House of Commons Hansard #395 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was company.


Revisions to Supplementary Information TablesThe Budget

11:05 a.m.

Waterloo Ontario


Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, on March 19, 2019, the Minister of Finance tabled in this House the budget documents for 2019. Out of respect for Parliament, I wish to table, in both official languages, revisions to supplementary information tables, specifically tables A2.11, A2.12, A2.13 and A2.14, located in annex 2 of budget 2019.

These tables provide detailed supplementary information on the cash requirements of measures announced in budget 2019. The purpose of these tables is to allow the reader to reconcile the budget and main estimates documents. The original budget document tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2019 contained labelling and transcription errors that have since been corrected in this revised version. These corrections do not impact any of the fiscal projections or balances contained in the core budget document, such as the budgetary balance.

The House resumed from January 30 consideration of the motion that Bill C-420, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Official Languages Act and the Canada Business Corporations Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Mario Beaulieu Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will continue my speech on the part of the bill concerning the application of the Charter of the French Language to private-sector businesses under federal jurisdiction.

We have seen that the Official Languages Act, Canada's blueprint for linguistic development, is at odds with Quebec's blueprint, the Charter of the French Language. The Official Languages Act is designed to ensure access to services in both official languages where numbers warrant. It is a model based on the principle of institutional bilingualism founded on individual rights. In every other country in the world that uses this model, the minority languages are being assimilated. That is what is happening in all of the anglophone provinces of Canada, where the assimilation of francophones continues to grow with each passing year.

The only way to ensure the future of a language is to make it the common public language in a given geographic area. For instance, here in Ottawa, two people with different linguistic or cultural backgrounds will naturally communicate in English, because English is the common language in most of Canada. What is not accepted here in English Canada, and does not seem to be accepted by any Quebec MP from a national party, is the idea that French could be the common public language in Quebec, meaning people with different linguistic backgrounds would communicate in French in the workplace. The Charter of the French Language was created to guarantee the right to work in French and to make French the common language at work.

We saw how the member who chairs the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights reacted to that. He got very upset and said the Bloc Québécois wants anglophones in Quebec to have fewer rights than other Canadians. From our perspective, that is astounding. I think what he meant to say was that he thinks anglophones in Quebec should have the right to speak only English, just like other Canadians. Only 9% of anglophones in English Canada can speak French, so the only way to ensure the survival of French in Quebec is to make it the common tongue. Sadly, not even federalist parties are on board with that idea.

Another member told us about a 2013 Government of Canada study on language of work in federally regulated businesses. According to the study, some 170,000 employees work in federally regulated workplaces—about 35,000 of them in Crown corporations and 135,000 in private businesses. Those workers have no recourse under the Official Languages Act or the Charter of the French Language. They have fewer rights than other Quebeckers when it comes to working in French. We have shared stats about this.

The other problem is that since the Official Languages Act seeks to provide services in French where numbers warrant, which does not work, the shift to English has been steadily growing in every province—even in Quebec, in some places. The data is therefore being misrepresented. Linguistic indicators are being created because they are supposedly more inclusive. We see that in the reform proposed by the Minister of Official Languages. The indicators are being changed in order to make it appear as though there are more francophones than there really are.

Naturally, there will be no complaints from the francophone and Acadian communities, because they have the numbers that warrant services in French. However, instead of changing the very principle in the legislation that jeopardizes the future of French in Canada and Quebec, the government is changing the linguistic indicators, which paints a far rosier picture. The study before us concludes that a majority of Quebeckers can work in French. That is not at all what common language is about.

Various indicators show that the use of French increased as the common language in the workplace and as the primary language of work, specifically after Bill 101 passed and until sometime in the 1980s. It was then that the Charter of the French Language was weakened considerably, and the federal government was the main culprit, since it funded lobby groups that sought to weaken the Charter of the French Language.

In private sector businesses across Quebec, the percentage of the labour force working generally in French was 70.8% in 1989 and 59.7% in 2010. On the island of Montreal, it was 45.3% in 1989 and 32.1% in 2010.

If all the data presented in the study are analyzed properly, it is clear that French is definitely not the common language in Quebec workplaces. The federal government is one of the main obstacles, if not the primary obstacle, to ensuring that French is the language of work, the common language in the workplace. We in the Bloc Québécois have been fighting for that since day one of our party's existence.

I see this as absolutely essential and I can think of a number of examples. I meet people in my riding who work for government bodies or private sector companies and who cannot work in French.

