Madam Speaker, the member across the way mentioned that the islanders, the people who live close to Kingston who live on the islands, are angry when they are not mentioned. For that I apologize. I will herein ever after refer to his riding as Kingston and the Islands, if only he will do one thing, which is promise to end the carbon tax on those islanders who have to fill up their boats with gasoline to transit themselves where they are going. If I would say the full riding name and he would put an end to the carbon tax, the people right across his riding would be happy as clams. I invite him to do that in the spirit of compromise. We reach across the aisle.
In all seriousness, if the member wants to bring an end to my speech, he can do so. There is one thing I am asking to stop this speech: that the Liberal government agree to bring all the participants in the SNC-Lavalin cover-up scandal before a parliamentary inquiry. We can do it at the justice committee or at the ethics committee. We have to do it, because Canadians are demanding that we get to the bottom of this scandal.
I have digressed from the previous argument I was making that if the current Liberal government is re-elected, Canadians will pay massive tax increases. I was finishing up talking about how the government refuses to reveal the true cost of a $50-a-tonne carbon tax. What I was about to progress to from there is that $50 is just the beginning. The government has admitted that in the year 2023, which will happen after the next election, it plans to increase the severity of the carbon tax, which will kick in during the mandate of the next government. However, the current Prime Minister expects Canadians to vote for him in October without knowing how high he will raise the tax. Even if people believe that a $50-a-tonne carbon tax will only translate into a $600 bill for the average Ontario family, and I do not believe that, they have to be suspicious about how much he will increase the tax rate after the next election.
Documents produced for the finance minister suggest that the tax will have to increase in severity at that time. Other documents produced by officials for the environment minister suggest that the tax will rise to as much as $100 a tonne in the short run and $300 a tonne in the long run. That latter price would be 15 times higher than the tax is today. According to the government's own numbers, a $300-a-tonne carbon tax would translate to a cost of $5,000 for a family of two people in Saskatchewan or $3,000 for a family of two people in Ontario.
If people inherit a big family fortune like the Prime Minister has, a trust fund, and have been able to shelter their money from taxes, as he did for so many years while his trust fund was able to grow and multiply without counting against his own income, they might not worry about a $5,000 carbon tax in Saskatchewan or a $3,000 carbon tax in Ontario. However, for everyday Canadians who struggle just to get by, for single mothers, for seniors on fixed incomes, for the small business owner of a pizza shop in Findlay Creek, in my riding, I can say that $3,000 is one heck of a lot of money. The people I am speaking to, as I knock on thousands of doors in my riding of Carleton, tell me that they are just getting by. They are not getting ahead. Yes, they are getting by. They are barely paying their mortgages. They are barely paying their property taxes. They are filing their income tax, regrettably. They are just getting by. They cannot afford a $3,000-a-year carbon tax.
I have to give the Prime Minister some kudos for his Machiavellian scheme, because he, under the guidance of Gerald Butts, came up with a scheme to get the Liberals through the election. It is quite audacious to go into an election right after bringing in a massive new tax on people's energy use.
How are the Liberals going to do it? They are going to give people a few bucks in rebate cheques before the election and then hit them with thousands of dollars in higher taxes after the election. It is very clever. People will think that even though gas and home heating costs are going up by 10% and groceries are getting more expensive, the little cheque they will get for $100, which will arrive just a few months before the election, will get them through until October.
Then, after the election is over, there will be a surprise: The carbon tax will be a lot more expensive than they thought it was. However, it will be too late to do anything about it. It is like buying a product in a store and only finding out the price charged to the credit card after the purchase has been made, and then finding out that there is no return policy and that the purchaser is stuck paying for it for four years.
That is the Prime Minister's scam. It is the carbon tax cover-up. The government gives people some assurance before the election and then raises their taxes after the election, when the Prime Minister no longer needs voters but still needs their money.
This tax increase will cost people a fortune, and the Prime Minister knows something about fortunes, as he inherited one. He inherited a multi-million-dollar fortune from his grandfather, who ironically made his money with an empire of gas stations, the same gas stations where the Prime Minister's tax is taking effect today.
The Prime Minister's grandfather was an example of a great Canadian. He was an entrepreneur. He started, as I understand, from reasonably modest means, but built something great. He passed that fortune down to Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who, as a result of his father's effort, did not have to work a day in his life, and it has passed on to this Prime Minister, who has enjoyed a similar privilege.
