House of Commons Hansard #386 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was snc-lavalin.


The House resumed from December 11, 2018, consideration of the motion.

Standing Committee on HealthPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Motion No. 206, which New Democrats will oppose even though we feel there is an urgent need to encourage Canadians to be more physically active and less sedentary.

The Liberals are doing the same thing here that they did with pharmacare. They want to study an issue that is already very well documented instead of taking steps that will really make a difference for people. If the sponsor of the motion had done his homework, he would have learned that the points he raised in his motion were already addressed in a joint report by federal, provincial and territorial ministers on May 31, 2018. Instead of duplicating a report that is barely 10 months old, the member should be pushing his government to act on the 46 recommendations in that report immediately.

The riding of Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot is lucky to have extraordinary people who help our children learn and grow through sport. Dedicated volunteers spend countless hours nurturing our kids' love of sport and helping them excel.

People in my riding are passionate. Some have been involved in the sporting community for so long that they have inspired generations of locals. One person in particular, Louis Graveline, has devoted the past 50 years to judo students in Saint-Hyacinthe. What an honour it is to talk about Mr. Graveline in the House. Imagine spending 50 years sharing one's passion with several generations of students. That is quite an achievement. Former students describe him as passionate, persistent, firm and caring.

Another individual who comes to mind is Normand Ménard, from our athletic club, who has influenced generations of children who are now adults. Mr. Ménard has run the equivalent of the distance around the earth three times. Speaking of running, for 25 years now, Saint-Hyacinthe has been hosting the Défi Gérard-Côté, an event that brings together runners of all ages and all skill levels. It is a fun, not-to-be-missed event in Saint-Hyacinthe, with various categories including school, family, individual and corporate teams.

Acton Vale has had its own event for runners of all ages, the Défi des semelles d'Acton Vale, for six years now. Acton Vale has also been thrilled with the success of its baseball team, the Castors d'Acton Vale. I must acknowledge Michel Dorais for his volunteer work with the team, as well as the Fonds d'athlète de la MRC d'Acton, which supports the work of these exceptional athletes every year.

I could go on and on naming many other cheerleaders, everyone from the ProCheer club to André Cournoyer and Vincent Cournoyer from the Défi Futsal, as well as our two figure skating clubs, one in Acton Vale and one in Saint-Hyacinthe. For swimming fans, I would be remiss if I did not mention the Corporation aquatique maskoutaine and the remarkable athletes in both our swimming club and synchronized swimming club.

In both Acton Vale and Saint-Hyacinthe, we have the privilege of counting on volunteers who dedicate their time to our young people, getting them excited about our national sport, hockey. I am proud to announce to all my colleagues that Saint-Hyacinthe will host the Telus Cup in April 2020. This major sporting event is an opportunity for hockey players from the best teams in the country to show off their talent in a very competitive tournament.

We have some excellent hockey teams in Acton Vale and Saint-Hyacinthe, and I want to commend the volunteer boards of directors and coaches of these teams for their hard work. To name just a few, there is Lucien Beauregard, from the Saint-Hyacinthe pee-wee hockey tournament; Francis Morin, from the Saint-Hyacinthe minor hockey association; Christiane Lussier, Sylvie Carbonneau and the Festi-MAHG board of directors; the Acton Vale minor hockey association; DEK Hockey Saint-Hyacinthe; the Acton Vale provincial midget tournament; the Saint-Hyacinthe Gaulois team; and Noémie Marin, from Acton Vale, who was appointed head coach of the women's team that will represent Quebec at the 2019 Canada Games.

Did members know that a woman from my region was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame? Danielle Goyette, from Saint-Nazaire, was inducted in 2017. This was an honour for all of Quebec, since she was the first woman from Quebec and the fourth woman to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. The people of Saint-Hyacinthe and Acton Vale are talented, and they win medals everywhere they go.

Today, I am proud to tell members about the accomplishments of the high-performance athletes in my riding who are doing Quebec and Canada proud. Julien Pinsonneault from Saint-Hyacinthe is the Canadian snowshoe champion, and Béatrice Boucher from Saint-Dominique continues to impress the equestrian world. At last year's North American championships, this young woman was the top Canadian rider in dressage and won three medals. She also won the gold medal in the young riders division team event.

There is also Annie Moniqui from the La machine rouge weightlifting club, as well as the entire Darsigny family, which includes Olympian Yvan Darsigny and future Olympians Tali, Matt and Shad Darsigny. The club always wins all the medals in international competitions.

I am also thinking of Francis Charbonneau, the mixed martial arts champion, Jean-Sébastien Roy, the Canadian motocross champion who was inducted into the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2012, and sensei Guy Brodeur of the Guy Brodeur martial arts centre. In 1985, he became world karate champion, winning not one, but two medals. Mr. Brodeur was a pioneer in this discipline and has been passing on his love of karate to young people ever since.

Throughout their school years, kids can also count on experienced coaches to teach and guide them through their development. I am thinking about school clubs like the Patriotes at Saint-Joseph secondary school in Saint-Hyacinthe, the Drakkar at Hyacinthe-Delorme secondary school, the Titans at Robert-Ouimet secondary school, and the badminton club at Robert-Ouimet secondary school.

