance, an important businessman from Bay Street in Toronto who manages a huge family business, somehow forgot to report that asset in France, although he claims it was just an administrative oversight. That is a first. This actually happened; he paid the fine. He was caught and had to face the music, although only administratively. Of course, these are not criminal charges. That was his first dereliction of duty and breach of Canadian laws, the first stain on his reputation, and the first thing that shook Canadians' confidence in him.

On top of that, he did not put his shares in Morneau Shepell, worth $20 million, in a blind trust. He hid them in a numbered company in Alberta and has made millions on them over the past two years. Thank goodness he donated it to charity. It was the least he could do, but he still has not apologized and he refuses to talk about the fact that he has been violating the spirit of the law over the past year.

Lastly, he is once again being investigated by the Ethics Commissioner regarding a conflict of interest, because he introduced Bill C-27, which makes changes to pension plans and will benefit the family business started by his father. He is therefore in a direct conflict of interest, he failed in his duty and his responsibilities, and his honour is besmirched.

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's assetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2017 / 11:45 a.m.
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Conservative

Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Beauport—Limoilou.

Trust is earned when actions meet words. It is unfortunate that today we are here in the House having to call out the finance minister for breaking the trust of Canadians.

The Prime Minister and the finance minister arguably are the two most important, powerful officials in government. We as parliamentarians and, more important, Canadians must be able to trust that they will act in the public interest rather than in their own private interest. As the Prime Minister has said “sunshine is the best disinfectant”. Therefore, let us lift up the rug, throw open the doors, and reveal what is in all those numbered companies the finance minister has set up in various provinces.

The Liberals clearly are not very comfortable talking about this topic. Either at town halls or through correspondence and phone calls, they have had to defend the bad life decisions the minister has made.

For folks at home wondering why we are having this debate, it is because Canada is not a backward country where elected officials get to live off the largesse of the office they hold. When the actions of a minister of the crown are in dispute, the minister has a moral duty to provide the information needed to uphold the trust bestowed unto him or her by Canadians, but also to the overall institution.

Parliament is bigger than any one minister. Regardless of one's self-appointed importance, the reputation of all of us is at risk due to the mistakes of one individual, particularly when the circumstances of the incident are as serious as this. Politicians should not personally benefit from the office they hold. Ministers of the crown are fairly compensated for the work they do on behalf of Canadians. They do not need to set up numbered companies that are designed in such a manner as to avoid giving up control of their assets.

We are here because the Minister of Finance did not live up to his mandate letter. To quote the mandate letter from the Prime Minister, it said the following:

...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.

We are here because the minister thought, in some twisted world, that he could have his cake and eat it too. His actions in this ethical quagmire do not live up to the standards to which ministers of the crown should aspire. The Minister of Finance has clearly broken the spirit of the conflict of interest rules. There is no ambiguity about that. He said that he was going to put his assets in a blind trust, but conveniently did not. Regardless of whatever lame excuse or spin the government tries to use today to defend the minister, it does not pass the smell test. No one is buying it.

His approvals ratings have dramatically dropped and the Liberals' narrative of fighting for the middle class is not even believed on the pages of the Toronto Star anymore. We know a Liberal minister is in trouble when the Toronto Star starts criticizing his or her behaviour.

This bad news is taking a toll on the minister's public approval. According to a new poll, he is now the most negatively received member of the Prime Minister's cabinet. Forty-six per cent of those who knew of him gave the finance minister the thumbs down, while 23% said that he had done a good job in his position so far.

For the benefit of all members, those numbers are even lower than President Trump's approval in the United States. Furthermore, if the finance minister continues to drag the government down with him, he will soon find himself joining his former colleagues John McCallum and Stéphane Dion doing the embassy cocktail circuit with the prefix “His Excellency” added to his to business card.

That is where we find ourselves today. The ethical pyramid that has been constructed has come crashing down and the Minister of Finance has no one to blame for this but himself. Time and again, he has avoided doing the right thing, which is, for a start, to apologize.

For two years, the finance minister held shares worth approximately $20 million in Morneau Shepell, a company he regulates. He held these shares outside of a blind trust, despite his own colleagues believing his shares were in a blind trust.

Right after being sworn in as finance minister he spoke to the CBC. It was in that interview where he said, “I've resigned my position as chair of the firm that I was chair of before. I expect that all my assets will go into a blind trust.” Well, it turns out that this did not happen. His assets were not placed in a blind trust, but were set up in an elaborate way that still allowed him to control them in a numbered company in Alberta. Only after it was revealed that the finance minister was not holding his assets in a blind trust did he acknowledge his wrongdoing and agree to sell those assets. He continues to hold several numbered companies, but the assets held within those companies are not publicly known.

While he held these shares, the finance minister also introduced Bill C-27, which would create targeted benefit pension plans. We also know that benefit pension plans are a highly specialized product offered by Morneau Shepell. In this regard, it has just been announced that the Ethics Commissioner has launched an investigation into the minister's involvement with Bill C-27, particularly as his shares in Morneau Shepell rose in value after the legislation was announced.

These are the facts that the Liberal member for Eglinton—Lawrence just called “tissues of nonsense”. These costly mistakes have tarnished the minister's reputation and, from media reports, will end up costing him roughly $5 million dollars after his assets are divested.

For someone who is as educated and successful as he is, it boggles the mind how he could have thought his actions were ethical. Even the most casual political observer would have recognized that the Minister of Finance should not have control over his assets, which would surely be impacted by the decisions he would make in office.

In this debate today we will ask the finance minister to reveal all of the assets he has bought, sold, or held within all of his private companies or trust funds since being sworn in. We are calling for this information to be revealed to determine if his financial interests have conflicted with his public duties.

Now the Liberals may try to shrug this off and pretend this debate is not happening. In fact, I suspect that many will not even try to defend the finance minister's ethical lapses. They know they cannot defend the indefensible. They can bob and weave during question period and avoid answering the tough questions, but if they tried for one moment to do this with their constituents back home, the latters' wrath and fury would surely be quick to follow.

Today, many members will lay out the argument why this motion should pass. Members will hear why the Minister of Finance should do the right thing and begin the process of revealing what he has bought and sold since he became the finance minister. Then and only then can we be sure that he did not personally financially gain from the decisions he has made while in office.

To my friends in the Liberal Party, this is their chance to stand up and demand better from those who govern us. Regardless of political stripe, I think we can all admit that the Minister of Finance has been less than forthcoming with Canadians. If the shoes were on the other feet, many of the MPs who sit across from us today would be in an uproar over what has transpired over these past two years. From secret villas to numbered companies to legislation that will financially benefit the minister's bank account, this paints a very troubling picture.

I call on every MP to demand better. Demand that the Prime Minister be held to his word. Demand that ministers be held to a higher standard than finding a loophole and then proclaiming their innocence.

Canadians are smarter than to fall for the claptrap that is far too often peddled. We know in our guts that what has become known is not only morally unacceptable, but also very clearly in breach of the law. Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair.

The very least the finance minister could do is to be transparent and forthcoming with Canadians.

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's assetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2017 / 11:30 a.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I know this is going to be a difficult day for my Liberal colleagues because this is the role of Parliament and sometimes we have to discuss things that they do not want us to talk about.

There are two parts to the Conservatives' motion today. The first part calls upon the House to agree with the Prime Minister's statement in the House on November 1, that “sunshine is the best disinfectant”. I believe he was responding to a question from my hon. colleague from Hochelaga. This is a very widely known proverb, but the origins are less well known. The proverb is actually derived from the quote, “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants” which is attributed to Louis Brandeis, an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

In 1914, he published a series of essays under the title Other People's Money and How the Bankers Use It, in which he harshly criticized investment bankers who control large amounts of money deposited in their banks by middle-class people, the very people who will be harmed if Bill C-27 is passed.

The quote in question is found in chapter 5, “What publicity can do”. It was used in support of regulation to disclosure obligations, which is precisely what we are trying to accomplish in the House today. There is a delicious sort of irony here. The Liberal Prime Minister, who leads a party and a government that have traditionally been very friendly to Canada's big banks, who refused to do anything to tackle their business practices, including how they sell their financial products and the exorbitant fees they levy as service charges on middle-class Canadians, this same Prime Minister has unwittingly quoted a man who is very harshly critical of those same banks.

We know Morneau Shepell is getting quite concerned by all of the bad press it is receiving. It has basically become a household name in Canadian political discourse now. It has actually reached out to friends in the Financial Post. Yesterday it published an article in which it reported that Morneau Shepell rejects the suggestion that Bill C-27 would generate of flood of business for it, because guess what? There are many suppliers of pension services and the added business would not at all be significant. The article then relies on the fact that Morneau Shepell shares actually dipped in value a few weeks after Bill C-27 was introduced, as if this made it all okay for the finance minister to have owned shares in it in the first place because he would have lost some money.

That is really all the article can do as a defence because it then proceeds to do a hit job on the union leaders who are, surprise, surprise, going out and standing up for their members in advocating against the very thing that Bill C-27 is trying to do. That is really the only defence possible because this is an indefensible situation that we are in.

I find it very helpful for members in this place and for my constituents in Cowichan—Malahat—Langford to really go to the crux of the matter. It has to do with a very important piece of federal legislation, the Conflict of Interest Act. I will read, starting with section 4:

For the purposes of this Act, a public office holder is in a conflict of interest when he or she exercises an official power, duty or function that provides an opportunity to further his or her private interests or those of his or her relatives...

It also says under section 5 that:

Every public office holder shall arrange his or her private affairs in a manner that will prevent the public office holder from being in a conflict of interest.

It is all spelled out quite clearly under the legislation and it is unfortunate that members on the government side seem to have some trouble understanding why we are debating this very issue today. The government's publication “An Open and Accountable Government” states quite clearly that:

Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries must act with honesty and uphold the highest ethical standards so that public confidence and trust in the integrity and impartiality of government are maintained and enhanced.

Moreover, they have an obligation to perform their official duties and arrange their private affairs in a manner that will bear the closest public scrutiny. This obligation is not fully discharged merely by acting within the law.

Those are not my words; those are the government's words. The Liberals can rely on the defence that they are complying with the commissioner and the act, but they are ignoring the fact the spirit of the law has been completely trampled upon.

We are all very well aware of the Prime Minister's mandate letters to each of his ministers, in which these tenets were upheld and even pushed.

Because of the opposition's line of questioning during question period and by bringing forward this motion today, some Liberals accuse members of the opposition of launching personal attacks. That is a complete deflection from the issue at hand. The role of Parliament, one of its most important roles, is to hold government to account.

I want to refer to a quote from the great Stanley Knowles, who gave a great speech to the Empire Club in 1957. He said:

The Parliament of this country, elected by free men and women on the basis of free discussions which cannot be abrogated, is not just a club of good fellows who ought to do the nation's business in the shortest...time and with the least possible contention; rather it is a body which should examine every proposal...to make sure that it is in the country's best interest; it is a body in which attention should be drawn to proposals that ought to be made but which are often overlooked, unless an election is just around the corner; it is a body which should scrutinize expenditures and inquire into the administration of public affairs to make sure that fairness, justice and equity are maintained.

I will let that hang in the air for a moment. That is precisely what we are doing today.

We operate by a system of responsible government, where the executive branch of the Liberal government sits within the legislature, and it can only continue to do its function with the support of the legislature. It is responsible to us, and we hold lines of inquires to ensure that ministers of the crown are living up to their fullest obligations possible. This is a very legitimate line of questioning and the government is deflecting by going over all the great things it has been doing. If the government is so happy with those great things, I invite a minister of the crown to move the appropriate motion so we can have that debate on a different day. The motion before us today is what we are debating, and it goes directly to the finance minister's conduct.

I believe my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley mentioned that this was a time when both the finance minister and Prime Minister were under investigation. The very fact that they engaged in activities that led to the investigations in the first place should be very troubling.

I want to refer all hon. members from the government's side to the second part of the motion before us today, which reads, “and call on the Finance Minister to reveal all assets he has bought, sold or held within all his private companies or trust funds since he became Finance Minister, to determine if his financial interests have conflicted with his public duties.”

When we ask questions of the government, we see a lot of glum faces on Liberal backbenchers as they have to listen to this finance minister day after day try to defend the indefensible. They may not see it from their point of view, but in the opposition we see the reactions of the Liberals. They know this is a tough position to defend.

I would like to end with a reference to “sunny ways”. The Liberal leader Wilfrid Laurier proposed that a diplomatic sunny way would work better, and he used an illustration of Aesop's fable in which the sun and the wind held a contest to see who could remove a traveller's coat. The sun's warm rays proved more effective to the wind's bluster. If the Liberals truly believe in sunlight being the best disinfectant, I call upon them to use their sunny ways to remove the finance minister's coat of silence so we, as the people's representatives, can truly have confidence in his role.

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's assetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2017 / 11:15 a.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to be splitting my time with my colleague from Cowichan—Malahat—Langford.

Let us start where we need to start, which is at the beginning.

Let us begin with the motion moved by the member for Carleton:

That the House agree with the Prime Minister’s statement in the House on November 1, 2017, that “sunshine is the best disinfectant”; and call on the Finance Minister to reveal all assets he has bought, sold or held within all his private companies....

This kind of thing happens because a loophole in the Conflict of Interest Act makes it possible for the minister not to be considered in conflict of interest if he holds his shares in a private numbered corporation, which is what the ultra-rich do. However, let us consider this statement by the Prime Minister about his ministers:

...the Ethical Guidelines...apply to you and your staff. 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.

It is bizarre that we should have to spend the day on a debate to help the Liberals keep a Liberal promise. That is our intention, and this is an opportunity for the Liberals and the Minister of Finance in particular to save their reputation.

We are simply asking the minister to keep the promise that he and the Prime Minister made to all Canadians to ensure that his private affairs can bear the closest public scrutiny.

We are spending the entire day trying to help Liberals out. It is not an easy thing to do sometimes, because it is correcting bad behaviour. We do not have to do it once, but over and over again, because there is a certain amount of recidivism when we are talking about Liberals and the Liberal culture when it comes to ethics.

Canadians have seen this movie before. The Liberals are entitled to their entitlements. The concern I have is that this finance minister does not even understand that he has done something wrong. It is not just that he has done something wrong with the introduction of a bill that personally helped him and his company, but it is that he does not see any problem with that.

Not only is the behaviour itself bad—the decisions that were made initially not just by the finance minister but by the Prime Minister's Office and the Prime Minister's staff—in breaking faith with Canadians, but after that faith was broken, and it was revealed publicly, the finance minister stands up day after day and asks what the problem is. He is just under investigation by the Ethics Commissioner, he has already had to pay a fine for his French villa, and he says he is moving on; he has no problem here, and why should anybody else?

Having faith in the finance minister is important for Parliament and important for all Canadians, because it is such a powerful position. I think it is important to read out the promise that we are trying to help the Liberals keep today, because it is a promise that the Prime Minister himself made. He came in on a white stallion of integrity and was going to bring forth a new era in Canadian politics and integrity. Here is what the Prime Minister told Canadians, and demanded of all of his ministers, including the finance minister:

...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.

We found out that the finance minister's shares in Morneau Shepell totalled, depending on the date, some $32 million, and when he eventually sold them, they were worth between $6 million and $12 million more. Liberals talk about the personal sacrifices the finance minister has made, but I would love to make a personal sacrifice for which I gained $6 million to $12 million. Most Canadians would love the idea of that being the definition of personal sacrifice: being forced under public pressure to make $12 million profit. I am sorry if we do not hand out Kleenex for the tears that Canadians are shedding for the finance minister, who may have just cleared between $6 million and $12 million profit. It is tough to be him, I guess.

