House of Commons Hansard #237 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was finance.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's AssetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, when we look at what has transpired over the last couple of years, it is difficult to take from the governing party that it wants us to focus on some sort of side issue. There is a real issue here. That issue is the trust between the Government of Canada, including the parliamentary secretary and the finance minister, and the people of Canada. When the conduct that we have seen by the finance minister over the last couple of years puts that into question, it is incumbent upon the opposition parties, not just my party but all of them, and members of the governing party to ask questions to try to understand. Until we have the information, we cannot do our jobs fully, so we need the finance minister to provide that information. We are calling on him to provide the information about the other numbered companies so we can see what is there and determine if he has, in fact, done other things for companies he owns and maybe regulates in his position as finance minister.

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's AssetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

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

4:20 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I think what really needs to be said and repeated is the fact that we have the independent office of the Ethics Commissioner, and Mary Dawson has done a fantastic job in ensuring that issues of the nature that the Conservatives and NDP continuously want to raise are in fact raised in an apolitical fashion. The same rules in place today were in place when Stephen Harper was the prime minister of Canada. In fact, every one of us, all 330-plus members of Parliament, have an obligation to provide their assets to the commissioner, and the Minister of Finance, like everyone else, has done the same thing.

The Conservatives have focused on the Minister of Finance in this government. If they want to focus on the Minister of Finance, we are going to continue to focus on what is important to Canadians, which is our economy and the many other factors that improve Canada's middle class, those aspiring to be a part of it, and those who need the assistance of government.

Would the member not acknowledge that the purpose of the independent office is to ensure that the partisan shots that are being taken consistently by the opposition are in fact marginalized, because we have a Minister of Finance who has met the expectations of the commissioner, just like the other 300-plus members of this House of Commons?

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's AssetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

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

4:25 p.m.

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

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, yes, absolutely. That is why this is so serious. In fact, the ethics and integrity of the most important person after the Prime Minister are in question, and the Prime Minister himself is also being investigated by the Ethics Commissioner.

This is even worse given that the rules came from the top. It was the Prime Minister who said that we needed to have the highest ethical standards. His mandate letter states, and I quote:

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....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...

That is the exact opposite of what this government is doing right now.

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's AssetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I heard the member for Winnipeg North ask the hon. member if the role of the Ethics Commissioner was not to keep issues from being partisan here in Parliament. I am sorry, but is it the hon. member's view that the role of the Ethics Commissioner is actually to protect the government from ethical controversy, and to protect its members from being accountable? Is that really the role of the Ethics Commissioner? That is what I heard the parliamentary secretary to the Liberal House leader say. I would be very shocked, but it does not surprise me that it is indeed the view and attitude of the Liberal members.

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's AssetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

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

4:25 p.m.

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

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, I do not know if I will get a chance to speak today, so there is one particular point that I want to make and would be curious to hear the member's comments on.

There was a profile of the finance minister recently in the Toronto Star, which indicated that he likes to go by the nickname Batman. Also, we know that the Prime Minister dressed up as Superman. It is all fine to have nicknames and dress up in costumes, but at the same time the government is cutting danger pay for our elite soldiers. These are the real superheros, people who put their lives in harm's way standing up for Canada, and yet their danger pay is being cut. I would suggest that part of the problem with the current government is that its members are spending more time thinking about the people who dress up like superheros instead of the actual superheros who are fighting for Canada's interests.

Does the member have a comment on the fact that so much of the government's focus seems to be on enriching its front bench as opposed to actually standing up for the interests of Canadians?

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's AssetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

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 / 4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to correct one point by the hon. Conservative member when he talked about party leaders dressing up. It was interesting to see the hon. Conservative leader dress up as a Star Trek commander. It is nice to see the Conservatives interested in science.

That said, the hon. member started her speech by saying that we are wasting our precious time. I am always interested when members get up and say we are wasting our time, but then go on to make a 10-minute speech about this particular issue.