We are also fortunate to have organizations that look after the well-being of our young people. I am thinking about Jeunes en santé, an organization that promotes a healthy and active lifestyle and healthy living habits for children from infancy to age 17. I want to take a moment to recognize the new coordinator, Jézabel Legendre, who is taking over for Véronique Laramée, who worked with our young people for 15 years. I thank Véronique for her work and I welcome Ms. Legendre.

We can also rely on recreational facilities and those who run them. In every neighbourhood in Saint-Hyacinthe, every town and municipality in my riding, recreation coordinators, most of whom are women, work to keep our young people active all year long, especially through the various day camps that are run throughout the summer.

I am proud to represent these high-level athletes and these volunteers who are dedicated to sharing their passion and love of sport with these athletes. Congratulations to all of them. They are an inspiration to us all.

Our communities did not wait for a motion. We took matters into our own hands and got our kids moving.

Provinces and territories have been making all kinds of healthy living commitments for decades. Whether at the municipal, provincial or territorial level, communities want to get kids moving. All they are waiting for is support from the federal government. This support was well documented in a report from just 10 months ago. The report made 46 recommendations for the federal government to implement immediately. The time has passed for studying the importance of a healthy lifestyle and the importance of moving. Now it is time for action.

For all these reasons, we will be voting against the motion. We believe it is time for action.

Standing Committee on HealthPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Peter Fonseca Liberal Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak to a motion that I believe will touch all Canadians' lives in a positive way. With Motion No. 206, the member for Newmarket—Aurora has been a tremendous champion and advocate for active living through the example of his family, his wife and his kids, and how they participate. Motion No. 206 would lift up the many athletes and those achieving new goals in physical activity in his community, roll that out and study how that can have such a tremendous effect on all Canadians.

I think back to some of the commercials from our past that are decades old, where Participaction commercials had a 72-year-old Swede as compared to the 40-year-old Canadian. They were at the same level of health, but the Swede was doing more active things and it showed in less disease and a better quality of life. This is what Motion No. 206 is all about. It is about closing that gap in a very comprehensive way, as the member has put forward, not just about physical activity but the enumerable benefits that come through physical activity, socially and emotionally.

Many people who pick up a sport or try an activity like walking or jogging, riding a bike or swimming say that it lifts their self-esteem. Somebody being able to walk around the block the first day and then walk around two blocks a week or two later feels that sense of accomplishment in the goal they have reached.

That is why the Government of Canada is so supportive of Motion No. 206. It instructs the House Standing Committee on Health to study fitness and physical activity levels in youth in Canada. The study would provide an opportunity to examine the complex factors and conditions that influence youth participation in physical activity.

There is a vast majority of Canadians who do not get enough physical activity today. At least eight out of 10 adults and six out of 10 children and youth do not meet the recommended guidelines for physical activity. Simply put, Canadians need to move more and sit less.

As they grow up, Canadian youth participate less in sport, especially girls. While 79% of boys and 70% of girls participate in sport in adolescence, girls tend to drop out of sport at a much higher rate than boys do. Moreover, if a girl has not yet participated in sport by the age of 10, there is only a 10% chance that she will be physically active later on as an adult. Understanding the reasons behind these trends is key to reversing them and in turn closing that gap.

The proposed study will be an opportunity to hear a range of perspectives regarding this important issue, including the steps that the Government of Canada and its partners have taken to increase physical activity.

For instance, the Public Health Agency of Canada, through its community-based initiatives, aims to increase physical activity among youth and families in partnership with the non-governmental sector, the private sector and others. The Public Health Agency of Canada has invested $112 million and leveraged an additional $92 million, which is just terrific, from its amazing partners to support projects and address the common risk factors, including physical inactivity associated with major chronic diseases. We know we are at an epidemic with diabetes.

Some of these projects target children and youth, for example, the APPLE Schools Foundation is leading an initiative called “Transforming Healthy School Communities” to improve health behaviours among children and youth in the school environment.

Another project, Sharing Dance, led by the National Ballet School of Canada, provides creative dance opportunities for youth to get active. Alongside these projects, the Public Health Agency of Canada has supported efforts to increase physical activity through programming that addresses healthy weights and mental health.

Mental health is so important when it comes to physical activity. It is shown that if someone participates in physical activity, there are not only the health attributes of being physical, but also the social and mental benefits. When we say mental, it leads to less bullying.

Getting back to self-esteem, someone having higher self-esteem would give that person the ability to shelter themselves from bullying by others who may be sending negative signals, when participating in sport is for the most part about being a positive individual.

In addition, budget 2018 announced new investments in support of increased physical activity among Canadians. The government provided $25 million in more funding over five years to Participaction, which I just spoke about. We are already seeing progress with this funding. A few weeks ago, Participaction launched an app that can help Canadians, young and old, track their activity levels and encourage them to be more physically active. I encourage everybody to get this app. It is based on leading-edge technology, delivering tailored content to Canadians based on their needs and interests.