The Prime Minister kept that fortune in a trust fund, called a testamentary trust fund, which had a special tax treatment that allowed him to avoid paying the same tax rates on his income that other Canadians would have to pay. He kept it in that trust fund until 2014, when he rose in the House of Commons and voted against a bill by the former Harper government that got rid of the trust fund loophole. Ironically, the Harper government was getting rid of this trust fund loophole, and the Prime Minister, then an opposition MP, stood up and voted based on his personal interest to keep that loophole in place. Why should we be surprised, as he had benefited from it for so long?
I say this because I think it gives us a window into his state of mind. He believes that there is no such thing as scarcity, that we can just get money from someone else and make others pay for our mistakes. People who come from a working-class background grow up with parents who tell them that they can either ski or skate, but they cannot do both, or the family can either go to a cottage or to Disneyland, but definitely cannot do both. That is the basic scarcity that most middle-class kids grow up with.
As a result, when they get a job and have to pay off their student debt, they know there is scarcity. They therefore make responsible decisions in their early 20s to pay down debt so that they can get a mortgage and buy a house. People who have grown up with those kinds of preoccupations have a different outlook from the Prime Minister's, since he has never had to worry about money. He has never had to worry about his own money, so he does not worry about anyone else's either, and that has informed the fiscal policy that he brings to the floor of the House of Commons.
However, in the real world where people have to work for a living and have to live within their means, they understand some basic things. They know they cannot borrow their way out of debt, they cannot tax their way to prosperity and they cannot just make others pay for their mistakes. They understand those basic rules of life that have allowed them and all of us to build an unprecedented level of prosperity in this country and countries like ours. It is the free market system. It is the basic idea that through the voluntary exchange of work for wages, product for payment and interest for investment, people trade what they have for what they want, and because there is a willing and voluntary partner on the other end of the transaction, everyone is always better off when they do. If I have an apple and want an orange and another person has an orange and wants an apple and we trade, we each have something more valuable to us than we had before, even though between us, we still just have an apple and an orange. That is the genius of the voluntary system of free exchange and free enterprise.
The Prime Minister does not believe in free enterprise. He believes in crony corporatism. He believes economic resources should be moved around by government, that economic decisions should be political rather than voluntary, that we should move money by mandatory taxation rather than by voluntary exchange.
We see that in the crony corporatism that he has played out as Prime Minister. He gave a $400-million interest-free loan to his friends at Bombardier. What effect did that have? The company, since getting that money from Canadian taxpayers, has moved the jobs to South Carolina and the intellectual property to Europe. In other words, South Carolina got the jobs, Europe got the intellectual property and Canadian taxpayers got the bill.
What would have motivated the Prime Minister to do something like that? It turns out that the billionaire Bombardier-Beaudoin family owns 53% of the company's shares. Normally when a company like that is short of cash, it sells more shares, but that would dilute the interest of the billionaire family and cause it to become a minority shareholder. In that case, this billionaire family would lose control of the company, so instead of issuing more shares, it asked the government for a handout and had a willing partner in the Prime Minister, who was happy as a clam to provide it. Instead of using the free market system, in which resources are allocated based on the voluntary decisions of investors, consumers and workers, he used the government system, coercing $400 million out of the pockets of taxpayers and giving it to a favoured few.
The difference between these two approaches to economics is this: In the free market, one gets ahead by having the best product; in crony corporatism, one gets ahead by having the best lobbyist. In the free market, business has to obsess about pleasing customers; in the government-run economic system, business gets ahead by pleasing politicians.
I do not know about anyone else, but I think we would all be better off if businesses saw their interests as being intrinsically linked to pleasing customers rather than appeasing politicians.
We hear a lot of talk about inequality from our friends across the way. It is one of their favourite excuses for growing the size and cost of government. Of course, they claim government is this wonderful Robin Hood. It is just so strange, though, that their Robin Hood always steals from the poor and gives to the rich.
They have created something called the Infrastructure Bank. The Infrastructure Bank is designed to give low-interest loan guarantees and investments directly to companies like SNC-Lavalin to protect them against their own bad investments, and here is how it works.
