Madam Speaker, it is indeed an honour to rise again and join the debate on Bill C-74.
Before I wrote my speech, I wanted to do a bit of research to remind myself exactly what the Prime Minister had promised regarding the use of omnibus bills. An interesting thing occurred.
When I googled the name of the Prime Minister and then used the word “promise”, the search screen auto-filled with a massive number of different promises from the Prime Minister. Guess what? They were all broken promises, every single one of them, because that is what the Prime Minister seems to do. He promises things he clearly has no intention of delivering on, and this is no different. Allow me to repeat this one. He said, “Stephen Harper has also used omnibus bills to prevent Parliament from properly reviewing and debating his proposals.” The Prime Minister promised his Liberal government would “bring an end to this undemocratic practice”, yet here we are. The Prime Minister is doing the complete opposite of what he promised he would do.
A constituent of mine recently suggested that the Prime Minister was basically a real-life Pinocchio. That comment troubles me. When we look Canadians sincerely in the eyes and we promise something that we have zero intention of delivering on, how do we let that go? How do we say “That's okay”?
Here is a case in point. Over in the finance committee, we were reviewing this omnibus bill as best we could. Lo and behold, what did we find buried in it? We found legislation that proposed to modify the Criminal Code so white-collar crime might more easily go unpunished. Seriously, why is that in there?
I have defended governments because of the complex state and wanting to do things. Sometimes they have to be able to change multiple pieces of legislation so an omnibus bill may be okay. For example, paying the remuneration for justices probably can be added in as a measure because I do not believe there would be time, respectful of the House, to table that. I have defended the previous government and I have given the current government a lot on that as well. However, here is the thing. The Liberal members of the finance committee had absolutely no idea this corporate crime get out of jail for free clause was in the budget implementation act.
I have a great amount of respect for my fellow members of the finance committee on the government side. We have a productive and good relationship. I am proud of that fact even though we found this questionable clause. At the same time, it concerns me greatly that the Liberal government is proposing serious changes like this. Not only do the Liberals try to hide it in a budget implementation bill, they do not even tell their own caucus about it.
Who is really calling the shots and running the government? Why would it keep its own caucus in the dark? To be fair, I am not going to say that the Liberals are soft on corporate crime or that the secret payoff is intended to help Liberal corporate insider friends, but others are saying these exact things. In the absence of information there is misinformation. When something is intentionally hidden from view, people will speculate there must be a reason it is hidden. These things undermine the integrity of our justice system when it comes to prosecuting white-collar corporate crime.
I will give the benefit of the doubt to the government here. I do not believe the intent of this proposed legislative change is to help out white-collar criminals. In fact, I am certain there are arguments to be made why some believe this measure is a good thing in helping crack down on white-collar crime. However, we will not be having that debate because this clause is not before the justice committee where it belongs. That, of course, is because someone in the Prime Minister's Office thought it was a good idea to bury this proposal in the budget implementation act instead of in a justice bill where it belongs.
Bill C-74 is a budget implementation act omnibus bill. Bill C-75 is a criminal justice reform omnibus bill of 300 pages. It makes no sense that the Liberals would put this provision in Bill C-74 unless they wanted to evade scrutiny. Not one single witness came to committee to talk about this. That is a failure, either of us as parliamentarians or because someone on the government side thought the Liberals could pull a fast one.
Before moving on, I would like to thank the members of the finance committee for the collective work we have done exposing this questionable piece of legislation. We do what we can, and we try to do a good job.
Another troubling aspect of the budget implementation bill is the fact that it does not place Canada on a path to a balanced budget by 2019. That is another broken promise by the Prime Minister, which begs the question why the Prime Minister made that promise in the first place. Is it because he believes that a balanced budget is a good thing, or because he believes that others think it is a good thing and he will basically say anything that would help him win votes? We do not know the answer to that question. However, it is not unlike the promise “While governments grant permits for resource development, only communities can grant permission.” We all know how that broken promise is turning out, which leads to my next question.
Out of the blue, the Prime Minister promised to borrow another $4.5 billion so he can politically control the timeline of the Kinder Morgan pipeline. Where exactly is this money coming from? It is a massive amount of money, yet it is not anywhere in the budget. Further assuming that the Prime Minister actually intends to build the Trans Mountain pipeline, it will surely cost another $7 billion or more. Combined, that is over $11 billion. That is more than the modest $10-billion deficit the Prime Minister promised.
Nowhere in this budget document is that out-of-the-blue spending referred to. This is all so that the Prime Minister can buy himself out of another broken promise, while at the same time breaking other promises. It gets complicated. With so many broken promises, one begins to lose track. This is not unlike his $7-billion slush fund, which the Parliamentary Budget Officer has said contains “incomplete information and weaker spending controls”. That is $7 billion of borrowed money, with zero information on how that money will be spent, and we are going into an election next year.
Meanwhile, the Liberal government is busy ramming through changes to the Elections Act that would limit what everyone else can spend pre-writ, except of course the Liberal government itself. How does anyone support that? Basically, we have a Prime Minister who has a well-documented history of being willing to promise anything to anyone to win votes, who will be armed with the equivalent of a $7-billion Visa card going into an election.
I have sympathy for the members opposite, because we all know that when anyone dares to vote against the Prime Minister on the Liberal side, there are serious consequences, despite those promises for free votes and sunny ways.
In closing, there is no possible way I can support the budget implementation bill. To be candid, I would have a hard time supporting it even if I sat on the government side of the House, because it breaks so many of the promises the Prime Minister made to Canadians, the same Prime Minister who, once upon a time, claimed he was worried about cynicism in Canadian politics.
I can think of no previous prime minister in the past few decades, since I started closely following federal politics, who has broken more promises to Canadians than the current Prime Minister. The most troubling part is that, more often than not, it is a “do as I say, not as I do” approach, much like this omnibus bill I will be voting against. It was bad when Stephen Harper did it as prime minister, but despite the fact that the current Prime Minister said he would bring an end to what he called an “undemocratic practice”, in reality he has taken it to a whole new level. From my perspective, that is not right. I look forward to hearing the comments from all members in this place.