In addition, members may have seen billboards and other creative media promoting Participaction's evidence-based prompts to help Canadians move more and sit less. As the Participaction campaign notes, everything is better when someone is active. I can attest to that.

Budget 2018 also announced $47.5 million over five years, and $9.5 million per year ongoing, to expand the use of sport for social development in more than 300 indigenous communities. Not only will this funding support increased physical activity, it recognizes the important connections between physical activity and other dimensions of our lives, such as mental well-being, social connection and academics. I have been a part of a program called running and reading, which has shown that if students go out for a run or do some physical activity before they do a test, read or immerse themselves in academia, they do much better. It is conclusive. We know it works. Again, this will have immeasurable types of impacts on our society, Canadians, as well as our youth, right through to adulthood and into their senior years.

Supporting Motion No. 206 will provide an opportunity to learn about how we can all work together on this important issue.

No one organization or sector can work in isolation to tackle the problem of physical inactivity in this country. It is why the federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for sport, physical activity and recreation together released a policy framework to increase physical activity and reduce sedentary living in Canada. The framework is appropriately named “A Common Vision for increasing physical activity and reducing sedentary living in Canada: Let's Get Moving”.

The framework represents considerable collaboration by federal, provincial and territorial health officials, the non-governmental sector and indigenous organizations to identify areas of common interest and action. It identifies a number of areas for focus, such as cultural norms, spaces and places, and leadership and learning. These areas of focus can help guide our collective action over the coming years.

I know that the member for Newmarket—Aurora has been passionate about this. He has promoted this in his community. He has has brought this forward to the House of Commons as Motion No. 206, so we can look at how we can now deliver the vision he has had for so long to the rest of Canada from coast to coast to coast.

Everyone has a role to play. Communities, academia, the charitable and not-for-profit sector and the private sector must find ways to work together if we are to be successful in getting Canadians to move more and sit less.

An example of the importance of evidence is the "Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines” produced by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, with support by the Public Health Agency of Canada. The guidelines are currently available for children aged zero to four and children and youth aged five to 17, and were produced using the latest scientific evidence. These guidelines have adopted a novel approach, which results in the integration of physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep. In other words, they place physical activity and sedentary living in the context of our daily lives.

In conclusion, the government is supportive of this study. It would provide an opportunity to learn from the many important investments, initiatives and undertakings that have been made by the Government of Canada and its many valuable partners, which have been working together to increase physical activity. Most importantly, this study would focus increased attention on an issue that is most important to the well-being of all Canadians.

I commend the member for Newmarket—Aurora and thank him. We wholeheartedly support Motion No. 206.

Standing Committee on HealthPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Robert Gordon Kitchen Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful to speak in support of Motion No. 206. This motion would go a long way towards helping Canadian families, and especially our youth, with being active through participation in sport and other physical activities.

I would also like to thank my colleague, the member for Simcoe—Grey, for her hard work on dealing with the issue of sport. In particular, her private member's bill looking at tax credits would further assist in getting Canadians active in today's world. As the deputy shadow minister for youth, sport and accessibility, it was my pleasure to see not only the member's private member's bill on a tax credit being introduced into the House of Commons, but also this motion focusing on physical activity, which I support. Sport enhances many health issues, such as obesity, diabetes, joint mobility, pain, arthritis and more. It also positively affects physiology, fitness, goal setting, team work, dedication, positive self-esteem, friendships, psychomotor skills as well as new interests.

Statistics show that obesity is set to affect over 30% of the Canadian population by 2030. That is a very troubling number. Not only is obesity itself an issue, but we must also consider the negative health effects that obesity can cause. Diseases such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure can seriously affect a person's quality of life. The treatment of these diseases, which are widely preventable through diet and exercise, also puts an increased burden on our health care system and in turn the taxpayer.

Before becoming a member of Parliament, I was a chiropractor. During my practice, I saw first-hand the negative ways that obesity can impact the human body, causing issues like cardiovascular problems, fatigue, joint pain and sometimes limited mobility, not to mention the huge impact on self-esteem. It is clear that something needs to be done to incentivize Canadians, particularly young Canadians, to keep healthy and active in order to avoid potential future problems. This motion would help to do just that, as it did in its previous iteration.

Participation in sporting activities is a major challenge for families, who are living day to day and paycheque to paycheque, attempting to keep their children active and fit. A small tax break, such as was suggested by the member for Simcoe—Grey, would be a helping hand and perhaps impetus to get involved. Not everyone can benefit from the kindness of others, a family member or philanthropic endeavour to help pay to include their children in sport.

In Saskatchewan, we have an organization called “Sask Sport”, which helps families. I had the pleasure within my community to assist some families who needed help through one aspect of the program, KidSport. The assistance comes through many means. KidSport is one program. Others are Dream Brokers, Children in Sport, the aboriginal sport development program, Parasport, long-term athlete development program and Sport for Life.