The notion is this, though. It only came to light because journalists dug through records to find out that he was still controlling these shares. They were in a numbered company in Alberta. There is a loophole in the ethics code that has never been exploited before, to my knowledge, because no one thought of it, I guess, where, if he took the shares he owned in Morneau Shepell and simply moved them into a numbered company in Alberta, even though all of the profits would still eventually go to him, and him alone, that was no longer considered a conflict of interest. That is a shell game.

Canadians sitting back and watching this ask who made the money, and we say he did. That seems like a conflict of interest, because he introduced Bill C-27 that directly helped out Morneau Shepell, in which he still had tens of millions of dollars of shares. That seems wrong. If the health minister introduced a bill while still owning pharmaceutical shares worth tens of millions of dollars that helped out that pharmaceutical company, we would scream foul. The finance minister gets up day after day and says the opposition is obsessed with him. He is under a conflict of interest investigation.

It was revealed only after the media dug into his personal accounts, in ways that they could, to find out about the French villa that was in a numbered company that he forgot about. It was only because the media dug into public and semi-private records that they found out he was still controlling shares in Morneau Shepell worth millions of dollars while regulating the pension industry. Hold that thought for a moment. He worked in the pension industry, his company made profits in the pension industry, and he moved into public life to serve the public. He maintains millions of dollars of shares in a pension company while being the regulator of the pension industry, and the finance minister does not see a potential conflict of interest.

Today, we have a motion on which the entire day in the House will be spent asking the Liberals to simply do this: to keep their promise about public scrutiny. It does not end with the Morneau Shepell Bill C-27 affair. We know the finance minister has at least five other numbered companies, the contents of which we know nothing about. The very first test he faced on whether we should trust him or not was around introducing Bill C-27. He failed the test. The Ethics Commissioner is now investigating him because he failed that test. She believes there is enough evidence to launch that investigation.

When it was revealed that the finance minister was going under this investigation, his office tried to spin it and say it was not an investigation, that it was just an examination. That is what his office said. Lo and behold, we found out there is no difference, because in the ethics act the only word for it is “examination”. Liberals are in a hole and they just keep on digging. In fact, I think they went out and bought a bigger shovel.

Never mind that Morneau Shepell, as revealed through an access to information request, still maintains 171 contracts with the federal government. It has contracts valued at $53 million with the federal government while the finance minister maintains shares in Morneau Shepell. It is a minefield of conflicts of interest all over the place, in every decision he is making. One would have thought that if he wanted to keep his promise, knowing all of his personal affairs would bear the fullest public scrutiny, he would have divested.

That a cabinet minister sitting in Donald Trump's cabinet cannot do what this finance minister has done should cause Canadians some alarm. People in cabinet working for the President of the United States, even the current president, have to divest themselves of their interests. Otherwise, they will run into conflicts of interest almost every day. The finance minister still has not come clean. He has not revealed to Canadians what he owns or what his interests are. He says we should trust him, he is a good guy. He may be a good guy, but he is doing bad things.

Doing the right thing after getting caught is not exactly the same as doing the right thing, is it? One does not exactly build up trust by saying that now that he has been caught, he will do this, this, and this. The finance minister needs confidence, not just of the Prime Minister but of all Canadians. If he wants to regain confidence, this would all go away, if he just does this. The only person who can make this story end is the finance minister himself, who simply has to keep his promise that he and the Prime Minister made to all Canadians, to tell us what he owns and how he owns it so that Canadians can judge, because that is who we work for.

We all in this place work for the Canadians who sent us here. The finance minister promised that he would reveal what he owns and how he owns it. He, to this day, has not done that. The only record that we have is his dealing with a pension bill that would directly help out his company. Only after he got caught did he beget generosity toward charities and donate the profits, and we still do not even know how he did that and if he is getting a tax receipt for that. I ask the Liberals to come now, join with us, come into the light, let the sun shine in, and tell us what he owns and how he owns it.

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's assetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2017 / 11:10 a.m.
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Liberal

Joël Lightbound Liberal Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I spoke about the property in France in response to an earlier question from the member for Beauport—Limoilou.

I said that the property had been disclosed to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. The administrative error had to do with the corporate entity that owns it. The Minister of Finance worked with the Ethics Commissioner, as he has always done. The commissioner is conducting an examination of Bill C-27, not an investigation.

The Minister of Finance continues to work with the Ethics Commissioner, as he has always done. That is the right thing to do because the Ethics Commissioner is responsible for safeguarding the integrity of Parliament. We have confidence in the Ethics Commissioner's work, which involves telling parliamentarians, when they arrive in Ottawa to take on their responsibilities as a minister, parliamentary secretary, or MP, what to do to ensure that they are in compliance with the rules governing us and the House. That is what the Minister of Finance did.

In my speech, I was very proud to talk about everything the Minister of Finance has done for the Canadian economy and for Canadians from all walks of life. I think that our government has done a lot of good. That is why I got into politics.

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's assetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2017 / 11:10 a.m.
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Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is quite simple. If everything is all sunshine and full of integrity with the finance minister, then why did the Ethics Commissioner fine the finance minister $200 for not fully disclosing his assets, and why did she find enough evidence to open up an investigation about a conflict of interest with Bill C-27?

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's assetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2017 / 10:40 a.m.
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Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan, SK

Mr. Speaker, my friend from the NDP is quite right. It is almost impossible these days to get a Liberal to keep a promise, but that is perhaps a debate for another day.

I would agree with my hon. colleague on this fact. Because the finance minister's position in Parliament is arguably the second most important person in government, he must be held to not only meet the minimum standards but to exceed standards and expectations of the general public.

We know about the Conflict of Interest Act. We know the definition of a conflict of interest. What is also contained in that definition is that a decision maker, which obviously the finance minister is, cannot be viewed as acting impartially or with integrity if he or she may receive personal benefits from their decisions.

What happened was that the Minister of Finance decided not to put his assets into a blind trust. The Minister of Finance decided to introduce Bill C-27, which definitely benefited his family's fortune to the tune of about $5 million. Those were deliberate decisions made by the Minister of Finance, which contravened every single tenet of the Conflict of Interest Act.

I know the minister is under investigation. I encourage the Ethics Commissioner to find a resolution to this with great haste. Canadians need to have the confidence that their elected officials, particularly their Minister of Finance, is acting with the integrity they have been charged to uphold.

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's assetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2017 / 10:25 a.m.
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Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have always been of the belief that every person, from the moment they first achieve cognitive thought, knows the difference between right and wrong, everyone except, it appears, this Minister of Finance. The finance minister has been involved in so many ethical transgressions in the last two years that I honestly believe it would be fair to say that I do not know if he understands the difference between right and wrong. If he does, it appears that he simply does not care.

For the benefit of the House and the benefit of those who may be watching today, I am going to enumerate some of these transgressions and what they mean in today's Parliament, what they mean to Canadians, and what they mean to those who may find themselves in a real or apparent conflict of interest.

We first found out a few months ago that the Minister of Finance had failed to sufficiently disclose all of his assets to the Ethics Commissioner. In fact, he failed to disclose a very significant asset. What was that asset? That asset was a villa in the region of Provence, in the south of France. I am not really that knowledgeable about real estate, but I would assume that a villa in that region, a very wealthy part of France, is probably worth in the millions of dollars.

Going back just a little, I should point out that all parliamentarians, since 2004, have been required, and are still required, on a yearly basis, to disclose to the Ethics Commissioner all of our assets and liabilities, and in fact the assets and liabilities of our spouses and family members. For example, if a member owns a house, what is its relative value? Does it have a mortgage? Does the member own mutual funds, stocks, bonds, or trust funds? Does the member own real property? Members report that to the Ethics Commissioner each and every year so that she will be able to determine if there is any perceived or real conflict of interest or if there could be a potential conflict of interest. Did the Minister of Finance do that? No. He failed to disclose a a million-dollar-plus asset owned by a private corporation, which he controlled. Could that potentially be a conflict of interest? Most certainly it could.

However, when queried by the media as to why he did not disclose this to the Ethics Commissioner appropriately and on time, he merely stated that it was an administrative error. I do not know about other members, but to me, making a million-dollar omission on a disclosure to the Ethics Commissioner is much more than an administrative error.

That was the first, but certainly not the last, of these ethical lapses we have seen from the Minister of Finance. We next learned, through a report first published in The Globe and Mail, that the minister was the owner of a private corporation, a numbered company in fact, in Alberta. We also found out that this numbered company had assets. Specifically, it owned approximately $20 million in shares in a company called Morneau Shepell.

As my colleague from Carleton pointed out just a few moments ago, that is the same company the current Minister of Finance used to run, a family-founded, family-run, very successful company that specializes in pensions and pension products. That alone should have raised a lot of alarm bells, but it gets even worse.

We later found out, again from The Globe and Mail, that the minister had not placed these assets, the approximately $20 million in shares, in a blind trust. He had, however, implied, to many people, including his colleagues on the government side of the House, that he had placed all his assets in a blind trust. He had told his former colleagues and former co-workers at Morneau Shepell that he had placed his assets in a blind trust. He had not. That was a clear conflict of interest and a clear violation of the ethics code.

In addition to that, at the same time as he was benefiting from shares in a numbered company which he had not disclosed, he introduced Bill C-27 in this place, a bill sponsored by the minister and brought forward by the minister, that would, in effect, if passed into legislation, allow employers to change their pension plans from defined benefit plans to targeted benefit plans.

I will not get into the details or nuances of the differences between those two pension plans. Suffice it to say, the minister, through his numbered company in Alberta, saw the share price rise, approximately $5 million worth. In other words, because it was not in a blind trust and still directly controlled by the minister through his numbered company, he and his family benefited to the tune of $5 million. Once he introduced Bill C-27, the speculation in the stock market was that Morneau Shepell would be gathering and garnering much more business across Canada due to it being the largest firm in Canada specializing in these products.

It was only after all of these revelations came to light did the minister determine he should sell his assets and place any other assets into a blind trust. That is akin to somebody saying “I'm sorry” after getting caught. In fact, I received an email from one of my constituents after the story came to light, in which he said that it reminded him of a bank robber who got caught a couple of years later, promised to pay the money back to the bank, then went on to say no harm, no foul, that everyone could move on because there was nothing to see. It does not work that way. One has to be accountable for one's actions.

The very definition of “conflict of interest” determines quite clearly that the Minister of Finance was, for two solid years, in a serious conflict of interest.

I go back to my opening comments. I am not sure if the minister truly understands the difference between right and wrong, but today we are giving the minister an opportunity to do what is right. To do what is right means simply this: disclosing all of the minister's assets he currently holds in numbered companies. Why is that important? Because having assets in a number company means Canadians do not know what those assets are.

What could they be? Let us assume for a moment that some of those assets are shares in, let us say, Bombardier. Would that be a conflict of interest? Clearly, it would. What would happen if some of the shares in those numbered companies owned by the Minister of Finance are shares in a company like Irving Shipbuilding or Davie shipbuilding? What happens if those shares, which we do not know about in these numbered companies, were shares in a medicinal marijuana company that is coming onto the market? There are so many things that could be conflicts of interest that we do not know about that the minister must reveal the sources of those assets, if only to gain, or regain, the confidence of the Canadian public and to prove to it that he is not in a conflict of interest.

By refusing to reveal the assets in these numbered companies, all he is doing is reinforcing in the public's mind that he is like every other dirty politician out for personal benefit and not for the public interest.

I call upon the minister to simply do what is right, and that is to reveal the assets, open the books, and let the Canadian public see what he has been hiding for these last two years.

EthicsOral Questions

November 22nd, 2017 / 2:45 p.m.
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Conservative

John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Mr. Speaker, the finance minister keeps repeating that he disclosed all of his assets since day one. We are not fabricating the fact he hid his offshore corporation for two years.

The Prime Minister says the minister has always worked since day one with the Ethics Commissioner to ensure his personal finances were in line with the expectations of Canadians. We are not fabricating the fact he never received the commissioner's permission to introduce Bill C-27, a bill from which he and his family would profit.

The minister still has mystery assets. Why will he not tell Canadians what is inside all of his other companies?

EthicsOral Questions

November 22nd, 2017 / 2:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is indeed historic. Never in the history of Canada have the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister been under investigation by the Ethics Commissioner at the same time. That is the Liberals' idea of making history.

The problem with the Minister of Finance is that he is hiding things from Canadians. He introduced Bill C-27, which benefited his family's company tremendously, but said he worked with the Ethics Commissioner. I believe him because that is precisely what he did after introducing the bill. That is unacceptable.

Why is the Minister of Finance not being straight with Canadians?

EthicsOral Questions

November 22nd, 2017 / 2:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, every week brings new revelations about the Minister of Finance's conflicts of interest.

First, there were his undeclared shares, then his villa in France, and now, we have the bill he created, Bill C-27, from which his own family and his company, Morneau Shepell, directly benefit.

Will the Prime Minister step up and order his Minister of Finance to show some transparency and disclose all of his assets?

EthicsOral Questions

November 21st, 2017 / 2:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Maxime Bernier Conservative Beauce, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is not true. The Minister of Finance did not sit down with the Ethics Commissioner. He did so only after he was in conflict of interest.

We know that Morneau Shepell deals in target benefit pension plans, and that is what the minister put forward in his Bill C-27.

The question here is simple. How can the minister think that he is not in conflict of interest when he makes the laws that govern a business in which he holds shares? How can the Minister of Finance say that he is not in conflict of interest?

EthicsOral Questions

November 21st, 2017 / 2:35 p.m.
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NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party's chief fundraiser sent money to a tax haven. This morning, the NDP asked that Stephen Bronfman appear before the Standing Committee on Finance. The Liberals refused.

The Minister of Finance failed to put his assets in a blind trust. He also introduced Bill C-27, which helped Morneau Shepell rake in millions of dollars without running this by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. He is currently under investigation.

Is that the Liberals' approach to governing?

They do nothing about tax havens and introduce bills to get richer and to make their millionaire friends richer?

EthicsOral Questions

November 21st, 2017 / 2:35 p.m.
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Louis-Hébert Québec

Liberal

Joël Lightbound LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance introduced Bill C-27 to ensure that Canadians have a secure and stable retirement, so that they may live out their retirement with dignity. The Minister of Finance has always worked with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. He followed through on her recommendation to set up a conflict of interest screen. The commissioner felt that this was the best way to prevent any appearance of conflict of interest or any conflict of interest. The Minister of Finance will continue to work with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner to ensure that all the rules are followed and he will continue to serve Canadians.

EthicsOral Questions

November 21st, 2017 / 2:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Shannon Stubbs Conservative Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister and the finance minister are the two most powerful lawmakers in Canada. The finance minister's Bill C-27 will directly benefit his billion dollar family business, Morneau Shepell, and he still held shares in Morneau Shepell when he introduced that bill. The Prime Minister and the finance minister and his staff all claim he has been working with the Ethics Commissioner from the start, but now, the Prime Minister and two of his cabinet ministers are under investigation by the Ethics Commissioner. How can Canadians trust the Prime Minister?

EthicsOral Questions

November 21st, 2017 / 2:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, the finance minister's so-called ethical screen gets weaker every day. After introducing Bill C-27, which helps his own family business, the only argument the minister has left is to say that he now miraculously has some integrity because he sold his shares and made a donation. What does the government have to say about the level of integrity he has shown over the past two years?

Will the Prime Minister finally admit what all Canadians know, that his finance minister has been in a direct conflict of interest for the past two years?