Right now, if a large construction company builds a bridge and that bridge goes way over budget, the company has to pay for the loss. It is called a fixed-price contract. Thank God for that, because when these incompetent CEOs mess up a big construction project, I believe they are the ones who should pay for it, not taxpayers.
However, the Infrastructure Bank would give that company a loan guarantee, so that if it messes it up, the taxpayer will come to the rescue and pay for all of its mistakes. In other words, we have another example of these large construction companies and the private equity and investment bankers that back them up being protected against their own incompetence by the taxpayer.
Here again it is the same working-class person who is already paying taxes to pay the interest on our national debt—money that will go to wealthy bondholders—who will now have to pay for the incompetence of executives and shareholders in construction companies that mess up, go over budget, or fail to deliver their projects on time and on budget. That is yet another example of big government coming to the rescue of the rich at the expense of everyone else.
By the way, did I mention that the Infrastructure Bank has only one project so far, and can we guess what company is involved in that project? We have a winner over there. Yes, SNC-Lavalin was one of the companies involved in the only project that the Infrastructure Bank has now approved. I guess we can call it the SNC-Lavalin bank, a big multi-billion-dollar pile of cash to protect wealthy corporate interests that have access to government levers.
Again in this example, the free market has a solution. The free market is absolutely ruthless with incompetent CEOs. It punishes them brutally, because if they do not deliver a product or service on time and on budget to the satisfaction of the customer, they get fired. Then the shareholders vote out that executive and put in someone who can do the job properly.
However, in a system in which governments are always coming to the rescue, incompetent CEOs and executives get to stay around and suck off the system and bleed everyone else dry. That is exactly the system of crony capitalism that the Prime Minister is creating, and it is playing itself out in the corporate corruption charges against SNC-Lavalin that we are discussing today. The Liberals never learn.
It is ironic how they were caught. It points to the circular nature of history. I will tell the story.
It is the story of the sponsorship scandal. The Liberal Party was engaged in what a judge called an “elaborate kickback scheme” to flow millions of dollars through a program that was supposedly designed to help fight separatism. Money went to Liberal-linked ad agencies, which then flowed the money back to the Liberal Party.
It was funny, because a lot of the ad agencies were charged by the RCMP for fraud, but who was never charged? It was the Liberal Party itself, even though the party came forward and admitted that it had stolen at least $1 million.
I guess one could say it was to their credit that they agreed to pay that money back after they were caught, but strangely, even after that admission, no one charged them. We began wondering back in 2005 why they were not charged, since stealing $1 million is a crime, and we came to a conclusion: It was because the Attorney General, a Liberal politician, was in charge of prosecutions and in charge of laying formal allegations under breaches of federal law. Naturally, when a Liberal politician is deciding if the Liberal Party is going to be charged, we run the risk that even when those charges are merited, they will not even happen.
Along came Stephen Harper with the Federal Accountability Act. He took the position of prosecutor out of the office of the Attorney General and made it a stand-alone entity. Madame Roussel is our top prosecutor, and she has the ability to prosecute any federal crime. She does not have to ask a politician for permission when she does so. Here is where the problem started for the Prime Minister.
He was expecting to use his massive powers to reach into the bureaucracy and order that SNC-Lavalin get a special deal for its $130 million of fraud and bribery charges. All of a sudden, he realized he could not do that, that we do not live in a banana republic, that the Prime Minister cannot simply order a prosecutor to call off a trial, so he called his attorney general and told her to do it. He told her to tell the prosecutor to lay off SNC-Lavalin. She said that under the accountability act of Stephen Harper, if she were to do such an outrageous thing, it would have to be put in writing.
That written document would then be published. Any political direction that goes to the top prosecutor in the land must be written down and put before the eyes of every single Canadian, so people can judge for themselves. Because of that change, which I helped pass through the House of Commons in 2006 as the parliamentary secretary to the then Treasury Board minister, this former attorney general was able to prevent this hideous interference in our criminal justice system.
Is it not funny that what tripped up this Liberal scandal was actually the last Liberal scandal? However, the Liberal Party never learns. The Liberals always go back to their own ways. “And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire”, as the old poem says. Of course, here we are again: Liberals burned by scandal and expecting everyone to cry crocodile tears for them. The reality is, for those people who have been caught up in all of the melodrama of this Liberal soap opera, that it is tempting to think it is all triviality, that it is an interpersonal spat between a bunch of Liberal politicians; they are catching lots of media headlines, but really it is not all that important, so let us just ignore it and get back to the $20 billion deficit or the carbon tax or something like that.