She said that we should talk about issues like poverty. The finance minister is involved in part of the plan for the national housing strategy we released. It is the first time the federal government has done this. It will result in hundreds of thousands of people finding homes and getting out of precarious housing situations. I wonder if the hon. member could comment on that and the finance minister's role in it.

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's AssetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, today has shown that the government is not taking this seriously. When it comes time to discuss important problems, the Liberal members talk about other completely unrelated subjects.

Today, we want to know why the Minister of Finance did not disclose his house in France. The rest of us disclosed our houses, our cars, and our secondary residences, if we have one. Those are well-established rules. It is easy. All MPs have to do is fill out a form.

When a person becomes a minister, he or she must follow and uphold even higher ethical standards. If the minister had told the truth, if he had answered a question properly in the first place, we would not be talking about this again here in the House.

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's AssetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Jonquière for her speech. Since being elected, she has distinguished herself with the quality of her remarks. Due to resignations in two other ridings, she is currently the only member speaking for the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region. She does a great job representing Jonquière, but she is also very effective at representing central Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean.

The question I want to ask her is very simple. The Liberals refuse to reveal any information about the Minister of Finance, yet it was reported today that Canada's average household debt is now the highest in the world.

Why this contradiction? The Liberals are weak on both the economy and ethics.

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's AssetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

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

In response, I would simply ask him if he believes that this government is fit to run our country. Numerous conflicts of interest have been revealed. The Liberals are omitting to disclose information. They boast about their programs, yet statistics show that problems related to poverty and EI remain unresolved. Employment insurance and poverty and important issues that we are still talking about today, and we need to take concrete action now to address them.

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's AssetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith, Status of Women; the hon. member for Courtenay—Alberni, Fisheries and Oceans; the hon. member for Mégantic—L'Érable, Government Appointments.

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue.

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's AssetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I believe that it is important to give a short and simple summary in order to explain the situation to members of the public who may listen to my speech.

We currently have a Minister of Finance who owned some companies before becoming an MP and minister in 2015. One of these companies, Morneau Shepell, provides advice on defined benefit pension plans, among other things. He worked in the pensions field, and, just like everyone else, he had to meet with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner after he was elected. When he was appointed finance minister, he told everyone, including members of his caucus and Canadians, that he had placed these interests in a blind trust. What this means is that someone else manages these interests, and the owner no longer has a say and no longer controls the assets, but hands over complete control to someone else. The owner cannot act to their own advantage.

That is what he told everyone. However, we eventually discovered that there was no blind trust and that he had retained control of his interests. Instead of doing what he had told everyone he would do, including his own colleagues who sit with him every day, he used a numbered company in Alberta to manage his company's shares. He probably chose Alberta because he pays less tax there. That alone is a little odd, given that the minister lives in Ontario, but oh well. He retained control of his interests and told everyone the opposite. We found out, and he tried to remedy the situation.

The other problem is that he tabled a bill, in his capacity as Minister of Finance, that would result in people switching to the pension plan sold by Morneau Shepell. This bill significantly increased the company's share price, and, to make a long story short, between the time he was elected as an MP and the time when the cat got out of the bag, the value of his shares went up by about $10 million. Simply put, the Minister of Finance made $10 million off the backs of all Canadians. My summary may be a little simplistic, but it is the truth. The Minister of Finance made $10 million off the backs of Canadians.

What did the minister offer by way of amends? He promised to give the money he had made to charity, as if throwing money around would fix everything. For the Minister of Finance, it is as simple as that: he got caught, so he throws some money at the problem, and it magically all goes away. It reminds me of certain countries with dubious ethics, where all people have to do when they get in trouble is throw money around and all their problems vanish, so they never really have to worry.