We will see how open the members here are to this. Since French does not appear to be all that important, and if this bill does not pass, we will turn to the Quebec government and suggest that it try to ensure that all federally regulated companies are subject to Bill 101.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise this morning in support of Bill C-420. I want to thank the member for his work on the bill he has introduced today in the House.

This is an opportunity for me to set the record straight on something he just said. The member for La Pointe-de-l'Île painted all federalist parties with the same brush, but the NDP is a very strong ally with respect to Quebec's claims in Ottawa. This has been our trademark for many years, since well before the 2011 orange wave. This was a focus and priority for our leader, Jack Layton.

We continue to recognize the Quebec nation. The NDP has what we call the Sherbrooke declaration, and I encourage my Bloc Québécois colleagues to read it. The Sherbrooke declaration presents our vision of Quebec within Canada as a partner with rights. The declaration also recognizes Quebec's distinctiveness. I simply wanted to correct my colleague on this.

I remind members that not only do I support Bill C-420, but many of my colleagues in the 42nd Parliament have also introduced similar measures. It goes without saying that I support this bill from my Bloc Québécois colleague and, in particular, the part that deals with anti-scab legislation.

My colleague from Jonquière introduced a similar bill, an identical one in fact. She wrote the part of Bill C-420 that refers to scabs. She very eloquently promoted this initiative to prevent the use of scabs in our country. She also wanted to provide unions with tools to defend themselves in dealing with employers who replace striking workers and violate the right to bargaining and the right to strike. The Bloc Québécois knows it can count on the support of the NDP on that point.

My colleague from Jonquière did not propose this initiative for nothing. She gave it her all. She involved many others in her work, including unions. Unfortunately, the government dismissed out of hand the idea of adopting anti-scab legislation. That is not surprising, when we consider that soon afterward, the Liberals passed special legislation forcing Canada Post workers back to work. That is no coincidence.

The Liberals never side with workers, even when they have the opportunity to do so. Instead, they side with employers, as we have seen. These are two examples that show that the Liberal government may talk a good game, but when it comes time to act, it always sides with employers. Whether they are voting against anti-scab legislation or passing back-to-work legislation to prevent strikes and collective bargaining, the Liberals always side with the employer.

The second part of the bill seeks to offer pregnant women rights similar to those enjoyed by women in Quebec who do not work for federally regulated businesses, namely the right to preventive withdrawal when they are pregnant or nursing. When their work is considered hazardous to the health of their unborn or nursing baby, women should have the right to preventive withdrawal. It goes without saying that we support such an initiative.

My colleagues from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie and Abitibi—Témiscamingue both introduced similar initiatives, which shows that we agree on this point. Not only do I support this bill, but my NDP colleagues introduced similar initiatives.

Many employers in Quebec fall under federal jurisdiction, including banks, airports, airlines and ports.

There are many other examples, particularly in the telecommunications sector, which employs many Quebeckers. This therefore affects a lot of people. We sometimes tend to think that only a small number of people are involved. However, when we count them all up, we realize that many of our fellow citizens would fall under this law, which would improve on the rights they currently enjoy.

The other aspect of this bill governing businesses under federal jurisdiction is the application of the right to work in French in Quebec. Naturally, this is an initiative that we support. I will give an example to remind our Bloc Québécois colleagues that we support them. Our NDP colleague, the member for Trois-Rivières, introduced a similar bill to give francophones the right to work in their language in Quebec in federally regulated businesses. Unfortunately, this bill was rejected by the government in 2012, even though our colleague also fought hard for it.

Those are a few examples of the NDP's support for Quebeckers, the protection of the French language and the protection of workers' rights. This shows that we can rally behind the Bloc Québécois bill.

This bill is a step in the right direction, and we hope the other parties in the House will support it. NDP members who have introduced similar initiatives know what it is like to run up against fierce opposition from both Conservative and Liberal governments. Those two parties joined forces against NDP members every time we introduced those initiatives.

I hope the Bloc Québécois's initiative will win the Conservative and Liberal support we never got. I wish the Bloc the best of luck because it will need that support to get this bill passed.

We know how the House of Commons works, how voting works. I hope the Bloc Québécois will find many Liberal and Conservative supporters. My point is that not all federal parties are the same. As a federal party, the NDP is special and unique in that it not only recognizes Quebec, but gives it the rights, powers and abilities it needs to develop its skills, its identity and its distinct character within Canada.