These programs focus on the concept that no kids should be left on the sidelines and that all should be given the opportunity to experience the positive benefits of organized sport. They involve children and youth, those attending elementary schools, with fundamental skills-development programs, as well as focusing on increasing participation by first nations and Métis communities. The assistance spans from the community level to high-performance levels. They help to build and create active and healthy communities through these programs by enabling non-profit sporting organizations to deliver quality sustainable programs, services and events.

We know that the original children's fitness tax credit worked. Introduced in December 2006 and implemented in January 2007, according to the Department of Finance, 1.8 million Canadian families claimed the credit in 2014, which is 43% of all families with children. This is something that we want to encourage to get more people involved and more active in sporting activities. I believe that Motion No. 206 would assist in that manner.

My colleagues on all sides of the House are able to attest to the expenses that come with putting their children in sports. My wife and I raised two sons and a daughter, all of whom were involved in athletics while growing up. Believe me, it is not cheap. The cost of equipment for Canada's beloved sport alone, hockey, can be in the thousands of dollars, and figure skating can be triple that cost. Many Canadian families do not have that kind of money, so they are left with a choice of whether to put their children in sports knowing the health and various other benefits that has, or whether they pay their bills next month.

We feel that no parent should have to make that kind of choice, and a child fitness tax credit would definitely work to help mitigate that type of situation.

I would like to take a moment to talk about the benefits of child and youth participation in sport and physical activity. The most obvious benefit would be to general physical health.

As I previously stated, many diseases associated with obesity can be prevented with diet and exercise. In 2014, the OECD reported that overweight and obesity rates in Canada were high, with almost 28% of 11- to 15-year-olds being considered overweight or obese. This is troubling, given that the OECD world average at the time was 19%. It is clear, from a physical perspective, that our children and youth are not getting enough activity. Any incentive to improve on that statistic should be pursued and implemented. We know that most times healthy children grow into healthy adults, and it is up to all levels of government to assist in the pursuit of the physical health of Canadians.

Participation in physical activity is also hugely beneficial for the brain and mental health. In 2018, the Participaction report card on physical activity for children and youth focused on this, outlining the connection between physical health and brain health. It stated that there are numerous benefits of physical activity for the brain, such as increased focus and attention span, better performance in academic settings due to increased memory, lower levels of depression and anxiety and much more. In this day and age, when more children than ever are spending increasing amounts of time looking at screens, we need to ensure that every option to participate in physical activity is given so that the next generation of Canadians can grow into healthy and happy adults.

My own personal experiences have also taught me a lot about how physical activity and participation in sport can positively affect children and youth, and not just on a physical or mental health level. I coached hockey for many years in Saskatchewan. I saw first-hand how many life skills young athletes can pick up by being part of a team or by participating in competitions. These skills included things like leadership, teamwork, co-operation, self-esteem, sociability and more. It was always amazing to see a young player start the season as a shy, introverted person and end it as a confident and more outspoken individual. I am proud to have been able to play some role in that transformation, and today I am proud to be speaking in support of an initiative that will help to build these skills for Canadian children and youth well into the future.

Earlier in my remarks, I mentioned the 2018 Participaction scorecard. I would like to go back to that for a moment. Each year, Participaction assesses child and youth physical activity in Canada and gives it a letter grade. Unfortunately, the grade given for overall physical activity in 2018 was a dismal D+. That means that only 35% of five- to 17-year-olds are meeting the physical activity recommendation within the “Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines” for children and youth. With obesity being a growing epidemic, paired with increased amounts of screen time for children and youth of all ages, these statistics are very concerning.

Also included in that report is a specific grade given to government for the strategies and investments it has implemented to encourage greater participation in physical activity for Canadian children and youth. The grade given in 2018 was a C+, which shows that there is absolutely room for improvement. We, as legislators, need to pursue all avenues available to us to address issues like childhood inactivity, which includes supporting initiatives such as this.

We know that Canadian families deserve support from their government, particularly when it comes to keeping money in their pockets. The fact that 43% of all Canadian families with children utilized the original children's fitness tax credit proves that there is a need for government assistance in this specific area. I am confident that any type of financial assistance or initiative would be great in helping to motivate people to increase their level of activity.

I am also extremely pleased and happy to see the inclusion of disabilities in these motions.

As I stated before, we know, and research shows, that healthy children become healthy adults. By instilling good habits and practices, such as regular physical activity for our children and youth, we are helping to grow a healthier, happier and more productive Canada. That is something I believe all members of this House can get behind.

Standing Committee on HealthPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Kyle Peterson Liberal Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Mr. Speaker, as always, it is an honour and a privilege to speak in the chamber. Today I am especially honoured to have brought this motion to the House.

First, I want to thank all hon. members who spoke in support of the motion. I thank the member for Winnipeg Centre, the member for Brampton South and the member for Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, all of whom spoke at first reading. Today we heard from the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville, who is a former Olympian, and the member for Souris—Moose Mountain. I thank these members for their support. I am glad that they share my concern about the importance of this motion.

I know my time is limited, but I also want to thank all the organizations and individuals who reached out to me during this process. I thank them for sharing their expertise with me, and I thank them for their commitment and passion regarding the important goal of improving the health of children. After all, I think we can all agree that an active child is a healthy child. Organizations like Activate Aurora, the Nova Scotia Fitness Association, Active For Life, ParticipACTION and Sport Matters all provided invaluable input.