EthicsOral Questions

November 21st, 2017 / 2:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance swore that he put his shares in a blind trust and then we learned that he never did. The Minister of Finance assured us that he had declared all his assets and then we learned that he was fined by the commissioner for failing to disclose a company. From the beginning of the session, the minister has repeated that he has always worked with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner and, oddly enough, today we read in the Globe and Mail that the minister never worked with the commissioner on his Bill C-27.

Can the Prime Minister tell us why Canadians would still trust the Minister of Finance?

EthicsOral Questions

November 21st, 2017 / 2:20 p.m.
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Regina—Qu'Appelle Saskatchewan

Conservative

Andrew Scheer ConservativeLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, these Liberals only work with the Ethics Commissioner after they get caught breaking the ethics laws.

Therefore, let us be clear. Either the finance minister lied to the Prime Minister, or the Prime Minister did not even bother to ask, or the Prime Minister simply believes that Liberals are just above the rules. Which is it? Did anyone ever tell the Prime Minister that his finance minister was clear to table Bill C-27 before the bill was introduced in Parliament?

EthicsOral Questions

November 21st, 2017 / 2:20 p.m.
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Regina—Qu'Appelle Saskatchewan

Conservative

Andrew Scheer ConservativeLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, just yesterday, the Prime Minister said that the Minister of Finance had always worked closely with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.

Therefore, I am asking him one more time: did the Prime Minister verify with the Minister of Finance that the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner had allowed him to introduce his pension legislation, Bill C-27?

EthicsOral Questions

November 20th, 2017 / 2:35 p.m.
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NDP

Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, transferring the employer's risk to the employee is not what I would call working for the middle class. It is working for the rich friends of the governing party.

We have known from the start that Bill C-27 was bad for workers. Unions and workers across Canada agree that this bill should be scrapped.

In addition to introducing a bad bill, the Minister of Finance also put himself in a clear conflict of interest to the point where he is under investigation by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.

The Liberals never should have introduced this bill. Will they now right that wrong by withdrawing it?

EthicsOral Questions

November 20th, 2017 / 2:35 p.m.
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NDP

Scott Duvall NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals' Bill C-27 would open the door for crown corporations and federally regulated employers to convert secure defined benefit pension plans into less secure plans. In fact, before the finance minister was in cabinet, he spent his career advocating for shifting pension risk from employer to employee, and then presented the Liberals' plan to do exactly that with Bill C-27. How can the Liberals continue to say they are standing up for the middle class? It is simple: will the Liberals do what is right for working Canadians and withdraw their shameful bill?

EthicsOral Questions

November 20th, 2017 / 2:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, this ethical scandal that the finance minister finds himself in may only be the tip of the iceberg. The only reason everybody knows that the Minister of Finance benefited from Bill C-27 is because the media forced him to disclose that he held shares in Morneau Shepell. However, the minister is still hiding what other shares he held in other companies over the last two years and what other government decisions he made that benefited him.

Let us just rip the band-aid off, let us get this out in the open: what shares did the Minister of Finance own in what companies over the last two years?

EthicsOral Questions

November 20th, 2017 / 2:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, in 2014, when the Minister of Finance was the executive chair of Morneau Shepell, he participated in a forum on pension plan reform that advocated for the measures he included in his Bill C-27.

Interestingly, in the days following the introduction of his bill, Morneau Shepell share values surged by nearly $1 million. It is therefore not surprising that the minister is now the subject of an investigation by the Ethics Commissioner. I have one simple question.

When the minister introduced his bill, did the Prime Minister know that he was in direct conflict of interest?

EthicsOral Questions

November 20th, 2017 / 2:25 p.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

But he would never take personal cheap shots at anybody in this place.

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal ethics saga continues, with even more information coming out about the finance minister's clear conflict of interest with Bill C-27. Let us go through the facts.

As CEO of Morneau Shepell, he took over Mercer Canada, which manages the pensions of 93,000 Canada Post workers and retirees. Guess who stands to benefit if Bill C-27 becomes law. Well, Morneau Shepell, owned by our finance minister. I guess he stood to make boatloads of money. He knew exactly what he was doing when he took this benefit.

Now that the Prime Minister knows the same thing, will he stop defending—?

EthicsOral Questions

November 20th, 2017 / 2:25 p.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it seems that the Prime Minister will walk across broken glass to defend his ethically embattled finance minister, but will not lift a finger to help out Canadian pensioners. Bill C-27 is not only a clear attack on workers' pensions, it is also a massive conflict of interest. The opposition hears it and raises concerns, and the Liberals refuse to. Canadians see it, and the Liberals ignore it. The Ethics Commissioner is speaking about it, but the Liberals will not even mention it. She has launched an official investigation into this minister and this bill. Therefore, will the Prime Minister maybe update his hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil ethics code?

EthicsOral Questions

November 20th, 2017 / 2:25 p.m.
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NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, when people look at the minister's involvement in Bill C-27, everyone sees the same thing.

All of the opposition parties had pointed out problems, and today it emerged that an organization representing retired Canada Post workers had already raised the same concerns with the commissioner. I teach my kids to take responsibility for their actions, and I am sure the Prime Minister does the same with his.

Will he demand less from the Minister of Finance than he does from his own children?

EthicsOral Questions

November 20th, 2017 / 2:25 p.m.
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NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, for weeks now, the Minister of Finance has been telling us over and over that he did not break the law and that he followed all the rules.

Even when the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner fined him for breaking the law, he kept saying he had done nothing wrong. Now the commissioner has confirmed that she is going to open an investigation into the minister's involvement in Bill C-27.

How can the Prime Minister keep defending his minister when he is still officially under investigation?

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

November 7th, 2017 / 5:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Robert Gordon Kitchen Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have a chance today to discuss the latest iteration of the Liberals' budget implementation legislation, Bill C-63.

When the Liberals were running their election campaign back in 2015, they made a number of promises to Canadians. One of those promises was that they would incur a small deficit of less than $10 billion. During that same time, they also promised they would balance the budget by 2019. We now know that neither of these things are true, and that every time the Prime Minister gives with one hand, he takes more with the other.

As the Liberals like to make up words and change their meaning, I have made up a word for this action. It is “dispocketnesia”, which means using one hand to take from one pocket to the other and forgetting about it.

When the Minister of Finance tabled the government's fall economic statement just a couple of weeks ago, he confirmed the Liberals were borrowing $20 billion this year to pay for their out-of-control spending; that is $20 billion this year alone. That means the current deficit is more than double what the Liberals initially promised. This also means, as confirmed by the government, that the budget will never be balanced under the Prime Minister.

Of course, with reckless spending comes the need to increase taxes, which is in part what Bill C-63 would do. Since the Prime Minister is adding debt at twice the rate he promised and since his government projects that debt will grow every year into the future, someone needs to foot the bill. Unfortunately for my constituents and for all Canadians, it is the taxpayer who will bear the burden of the government's irresponsible spending.

I say all this because the Liberal track record of the broken promise after broken promise has fostered an environment of distrust and skepticism among the residents of my riding, and certainly across the country.

The Liberals constantly say that they are helping the middle class and those who wish to join it, yet over 80% of middle-class Canadians are now paying more taxes than they did before the Prime Minister took office. Bill C-63 would not help these people, but rather would push our country further and further into debt.

The 80% figure I just quoted does not even include a measure that will drastically affect my constituents in a multitude of ways. That measure is a carbon tax, or do the Liberals hope Canadians have forgotten about that, because that is 54 days away?

The good people in my riding just simply cannot afford another tax, certainly not one that will affect so many aspects of their lives. They will now need to pay more to heat their homes, to drive their cars, run their tractors and combines, get to work or see their doctor, and operate their businesses. What do these people get from their government in return?

I would like to say my riding is currently booming with government-funded infrastructure projects that it sorely needs, but that would be a lie. I would like to tell my constituents that in return for the increase in their household bills due to a carbon tax, they would have a government that cares about western Canada, but I definitely cannot say that under the Liberals.

I would very much like to tell the small business owners in my riding that the government will start making life easier for them by not changing the tax rules to the point they are unsure if their businesses will even be viable in the future. Alas, I cannot do any of these things. The government lacks the credibility, as shown by their dismal track record, and Canadians expect better.

One of the major measures contained in Bill C-63 that I would like to touch on is the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the effect this investment will have on Canadians. The Liberals are investing $500 million, half a billion dollars, to be a part of an investment bank in another country. We would think that an investment of that size would be overwhelmingly beneficial to the Canadian public, especially given the fact that the federal government is not exactly swimming in dollars at the moment.

Unfortunately, there will be very little direct benefit to Canadians as a result of this investment, and those who do benefit are the wealthy 1% who are the only ones who can afford to consider bidding on contracts through the infrastructure investment bank. We do not know how our investment will be used. We do not know what it will be used on or whether it will be to fund a pipeline. No, not a pipeline in Canada, despite the fact energy east was cancelled, but rather a pipeline in Asia. Instead of making it competitive for Canadian companies to see their oil, this makes it easier for foreign countries to compete against us.

How can the Liberals claim to be helping and representing the middle class when they are investing in measures such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank rather than using even a portion of that money to helping Canadians at home? The Liberals love to spend and we understand the need to create strong relationships and international partnerships through initiatives like investment banks, but it should not be at the cost of the Canadian taxpayer who will see no direct benefit. This is yet another reason why my constituents tell me they have completely lost faith in the government's ability to spend money responsibly.

It appears that the Liberals have a hard time understanding the needs of the middle-class Canadians for whom they say they are working. This is not surprising, given that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance have never actually been middle class. The finance minister cemented this general lack of faith when it was recently discovered that he failed to disclose financial assets to the Ethics Commissioner. He should have done this as soon as he became a minister, and yet it was overlooked.

If average Canadians failed to disclose their assets to the appropriate government body, they would be punished accordingly, but when it is the Prime Minister's right-hand man, the problem seems to simply disappear. How are Canadians supposed to trust the finance minister with control of our country's finances when he cannot even properly take care of his own?

The finance minister also refuses to disclose whether he recused himself from important conversations surrounding legislation that would have an effect on his multi-million dollar company, Morneau Shepell . As far as we know, he took part in discussions surrounding Bill C-27. Was he involved in the talks on pensions for Bombardier and did he fail to recuse himself from discussions on the Bermuda tax treaty? Thankfully, he was unable to recuse himself when the Ethics Commissioner came calling. He paid the $200 dollar fine for his actions, but this leaves the question of just how open and honest our finance minister really is.

Canadians expect the Liberal government to do better and be better. We expect that cabinet ministers will uphold the rules to the letter of the law and will also do the right thing. The government has shown that the conduct of its cabinet ministers is not befitting the expectations of the people they represent. Not only are they unable to follow the rules themselves, but they expect the support of Canadians who are being punished for doing just that, as they stated in their messaging surrounding the tax changes to close perceived loopholes.

Those tax changes are going to hurt Canadians, especially in my riding where there is a plethora of small businesses, including farms. There are huge concerns over the cost to transfer a farm down from one generation to the next, something people in my constituency have been doing for over a century in some cases. The cost of doing business is going to go up for all business owners too, not just farmers.

Who is the cost not going to go up for? The Prime Minister and the finance minister, whose family fortunes are safely tucked away and will be unaffected by these tax changes. This just goes to show how out of touch the Liberals are when it comes to the needs of hard-working middle-class Canadians.

Bill C-63 contains many provisions given that it is an omnibus bill. Unfortunately I am failing to see how this “sunny ways” legislation will actually help the people in my riding. My hometown of Estevan is known as the “Sunshine Capital of Canada”. Even with that moniker, everyone knows the Liberals are not building green transit lines in rural Saskatchewan.

On this side of the House, we believe in responsible government spending, lower taxes, and making life more affordable for every Canadian. We have learned that we absolutely cannot trust the Prime Minister to give Canadians a tax break. In fact, the only thing we can trust is that he will continue to break his promises and put us further and further into debt, one tax increase at a time.

This is not what my constituents want. It is not what Canadians want. We will continue to fight the Prime Minister's continued tax hikes every step of the way.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

November 6th, 2017 / 5:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Alupa Clarke Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, hon. colleagues, dear Canadians who are watching us, I just want to say, “wow”. One hundred and fifty years ago, on November 6, 1867, the first Canadian parliamentarians from Upper Canada and Lower Canada, as well as the colonies of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia, gathered here in a federal Parliament for the first time. It was surely to have a debate, but I imagine that first day must have been rather solemn. I do not know if they started any work that first day. I imagine they wanted to get started right away on working hard to build a federation from coast to coast. It must have been extraordinary to take part in achieving that dream.

I wanted to take a minute or two to say that I agree with what my leader said about his vision of the country, and his take on the parliamentary system and the role of parliamentarians. I was impressed by his speech.

Certainly, I want to thank the Prime Minister for taking the time to deliver a speech on this solemn day. I also found it extraordinary that four former prime ministers were here today. I appreciated the speech of the House leader of the New Democratic Party and that of the Bloc Québécois member who took the time to say a few words despite his opposition to our great federation.

I am more mature now as I begin my third year as MP than I was at the very beginning. There are three things I consider important and that I would like to bring back to the Canadian political agenda. If I come to Ottawa every week, it is not to talk about rights but about duty. It is not to talk about about pride, but about honour. More importantly, it is not to talk about entitlements but about each individual's responsibility and their role in community development.

Guided by these three beacons that shape my approach to parliamentarism and Canadian politics, I come here each week in an attempt to improve things in this country, even only a little bit.

I would like nothing more than to be able to speak at length in this House about the Constitution of Canada, the role of the provinces in our constitutional order and the dialogue that Philippe Couillard would like to open about Quebec's place in Canada.

I would like to talk about our founding peoples, linguistic rights, creating new provinces to pursue Canada's territorial and economic expansion, as well as international relations and Canada's role in the 21st century in light of all the world's emerging powers on all continents who are challenging us in ever more extreme ways. I would also like us to discuss our vision of federalism for the hundred years to come.

However, I cannot talk about that today, as the government is busy introducing a bill to confirm and put in place the budgetary measures which were announced in March, as is the custom in this great Parliament.

We returned to the House two months ago, but we have not touched on the constitutional debates and the international relations debates I talked about, debates I would really like us to have here. This all started in July, when the government put forward its tax reforms, which amounted to tax hikes for small and medium-sized businesses. It really botched those reforms. Just two weeks ago, the Minister of Finance presented his economic update. He tried to convince us that his tax reforms are working well and that he merely adjusted a few elements of it in response to what he heard from Canadians.

Simply put, the tax reform is a thing of the past. It is moot. The government backtracked thanks to some very good work by the official opposition of Canada and our leader, the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle. Every sitting day from September to November, our leader proved to Canadians that the tax reform benefited the rich, those who want to avoid paying taxes, and, it bears mentioning, even the Minister of Finance, as we all know. The whole thing is absolutely unbelievable.

The reform benefits the rich rather than ordinary Canadians—the workers, the mechanics, the labourers, the farmers. The Liberal economic update is merely a repeat of the same measures and broken promises we have seen from the beginning of their mandate in 2015. The only thing that is new is that they are going to lower the overall tax rate for small and medium-sized business.

Once again, that was nothing really new, since the Liberals had announced it during the campaign. They first decided not to keep that promise, but faced with the political uproar created by their ethical scandal, they thought they might present a gift to shift the media's focus. It did not work.