This is a good opportunity for me to support this bill and the workers who deserve our support now more than ever. In fact, workers all too often continue to find themselves under attack by their employers. Their rights are violated every day in the workplace. All too often, the workers whose rights are being violated by their employer have to deal with a government that does not listen to them. When it comes time to defend these workers, successive governments have sided with employers, large corporations and multinationals, who all have the ear of the Prime Minister when they knock on his door.

This was the case on a recent file that I will not name. When a multinational knocks on the Prime Minister's door, the response is quick, and tough measures are quickly put in place to help. Inappropriate pressure is even used to get things done for these corporations and multinationals. That is what is happening in the office of the current Liberal Prime Minister, who is very quick to respond to requests from multinationals and large corporations. When employees of companies like Sears or GM need help from their government, they are told to wait and that the government will get around to them at some point. Meanwhile, when the heads of large corporations knock at the door, they get immediate assistance.

I congratulate my Bloc Québécois colleague. We will gladly support him, as we did in the past with our own initiatives regarding workers' rights and the French language in Quebec.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, I know my friend, the parliamentary secretary for labour, is particularly looking forward to my remarks today. It is great to be back in the House.

Bill C-420 deals with a number of different issues. It is, in a certain sense, an omnibus bill dealing with various aspects of labour relations, and I thank the member for bringing it forward.

I am going to be highlighting a number of the issues in the bill and speaking to them. I will not speak about all of the issues, but I will speak to a few of them, and specifically the issues of preventive withdrawal and the ban on replacement workers.

It might not surprise members to find that the proposed ban on replacement workers is a deal breaker for us. However, there are some interesting ideas in the bill that I will speak to in the area of preventive withdrawal.

Banning replacement workers would have a significant negative impact on the economy, and particularly on remote communities, which rely on the access that small trucking companies, for example, might provide. They would be negatively impacted if there were no recourse that an employer could use in bringing supplies to those communities.

I will speak first to the issue of preventive withdrawal in the bill. This addresses the case of a pregnant woman in the workplace who, concerned about the impact on her health and safety and on the health and safety of her unborn child, wishes to withdraw from her workplace in order to avoid exposures or situations that would cause a health issue for either of them. This issue being explored in Bill C-420 is similar to a discussion that the House had, I believe on an NDP private member's bill, Bill C-345, which only dealt at that time with the issue of preventive withdrawal.

The fundamental issue at play here is that in the province of Quebec, there is the opportunity for women in this situation to access paid leave, but in the rest of the country and in the federal jurisdiction, only unpaid leave is available.

The first step is that a woman in this situation would seek reassignment. If no reassignment were available, then she would leave the workplace. In the provincially regulated area in Quebec, there is an opportunity to access paid leave that does not exist within the federally regulated workplace in Quebec or elsewhere in other jurisdictions in the country. Bill C-345 would have created an opportunity to align the federally regulated rules in the province where the work is taking place with the provincial rules that exist.

At the time of the debate on Bill C-345, Conservatives supported the bill. We share in principle the objective of making sure that women and unborn children have the maximum opportunity to be safe. We recognize the challenging situation that may emerge when people feel there is a risk to their health and safety but have concerns about whether economically they are able to withdraw from the workplace in that situation.

Bill C-345 did not pass because it was opposed by the government. When I spoke to the bill at that time, I mentioned that the bill raised a number of different issues that maybe could have been further discussed and worked out in committee.

There was a question of alignment in general between different jurisdictions. We have a federally regulated and provincially regulated labour force, depending on the sector. This can lead to a situation in which people in the same community are operating under different rules. Some are working in a federally regulated sector and some are working in a provincially regulated sector. That is a reality of the way that the system works, and maybe this causes consternation in cases in which people do not have access to the same opportunities within their communities that others do.

I pointed out at the time, of course, that there are going to be alignment issues either way. If a bill like Bill C-345 had passed, we would have had an alignment issue in which in one province the federally regulated workforce would have been treated differently from the way the federally regulated workforce would have been treated elsewhere.

I argued at the time, and I think it is still the case, that there are other possible ways we need to talk about supporting women in this situation. We would not want people to be in a workplace where their health and safety were threatened, certainly at a time of relative greater physical vulnerability and the vulnerability of a developing child in the womb.