As tempting as it is to dismiss it all as a bunch of interpersonal wheeling and dealing and a soap opera, let us remember this. There is nothing unique about the water in this country, other than that we have a lot of it. There is nothing intrinsic about us as a Canadian people that distinguishes us from the other peoples of the world. I love Canadians more than any other people, but we are all one species; we are all the same. However, what makes Canada enjoy a superior standard of living is not that we have something special or magical in our water or in our people; it is that we have freedom under the law. This is a law that has applied to every single human being with a beating heart and breathing lungs ever since the Magna Carta in 1215, when King John was forced to submit himself to his subjects and sign into existence the great charter, Magna Carta. He subjected himself, as a king, to following the law.
In that 800 years that has followed, in which the commoners met first in grain fields, hence the green carpet, we here have passed the law, and an independent and separate judiciary has administered that law. It has been a tradition that the Crown and all of the people of the court are subject to the law just like everyone else. That is why, it might be the greatest and most powerful corporation that ever existed, or one might be the wealthiest man on earth, but in the court of law the mighty are made low and everybody is equal. Whether one is a homeless person charged with stealing a loaf of bread, or a wealthy CEO charged with over $100 million of fraud and bribery, as is the case with SNC-Lavalin, everyone must face the law. As soon as we accept that it is normal for a prime minister to pick people who are not subjected to the rules, as soon as we say that there are two laws, one for the people and one for the powerful, then we will be in a new and ugly era where we will replace the rule of law with the law of rulers.
That is not the foundation of our country, and that is not the way we should ever exist in this country. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister has taken us on a very slippery slope with this unprecedented degree of personal and political interference in a criminal probe of SNC-Lavalin.
I have already gone through a very extensive list of offences that members of this company have already plead guilty to and that the company itself now faces in court. That brings us to the present, where the government is trying to distract from the scandal before it by spraying $41 billion of new spending all across the land in the hopes that Canadians will ignore or miss the scandal that is before them today.
A member across the way screamed out, “What about the budget?”, wanting to know why we cannot move on to talking about all of the deficits and the tax increases instead of about the scandal. The answer is that if he wants to talk about something else, there is a very easy way that we can do that: Tell the truth; just let all of the facts come out.
If the Prime Minister had done that at the outset instead of trying to cover it up, instead of stating repeated falsehoods about the affair, if he had stepped up to the plate and revealed everything he had done to interfere with the former attorney general's role and to block the criminal trial for this Liberal-linked corporation, it would have been politically damaging, but at least we would have been able to move forward.
However, as is so often the case, the cover-up is just as bad as or perhaps worse than the crime itself. Hence, here we are today, having to pull facts out of the Prime Minister, one by one, like a rotten tooth. I have a solution, and that is to bring all of the players who are alleged to have interfered with the former attorney general before the justice committee or the ethics committee and have each and every one of them testify under oath about what they did and what they know.
When that happens, we as Canadians will be able to judge what happened and whether the Prime Minister is culpable for making it happen. If he has absolutely nothing to hide, surely he would say yes to this request. At the very least, if he cares at all about the well-being of members on the other side, he would succeed in making me stop this speech, which I know members on the other side are not enjoying at all.
I am told that on this side there is a different opinion. It would probably give the Prime Minister great pleasure to disappoint this group over here by bringing an end to my speech and agreeing to end the cover-up. If he were to simply allow all of the witnesses to come forward, then that would put an end to all of this right now. I await a member of the government rising to his or her feet on a point of order to interrupt my speech and say that they will relent, that they will end the cover-up, that they will open the committees for a full-scale investigation. In that spirit, we could go forward and find out what really occurred.
If I could reiterate, here are some of the things we would like to know. First, the Prime Minister claimed that the former attorney general never warned him that his interference in the SNC-Lavalin scandal was inappropriate. He claimed that he did not know she was so upset; he did not find out about it until after the story broke in The Globe and Mail.
However, we have documented evidence going back to September showing that the former attorney general told the Prime Minister personally, as well as his senior staff, again and again, from September to December, that she was uncomfortable with their inappropriate interference in her role as Attorney General with respect to the SNC-Lavalin criminal trial.