Then, at the end of September, the scandal linked to the finance minister himself, personally, was uncovered. This is not a debate about whether this is a good policy, nor is it a debate on the tax measures he wants to bring in. Indeed, thanks to research done by our party and by some investigative journalists, it became clear that the Minister of Finance was in a total conflict of interest, both personally and with respect to his significant financial assets. He made his fortune by working very hard, good for him.

According to the Liberal members, Morneau Shepell, and the government, everyone believed that the Minister of Finance had taken his fortune, including the $20 million he owned in Morneau Shepell shares, and placed it in a blind trust back in 2015. That was not the case. For the past month, I have been expecting him to stand up in the House and make a formal apology. In the end, he made a donation to charity, which is nice, but he has yet to apologize to Canadians.

We have been talking about this issue for a month and a half. There was also the property in France, which he hid from the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, as well as Bill C-27, which directly benefits his family business, Morneau Shepell. The proof is right in front of us: the Minister of Finance is in a direct conflict of interest. He has yet to apologize to Canadians.

Yesterday, it emerged that the Liberal Party of Canada's own chief fundraiser is implicated in tax avoidance schemes involving tropical tax havens south of here. The news has made this government even more of a laughingstock.

Today, on this 150th anniversary of the first parliamentary sitting of November 6, 1867, four former prime ministers, unfortunately, had to witness a question period that I found to be shameful and that did not focus on the issues that we should be discussing. As I said, we should be discussing the Canadian federation, the coming century, and how to always strive to make Canada the best country in the world.

Instead, we are talking about this government's hypocrisy. We are talking about the things it does that create conflicts of interest. In short, we are talking about its real intentions, which are to help interest groups, not Canadians. These interest groups, whatever their cause, may be chartist groups that go through the Supreme Court to impose new policies on our country rather than coming and fighting in the House, economic interest groups, like the finance minister and his Bill C-27, or groups that fight for the government's own party. What is worse, the Liberals are shamelessly claiming that theirs is a feminist budget. I have never heard anything so ridiculous in my life. Well, perhaps that is a bit of an exaggeration, but even so. This should not be a feminist budget. It should be a Canadian budget for all Canadians.

Since when does a government have the nerve to rise in the House and claim that a budget has been put in place for a particular group, to cater to a certain ideology or stripe, or individual interests? How does this government have the nerve to talk about a feminist budget? What would happen if it was a masculinist budget? It is completely ridiculous.

What have the Liberals done in the past two years? They have eliminated tax credit after tax credit, to the point where, according the Fraser Institute, a typical Canadian family with two children is now paying $840 more in taxes a year.

It is unprecedented in Canada for a government to run a deficit that is double what was promised with no plan to balance the budget. That is the Liberal government.

Rather than celebrating the Constitution on this 150th anniversary, we are celebrating the Liberals' hypocrisy.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

November 2nd, 2017 / 5:05 p.m.
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NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I come from Vancouver East. We are not a particularly rich riding. In fact, we are one of the lowest-income ridings in the country. What my constituents consistently have said is that they want a government that will support them by providing the necessary services they depend on. For example, the seniors who are trying to go into retirement were not expecting the government to bring in a bill, Bill C-27, that would actually rip the pension they have earned right from under them so that companies, like the one the Minister of Finance has a personal interest in, would benefit.

My constituents have said that they want to see a national child care program so they can afford to go to work and support their families and their children can get the best support in early childhood development in those early years. We do not see that.

Housing affordability is a major issue in my community. It was the Liberal government back in 1993 that cancelled the national affordable housing program. As a result, our country lost more than half a million units of affordable housing. The Liberals campaigned on bringing back a national affordable housing program. It is now two years in. They say to wait for it, that it is coming. Why is it not here now? Do the people who are homeless today not deserve housing? Why is the government making them wait if it is really going to bring back a national affordable housing program?

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

November 2nd, 2017 / 4:50 p.m.
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NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-63. Budgets and budget implementation bills really tell us a lot. They tell us where a government's priorities lie, the political will of the government, so to speak, and how it will tackle the major issues that communities are faced with today. There are a few priorities and initiatives in this budget implementation bill that are welcome, but when we talk about a 329-page document containing 20 pieces of legislation embedded in this giant bill, a few are simply not enough.

New Democrats have been very clear about what we had hoped to see in this budget implementation bill. We wanted measures that make substantial strides in making our country greener and more equitable, measures that would make significant improvements in workplaces so that Canadians could have a better quality of life and seniors entering retirement would not see their savings ripped out from under them, such as what the government is doing in Bill C-27. We wanted an expansion of our health care system. There are a lot of seniors in my community who say they cannot afford their medications. There are a lot of people in my constituency who say they want dental care to be part of our pharmacare system. None of that is in this 329-page budget implementation bill.

The government is so good at saying there is a new nation-to-nation relationship and it wants to do right by the indigenous community. What do we not see? We do not see real action to address historic systemic discrimination against indigenous peoples in this budget implementation bill. We do not see any actions there. The government, despite all of its lofty rhetoric, fancy Facebook posts, tweets, social media, and so on, has failed once again, in my view, to adequately prioritize these important areas for Canadians.

This can be seen not just in Bill C-63, as I mentioned. We can also see what the government is trying to do in Bill C-27 and other tax measures. I will get into that a little. The government suggests that it is making the tax system more fair for Canadians, and yet its consultations—on the small business tax changes, the provisions in Bill C-27, which go after seniors' pensions, and the lack of action in Bill C-63 to address the real issues of the day—show otherwise.

Over the last 30 years, workers have helped our economy grow by some 50%, and yet salaries are stagnating and retirements are becoming less secure. Now the inequality gap in Canada between the richest and the majority of Canadians is growing faster and wider than in other developed nations. The richest 100 Canadians now have the same wealth as 10 million less fortunate Canadians combined. Canada's top 100 CEOs now make 193 times more than someone earning an average wage, and these CEOs had already out-earned the average Canadian's annual wage by 11:50 a.m. on January 3 of this year.

According to the Conference Board of Canada, Canada loses at least $8 billion a year through tax evasion and avoidance by the richest and largest corporations; 91% of this lost revenue goes back to the top 10% of income earners; and 50% of that goes to the top 1%.

New Democrats have been clear that regressive tax measures, such as the CEO stock option loophole, which costs the treasury an estimated $800 million per year, need to be closed. By the way, the Liberals promised that during the campaign. They said they were going to close the stock option loophole. What happened after the election? It was not on the agenda anymore.

The Liberals continue to fail to deliver with Bill C-63. The increasing use of tax havens to avoid taxes costs the treasury an estimated $7 billion per year. The NDP has called for action. The Liberals have yet again failed to deliver in Bill C-63 so that we can direct that $7 billion into much-needed support for Canadians in each of our ridings. The Liberals refuse to do that, and they justify it every day in the House with their talking points, pretending that they are doing right by Canadians.

We saw during the consultations that they floated ideas that do not address the main issues of the day, the things they promised during the campaign. Instead, they chose to target the small business community.

If that was not enough, the government then attempted to target low-earning retail workers, many of whom are minimum wage earners who are just trying to survive in an era when housing costs are increasing and they cannot afford to put food on the table. That is the government's priority.

I think the government did that so it could cast a shadow over the real agenda. They did it so that their friends on Bay Street would not have to be faced with the tax measures they promised they would bring in after they formed government. They did it so they could protect their friends and the well-to-do. As it happens, the Minister of Finance is among them, as we see in the ethical scandal he is mired in right now. Every day we learn more, although sometimes less, because he is working so hard to hide all that information. We are learning, though, that the finance minister is making a decision on Bill C-27, on pension benefits, so that he can, it turns out, benefit himself and his family with the shares he holds in the company.

We also learned that the finance minister is using numbered companies to avoid paying taxes. Is it any wonder the government has turned a blind eye to the priority of tackling where the low-hanging fruit is in terms of redirecting those monies to the treasury?

I do not see measures in Bill C-63 that many of the people in Vancouver East would like to see, and that I would venture to say many Canadians would like to see. Young parents and working mothers, who are often impacted the most, need better access to affordable, high-quality child care, yet we do not see any provisions in the bill for a national child care program. It would be an enormous benefit for women who need child care. It would benefit not only their family units and the children in terms of early childhood development but would benefit our overall economy. The government has failed to deliver on that.

I fail to see in this legislation anything to do with safe, secure, and affordable housing, which a lot of people are struggling with. The government talks a good talk about delivering a national affordable housing program, but where is that in Bill C-63?

Let me close with what Dr. Cindy Blackstock said:

There's nothing new in the budget for First Nations children and their families, in child welfare, or their implementation of the Jordan's Principle, even though they've been found out of compliance with legal orders to stop that inequality. It's a moral issue: is Canada so broke that the finance minister and the Prime Minister have made a deliberate choice to discriminate against little kids?

Bill C-63 misses the mark.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

November 2nd, 2017 / 4:35 p.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to be sharing my time this afternoon with my friend from Vancouver East, who I know will bring great illumination.

For my friend from Thunder Bay, before he ducks out, I held consultations with my business community in Smithers and in Terrace and received copious amounts of correspondence on his government's ham-fisted, wrong approach to the small business community. If he hearkens back to where this all generates from, he will remember that the Prime Minister, when campaigning for the job of prime minister, said that there is a large number of small businesses that are only set up to avoid paying taxes. I remember hearing that and thinking how offensive that is. It came to me later on as to why the Prime Minister and perhaps the finance minister might think that. It is because the people they associate with use the small business tax code exactly for that purpose. However, when I think of small businesses that I represent in northwestern British Columbia, I think of actual small businesses that take the risk, go out into the marketplace, and try to make some money to feed their family and employ other Canadians.

I know it is a radical thought for the Liberals that this is actually what a small business does. However, some of our Liberal colleagues who are maybe entitled to a few more entitlements than others think of small businesses in a different way. If we followed from their philosophy, then their small business tax plan made perfect sense until we actually applied it to the real world and saw that their changes would inhibit farmers from passing on their farms, fishermen from passing on their businesses, and forestry companies. All these are small businesses that I represent. Only when pushed into scandal and controversy of their own making, did the humility and the ears start to open up a bit for the Liberals and they said that maybe they did not get this small business tax thing right.

Therefore, let us look through the bill at hand today. There are 330-odd pages of something connected to the budget. It would change 20 different laws in Canada, most of them financially connected. We can say this is an “omnibus light” I suppose, yet within these 330-odd pages there are a bunch of things we do not find.

Let me start with the good stuff because that is a shorter list. With respect to the Canada Labour Code, some new flexibility has been brought in for people to take leave to allow workers to make adjustments in their personal life. In a modern economy in 2017, this is welcome. There is also some small support for a geothermal industry. As we know, and as my colleague from Vancouver East knows, there is the whole Site C controversy. We know that when governments make bad energy policies, other good energy options are suddenly forgotten. A bit more geothermal industry in Canada and British Columbia would be welcome.

Let us move to what the majority of this bill would and would not do. In the context of where we are in the Canadian economy, we saw the surprise shrinkage in the last quarterly report of 0.1% of GDP down. That kind of took everyone a bit by surprise. The Liberals are going to have to update some of their talking notes about the robust economy. What is that economy founded on right now? We see Canadians carrying around still the highest personal debt rate of any G7 country, at 167% of disposable income. That is enormous. That is worse than it was in the U.S. at the 2008 financial crisis, just to have some context of where the Canadian personal debt load is harbouring right now. We do not see anything in this bill that would address that.

We also see the exorbitant use of offshore tax havens. The Liberals will get up again and again and say they are going to go after those tax havens and that they have hired more CRA auditors to go after them. The problem with their logic, that they know is a problem, is that the CRA auditors are going after small businesses and individuals because the tax havens, the ones that the Liberals have since signed on, are legal. They allow Canadians to legally offshore if they can afford it. If they are in the top per cent of a per cent, they can pay the lawyers and they can pay the fancy accountants to move their wealth off to a place like the Cook Islands. Therefore, it is kind of strange that the Liberals would sign a new tax haven treaty with a place like the Cook Islands. I do not know about other colleagues in the House, but the small businesses and the middle class and those working hard to join it, people whom I represent, are not able or interested in offshoring their wealth to the Cook Islands. Maybe it is friends of the finance minister who do this kind of thing, or maybe the Prime Minister himself. I am not sure, because we do not know a lot of what they hold, which is again the context of where we are in talking about all of this today.

We also see the stock option loophole. I had a small business before I entered politics and when I contracted out I did not pay people in stock options. When I talk to my middle-class friends and those working hard to join the middle class, I am told that they are not paid in stock options because it is not a normal procedure. In the last election, we New Democrats had actually said that it costs the treasury every year about $800 million, give or take, according to Statistics Canada and Finance Canada numbers. That is $800 million of forgone tax revenue.

We said that does not really generate anything for the Canadian economy. I know it generates more Ferrari sales. It might get a person another villa in France. However, it does not actually do anything for the working people of this country. Maybe we should close those loopholes.

Who agreed with the NDP on this? The Liberals agreed with us. Imagine that; they just cuddled right up to that policy on the left and said to Canadians, “Yes, us too”. We probably should have known better. When we appoint a finance minister like this one, the idea that he would ever do anything to hurt any of his friends at the country club should have been obvious to everybody.

The stock option loophole remains. It is going to cost us another $800 million this year, and next year, as it did last year. People want to know: what benefit does that get us, how many more kids does that help out of poverty, and how many more seniors does that help? Does it help on innovation? No, it does not, because there is a way to close that loophole that allows the true innovators in the tech sector or pharmaceuticals to start new companies off in a proper way, using stock options, not the Bay Street crowd, who just do not need that third villa or that fifth Maserati.

The question to the government is whether it actually believes anything it campaigned on. We are two years in. We are at the midway point. We see what it did to electoral reform. It was the thinnest of veils. When it came down to the point of actually delivering, the Prime Minister said something that hits the arrogance metre at a new level. He said that it was his decision to make, and he chose to make it. That is fascinating. That is a new structure of government that I am not used to, where people elect an individual member of Parliament, that party goes on to form a government, and suddenly the prime minister is bequeathed with all this power, so that he gets to make the electoral decisions he wants. We see that around poverty and other issues.

Let me return to this not-omnibus, near-omnibus bill, and it was the finance minister who sponsored this bill. We have asked him, time and again, to tell us something simple, in order to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest—which is the Prime Minister's standard, by the way: not just not being in a conflict of interest but not giving the appearance of being in a conflict of interest.

We know the finance minister has at least five numbered companies. For Canadians who do not have numbered companies, which is most Canadians, a numbered company allows members to avoid things like with the Ethics Commissioner. Members can have shares that they control—which they would not be allowed to do if it was in their name—in a numbered company, and as soon as it is moved into a numbered company, they can keep control of those shares that are now in a numbered company and beyond the touch of the Ethics Commissioner.

That is fascinating. The finance minister owns other numbered companies. He has two options when he will not tell us what is in them. One of the options is something the minister does not think he needs to do. The Prime Minister said ministers' personal affairs should bear the fullest public scrutiny. That means the public should know what is going on with the personal affairs, the financial affairs of everybody in cabinet. That is broken.

The second option is, with those numbered companies, if the finance minister actually followed through on that commitment that he made too, we would find out that there are other conflicts of interest. We saw this with the whole charade around Bill C-27. We saw this when we offered up a vote to the Liberals. Everyone can remember this; it was just recently. We asked for two simple things. We said that we thought an apology is owed from the finance minister for this entire ethical mess of his own making. We also said we should close those ethical loopholes that have been exploited.