These are issues that require our attention. That is why we supported Bill C-345 at the time. Those provisions are incorporated into Bill C-420. However, we are not supportive of this bill, not because of those provisions but because the issue of the proposed ban on replacement workers really is a deal breaker for us.

There are situations where employers and workers are negotiating and the negotiations break down, and that leads to a strike. Strikes involve costs for everyone involved. They involve costs for workers, who are without the opportunity to work and earn an income for the period of time of the strike. There is a cost for the employer. There is a cost for the public, which is not able, for that period of time, potentially, to access that service or to access it in the same way.

The right to strike certainly is very important. It is fundamental. It is a tool that incentivizes and pushes both sides to dialogue. The way we calibrate the rules around the use of that tool are important to ensure the greatest level of balance and the greatest incentive to dialogue. However, the proposal to completely ban the possibility of using replacement workers in any situation is, from our perspective, too extreme.

Hiring replacement workers, for most employers in most situations, is not an easy thing to do. It is not as if the possibility to do that leads employers, in the vast majority of cases, to be totally casual about the need to come to terms with their workers through good dialogue. However, one can imagine, in the federally regulated sector, a small trucking company, for example, that has contracts and deadlines to meet and is vulnerable to going out of business if there is no alternative in the event of a work stoppage.

With respect to the impact on people who rely on those services, we can imagine a situation where remote communities rely on the work of small trucking companies and small airline companies, the people who are shipping resources in. The lack of any possibility of having replacement workers in any of those situations creates a real vulnerability for those communities in terms of getting essential resources in.

Generally speaking, when we have seen changes to the Canada Labour Code, we have sought to move forward with them in a way that reflects discussion and consensus among the different stakeholders, including the representatives of labour and the representatives of business. This recognizes the reality that there is a need for balance. We cannot, by tipping the pendulum too far the other way, create a significant disincentive around investment. If such a disincentive were created, I am concerned that it would lead to less investment in Canada and less investment in new business. The results of that would be worse for employers as well. When we have strong, growing, thriving businesses, that creates more demand for labour and puts labour in a stronger position.

In my home province of Alberta, we see a situation where the province is really booming. Labour has great opportunity to choose between different employers. Wages go up dramatically, because there is a shortage of labour. Business is demanding labour, which is driven by the strength of that economy. Because of that provision, the Conservatives have to oppose this.

Briefly, on another matter, I want to note that a number of MPs recently spoke to a young man who is on a hunger strike in Toronto to highlight violations of human rights in Turkey, violations in particular that target the Kurdish community. He described the experience of growing up in Turkey, where his ability to live freely and identify as a Kurd was denied to him, and the many problems associated with that. I want to acknowledge that important issue. It is my hope that this hunger strike will now come to an end. We encourage those who have concerns for human rights to fortify their physical strength so they can continue to be a voice for justice on this issue and I hope members will continue to highlight these human rights violations targeting Kurds and others in Turkey.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

April 1st, 2019 / 11:30 a.m.

Cape Breton—Canso Nova Scotia


Rodger Cuzner LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment

Madam Speaker, I am happy to join this debate on Bill C-420. I had to check my prepared text. I actually agreed with a number of points my colleague across the way made. I wanted to make sure that we had it right in the text.

I would like to use my time to speak about the current situation and where we are with the three prominent issues that arise from this piece of legislation: the use of replacement workers, the situation for pregnant and nursing employees, and the Charter of the French Language in Quebec. Through my comments I hope I will be able to share with the chamber and with colleagues the concerns the government has with this piece of legislation.

Let us start with replacement workers. The Canada Labour Code balances a union's right to strike with an employer's right to attempt to continue operating despite a work stoppage. The current provisions in part 1 of the code already limit the use of replacement workers. Indeed, federally regulated employers cannot use replacement workers to undermine a union's representational capacity. In fact, federally regulated private sector employers rarely use replacement workers. More often, management, supervisors and other non-bargaining personnel are reassigned to take the place of striking workers.

The current provisions in the code related to replacement workers are the result of a broad and comprehensive review that represents a carefully crafted compromise between the interests of employers and the interests of trade unions that could not be achieved through a private member's bill or through the private member's bill process.

In the past, both labour and employer organizations have been highly critical of changes being made to federal labour relations legislation through the use of private member's bills without prior consultation with all stakeholders.

The Canadian Labour Congress has said in the past:

...we urge the federal government to stop the introduction of one-off changes to the Canada Labour Code. Amendments should not be made through private members' bills. They should be made with concerted pre-legislative consultation that engages employers, unions and government.

