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.