What did the Liberals in good standing do? One after another, they all stood and said no. Canadians are a forgiving people in my experience. If people screw up and it was unintended and they say, “Sorry about that, I didn't mean to do that; here's my apology and here's how I'm going to make good”, most Canadians I know would respect that. That is about being a person of integrity, or a party of a integrity.

What we see from the party, from information, to access to information, and on down the line, is a government that does not believe in its own commitments that it made.

I know our friend from Winnipeg North will be tempted to jump up and say, “Oh, we're such a wonderful government.” However, he has to bear in mind that the promises he made to Canadians, the promises the Prime Minister made, in offering so much hope and change, are starting to look a bit weak, as day after day goes on and promise after promise falls off the attention, and the Liberals' latest argument is that it is better than Stephen Harper's government. I wonder how that pitch would have actually worked. The best argument the Liberals use, to be precise, is that Stephen Harper did it too.

If the Prime Minister had gotten up said this was his commitment to them, that he would do more or less what Stephen Harper did, when all those Liberals voters went out to vote, I am not sure the Liberals would be sitting where they are right now. That is the way elections go.

Having to get parties to actually keep their promises is the job that we are doing now, and on the bill before us, the Liberals missed an opportunity to get it right.

EthicsOral Questions

November 2nd, 2017 / 2:25 p.m.
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NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, are these ethical standards if the Liberals cannot even enforce the bare minimum they should be following?

The Prime Minister is showing his contempt for the House, which is calling for explanations for his ethical lapses and those of his government.

However, the facts are clear. This Prime Minister is still under investigation for his trip to the Aga Khan's private island. The Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner has identified one, two, three, four minsters who are using the loophole in the Conflict of Interest Act.

The commissioner is also concerned about the role the minister played in Bill C-27. This government said that it would live up to the highest ethical standards.

Why then can the government not even enforce the bare minimum?

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

November 2nd, 2017 / 11:05 a.m.
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NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will continue in the same vein as my Conservative colleagues.

I was not so much surprised as offended when I heard that the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner had fined the Minister of Finance for breaking the rules by forgetting to declare his villa in France, which he hid in a company. Then again, who among us has not forgotten a villa in France, Spain, or Morocco at some point? Apparently that is the kind of thing that can happen to someone like the Minister of Finance.

He forgot, and he got his knuckles rapped for it. I want to make sure everyone at home understands the penalty this poor man is being forced to pay. He has to pay $200. This is the man who just signed a cheque for $5 million in an attempt to extricate himself from a scandal involving his shares in Morneau Shepell, which benefited from a bill that he himself introduced. No doubt that was a hard lesson for the Minister of Finance to learn from the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. Unfortunately, all that did was feed the public's cynicism toward politicians, the Liberal government, and the Minister of Finance. Those people are completely out of touch with reality.

I want to be sure that I am understood in both official languages. We just learned this week that the Minister of Finance was fined because he forgot to officially declare that he possessed a villa in beautiful Provence, France. That is something that probably happens to a lot of people in Canada: “Oh, yes, the villa; sorry about that. I just forgot.”

He got caught, and then received a slap on the hand, a big one. It was a hard lesson for him, I guess. It was $200 for contravening the code of ethics. We are talking about the same minister who just recently said he would write a $5 million cheque to try to get out of a scandal. It was a scandal because the minister tabled legislation, Bill C-27, that directly profits his own company. He made millions of dollars on that. Then, because he got caught, he said, “Okay, I'm a rich man. I can fix that. I'm going to write a cheque for $5 million.” Now, the minister has received a fine of $200. That poor man, it must be a really hard week for him.

I am making a joke about that, but seriously, it is only increasing the cynicism of this country's citizens. During the last campaign, the Liberals said they wanted to reinstate trust in our democratic institutions. They wanted people to stop being cynical about the political class.

Since the Liberals were elected, they have been doing the opposite. They are breaking promises. They are tabling legislation that profits themselves and their friends on Bay Street, the elite of this country. As NDP members, we think this is completely wrong. They are going in the wrong direction. We have to point that out, and say it loudly and clearly.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

November 2nd, 2017 / 10:25 a.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, it will come as no surprise to members of this House, I am sure, nor indeed to Canadians across the country, to hear that the Minister of Finance has been subject to a fair bit of scrutiny over the last number of weeks, particularly with regard to conflicts of interest around Bill C-27 and his personal holdings in Morneau Shepell.

When asked about that in question period, when the time for questions and responses is very short, the finance minister likes to start talking about his fiscal measures. Presumably, the introduction of this bill would be very important to the Minister of Finance.

Therefore, I find it passing strange that the opening speech was given by the parliamentary secretary. Is that because the Minister of Finance did not want to be subject to a 10-minute question period by members of this House?

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

November 1st, 2017 / 3:10 p.m.
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NDP

Scott Duvall NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to ask for unanimous consent for the following motion:

That notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, the order for second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Finance of Bill C-27, an act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985, be discharged and the bill withdrawn from the Order Paper.

EthicsOral Questions

November 1st, 2017 / 3:05 p.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, what is truly amazing is he can say all of that with a straight face.

We did some quick research as to how many Canadians in the riding of Toronto Centre benefited from the introduction of Bill C-27. We found one. It was the finance minister. He gained $2 million in four days. It is remarkable.

The Prime Minister says he respects Parliament so much that he looks at serious ethical violations and calls them noise. He is worried about the young people so much that he just spent an hour not answering a single direct question from the opposition.

Will he end all of this, and this is the only way to do it, will he end his attack—

EthicsOral Questions

November 1st, 2017 / 2:55 p.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, the head honcho at Morneau Shepell told investors in 2013 that legislation was required to open up that lucrative Canadian market to attack defined pensions. As minister, he gave them Bill C-27 and, voila, stocks in Morneau Shepell went through the roof. He made “gazoodles” of money, and now he has been found guilty of what, a $200 fine?

The Prime Minister calls that raising the bar. That is more like an open bar for Morneau Shepell. Meanwhile, Canadian pensioners remain at the mercy of that privatized pension king of Bay Street.

Will the Prime Minister withdraw Bill C-27 and put his minister in his place?

EthicsOral Questions

November 1st, 2017 / 2:55 p.m.
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NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the scandal surrounding the Minister of Finance has become the Prime Minister's kryptonite.

The minister introduced a rotten bill, Bill C-27, which made shares in his company, Morneau Shepell, go up. When the minister was caught red-handed making money while in a conflict of interest, he admitted his guilt and said that he would pay everything back.

Is that what life is like in the wonderful world of millionaires? When you get into trouble, you get out the cheque book and assume that $5 million will make everything go away?

If the Minister of Finance is not living on another planet far away from middle-class Canadians, he will withdraw Bill C-27.

PensionsOral Questions

November 1st, 2017 / 2:45 p.m.
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NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, why has Morneau Shepell been asking for legislation to enable targeted benefit pension plans for years? Because these plans are good for its clients and the employers, but not so good for the employees.

Tabling a bill that places the burden of risk and accountability on pensioners is not working for the middle class; it is working for corporate interests.

Will the Prime Minister stop spewing talking points about the middle class and really help them by withdrawing Bill C-27?

PensionsOral Questions

November 1st, 2017 / 2:45 p.m.
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NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, in late 2015, the president and CEO of Morneau Shepell said the company viewed transferring pension risk from employers to employees as one of its biggest business opportunities.

By a strange coincidence, Bill C-27, a bill designed to do just that, was tabled a few months later by the Minister of Finance.

If the Prime Minister loves the middle class so much, why did he let his finance minister table a bill that attacks workers' pensions in order to line his cronies' pockets?

EthicsOral Questions

November 1st, 2017 / 2:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, I noticed that one of the talking points the Prime Minister is using today is “we believe in helping those who need it”. I am just wondering if he could clarify, when he said that, if he meant helping the Minister of Finance, who holds stocks in a company that saw a share price increase after he introduced Bill C-27.

PensionsOral Questions

November 1st, 2017 / 2:40 p.m.
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NDP

Scott Duvall NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, maybe he can answer this question since he did not answer the others.

How can the Prime Minister say his government is working for the middle class when it has put forward a bill with the sole intent of shifting the risk of pension plans from the employer to the employee? That is not working for the middle class; that is working for the wealthy and well-connected.

The fact that the Prime Minister is still considering going forward with this bill, which would have huge impacts on middle-class workers, proves that he is completely disconnected from the middle class.

I have a simple question. Will he do what is right and withdraw Bill C-27?

PensionsOral Questions

November 1st, 2017 / 2:40 p.m.
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NDP

Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, the NDP and the unions have sounded the alarm regarding Bill C-27, a bill that puts the Liberals' rich corporate friends first, ahead of our workers and pensioners.

The risk associated with pensions is going to shift from employers to employees. Today my colleague is going to move a motion calling for the withdrawal of that bill, which is the right thing to do.

The Prime Minister is fond of saying that he is working for the middle class.

Will he do right by our workers and pensioners and withdraw Bill C-27?

EthicsOral Questions

November 1st, 2017 / 2:25 p.m.
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NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out that during the Senate expense scandal in 2013 the current Prime Minister tweeted, “Conservative ethics abuses have shaken Canadians' faith in Parliament. It's time to #raisethebar on accountability”.

After the cash for access scandal, the investigation into the Prime Minister's vacation on the Aga Khan's private island, and the scandal involving his finance minister and Bill C-27, does the Prime Minister still believe that he did “#raisethebar” on accountability?

EthicsOral Questions

November 1st, 2017 / 2:25 p.m.
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Regina—Qu'Appelle Saskatchewan

Conservative

Andrew Scheer ConservativeLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister keeps claiming the Minister of Finance was not in a conflict of interest. We now know that assertion is not true.

However, questions still remain regarding Bill C-27, a bill that could directly benefit the finance minister's family business.

Can the Prime Minister tell us whether the Minister of Finance met with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner before tabling Bill C-27 in the House?

EthicsOral Questions

October 31st, 2017 / 2:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Hope, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is shocking that the finance minister cannot see the difference between a member of Parliament owning shares and a member of cabinet who owned pension shares and advocated for and introduced Bill C-27, which is pension reform legislation. It is a completely different story. He is the one in the conflict of interest. No one on this side has introduced legislation that would put us in a conflict of interest.

Will the finance minister come clean and tell Canadians what else he is hiding in 2070689 Ontario Ltd.?

EthicsOral Questions

October 30th, 2017 / 2:40 p.m.
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Conservative

John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that the minister sought no advice from Ms. Dawson when he was involved and introduced Bill C-27.

The minister would have us believe that everything is all right, that he has followed all the rules, and disclosed everything to the Ethics Commissioner. Well, she would not be investigating the minister if that were the case.

Either the minister failed to disclose all of his assets to the Ethics Commissioner or, what is becoming increasingly clear, he willfully and knowingly ignored her advice. Which is it?

EthicsOral Questions

October 30th, 2017 / 2:35 p.m.
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Conservative

John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Mr. Speaker, the minister will have to donate $300,000 that he has made today, and $10,000 since question period started to charity.

In fact, the day after Bill C-27 was introduced, shares in Morneau Shepell rose sharply by 5%. By his own admission, the Minister of Finance has made $5.5 million on his Morneau Shepell stock alone since he was elected. The Ethics Commissioner is concerned enough that she is now investigating the minister's involvement in Bill C-27.

How could the minister betray Canadians like this for his own financial gain and that of his family business?

EthicsOral Questions

October 30th, 2017 / 2:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Maxime Bernier Conservative Beauce, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have repeatedly raised our concerns regarding the Minister of Finance and his sponsorship of Bill C-27. We recently learned that the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner has the same concerns. She is concerned because the Minister of Finance did not recuse himself from discussions on Bill C-27. My question is simple. Will the Minister of Finance admit that he is in a conflict of interest and what is he hiding from Canadians?

EthicsOral Questions

October 30th, 2017 / 2:25 p.m.
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NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, last week, the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner wrote to us to say that she too had concerns about the fact that the Minister of Finance is sponsoring Bill C-27, a bill that benefits Morneau Shepell. It would be as if the Minister of Natural Resources owned an oil or gas company. That minister would be in a conflict of interest.

My question is this: Could the ministers identified by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner also be in a conflict of interest?

EthicsOral Questions

October 27th, 2017 / 11:40 a.m.
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Louis-Hébert Québec

Liberal

Joël Lightbound LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, I know they like alternative facts on the other side of the House. They talk about the share value in Morneau Shepell. Two weeks after Bill C-27 was introduced, the share price was down 12% from what it was when the bill was introduced. They can keep playing politics. We will keep working for Canadians on this side of the House.

EthicsOral Questions

October 27th, 2017 / 11:40 a.m.
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Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Madam Speaker, the Minister of Finance introduced Bill C-27 to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act. Immediately afterward, his shares at Morneau Shepell jumped by $2 million. We all know he forgot about his fancy villa in France, but surely he did not forget about the company he has a million shares in, the company his father founded, which just so happens to be a pension management company. Stocks go up; credibility goes right down. When, with the Ethics Commissioner investigating the minister's actions, can the minister inform this House what other investigations he is facing?

EthicsOral Questions

October 27th, 2017 / 11:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Madam Speaker, the Ethics Commissioner is investigating the finance minister for his involvement in Bill C-27, where he directly benefited from his holdings in Morneau Shepell. We know that those holdings are in a numbered company in Alberta. We also know that he owns several other numbered companies. Will the finance minister come clean and tell the House what else he holds in those other numbered companies?

EthicsOral Questions

October 27th, 2017 / 11:20 a.m.
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Conservative

Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Madam Speaker, the Ethics Commissioner has not even completed her investigation into the Prime Minister's taxpayer-funded Christmas vacation yet, and now we learn that another ethics investigation is being opened, this time against the Minister of Finance.

We know that through his ties to Morneau Shepell, the minister is benefiting from policy decisions made by himself and his own department.

Will he finally admit that he never disclosed his conflict of interest during the discussions on Bill C-27?

EthicsOral Questions

October 27th, 2017 / 11:15 a.m.
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Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Hope, BC

Madam Speaker, for weeks, the finance minister has been telling Canadians that he has revealed all of his financial assets to the Ethics Commissioner. For weeks, he has been telling Canadians that he has followed the advice of the Ethics Commissioner on avoiding conflicts of interest. However, yesterday Canadians learned that the Ethics Commissioner has concerns about the finance minister's conduct related to Bill C-27.

If the Ethics Commissioner has concerns, that means the minister either failed to disclose all his assets to her or has ignored her advice on avoiding conflicts of interest. Which is it?

EthicsOral Questions

October 26th, 2017 / 2:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Maxime Bernier Conservative Beauce, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance recently told us that he recused himself only twice from matters in which he had personal conflicts of interest. The problem is that Canadians are having a hard time believing him because he has several conflicts of interest. First, there was the introduction of Bill C-27, which he sponsored, then his many numbered companies with investments in all kinds of sectors, and there are also his ties to Bombardier.

In order to deal with all of this, could the minister disclose all his assets so that Canadians can determine the extent of his conflicts of interest?

EthicsOral Questions

October 26th, 2017 / 2:25 p.m.
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NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, the minister keeps talking about a higher standard of ethics. Let us see how it fairs.

In 2002, the national defence minister had to step down from the Liberal cabinet for giving his ex-girlfriend a $36,500 contract. That same year, the solicitor general had to step down from the Liberal cabinet for awarding a $6.5-million contract to a college presided by his brother.

Shares in Morneau Shepell, including the one million or two million shares held by the Minister of Finance, went up by nearly 5% after Bill C-27 was introduced.