What the Minister of Finance does not understand and what is really unfortunate in all this is that it is not about money. As Canadians, we are not angry at the Minister of Finance over $10 million. No one thinks that if he had earned only $2 million, that would have been fine, but $10 million is really over the line. The amount is neither here nor there. He could have made $100 and that would not have been too serious, but we are talking about $10 million. The real problem is that he betrayed everyone's trust. He betrayed Canadians' trust as well as the trust of his colleagues in his own party, and he continues to behave as though nothing happened, as though throwing $10 million at a charity will solve everything, and now everything is fine and we should all just forget about it and move on. The fundamental problem is that no one can trust the Minister of Finance anymore.

That is precisely why we are debating this motion today. He did this, but we know that he has other numbered companies, whose contents are unknown. Has he used the same ploy to make money with other bills he has introduced? Did he use the budget to make money? We do not know, because he continues to hide what is in his numbered companies. We no longer trust him, yet he carries on as though nothing were wrong, as though the problem went away when he threw money at it. That is not how it works in real life. There is a trust issue here.

If a man cheats on his wife for two years and buys her a car to make amends, does that solve the problem? No, because the fundamental problem is that there has been a breach of trust. The money spent on making amends is not important. The Minister of Finance still does not get that. He still does not understand that it will take a lot more than a charitable donation to regain our trust.

What is most disheartening is that, once again, the Liberals have shown that they have a double standard. On the one hand, they are telling us that the minister can simply throw some money at a problem to make it all go away, and on the other, they are stopping people from receiving the disability tax credit. These are people who have decided to go to work and earn a living despite being disabled. However, they are told that because of one criterion or another, they are no longer considered to be disabled and are no longer entitled to the tax credit. Their efforts to find a job and contribute to the economy despite their condition are no longer recognized. That is how the rest of Canadians are treated.

Government members like to say they have increased family benefits. In reality, however, the poorest Canadians often do not even have access to these benefits. I see this every week in my riding. They are asked to provide a ton of paperwork to prove that they actually have custody of their children.

In my riding, a woman who lives with her husband went through months of back and forth with the Canada Revenue Agency, trying to prove that her three-year-old son actually lived with her. She was exasperated. The CRA kept asking her to fill out forms to prove that her three-year-old lived with her. Where did they think he lived? He is three. He does not have his own apartment. Of course he lives with his mother and father. No, that is not obvious to the Canada Revenue Agency.

In the meantime, the family benefits are taken away, not just in cases where information about the child is missing, but in all cases. This means that this mother has no money to buy books, clothing, and other things that her son will need for school. While the Minister of Finance can do as he pleases, this is how Canadians are treated.

People who receive employment insurance benefits have a lot of requirements to meet. If they do one thing wrong, those benefits are taken away. Some people take a one-day training course, thinking it might help them get a new job. When they report that day of training, they get their EI benefits taken away, and for the next two months, they are told that their file is being reviewed. Meanwhile, they have no money to live on.

The Minister of Finance can earn $10 million off the backs of Canadians, but if a family in need receives an extra $50 by mistake, the government takes it away because they are not entitled to it. Come on.

The government then continues to say that everything is fine, when in reality, the most vulnerable Canadians are unable to meet all of the requirements set out by the Canada Revenue Agency and other government departments to prove that they are really in need. They are made to feel guilty for asking for the money they need, as though they were looking for a handout, when really this is money they are entitled to.

However, the Liberal minister can do whatever he wants. Let us remember that he forgot to disclose that he owned a house in France. I am sorry, but a person would have to be really out of it to forget something like that. I have seen some pretty drunk people in the emergency room, and they still remembered that they owned a house. However, that is beyond the Minister of Finance's ability. He is unable to disclose that he owns a house in France, an asset that he put in a company so that he could pay less tax. That is ridiculous. For him to say that he forgot he owned a house is an insult to Canadians' intelligence.

Government members are comparing this situation to the vote to abolish the Canadian Wheat Board, because they are saying that some members had small wheat farms but would be voting on it. That was certainly a concern, but it seems to me that there is a big difference between voting on a measure and a minister actually introducing government legislation, especially when the government has a majority, which means that the bill is more or less guaranteed to pass.