I also want to thank Lisa Bowes, now a children's author, who writes books about a girl named Lucy who tries different sports. She gave me some invaluable advice, and I appreciate her commitment to this. Ted Jarvis and Glenn Young also reached out with their input.

All these people are experts in this field, and they all agree that the federal government needs to play a role for us to reach our goal.

It is obviously important for the House to pass this motion. Everyone agrees that physical activity levels are not where they ought to be. The benefits of children being active are indisputable. In fact, our understanding of the health benefits continues to grow and expand, especially the mental health benefits. They are as integral a part of being a healthy child as the physical component.

Much work has been done in this regard. The government's common vision contains many great recommendations. However, this is not enough to get where we need to be. The 2018 ParticipACTION report card shows the areas in which we are failing our children. Only 35% of children aged five to 17 are meeting movement guidelines. This is unacceptable. We are not doing our job.

There is also much research regarding physical literacy and the harm that comes from too much screen time. The social benefits of having an active child continue to grow. All this work needs to be harnessed and mobilized by the health committee, which can then make prescriptive recommendations to the government.

I have two young boys, Kolton and Kash. I am also the son of a phys. ed. teacher, who unfortunately passed away months before I became an MP. He always encouraged me to be physically active, to try new sports, to play outside and to have fun with my friends.

I want my children and all Canadian children to be as active as possible. I want them all to have the same concept that physical play and physical activity is good and ought to be pursued.

The children growing up today face a very different childhood than I had. Social media was not a factor. Bullying was not as rampant. Screen time was not the threat to the well-being of our children it is today.

We need to harness the research out there. We need to make sure that the federal government plays the role it ought to play. I believe that the federal government has a significant role to play in ensuring that all Canadian children are physically active and that all Canadian children have the opportunity to play outside, to play with their friends and to play with teams to foster the formative skills that develop when they are pursuing these physical activities.

It would be unfair if all Canadian children did not have the same opportunities in this respect. That is why I think it is important that the federal government step up and continue to perform its role. Active kids are healthy kids. I urge all members to support this motion.

Standing Committee on HealthPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Standing Committee on HealthPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Some hon. members



Standing Committee on HealthPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Standing Committee on HealthPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Some hon. members


Standing Committee on HealthPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

All those opposed will please say nay.

Standing Committee on HealthPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Some hon. members


Standing Committee on HealthPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

In my opinion, the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, February 27, 2019, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

The House is suspended to the call of the Chair.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:39 a.m.)

(The House resumed at 12 o'clock)

Opposition Motion—Standing Committee on Justice and Human RightsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders


Regina—Qu'Appelle Saskatchewan


Andrew Scheer ConservativeLeader of the Opposition


That, given the Prime Minister's comments of Wednesday, February 20, 2019, that the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights is the appropriate place for Canadians to get answers on the SNC-Lavalin affair, and given his alleged direct involvement in a sustained effort to influence SNC-Lavalin's criminal prosecution, the House order the Prime Minister to appear, testify and answer questions at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, under oath, for a televised two-hour meeting, before Friday, March 15, 2019.

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Milton.

The SNC-Lavalin case has caught the attention of Canadians across the country for one very simple reason: it goes to the very heart of what makes Canada a fair and democratic country. As I have already said in the House, we are a nation that is founded on the rule of law. No one should be given special treatment, regardless of their status, wealth or political connections.

Quite simply, what we have seen unfold over the last two weeks is a textbook case of corporate and government corruption, a story in which a corporate giant with deep pockets and deeper government connections tried to leverage its backroom influence to avoid a criminal conviction and in which those in the Prime Minister's Office it leaned on were all too willing to help.

We now know exactly what happened. Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick's testimony last week at the justice committee shone a whole new light on the entire affair. We know that SNC-Lavalin successfully lobbied to have a special provision written into the Criminal Code that would allow it to escape a criminal conviction on bribery charges.

We know that the director of public prosecutions independently decided not to make use of that provision. We know that the former attorney general told her superiors in the Privy Council Office and the PMO that she would not use her authority to overrule that decision.

Thanks to Mr. Wernick's testimony, we now know what happened after that: an unsolicited, coordinated and sustained effort by the Prime Minister himself to get the former attorney general to change her mind, to overrule the independent Crown prosecutor and to let SNC-Lavalin off the hook anyway.

It was unsolicited. The attorney general did not seek input from the Prime Minister on her decision. Her decision was already made.

It was coordinated. The Prime Minister dispatched his closest political adviser and his top civil servant to lean on her, impressing on her the “consequences” if she did not give in to their demands.

It was sustained, with multiple attempts to secure a different decision from the attorney general in the weeks and months since her decision had been made.

It all adds up to the Prime Minister improperly, if not illegally, interfering in a criminal prosecution.

