That it be an instruction to the Standing Committee on Finance that, during its consideration of Bill S-6, An Act to implement the Convention between Canada and the Republic of Madagascar for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income, the Committee be granted the power to travel throughout Canada to hear testimony from interested parties and that the necessary staff do accompany the Committee, provided that the travel does not exceed ten calendar days.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time.
The motion relates to issues of international taxation, and one international company that is affected by that issue is of course SNC-Lavalin.
In the debate over SNC-Lavalin, the Prime Minister has claimed that the reason for his pressuring the former attorney general to shelve charges against the company was to save jobs. Even if we believe that jobs trump the rule of law, there is still a problem with this story: It is false.
Let us start with the claim that the Prime Minister made on September 31, when he was speaking to the former attorney general. He told her that either she had to shelve the charges against the company or the headquarters would move.
Let me quote the former attorney general's testimony before the justice committee when she was speaking about the September 17 meeting. She stated:
The Prime Minister again cited the potential loss of jobs and SNC moving. Then, to my surprise, the Clerk started to make the case for the need to have a DPA. He said, “There is a board meeting on Thursday September 20 with stockholders”, “they will...be moving to London if this happens” “and there is an election in Quebec soon”.
She reported that the finance minister's chief of staff and a senior prime ministerial adviser also told her that the headquarters would leave Montreal unless she shelved charges against the company.
That claim, of course, makes no sense on the face of it. Moving its headquarters would be impossible for the company, and I will get to why in a moment, but would not actually reduce the company's criminal culpability. Even if the headquarters were in Beijing, London or Kalamazoo, criminal charges would proceed here in Canada; thus, leaving the country would make no sense as a strategy to avoid legal penalty.
Furthermore, it is impossible for SNC to move its headquarters. It must stay in Montreal as part of a $1.5-billion loan deal that the company signed with the Quebec pension plan.
To quote a March 20 SNC report written to its shareholders, SNC-Lavalin “...has undertaken that, for the period of seven (7) years, the head office of SNC-Lavalin will remain in Montreal and will remain the focus of the Company's strategic decision-making; a significant portion of the Company's management team, including its CEO, will be resident in the Province of Quebec....” That is the agreement that the company signed to retain this $1.5-billion loan from the Quebec pension plan.
Furthermore, the company just signed a 20-year lease and is undertaking a major workplace renovation for its 2,000 employees. Companies do not renovate their office space for 2,000 employees if they are moving. Even after the director of public prosecutions and the former attorney general decided not to grant the company a remediation agreement and even after the CEO learned that the charges would go ahead, the CEO, Neil Bruce, told the Toronto Star that SNC is not moving. The Star article says, “Bruce also insisted the company is committed to remaining headquartered in Montreal”, adding that he stated “We absolutely want to be based here in Quebec, here in Canada.”
Again, that is in the Toronto Star from December 17, 2018. These comments were made after the company learned that it would not get a deferred prosecution agreement and that charges would in fact go ahead.
Remember, the Prime Minister told the former attorney general that the company's headquarters was moving, and months later the company's CEO said no—