Making $10 million on the backs of Canadians simply does not compare. I can say that that money would have been greatly appreciated.

We cannot ignore this. It is false to say that Canadians are not concerned about this. Canadians are very concerned about this.

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's AssetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her speech, and for her assistance in the procedure and House affairs committee recently. She spoke a lot about her riding and the issues facing her constituents and about working for those who are most vulnerable, which is what we are here for.

The finance minister has been part of a team to bring forward changes to improve the Canada pension plan, to increase the guaranteed income supplement, and has reduced child poverty in the country by 40%. Just yesterday, we had an amazing announcement on a national housing strategy, which would take hundreds of thousands of Canadians out of precarious housing, ensuring that we address poverty in a meaningful way.

Could the hon. member speak to the government's plan and the finance minister's role in it?

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's AssetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are in exactly the same situation. The government is throwing money at programs without making sure that they are working properly. As for the Canada child benefit, the Liberals have put that money on the table, but the program is not really working.

Many people really need that money, but they cannot get it because the Canada Revenue Agency is asking them for one document after another, whether it is because they did not file their tax return, they do not have the resources, they are totally confused, they simply do not understand and there are no resources on the ground. If the poorest people cannot access the money they are entitled to, that means that the programs are not working.

If we do not bother to find out if the measures we are introducing are accessible to the people who need them, we are no further ahead. This is not just about throwing money at something and recording it in a budget line item. We have to be responsible and make sure that money actually gets to the people who need it. The government never does that, which is why we end up in these situations where there are simply no more resources.

For example, there is no Revenue Canada service counter in my riding. That means I am the only resource available to do CRA's work for Abitibi—Témiscamingue and help people get the money they need.

Sometimes I manage to get $26,000 for families that are entitled to it. That is simply because I am capable of providing a service to them, which is something the government has given up on.

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's AssetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue for her excellent speech.

I know she works very hard as a member of Parliament and also as a nurse. When the hospital emergency room really needs her talents, she is there. She meets all kinds of people in Abitibi—Témiscamingue, honest, hard-working people.

Right now, we have a Minister of Finance who makes decisions but refuses to tell us why and how he might benefit personally.

I have two simple questions for the member. What are the people of Abitibi—Témiscamingue saying about his refusal to share that information? Do the people of Abitibi—Témiscamingue agree with us that the minister should share all of that information?

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's AssetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, when I ask the people of Abitibi—Témiscamingue what they think of the Minister of Finance, their answers are decidedly unparliamentary. They say they are being royally—I will let my colleague fill in the next word—by the Minister of Finance and by the Liberal government, and they are extremely disappointed.

What saddens me even more is that the finance minister is giving all other politicians a black eye. I mean those from my own party, of course, but also the Conservatives and probably some Liberals. All of the politicians who are in the House for all the good reasons and who work day after day on behalf of their constituents have had their credibility called into question. People think we are no good, but there are some people in this House who really are here to represent their constituents.

The finance minister's actions are also fuelling public cynicism towards politicians. I think that is a real shame. The Minister of Finance should have to apologize for the grave disservice he is doing to those who stand up in this House every day and work hard for the people they represent.

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's AssetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

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

5:10 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

My goodness, Madam Speaker, if there is any justification for having a commissioner who is truly independent, the member across the way has just made the best case possible. It is incredible just how much misinformation she put on the record. I would challenge the member to say what she said inside the chamber, outside the chamber. It is incredible. It emphasizes why it is so important that all members of the House have a responsibility—

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's AssetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

An hon. member

Shame.

Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's AssetsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, there is no shame. The shame is on the other side. The shame is from the words that were being spewed by the member across the way.

All members have a responsibility to go to the commissioner. The commissioner has the responsibility to do a review and make inquiries where there is a need to do so, which happens on both sides of the House.

Does the member recognize that the commissioner is the one who is in the best position to hold members accountable with respect to the code of ethics? The commissioner is apolitical. I would ultimately argue that she is an—