Up until now, the Prime Minister has not given Canadians a clear account of his actions. Since the story first broke in The Globe and Mail almost three weeks ago, he has changed his version of events multiple times. He smeared the former attorney general's reputation. He blamed everyone, from his own staff to Scott Brison. He even tried to blame Stephen Harper.

Even after Mr. Wernick's testimony, which pulled the curtain back on just how deeply involved the Prime Minister was, he has remained as evasive and elusive as ever. However, he can no longer avoid the fact that he himself was at the centre of an unprecedented attempt to obstruct the course of justice.

That brings us to my motion today. The time has come for the Prime Minister to be transparent. He must account for his actions. He must answer for what he has done, and he must do so before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

The SNC-Lavalin case was referred to the justice committee. In the beginning, the Liberals on the committee voted against our motion. Two weeks ago, the opposition members proposed an comprehensive list of nine key witnesses to question, including a number of senior staffers from the Prime Minister's Office and the former attorney general's office. Under strict orders from the government, the Liberals on the committee refused to allow any of those witnesses to appear. The cover-up had begun.

However, as public pressure continues to mount, the Liberals are slowly beginning to back down. The former attorney general has been called to appear, which apparently will take place tomorrow morning, and as I said earlier, Mr. Wernick's testimony last week brought clarity to just how high up this matter goes.

Since its abrupt change of heart on the justice committee's work, the government cannot stop singing its praises. Perhaps sensing that a criminal investigation is coming, the government has a new-found confidence in the justice committee's ability to provide Canadians with answers on this affair.

Last Friday, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons said the following in the House: “We have confidence in the members' work on the justice committee. I think they must do their work.”

Those were the government House leader's words.

Last Wednesday, the Prime Minister himself said in this Chamber, “...I have tremendous confidence in the members of the justice committee, who will be moving forward on the investigation on all sides.” We will take him at his word, but I have tabled this motion today because the Prime Minister, and only the Prime Minister, can provide answers to these questions. He has been implicated in this affair, and it is time for him to answer for it.

The Prime Minister promised that he would be different when he was asking Canadians for their votes. He said so right on the pages of the Liberals' campaign platform in 2015. Although Liberal members may not want to hear it now, I will remind them that their own campaign document said, “As the saying goes, sunlight is the world's best disinfectant. Liberals will shed new light on the government and ensure that it is focused on the people it is meant to serve: Canadians.”

After the election he also said, “Openness and transparency will be our constant companions, and we will work to restore Canadians’ trust in their government and in our democracy.”

Canadians may have taken him at his word, but he has taken Canadians for fools with his actions in the last few weeks.

I do not need to tell anyone on this side of the aisle just how badly this affair has harmed their reputation in the eyes of Canadians. Canadians feel betrayed. They are wondering how a Prime Minister who came to power only three years ago, promising to be different, has so quickly gone back to the old Liberal ways and so quickly demonstrated the kind of secrecy and hypocrisy that Liberals have become famous for.

However, this motion gives the Prime Minister the opportunity to regain some of the confidence he has lost.

I am asking him to support this motion and to ask his entire Liberal caucus to do so as well.

Canadians deserve answers, and he is the only one who can give them those answers.

I invite all members of the Liberal Party to do the right thing. We know that you are under tremendous pressure from political operatives within your own party who are trying to protect themselves—trying to protect themselves possibly from even facing criminal charges themselves—but you have an opportunity and a responsibility to do the right thing, to stand up for our independent system of justice to prove that no one in Canada gets a special deal just because he or she is rich and powerful. There is one set of rules for every Canadian.

Members of the Liberal Party have the opportunity to do that today, and I invite them to do the right thing.

Opposition Motion—Standing Committee on Justice and Human RightsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Before I go to questions and comments, I want to remind hon. members to address other hon. members through the Chair and not directly. For some members who are new at the game and do not understand how it works, I just want to point that out.

Opposition Motion—Standing Committee on Justice and Human RightsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Arif Virani Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and to the Minister of Democratic Institutions, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle for his contributions this morning. I want to clarify one point and then ask him a question.

He made some mention of the testimony from the Clerk of the Privy Council at committee last week. What specifically the clerk said was, “At every opportunity, verbally and in writing in December, the Prime Minister made it clear that this was the decision for the Minister of Justice to take.”

First, the committee has commenced a study. Second, the committee has called the former minister of justice and attorney general of Canada. Third, the committee has also said that subsequent to hearing testimony, it will revisit the issue as to whether to call subsequent witnesses, and which ones.

Given that lay of the land and given that the committee is undertaking this important study, I ask the member opposite why he expresses distrust in allowing the committee to simply continue to do its work.

Opposition Motion—Standing Committee on Justice and Human RightsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I do not think I have enough time to explain to the hon. member why we on this side of the House, and indeed Canadians, do not trust the government to become transparent on this issue.

What the Clerk of the Privy Council confirmed last week was explosive. It completely contradicted the line that the Prime Minister had been trying to convince Canadians with for the past few weeks. We are now into the third or fourth week of this affair, and the government still refuses to give simple answers to simple questions.