We want to know why the Prime Minister looked 37 million Canadians in the eyes and told them that he knew nothing about the former attorney general's complaints and that it was all news to him. He said that if anyone, including the former attorney general, had issues with anything they might have experienced in this government or did not feel that the government was living up to the high standards it had set for itself, it was their responsibility to come forward, and no one did.
We now know that statement, which was delivered at a press conference on February 15, was patently false. Why will the Prime Minister not come before a parliamentary committee, put his hand on the good book and testify to explain why he would have made a comment like that to 37 million Canadians when he knew it was not true?
Next, we want to know about the inconsistencies in this scandal. The Prime Minister has offered varying and confusing explanations about why the former attorney general was moved out of her position to Veterans Affairs. First of all, it was Scott Brison's fault. Does everyone remember that old line? Scott Brison left as Treasury Board president and so the government had to get rid of its Attorney General. It is a whole intricate story of musical chairs that resulted from this one man leaving, even though she was not the one who replaced him in his job.
Then, last week, we heard a funny new story that the reason the Prime Minister moved the former attorney general was because she wanted to appoint a respected judge to the head of the Supreme Court who was just not Liberal enough. If he had been more Liberal, then the Prime Minister would have been more happy with his Attorney General and would have kept her in that position. That is the latest explanation on why she was moved out as Attorney General.
On and on this story goes. We all know what happened was that after a period of relentless lobbying, the former attorney general refused to grant a special deal to SNC-Lavalin. On December 19, she told the top public servant in the Prime Minister's government that she was waiting for “the other shoe to drop.” She compared it to the Saturday night massacre when Richard Nixon fired his whole staff to try to cover up Watergate.
The former attorney general said that she was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Of course, a month later it did drop. She was moved out as Attorney General after this collision she had with the Prime Minister over his intention to give a special deal to SNC-Lavalin with respect to the criminal charges it faced for fraud and bribery. We want to know the real reason that the Prime Minister moved his Attorney General. Is the Scott Brison story still the current one, or are we now moving on to the story about her picking judges who are not Liberal enough?
The former attorney general has a very simple story, and she has stuck to her story. That story is that she was moved out because she refused to grant a special deal to this company. We want to know the truth in that matter. We want to know about why it was that the chief of staff to the finance minister repeatedly hounded and used threatening language in writing, through text messages we have now seen, to senior staff in the former attorney general's office.
We also want to know about this story regarding jobs. The government initially claimed that the reason the Prime Minister was so eager to prevent criminal charges was that SNC-Lavalin would leave Canada if the charges went ahead.
We now know that is not true. The company has a $1.5-billion loan agreement with the Quebec pension plan requiring that it keep its headquarters in Montreal where, incidentally, it just signed a 20-year lease on its building and is making major renovations to accommodate its roughly 2,000 Montreal employees. We also know that the company has 52 billion dollars' worth of contracts, the five biggest construction projects in the country. Construction projects cannot leave the country because the construction has to be done at the construction site. In other words, it is not possible for SNC-Lavalin to get up and ship out tomorrow if it faces charges, and the CEO of the company has confirmed that he made no such threat.
Finally, the government kept claiming that if the charges went ahead the company would lose access to federal contracts, costing the company billions of dollars and many jobs. We also know that is not true because the government, in December 2015, gave an exemption to SNC-Lavalin, allowing it to continue to bid on federal work even though it had previously been banned because of charges of corruption and bribery. In other words, the government has the ability to extend an exemption to SNC-Lavalin again if the company is convicted of corporate corruption.
Therefore, if it is not about protecting jobs or federal contracts, who exactly is the government protecting with its relentless and endless attempts to get this company out of a trial? It is extraordinary. There are thousands of trials and thousands of charges laid in this country every year, and politicians never get involved in them. It is just not done. If someone comes into one of our offices and says that they have been charged with bank robbery or some other offence and asks for our help, we politely show them the door.
However, this company, accused of stealing $130 million from the world's poorest people, knocks on the door of the Prime Minister's Office and asks if the government can help it get off of these charges and the Prime Minister agrees, not once, not twice but 20 times, to badger and hound his Attorney General to get the company off of the charges.
Now that we know that this was not about protecting jobs, we need to know who the powerful players are who are being protected by the Prime Minister's attempt to block this trial—