How can he deny that this is a conflict of interest? What is his definition of—

EthicsOral Questions

October 26th, 2017 / 2:25 p.m.
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NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, I could not care less about the finance minister's fortune. What I do care about is good governance and plain old fashioned common sense.

Common sense is telling us that the finance minister controlled directly or indirectly a massive interest in Morneau Shepell. The finance minister tabled Bill C-27, for which he actually lobbied prior to being elected to the House. Because Bill C-27 would benefit Morneau Shepell, he stood to benefit from this transaction.

How can the minister not see that this constitutes a conflict of interest?

EthicsOral Questions

October 25th, 2017 / 2:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, we trust the Ethics Commissioner, but we do not trust the government. We do not trust the finance minister. We do not trust the Prime Minister to give the Ethics Commissioner accurate information. That is the problem.

The Prime Minister himself has a problem, because this conflict of interest is ultimately his responsibility. He either knew the finance minister was making $65,000 a month off of this and he did not care, or he did not know, which means, can he trust the finance minister's judgment and ethics?

Again, when did the Prime Minister find out the finance minister was making money off of Bill C-27?

EthicsOral Questions

October 25th, 2017 / 2:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that Morneau Shepell and the finance minister will benefit from Bill C-27. Although we all know the Prime Minister is a very fine and gifted dramatic performer, his “let us just blame the Ethics Commissioner” shtick is not passing the mustard test. The Prime Minister needs to be clean with Canadians.

When did he find out the Minister of Finance would benefit from Bill C-27?

EthicsOral Questions

October 25th, 2017 / 2:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, all MPs are required to declare their assets within 60 days, but funnily enough it took the finance minister two years to realize this. The Prime Minister is trying to deflect attention away from the finance minister's personal conflict of interest. However, the fact remains that the finance minister's bill benefited his own company, Morneau Shepell.

I have a simple question for the Prime Minister: was the Prime Minister aware that Bill C-27 would benefit Morneau Shepell?

EthicsOral Questions

October 25th, 2017 / 2:50 p.m.
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Papineau Québec

Liberal

Justin Trudeau LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, it is the opposition that is making baseless insinuations. There is no conflict of interest. The minister acted on all of the commissioner's recommendations, which included setting up an ethical screen, which the commissioner said was the most effective way to handle things. The minister followed the rules, he set up an appropriate screen, and nothing goes against Bill C-27.

EthicsOral Questions

October 25th, 2017 / 2:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, in 2016, the Minister of Finance introudced Bill C-27 to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985, and immediately afterwards, Morneau Shepell's profits just happened to increase by $2 million. I would like the people listening to us on social media to get a simple answer to an extremely simple question.

When will the Prime Minister demand transparency from the finance minister so that he will stop deceiving Canadians?

EthicsAdjournment Proceedings

October 24th, 2017 / 5:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, as we know, the topic of ethics has come up a lot lately. Today, we witnessed a fine piece of theatre as the Minister of Finance tabled his fall economic statement as a diversion.

I have a good memory, and I am pleased to tell you what we on this side of the aisle have been seeing for almost a month. We believe that all parliamentarians, regardless of professional background, must obey the rules and publicly disclose their private financial interests.

We have repeatedly asked the minister to do so, but unfortunately we have never gotten a straight answer. The finance minister did the right thing last week when he decided to disclose his information, more than two years after taking office. Everyone in the House was under the impression that he had already disclosed his assets and placed them in a blind trust. His colleagues in the Liberal Party, the Conservative Party, the Bloc Québécois, and the NDP were all convinced that he had already done the right thing two years ago.

Unfortunately for us, in light of certain information, it became apparent that that was not at all the case. In my mind, that is unacceptable. It is unacceptable for such a person, a minister in charge of billions of dollars of public funds and government bonds, a minister responsible for all the government's savings at the Bank of Canada, for hundreds of billions of dollars of mortgage insurance, a minister involved in his government's financial discussions about Barbados. I find it beyond belief that he would not have realized that he had a conflict of interest when he was elected two years ago.

This is the Prime Minister's right-hand man we are talking about. He has access to all the information, he drafted Bill C-27, and he owns assets. I find that unacceptable.

The question we have always asked, that we are still asking today, and that we will continue to ask is the following: did this Minister of Finance recuse himself from discussions that could have placed him in a conflict of interest?

I am asking this question again and I will continue to ask it. If necessary, I will keep asking it for two years. I will continue to ask it until this side of the House receives a clear-cut answer.

EthicsOral Questions

October 24th, 2017 / 2:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Maxime Bernier Conservative Beauce, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government does not like the fact that we are focusing on the Minister of Finance's conflict of interest. The government does not like it because what we are saying is true: the minister is working for his own personal interests, when he is in a conflict of interest, and not the interest of all Canadians. We have a number of examples, including Bill C-27 and the Bombardier deal. In any case, the most flagrant is the fact that the minister said he was going to put his assets in a blind trust, but he failed to do so for two years. He misled the House about that.

How can the Minister of Finance continue to act as the government's nice guy while being in a conflict of interest because of his personal affairs?

EthicsOral Questions

October 24th, 2017 / 2:30 p.m.
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Conservative

John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Mr. Speaker, the facts are clear. The minister has introduced legislation that directly benefits the company in which he owns millions of shares. In fact, his shares have increased by a whopping 33% since the minister was sworn in.

While in charge of Morneau Shepell, he lobbied for the exact legislation that he now proposes in Bill C-27. The minister is right about one thing. His conflicts of interests are in fact serious distractions.

Does the minister actually believe it was ethical of him to table Bill C-27, knowing it would further feather his own nest?

EthicsOral Questions

October 24th, 2017 / 2:30 p.m.
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Conservative

John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Mr. Speaker, share prices for Morneau Shepell went up by 5% the day after the Minister of Finance tabled Bill C-27.

The bill directly affects pensions, which Morneau Shepell is in the business of selling. This is a clear conflict of interest. The minister promised the House, the Ethics Commissioner, the media, and anyone who would listen that he would recuse himself from decisions involving Morneau Shepell, but he has not done that.

Did the minister receive written approval from the Ethics Commissioner to introduce pension legislation that turned out to be a windfall for the minister and for Morneau Shepell?

EthicsOral Questions

October 24th, 2017 / 2:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Milton, ON

Mr. Speaker, did the ethics screen enable the minister to have discussions on a company that he controlled, that he received $65,000 a month from, that he himself lobbied for in the past?

The minister would say to us, “Oh, you're so concerned about my personal finances.” Actually, we are not. We are caring far much more about exactly what ethical screen he had in place, and if he did the right thing.

This is not about Bay Street; this is about Main Street. Canadians want to know this. Did the minister recuse himself when we had these discussions on Bill C-27?

EthicsOral Questions

October 24th, 2017 / 2:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Milton, ON

Mr. Speaker, these are the facts as we know them.

As executive chair of Morneau Shepell, the minister lobbied on behalf of targeted pension plans. When he became the minister, he brought legislation in to make these law. He also collected dividends from the company because he still had shares.

Now the hon. member mentioned an ethics screen, and that may very well be in place. However, I want to know something specific. Given all of these conflicts around this issue, did the minister recuse himself from any of the discussions around Bill C-27?

EthicsOral Questions

October 24th, 2017 / 2:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, here are some plain facts.

On February 20, 2013, two years before being appointed, the Minister of Finance was arguing in favour of a bill that would create target benefit plans. Three years later, on October 19, 2016, the minister introduced Bill C-27, which would create these very plans. What a coincidence.

When will the Minister of Finance admit that he has not fulfilled his obligations and that he has a real conflict of interest, as proven by the $2 million he has personally pocketed since becoming finance minister?

EthicsOral Questions

October 24th, 2017 / 2:25 p.m.
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NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, while the finance minister is desperate to change the channel by performing some magic tricks, Canadians understand that he has used public policy for his own advantage. Bill C-27 is not only bad legislation and an attack against good pension plans, it is also very good news for some people, for example, Morneau Shepell.

The finance minister was supposed to put his assets in a blind trust. He did not do it. The Liberals were supposed to tackle the tax loophole of the CEOs. They did not do it. When will the Liberals stop working for their friends on Bay Street and work for the common good?

EthicsOral Questions

October 24th, 2017 / 2:20 p.m.
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NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, for the past two weeks, the Minister of Finance has been hiding behind the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner to avoid taking responsibility for his actions. That same Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner wrote to him, saying, “If your official duties provide an opportunity to further your private interests or those of your relatives or friends, you are considered to be in conflict of interest”.

That is exactly what we saw with Bill C-27, which he himself introduced. Why is the minister still refusing to take responsibility for his actions?

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

October 23rd, 2017 / 6 p.m.
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NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today on this opposition day motion, presented by my colleague. The last bit of exchange was interesting. I hope Mary Dawson is listening to this, because it speaks to the arrogance taking place here in the way she and her office are being used by the government. Theparliamentary secretary just got up and said, “...trust me, Mary Dawson...will be in touch.”

The parliamentary secretary, while espousing the independence of Mary Dawson, has just indicated that she is going to take action. He is giving a directive to this chamber and to the public in general about someone else. This is one of the most disturbing things taking place today. Some of the defence that has been taking place, the shield of the ethics office, which operates under legislation made in this House with the dominance of the Liberal Party and its ethical perversions over the years, still has not resonated that it actually has the capacity to deal with the conflict of interest in this chamber. The member opposite is now suggesting that Mary Dawson is going to contact every single member of Parliament, and to trust him, she is going to do that. The amount of arrogance in that is profound. It comes to the real problem we are talking about, the confidence and trust of the people.

The motion we tabled in the House of Commons is simply to live up to the Liberals' standards and ethics. It is almost like we have to apologize, and Canadians have to apologize that the Liberals dined out on this in 2015. They said they were going to be different than their own selves. In fact, we would often hear their own members contradicting each other on the electoral campaign, including the member for Papineau talking about other Liberals in the past and their past indiscretions in regard to ethics, standards, and behaviours, going back to everything from the Chrétien years to the most recent being the former prime minister, Paul Martin. He was called out for sailing ships with different flags so he could save on taxes, and not actually have the people serving on those ships get the same standards that Canadians deserve in their own workplace. That is reality. That took place. The former finance minister used ships of convenience and flags of convenience of his own registered companies to get lower working standards, lower wages, and avoid taxation for his home country. Shame.

What have they learned from that? They have learned nothing. We are apologizing for the fact that they campaigned that they were going to be different. They said they had changed this time. They were going to drink from the other glass, not the same one they had been drinking out of during the Chrétien and Martin years, with all those ethical breaches and standards they had in the past from Dingwall, to Gagliano, to all those things in the past.

Here we are. They have created their own mess because their own Minister of Finance could not figure out a basic thing that all of us know: when something in front of us seems wrong, usually it is, and do the right thing. We have to stand here and apologize and basically call them out for the fact they have not lived up to what they promised to be.

The motion is crafted in a way to deal with the facts. The first one is “(a) after being elected to Parliament in 2015, led Canadians to believe that he had placed his shares in Morneau Shepell into a blind trust, while never having done so”. It was not someone else who led people to believe that. It was the finance minister.

I am so sorry that the finance minister promised to do something and he never did. I guess it is my fault. I guess it is my colleagues' fault. I guess it is Canadians' fault that he did not do what he said he was going to do. That is what we are talking about here. It was not thrust upon him. It was something he said. He willfully went to the public, built that trust, and said he was going to do that. He never did it.

The second one is “(b) used a loophole in the Conflict of Interest Act to place his shares in a private numbered company instead of divesting them or placing them in a blind trust”. What is important is, people have seen the key moments in modern history where there have been leaks about individuals using tax havens and loopholes, from the Isle of Man, to Bermuda, to Barbados, and other places.

People have had enough. They cannot get prescription drugs. They have a hard time paying the rent, are worried about the future, and their jobs are more precarious. At the same time, people in our own civil society are using the system that is supposed to defend them. This place, the House of Commons for the common people, has set in place a taxation process to be fair and equitable, and it allows people with an accountant and lawyer to skirt that. It is a cottage industry that has turned into an extreme example of the inequity in society.

This has to end. I hope people take this to heart, because this is the problem that comes with fairness. This system basically defends a colonial system of taxation of the poor versus the wealthy. We have created a system where the better an accountant and lawyer one hires, the less money one pays, even after paying them off, than the neighbour down the street who is trying to do a nine-to-five job and just wants to have 40 hours a week with benefits to make sure their child can go to school in the future. That is what is at odds here.

Look at the wording of the motion. Let us remind ourselves what a numbered company is, by its definition. A general definition states, “Numbered companies may include, but are by no means limited to, new companies that have not yet determined a permanent brand identity, or shell companies used by much larger enterprises for various purposes.”

Therefore, if one can afford a lawyer and a numbered company that does not have a permanent status, purpose, or anything, then one has the chance to shelter their money by using the tax laws, and those accountants and lawyers, to pay less taxes. It does not have to be a good idea or be innovative. No, not at all. It does not have to be any of those things. It could be a villa or something else that one dreams up or creates that then has a number to it.

Ironically, we talk in this motion about Bill C-27, which is the next point on this, an act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act. That is a conflict of interest, at least on appearances. My goodness, how can we have a finance minister not even understand that recusing himself would be the number one thing?

There is another piece of legislation that has been forgotten in the debate today, which is Bill C-25. Bill C-25 looks at a series of different things that relate to not only pensions but also shareholders and the Corporations Act, to find out how shares can be hidden and sheltered. What the members on the other side did is to create a piece of legislation that buffered the real debate out of Bill C-25 for issues that are complicated, bearer shares and all these different things. They were just more ways to squirrel away the money if you are rich versus that of anyone else. It slid on through here and reinforced that this place is no longer the House of Commons, but a house that represents a taxation system for the few who can have accountants and lawyers.

That bill passed, and we had amendments on it to provide more clarity and transparency. However, what did we get? Why is it that the minister chose random numbers for personal interest? When one looks back at that in the history of time, again, it is about sheltering personal interests. Sheltering personal interests and using the law to do so should not have to be explained here, if one came for that reason. It should not have been taught.

Most importantly, as I conclude here, it is what the Liberals said they would do differently. They said they would be different than themselves. That is who they said they would be different from at that time.

I remember these things. We can go back and watch debates and check out the former Prime Minister Paul Martin and Canadian steamships. This is the second time coming.

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

October 23rd, 2017 / 5:45 p.m.
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NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Windsor West.

Today we are debating an NDP motion calling on the Minister of Finance to apologize to the House and to Canadians for breaking their trust and calling on the government to close the loopholes he exploited in the Conflict of Interest Act, in order to prevent a minister of the crown from personally benefiting from their position or creating the perception thereof.

There are some people in this life who are clearly lacking in subtlety, and the Minister of Finance is unquestionably one of them. Fortunately, this gave us the chance to note that the minister had placed himself a situation that, at the very least, presented the appearance of a conflict of interest, that he had abused the trust of the House and the Canadian people, and that he had used a loophole in the Conflict of Interest Act for his own personal gain.

The Conflict of Interest Act clearly states that:

...a public office holder is in a conflict of interest when he or she exercises an official power, duty or function that provides an opportunity to further his or her private interests...

In the weeks following his election in 2015 and his appointment as finance minister, the minister suggested that he had complied with the Conflict of Interest Act, which, generally speaking, requires members to divest themselves of their shares or to place them in a blind trust if their duties could place them conflict of interest. However, we recently learned that this is not what the minister actually did. Instead, as we finally found out, the minister took advantage of a loophole in the Conflict of Interest Act to place his half of his shares in Morneau Shepell in numbered companies. In other words, the finance minister no longer holds shares in Morneau Shepell; the numbered company does. However, since he is the sole shareholder in the numbered company, this is just a matter of semantics.