The Clerk of the Privy Council confirmed that there was a sustained and coordinated effort to get the former attorney general to change her mind. The clerk said that the decision was with the former attorney general. She had already made the decision. She said no. She said no. She was asked to overrule an independent prosecutor in the matter of an independent court proceeding, and she said no.

If the decision was hers to make, I would like to ask the hon. member this: Why did the Prime Minister go to work for the next few months to get her to change her mind?

Opposition Motion—Standing Committee on Justice and Human RightsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, in light of what the leader of the opposition said to us about the decision having been made by the director of public prosecutions, and then about subsequent efforts by the Prime Minister, by the clerk and by people in the Prime Minister's Office to change her mind, could this possibly be anything but an attempt to interfere with the independent decision of first the director of public prosecutions and then the former attorney general, who refused to budge?

Does the hon. member see this as improper interference, in violation of the independent role that our Constitution requires the Attorney General to play?

Opposition Motion—Standing Committee on Justice and Human RightsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, that is a very excellent question that speaks to the heart of this matter. We only have to look at the chronology to determine that something improper and perhaps even illegal was happening.

The top prosecutor, the independent chief legal person who has the ability to make these determinations, ruled in her independent capacity that SNC-Lavalin did not qualify for one of these new special deals that the Liberals had created.

Many meetings took place between that company's lobbyists and government officials, all throughout meetings with the former attorney general in attempting to get her to change her position, which was to let the independent prosecutor continue on with her work.

At a key meeting in late December, the former principal adviser, Gerald Butts, met with the former attorney general and talked about consequences. Perhaps the most telling detail of all was that after she refused to give in to those demands from the Prime Minister's Office, the former attorney general was removed from her post. It is impossible to conclude that this pressure was not intended to get a different outcome, because she lost her job for standing up to those in the PMO who were trying to subvert the course of justice.

Opposition Motion—Standing Committee on Justice and Human RightsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, Maclean's this weekend had an article that characterized the debate on this issue by saying that since its outset, the SNC-Lavalin issue has been framed as a “he said, she said”, but that more accurately, the messy scandal arising from these allegations has been “he, he, he-said”, while “she” remains silent.

To date, we have had the Clerk of the Privy Council say that there was pressure. Why is it so important for the Prime Minister to go before the committee and explain that the determination of whether there was inappropriate pressure is not his to make?

Opposition Motion—Standing Committee on Justice and Human RightsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question as well. Of course, we are all looking forward to tomorrow's testimony. We hope that the former attorney general will be allowed to speak. The Prime Minister still refuses to waive that privilege. The Clerk of the Privy Council indicated that there was no privilege protection for what went on there; we certainly find it interesting that the Prime Minister seems to ignore that.

Honestly, to my colleague, we are past the point where new information could somehow change the direction that this investigation needs to go. We know that sustained pressure was applied. That is inappropriate. That is why the Prime Minister needs to answer for it.

Opposition Motion—Standing Committee on Justice and Human RightsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Lisa Raitt Conservative Milton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by saying very clearly that it is in the public interest that the Prime Minister be a witness at the justice committee and come clean. It is in the public interest that he say yes to this, and it is in the public interest that our colleagues across the floor vote in favour of this motion that we have put forward today.

Why is it in the public interest?

I am very proud to sit on the justice committee, and so far we have heard from some witnesses. We have heard from the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and in that meeting we heard that the minister could not answer any questions because he was bound by solicitor-client privilege. He claimed to be bound by cabinet confidence.

He also espoused numerous opinions here in the House as to whether or not something happened regarding undue pressure, or pressure at all, on the minister. However, what I found most interesting is what the witness, the current Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, did not tell us in committee but rather affirmed later: It was that when the former attorney general went to cabinet to discuss her side of the story, he recused himself from that cabinet meeting because he did not want to hear what she had to say.

If the current Attorney General did not want to hear what the former attorney general wanted to say, there is significant public interest in knowing exactly what kind of pressure was building on the previous attorney general. Otherwise, why would the current Attorney General be afraid or concerned about being in a conflict position or maybe being in a position where he had a positive obligation to do something on behalf of the Office of the Attorney General?

The second witness of note was the Clerk of the Privy Council. The Clerk of the Privy Council allowed us to gather more facts, and more facts than we thought we were actually going to get in one sense. He certainly did not believe that there was solicitor-client privilege at play. He also went beyond talking about what was alleged to have been said and confirmed for us many things that happened in cabinet, which was very helpful.

The Clerk also told us of a series of meetings that had happened, which was very interesting, because it gave us certain dots to diarize in terms of putting together the story. However, I do not think he gave us all the information. The only person who has all the information is the witness who did not make it onto the list of the justice committee, and that is the Prime Minister.

What have we heard from the Prime Minister so far? We have heard only from the Prime Minister in successive press availabilities, wherein his story, as the leader of the opposition pointed out, has changed multiple times. What was interesting about his press conferences as they went on was that we got a little more information. Sometimes solicitor-client privilege applied and sometimes it did not. At the end, he gave minimalistic answers whenever the press wanted to go deeper, understand the issue and get more facts and more context in order to maybe come to a conclusion as to whether or not there was influence, and then he would hide behind and cower under both solicitor-client privilege and sometimes under cabinet confidence.

I will be up front and honest in saying that I do not know whether he actually believed that those two principles were at play when he said those things, because we have seen numerous legal opinions in the press since then. It has been a great time for lawyers in this country, and for social media. There have been numerous legal opinions written with respect to whether solicitor-client privilege applies or even if cabinet confidence applies, which is an important consideration as well.

Today we are also going to hear from a number of witnesses in committee. In the first tranche of meetings, we are going to have a literature review of what the Shawcross principle is. The usefulness of the deferred prosecution agreement will be discussed as well in the second hour, which is very interesting for lawyers who may want to have debates on those matters. However, the reality is that it does not really illuminate the situation in which we find ourselves, which means utilizing the facts to determine whether or not the Shawcross principle was adhered to.

I will make a very bold prediction that in today's questioning of these witnesses, one of them will say that they simply do not have enough facts in order to render a clear decision on whether or not the Shawcross principle had been violated, because we do not have all the facts.

Let us look at the meetings.

On September 4, there was a letter to SNC-Lavalin from the director of public prosecutions saying no. On September 17, the Clerk of the Privy Council tells us that he, the Prime Minister and the former attorney general had a meeting, that they did discuss the SNC-Lavalin matter and, supposedly, the former attorney general indicated that she would not be changing her mind and that she would not be succumbing to the pressure.

How do we know that? The Clerk of the Privy Council told us a story in the justice committee. The Prime Minister has given us bits and bobs of information in press conferences. We have not heard yet from the former attorney general. However, the Prime Minister's testimony is crucial and key in this. There were three people in that meeting. We need to hear from every one of those people in order to ensure we know what happened.

We fast forward to the December 5 meeting that happened between Gerald Butts, the former principal secretary to the Prime Minister, and the former attorney general. Having been honoured to be a former cabinet minister in this place, any meeting like that would have a readout sent back to the Prime Minister. We need to know what was in the readout to the Prime Minister, and only the Prime Minister can tell us that.

On December 6, the Prime Minister sent a letter to SNC-Lavalin and the former attorney general indicating this was all the problem of the attorney general and SNC should speak to her. We need to know what thought process and conversations happened up to the moment when he signed that letter, under his own signature.

There was also a meeting on December 17, again, between the Prime Minister's Office and the staff of the former attorney general. Both would send readouts back to their minister and Prime Minister. We need to know what happened there.

Finally, on December 18, the Clerk of the Privy Council had a telephone call with the former attorney general. There is no question that he gave a readout to the Prime Minister after that, because it seems to have formed the basis of a shuffle that happened no more than 20 days later.

There is another reason this is in the public interest.

Shareholders of SNC-Lavalin have recently contacted a law firm in Windsor, Ontario. They are concerned about the fact that SNC-Lavalin was given notification by the director of public prosecutions on September 4 that she would not be granting a deferred prosecution agreement. However, it was not until October 10 that SNC-Lavalin disclosed this matter. In that intervening time, between September 4 and October 10, shareholders of SNC-Lavalin were not made aware of the fact that the journey to get a deferred prosecution agreement had ended. Why that matters to us is the following.

Who in the Prime Minister's Office, what cabinet minister, or even did the Prime Minister give assurances to SNC-Lavalin that it would not have to disclose a material fact to its shareholders because they were going to sort it all out? An investigation will be going on there. This is not a political matter. While I respect the ethics office and the justice committee, we are far beyond that. We are now in the world of concerns about whether there is true representation and timely disclosure given by the company on a matter that could possibly take away 15% of its revenues. That is a material fact for shareholders to know.

From September 4 in writing until October 10 in writing, no material disclosure happened by SNC-Lavalin on this point. We will not rest until the Prime Minister appears before the justice committee and tells us the truth. Canadians deserve it, shareholders deserve it and we deserve it as an institution.

Opposition Motion—Standing Committee on Justice and Human RightsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


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

Mr. Speaker, I truly believe there was no inappropriate pressure.

Having said that, for six years, whether it was Stephen Harper or the current leader of the Conservative Party, the Conservatives have had one item on their agenda, and that is to personally attack members of this government and take a course that is not in the best interests of Canadians. While this government remains focused—

Opposition Motion—Standing Committee on Justice and Human RightsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Order, please. The acoustics in the chamber are amazing, but I am having a hard time hearing the hon. member for Winnipeg North because of the shouting.

The hon. member for Winnipeg North.

Opposition Motion—Standing Committee on Justice and Human RightsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, because the Conservative Party says that it is corruption does not make it corruption. The Conservatives say that about everything related to this government. It is important to recognize that this government continues to operate in the best interests of Canadians, with a focus on jobs and good, solid social programs. That is the reality. We know no inappropriate pressure was put on the former justice minister. We have heard that from numerous sources. It is only the opposition.

The Leader of the Opposition referred to rich, corrupt, powerful corporation. Why will he not tell us what he talked about when he met with that company? He does not want to share that with us. What others members of the Conservative caucus met with SNC-Lavalin also?