The minister betrayed the trust of Canadians and the House by leading them to believe that he had followed the spirit of the Conflict of Interest Act when really he had made use of a loophole. The spirit of the act serves to ensure that those serving in the role of minister do not find themselves in a real or perceived conflict of interest. If he had truly been abiding by the spirit of the act, the minister would have placed his shares in Morneau Shepell in a blind trust or simply divested himself of all of his shares.

Instead, what he did was use a loophole to circumvent the spirit of the act and put himself in a position where he could personally benefit from the policies he implemented as the Minister of Finance. He did that for two years.

None of this passes the sniff test, especially since we are not talking about pocket change here. The shares in Morneau Shepell that the Minister of Finance directly or indirectly owns are valued at over $20 million as of October 20, 2017. It seems to me that any reasonable person standing to become finance minister that owns more than $20 million in shares in a company that bears his name would have seen a huge red flag with the word “danger” flashing in neon lights, and perhaps asked himself whether he should put all those assets in a blind trust so as to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest. That all seems like common sense to me.

There is more, however. On October 19, 2016, on the first anniversary of his election by the way, the Minister of Finance introduced and sponsored Bill C-27, an act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985, which would increase the use of target benefit pension plans. The Minister of Finance's former company, Morneau Shepell, is a strong proponent of target benefit plans and manages related services. Those plans are that corporation's bread and butter. Should Bill C-27 pass and come into force, the company stands to be one of only four corporations in Canada that would benefit from the new pension administration rules.

While the current finance minister was in charge of Morneau Shepell prior to being elected, the company lobbied for greater use of targeted benefit retirement plans and became the Government of New Brunswick's lead consultant in implementing its new pension plan.

The Minister of Finance's company would absolutely cash in by helping existing clients switch to targeted benefit plans and producing the annual actuarial valuations that would be mandatory under the new law. The current system requires them only every three years. That would generate even more business for his company. Clearly, as a major shareholder in his company, the minister would derive personal financial gain if this bill were to become law.

The worst of it is that the Minister of Finance is the one sponsoring this bill. Ordinarily, because he still holds shares in a corporation that would directly benefit from the legislation, he should have declared his interest and recused himself from any cabinet discussion of the bill. Instead, he celebrated his first year in office with the gift of bill sponsorship. That is a pathetic way for a Canadian finance minister to behave.

To top it off, within days of the Minister of Finance introducing Bill C-27, Morneau Shepell shares were up almost 5%. We can all agree that that is no coincidence.

I repeat:

...a public office holder is in a conflict of interest when he or she exercises an official power, duty or function that provides an opportunity to further his or her private interests...

We are no longer talking about appearances here. The Minister of Finance is in a direct conflict of interest, but he waited for it to be discovered and for the media to report on it before fixing the problem. On top of that, when he was elected in 2015, the value of the minister's shares in Morneau Shepell was $32.1 million. As of last Friday, as I mentioned earlier, his shares were worth $42.6 million, which means that his shares generated a profit of over $10 million in the past two years. If he still owns half of what he had in 2015, that means an extra $5 million in his pocket, while he is the Minister of Finance.

When the information was made public last week about his shares in the company bearing his name, it took us asking him nearly 20 times before he would finally confirm that he still has considerable holdings in Morneau Shepell, as though he had something to hide. This Minister of Finance is like a kid who was caught with his hand in the cookie jar, with chocolate around his mouth, but who still denies doing anything wrong. This reminds of the time when one of my brothers was caught licking another brother's ice cream cone, and he said that his tongue simply fell on it.

This is not a matter of cookies or ice cream. We are talking about millions of dollars. When the minister finally held a press conference to announce that he would divest himself of his shares, the price of his company's shares dropped by $0.41 in the three following hours, costing the minister an estimated $410,000. It is easy to see why he hesitated to respond and do what was necessary to put an end to this situation, which was strongly perceived as a conflict of interest. How can the minister continue to try to lead us and Canadians to believe that he went into politics for the right reasons and that he is really working in the interests of the middle class and those working hard to join it?

How many middle-class Canadians earn $5 million in two years? We now see why the finance minister was reluctant to tax the wealthiest Canadians. I grew up in a family where my parents had to work hard to make sure that their children had everything they needed in life, and I want to thank them for that here. Thank you, Mom and Dad. I decided to go into politics to help families have the same opportunities that my parents gave me. We are not here to help the rich get even richer.

At the very least, the minister should apologize to Canadians and members of the House for betraying their trust and leading them to believe that he was carrying out his duties in the interest of the public, rather than in his own personal interest. Ministers have lost their limos for far less than this. The government must also immediately commit to eliminating the loophole in the Conflict of Interest Act to ensure that the sorts of antics we are seeing today never happen again and that the spirit of the Conflict of Interest Act can no longer be circumvented by semantics.

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

October 23rd, 2017 / 5:25 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is my first opportunity to take the floor in this debate on the matter of supply relating to the problem of ethics and the finance minister. I would like to thank my friend from Vaughan—Woodbridge for his speech and ask his indulgence that I state, on the record, my deep concern that Bill C-27 must be withdrawn. It appears to me that there is a blatant conflict of interest in the finance minister bringing forward this measure.

As for much of the rest of the debate, I find it regrettable that we cannot focus on the need to bring into this place, and it is part of the motion before us today, ethics rules that are binding. The code of ethics for members of Parliament that we find in our Standing Orders book says very clearly that we must avoid conflict of interest and the perception of conflict of interest, but as far as I can see, it is impossible to commit an ethical violation. On this, I refer to more than the hon. Minister of Finance, but to other members in this place who have committed, in any common-sense understanding, a violation of their conflict of interest guidelines, the guidelines are unenforceable. Would my friend from Vaughan—Woodbridge agree that we should make them enforceable?

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

October 23rd, 2017 / 4:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, as Jack Layton used to say, I rise more in sadness than in anger today and I resent very much comments that somehow the motion today involves, to quote the member from Hamilton, a “personal attack”. If one were to read the motion before Parliament today, one would understand that we are seeking amendments to avoid the situation that the finance minister found himself in.

Legislation in other jurisdictions, I will say, adds not just the term “conflict of interest” but “apparent conflict of interest”, which has been the standard, for example, in the province of British Columbia's legislation for decades. Had that section been in the act, I do not think we would be here, because most Canadians would accept that there is the perception that a reasonable person would have, reasonably well informed of the situation, that the minister has been in an apparent conflict of interest.

Whether the letter of the Conflict of Interest Act was broken, how many people could say with a straight face that the spirit of the act has not been broken? We want to avoid that in the future. Ever since the Sinclair Stevens scandal of many years ago, people have consistently sought for an apparent conflict of interest standard to be added to the legislation. When the ethics committee met in 2014 under the leadership of Pat Martin, it was accepted that there should be amendments to the legislation, and the Conservatives did none of it. After two years, the Liberals have done none of it, and here we are today.

If the finance minister had accepted the letter of the law and had simply told the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner that he would have a conflict of interest screen, then he would have had a staff member decide when he was or was not in conflict, whether that was adequate, and whether they were “controlled assets” because they were in a numbered company controlled by the member and then those shares were held by another company controlled by the member. If somehow Canadians thought that was just fine, surely the abysmal failure, error of judgment, of the minister has to be examined here today. That he is in an apparent conflict of interest that a reasonable person would have to conclude exists seems beyond doubt today.

However, even if it is wrong for a finance minister who regulates the pension industry, who gave a speech in 2013 concerning Morneau Shepell's work in New Brunswick, arguing for target pension plans instead of defined benefit plans, which clearly would benefit a company like his, and then introduced Bill C-27 in October of 2016, a bill that would make the world safer for companies like Morneau Shepell, what kind of judgment does the finance minister have in doing so? How can Canadians have confidence in the minister, even if the technical requirements of the Conflict of Interest Act, weak though everyone knows it to be, including the commissioner, that error of judgment stands apart.

That is what the NDP is saying today. It is calling for an urgent amendment to the Conflict of Interest Act. If Liberals do nothing but add what British Columbia has had for decades, that there should be an apparent conflict of interest where a reasonable person, well informed, looks at the situation and says there is a reasonable suspicion of conflict, that would be enough. Then the commissioner would be able to hold a minister to account where that standard was breached.

My province is no stranger to conflict of interest. That is the section that has been used countless times by commissioners in the past. That is the section that the commissioner and others have sought to have added for years, but yet nothing gets done. We find ourselves in this embarrassing situation today, a situation, according to Bloomberg News, where the minister himself called for legislation allowing target benefit plans in a 2013 speech on the company website of Morneau Shepell and then his shares rose 4.4% in the week after the legislation, Bill C-27, was introduced, where the benchmark TSE composite index actually went down 0.2% during that period.

Canadians get it. This was a colossal error, unless the minister recused himself. After countless efforts to have him acknowledge or explain, I do not believe today we have had an explanation as to whether he recused himself, as the act clearly requires in circumstances of that sort. That is what is at issue. That is why we are here today.

Did he divest himself of the shares? Did he put them in a blind trust? Not really. Did people believe that he had done so, including his Liberal colleagues on Twitter? Yes, they did. However, suddenly, because The Globe and Mail reported that he did not do that, he decided it was time to clear the deck.

He owns a numbered company, which, as the commissioner quite properly says, is a separate legal entity. A corporation is different from the individual minister. I understand that. However, if he owns shares of a company that owns shares of a company that he controls, and he watched his shares go up by $2 million, allegedly, during that period, after he chose, as the minister responsible for pensions, to introduce pension reform, do Canadians expect that not to be something a responsible opposition would bring forward?

The Prime Minister the other day said that this is “petty politics”. This is somehow “gutter politics”. With respect, this has to be fixed urgently. That is what the tenor of this motion is. It talks about calling on the Minister of Finance to apologize for breaking trust and about calling on the government to immediately close the loophole in the Conflict of Interest Act, as recommended by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, to prevent a minister from personally benefiting.

This is not about intent. This not about us alleging that this was or was not done knowingly. That is not what is relevant in the current conflict of interest test. The test is whether a reasonably well-informed person would think that it has caused a problem.

Professor Lorne Sossin, the dean of Osgoode Hall Law School, when he testified in 2013 before the ethics committee, talked about lots of jurisprudence on the reasonable apprehension of bias test. It seems ironic that regulators are constantly subject to that reasonable apprehension test, which is whether a reasonable person would perceive a lack of impartiality, when a minister of the crown is not. This seems to be where we are today. That is why it is argued that this legislative change is so urgent.

When he testified before that same committee, British Columbia's conflict commissioner, Mr. Fraser, said that “if there is a suspicion or if there's a taint [of conflict of interest], then that's enough for an investigation.” That, of course, has occurred on countless occasions in British Columbia, but there is no such test in the circumstances here.

This is the problem of judgment that really needs to be addressed. Should the minister have recused himself? Yes, he should have. Should he have divested before he made decisions, as the regulatory minister for pensions, that had an obvious impact that would benefit him and his company, in which he held so many shares. Yes. Knowing that, and simply saying that because we have a conflict of interest screen, that is sufficient, suggests an error in judgment that Canadians have a right to have addressed today.

In summary, the NDP is asking for the Conflict of Interest Act to be amended. It is asking for the minister to finally apologize for breaking the trust and giving politicians of all stripes a bad name. Most significantly, it is asking to get this legislation fixed so we can join the 21st century, as other provinces and jurisdictions have, so this kind of conflict does not occur again.

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

October 23rd, 2017 / 4:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, I note the Ethics Commissioner's direct advice to the finance minister was, “...if an official function provides you the opportunity to further your private interests, those of your relatives or friends...you are considered to be in a conflict of interest situation.” On that basis, the minister should not have been the one to introduce Bill C-27, flawed or not. He should have taken the highest standard as recommended in his mandate letter, and he has failed to do so.

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

October 23rd, 2017 / 4:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Bob Bratina Liberal Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, the matter before us is about the ethical standards of an individual who has had an unassailable person history of ethical behaviour of the highest order. On the other hand, the important issue has been the potential impact of the proposed tax measures and subsequently the impacts of Bill C-27. What we are hearing is that the same question was asked 20 times over, so what we have had on behalf of the Canadian public is what to my mind is a terrible waste of time.

We had consultations, for instance in my own riding, on the tax reforms. We brought those consultations back. They are being reviewed by the finance minister and his staff. I just put further information before his staff and those people are happily engaged in dealing with those issues. However, we have not heard very much at all from the other side about the specifics of those reforms and the changes and potential changes. All we are hearing is an incessant personal attack against a man who has lived a life of very high ethical behaviour. Therefore, to my friend across the way, are you serving the public interest, the interest of your constituents, by avoiding the real issues, which are the tax reforms and the details of the bill, versus personal attacks against an individual?

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

October 23rd, 2017 / 4:40 p.m.
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NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to be sharing my time with the member for Victoria.

This is such an interesting discussion. The member lauded the performance of the finance minister, but I want to take us back to the mandate letter that was given to the finance minister by the Prime Minister. He called on him to respect the values of a government. It stated:

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....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....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.

In summary, to me, this meant that not only the letter of the law must be upheld; the Prime Minister asked his ministers to go well beyond the letter of the law.

The finance minister let the public believe, including his fellow Liberal MPs and Bay Street colleagues, that he had placed his assets in a blind trust and he let them continue to sustain that belief for two years without correcting the record. Instead, he has been in a position to profit from policies he has advanced as finance minister over that two year period. The finance minister let that untruth stand. He took action last week, two years too late. It seems the only reason he took that action was because he was finally caught.

The finance minister was directed to take the highest ethical path. Instead, the government is barely scraping by. The minister's self-congratulatory tone last week about his belated tidy up of his ethical lapse is totally out of line. He belatedly took action that he should have taken two years ago if he had followed the Prime Minister's direction or the Ethics Commissioner's secondary advise, and if he had any common sense or clue about how this would play out in public.

This is particularly troublesome, given the hard summer we have had in the small business and entrepreneurial community, being accused of similar ethical lapses and exploitation of tax loopholes.

Paul Williams, a constituents from my riding of Nanaimo—Ladysmith, wrote:

While I certainly believe in tax fairness, I do not support what the Finance Minister is proposing and the uncertainly and harm that will result. The changes being contemplated go against the notion of tax fairness. In essence, the changes being contemplated will single out privately held business owners--many of whom are middle-class income earners--treating them worse than publicly held and foreign controlled businesses.

I have hundreds of letters like this. The finance minister's proposal scared small business owners and it unjustly accused them of wrongdoing.

As it turns out, the real tax loophole exploiter was the finance minister, which really is the icing on the cake of a really bad four months in the government. His self-congratulatory air last week of suddenly dismantling a so-called tax fairness proposal, which he said back in July he would not change a word of, and had in fact already written the legislation, was also out of line. If he had done what a real legislator would have done, he would have said that it was a consultation and he would have asked people what they thought. He would told people not to be alarmed, that he might or might not do it. Now, all of a sudden, he says that he is willing to hear the advice and willing to keep his election promise on the small business tax cut, which he previously said he would cancel.

He is now dealing with legislation. He is going to accept the rules that our NDP parliamentary leader proposed on facilitating the transfer of intergenerational companies. Six months ago, the Liberals voted it down. Then last week they used it as cover for a real mess. That shows they really do not have the ear and the tone of the country.

At the time of his election, the finance minister owned two million shares in Morneau Shepell worth $32.1 million. Apparently, that holding, as of Friday, would be worth $42 million. That means he has profited over $10 million over the last two years as finance minister.

However, he did not put them in a blind trust. He did not sell them in an arm's-length transaction, as required, within 120 days of taking office. It has since been revealed that Morneau Shepell has a contract with the Bank of Canada worth more than $8 million. The finance minister was asked nearly 20 times about his million shares that he still owns in Morneau Shepell, worth $20 million, before he admitted that he would actually give an answer. Finally, he failed to reveal the corporation that houses his French villa. CBC maintains that the minister only disclosed that corporation to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner just last month, after CBC discovered its existence, and, really, that is when he started to answer questions on it.

It is undeniable, when we turn to Bill C-27, that if it were to become law, Morneau Shepell would significantly benefit in business and revenue, and as a massive investor, the finance minister would personally benefit from the passage of that bill. The minister brought that bill to Parliament. He could have had another member of the party do that, but, instead, he was the lead on it. This was done without consultation and certainly not with the support of constituents in my riding.

Morneau Shepell is a strong proponent and manager of the services related to target benefit pension plans, and could be just one of four firms in the country that would benefit from new pension administration rules if Bill C-27 becomes law. In fact, when the finance minister was at the helm of Morneau Shepell, it lobbied for increased use of target benefit pension plans and became the lead consultant for the Government of New Brunswick in exactly implementing this.

Five days after Bill C-27 was tabled, the value of shares in Morneau Shepell increased by almost 5%, which is an increase that could have allowed the minister to make as much as $2 million. This is really not a middle-class problem. At the very least, this is a striking perceived conflict of interest, since the minister was in a position to further his own private interests through his public duties as a finance minister.

Bill C-27, as much as it benefits Bay Street, would significantly harm workers and pensioners.

Here is what residents of Nanaimo—Ladysmith have told me about Bill C-27.

Pieter Terpstra from Nanaimo writes:

Please, say NO to bill C-27. I am a retired school teacher/logger/proprietor who relies solely on small pensions to survive. I do not want them converted to a target benefit plans. I spent my life working at many different jobs and it's wrong, for them to take away my security in my old age.

It's shameful that [the Prime Minister] promised to protect Defined Benefit Plans and now the government is considering this Bill to change that.

We also have a description of how harmful this is from Deborah Zellermeyer from Ladysmith. She writes:

Bill C-27 allows employers to convert good, defined benefit pension plans, which provide secure and predictable pension benefits, into a much less secure form of plan. Target benefit plans only aim to provide benefits, and they shift all the risk to active plan members and retirees.

Even Harper did not propose the bill, although he floated it, and the opposition was so strong.

The Ethics Commissioner said that she outlined the possible conflict when the finance minister met with her two years ago. She said that there is a loophole she thought should have been fixed, as had been recommended to the previous government as well. Therefore, as New Democrats, with our leader, Jagmeet Singh, we are trying to propose positive alternatives.

We want the Ethics Commissioner to launch a formal investigation into the finance minister. We want the finance minister to withdraw Bill C-27. We want the Liberal government to take the advice of the Ethics Commissioner and close these loopholes so that no future minister ever stumbles into the same morass that the finance minister has, fulfill the promise that Liberals offered to voters two years ago, and restore some faith in the current government.

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

October 23rd, 2017 / 4 p.m.
See context

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for sharing his precious speaking time with me, allowing me to address the House concerning the motion before us today that we have been debating since this morning.

We have heard opinions from both sides of the House, but the Liberals have yet to say anything impressive in defence of the Minister of Finance. Rather, they have tried to change the channel. They have tried to take the focus off the problem at hand. For my part, for the 10 minutes allotted to me, I will stick to the motion before us.

The first part of this motion sets out the facts regarding the matter at hand, namely, the situation with the finance minister and his company, Morneau Shepell. The minister led us to believe that he had placed his shares in Morneau Shepell in a blind trust when in fact he had never done so. His story was even corroborated by his Liberal caucus colleagues. The minister had many opportunities to clarify this situation. Everyone believed that he had placed his holdings in a blind trust. The media reported that such was the case, and the minister even allowed his own company to believe that that is what he had done. When the truth came out, everyone saw that he had not in fact put his holdings in a blind trust. The minister had never bothered to set the record straight since being sworn in two years ago. Everyone believed that he was telling the truth about his holdings. The first part of the motion points out the discrepancy, which the Minister of Finance never bothered to clarify.

The second part of the motion deals with the fact that the minister used a loophole in the Conflict of Interest Act. I can confirm that there is indeed a loophole, not because I used it like the finance minister, but because I heard witnesses talking about it when they appeared before the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, which I chaired for two years.

The Ethics Commissioner appeared before the committee to present her recommendations following her five-year review of the Conflict of Interest Act. That happened in 2013. The next review will take place in 2018 and will be a good opportunity to close the loophole that we are talking about today.

In 2013, the commissioner made over 70 recommendations to update the Conflict of Interest Act. Those recommendations apply to ministers and public office holders. They do not apply only to ministers, but also to some senior officials in the Canadian public service. These public office holders must obey this law. In 2013, the commissioner pointed out a number of problems with the act and proposed ways of making it more effective and updating it to reflect changes in technology.

In her report, she clearly states that the wording of the act specifies direct control, saying that a minister cannot have direct control over a company’s shares. She says that, according to the language, a minister could have indirect control. She raised this question as if she were a visionary who could see that infringements of the act might occur. A public office holder may decide to comply only with the letter of the law, that is, to avoid exercising direct control over a company’s shares, without complying with the spirit of the law.

I can just see the Minister of Finance and his army of lawyers and accountants going to the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner and asking a lot of questions, and being told that he cannot exercise direct control over shares, but that he can exercise indirect control over them.

His advisors and lawyers tell him that the only thing to do is to register a company without bothering to give it a name. He can just give it a number, then register it in Alberta where corporate income tax rates are lowest. He can register all of Morneau Shepell’s shares in his company. Thus, he will be the sole shareholder of a numbered company in Alberta.

His lawyers are very smart, and we must give them credit, because their job was to find loopholes in the act, and that is what they are paid for. They did what the minister asked. He asked them to find a way of allowing him to control his shares while complying with the letter of the law.

They told him that they found the solution, that all he had to do was register a company. That is what he did and, for two years, he has had us believe that his situation was in order and that he had even placed his assets in a blind trust. Of course, the blind trust would respect both the letter and the spirit of the law, although this raises questions in any case, because, at the end of his term, the minister can always put the assets back in his name.

There are some misgivings about blind trusts, but that would have at least complied with the spirit of the law. However, the minister decided to do something else, and that is why he is being asked today to apologize to the House. He put himself in a conflict of interest or in a situation strongly suggesting a conflict of interest.

If any ethics professors are looking for the perfect example of a situation that suggests a conflict of interest, I think this situation with the Minister of Finance is ideal.

The minister is still in control of his shares in a large Canadian company, Morneau Shepell. This company sometimes deals directly with the Government of Canada. In general, it specializes in pension administration.

The company's value even increased when the Minister of Finance, who still had control over his holdings, introduced a bill that was good for his company. We are not the ones who came up with the idea that Bill C-27 would benefit his company. He said so himself in 2013 that a bill like this could benefit his company and would be the ideal thing for the company's growth and positioning. He said that in 2013 when he was still part of the family business. We did not come up with the idea that he profited from this. We can simply look at the numbers and see that this was indeed the case. The market responded favourably when the bill was introduced even though it had not yet been passed.

As soon as the bill was introduced the markets responded favourably because investors felt that there was a potential for growth for Morneau Shepell.

The minister personally profited from the increased value in his company when he introduced the bill. Imagine what things would look like if the bill had passed.

The bill is still on the order paper, but it has not yet been passed. However, we can just imagine how much this company would profit from the bill passing.

Who benefits in the end?

The Minister of Finance does.

However, he finally gave in to the evidence and acknowledged his mistakes by changing his financial situation with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner as a result of public pressure. He did not seem thrilled to do so. He had probably worked out some elaborate strategy to maintain control, but under pressure, the minister finally decided to change his situation.

He did so because he saw that he had no other choice.

I mused earlier about the minister and his lawyers before the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, and I can also imagine another scenario, one where the Prime Minister called him and told him to sort this out or find another job.

I would say he did not have much choice. To suggest today that he did so willingly and because he wants to serve Canadians would be to take us for fools. I hope he apologizes so that we can turn the page on this once and for all.

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

October 23rd, 2017 / 3:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is always a great honour to rise in the House to represent the people of Timmins—James Bay.

Over my last 14 years in Parliament, I have seen all manner of scandals. I have seen scandals that were just plain idiotic, tawdry behaviour, and scandals that were not really scandals at all, just that sometimes people made mistakes and had to account for errors in judgment. However, they were still accountable to the people of Canada. What we are talking about today in terms of a conflict of interest with the Minister of Finance, to me, speaks to the cynicism of the government and its approach to ordinary working Canadians who work hard and play by the rules.

The conflict of interest we are seeing with the finance minister is that, as the privatized pension king of Canada, he had a very clear financial interest in changing pension legislation. When he was presented as the finance minister for this Parliament, he did not explain to Canadians that he had set up—how would one even describe it—this numbered company that he moved his dividends and profits into, which maintained his connection to Morneau Shepell, the privatized pension operation of Canada.

What we hear from the Liberals is that this is a separate account and not really something that he had control of. It is the same as folks back home putting $100 into a cookie jar, being asked if they have $100, saying no, the cookie jar has $100, then being asked who owns the cookie jar, saying they do, being told that means they have $100, and them saying no, it is in the cookie jar. However, we are not talking about $100. We are talking about millions of dollars of direct benefit for Morneau Shepell.

I want to talk about three issues. The first is the Barbados tax haven that the finance minister has interest in and has been negotiating treaties for without recusing himself. The second is the issue of Bill C-27, which he brought forward without explanation or any prior public consultation, that would benefit the investors at Morneau Shepell, and the third is the one before us today across Canada, the abominable treatment of Sears workers. We were all shocked and appalled when we heard that Sears executives attempted to cut off the financial, dental, and medical rights of Sears pensioners as Sears was facing bankruptcy and, at the same time, paying $9.2 million to its executives. That kind of pension theft is not only legal in Canada, but executives get corporate bonuses for doing it.

I have been attacked on Twitter by the Liberal trolls who said that this was no bricks and mortar issue, it just went the way of the dodo. Sears was a top-notch corporation that was run into the ground by the hedge fund operator Eddie Lampert, who pretty much lost $10 billion of value. One does not cry for corporate bandits like Eddie Lampert and his crew, because as Sears was getting into trouble, its hedge fund operators basically loaned $500 million to Sears through taking 46 key properties as collateral assets. If Sears went down, those hedge fund operators walked away with the property. Therefore, they are sitting pretty.

We approached the finance minister and asked him to change that loophole to protect the pension rights of Sears workers. That is not asking for anything special. It is asking to ensure that when people have paid into a pension for their whole lives, it is not at the back of the line when creditors come, that it is considered part of the credit that has to be protected. The finance minister will not do it, and we did not know until October 17 that Morneau Shepell was getting the contract for the Sears workers. Is there a direct link? The direct link is that the dividends go to Morneau Shepell investors, of which the finance minister is one. That needs to be explained to Canadians.

I am deeply concerned about Bill C-27, because in 2013, as the head of Morneau Shepell, the current finance minister talked about the role that Morneau Shepell played in moving towards targeted benefit plans and how there was a need in Canada to change the legislation to benefit the investors of Morneau Shepell. When he became finance minister, he introduced Bill C-27, which was the legislation to do just that. What is striking about Bill C-27 is that there were no prior public consultations or public meetings. Therefore, who gave the advice to the finance minister to change legislation that would have an enormous impact on the company that he and his father helped found?

Bill C-27 is a clear conflict of interest. It is a conflict of interest that touches Canadians who are worried about the future of their defined pension benefits across the country. It is a right of Canadians to believe that parliamentarians will put the interests of the public ahead of their own pecuniary interests. That is the whole question of conflict of interest.

In the case of the Minister of Finance, bringing forward legislation that would have a direct benefit to his company without recusing himself is an abuse of his role as a minister of the crown and needs to be explained. It is also an abuse of the House, because we did not know that he was receiving dividends from Morneau Shepell throughout this period.

To note, I will be splitting my time with the member for Sherbrooke.

Now we find out about the Barbados tax havens. The Minister of Finance is signing a tax treaty with Barbados. I know Barbados sounds like a great place for sand and hanging on the beach, but it is notorious as a fiscal paradise for companies that do not want to pay their share. What is really disturbing about Barbados is that we found out that Morneau Shepell is involved down there. There is a direct financial interest. The minister did not recuse himself. How could he be working on a treaty with a place that is a notorious fiscal paradise when Canadians are paying their fair share and they are looking to the Minister of Finance for accountability?

I know my friends in the Liberal Party are in trouble on this issue, because whenever the Liberals are in trouble on a file, they start throwing out the term “middle class”. In fact, they say the “middle class and those wanting to join them”. Folks back home, if they were in some of kind university drinking game, where every time the Liberals said that in a speech they had to take a shot, they would be bombed at the end of the first five minutes.

I guess the Minister of Finance grew up in a different middle class than I grew up in. His middle class is going after dentists and farmers. His middle class is going after people who are suffering from diabetes. His middle class is going after employee discounts at restaurants in order to tax them. Meanwhile, the one first promise that the minister broke was the $840-million corporate stock loophole that would protect 8,000 insiders on Bay Street. He reassured Bay Street that he would have their back.

Right now the Liberals are saying that they are doing all of this for the middle class. They are setting up a tax haven treaty with Barbados for the middle class. The Minister of Finance is attacking the pension rights of Canadians across the country, through Bill C-27, for the middle class. Of course, the Sears workers, well, they are out of the middle class altogether.

It reminds me of when the Liberals were caught out on the Saudi arms deal. They were dealing with House of Saud to help the middle class. That was the Prime Minister. On their abandonment of electoral reform, he said we had to do it to protect the middle class. Cash for access was the golden one, where Chinese billionaires were paying $1,500 to meet with the Prime Minister. He was asked, “What could you possibly be meeting with Chinese billionaires about that was not a conflict of interest?” He said that they were talking about the middle class. Imagine that. Imagine that is what billionaires talk about.

This is about abuse of public trust. This is about a Minister of Finance who has broken the trust of the Canadian people and who owes an apology to this House. This is about a government that has to retract Bill C-27, because it is a clear conflict that will benefit the insiders of the Liberal Party and not Canadians.

We need to have some clarity. Canadians need to have trust that the government they elect is not going to be just looking after the interests of their friends on Bay Street but is going to pay attention, finally, to the Canadians who work hard, pay their taxes, and play by the rules, unlike the government.

PensionsOral Questions

October 23rd, 2017 / 2:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Scott Duvall NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is simple. The finance minister still owns a million shares in Morneau Shepell, a company that would directly profit by the passing of his bill, Bill C-27. This is a major conflict of interest.

Also, the government could have prevented the devastating effects of the Sears bankruptcy by simply changing Canada's bankruptcy insolvency laws. However, in true fashion, the Liberals continue to protect their rich corporate friends instead of protecting the pensions and benefits of middle-class Canadians. When will the finance minister stop this attack on workers' pensions, abandon Bill C-27, and protect workers?

EthicsOral Questions

October 23rd, 2017 / 2:30 p.m.
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Conservative