Members who were in the House at the time will remember that one of the first actions our government took was to repeal the Conservative private member's bills Bill C-377 and Bill C-525, which upset the balance of rights and responsibilities between federally regulated employers and unions.

Good labour relations are a key element of an economic system, and indeed, of the prosperity of this country. If legislative changes are to be considered for part 1 of the code, let us do it the right way, through real and meaningful consultation and engagement with unions, employers and all stakeholders.

The current provision in the code was achieved through a thorough and meaningful tripartite process. It strikes a balance between the interests of unions and the interests of employers. It allows each side to exercise pressure on the other. If passed, Bill C-420 could upset that balance.

Regarding pregnant and nursing employees, the code currently contains provisions that give a pregnant or nursing employee the right to ask to be reassigned or to have her job modified, without loss of pay or benefits, if there is a risk to her health or the health of the fetus or the child. If a reassignment is not possible, the woman may take a leave of absence for the duration of that risk.

Also, an employee may be entitled to leave with pay to obtain a medical certificate or while waiting for her employer to respond to a reassignment request. Any additional leave is without pay. However, the employee may be entitled to benefits under an insurance plan or a sick leave program provided by the employer or to benefits through the employment insurance program.

As mentioned by my colleague across the way, the fact is that currently only Quebec specifically offers preventative withdrawal job protection with wage replacement for pregnant and nursing women.

If passed, Bill C-420 would put pressure on provinces and territories that do not have preventative withdrawal provisions. Moreover, our government is already supporting another related private member's bill, Bill C-243, an act respecting the development of a national maternity assistance program strategy, which was passed in the House June 14, 2017, and is currently being studied by the other place.

The purpose of Bill C-243 is to consult on the development and implementation of a national maternity assistance program strategy. The objective is to support women who are unable to work due to pregnancy and whose employer is unable to accommodate them by providing reassignment. If Bill C-243 passes, it would require consultations with provincial and territorial governments and other stakeholders. It is reasonable to believe that the results of such consultations would have an impact on the mechanism proposed in Bill C-420.

Finally, I will speak about the Charter of the French Language in Quebec. In 1982, the Constitution Act enshrined English and French as Canada's official languages. It also provided that they have equality of status in all institutions of Parliament and of the Government of Canada.

Two separate statutes regulate the language of work in Quebec: the Charter of the French Language, enacted 1997, and federally, the Official Languages Act, enacted in 1969 and revised in 1988.

While the government is sensitive to the preference of francophone Quebeckers to work in French, there is little documented evidence that francophones face difficulties working in French in federally regulated private enterprises in Quebec. In fact, according to the 2016 census in Quebec, an increasing number of workers whose mother tongue is English or another language use French as their main language at work or equally with English. About 48% of workers whose mother tongue is another language primarily used French at work in 2016. That is compared to 46.5% in 2006. Similarly, about 25% of workers whose mother tongue is English mainly used French at work in 2016, compared to 23% in 2006. That is an increase in both measurements. Moreover, the federal labour program has never received a complaint from a federally regulated private sector employee in Quebec concerning an inability to work in French. Indeed, in 2013, a government report concluded that these employees are generally able to work in French in their workplaces.

One last thing I must point out is that corporations active in Quebec, including those incorporated under the Canada Business Corporations Act, are already required, under provincial law, to comply with the Charter of the French Language, which includes having a French name when registering to carry on business in Quebec.

There we have it: Canada's current position when it comes to replacement workers, pregnant and nursing employees and the Charter of the French Language in Quebec. Now that members can see the full picture, they can understand why the government cannot support Bill C-420.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Monique Pauzé Bloc Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, I will be very brief, but I just want to give a few real-life examples of the effects of my colleague's bill.

First of all, my colleague from La Pointe-de-l’Île gave a great presentation on the French language. The only thing he may have left out, something I think my Liberal colleague would be interested to hear, is that he got a visit from a worker who has a job on the West Island of Montreal. This worker had exhausted all his options and was still unable to work in French. This bill would fix that problem.

The bill also addresses the issue of what is known as anti-scab legislation in Quebec. The House may recall that on December 1, 2010, a hotel in Thetford Mines that was barred from hiring replacement or volunteer workers came to an agreement with its employees. That is another example of how my colleague's bill would have a positive impact. The Bloc Québécois has introduced anti-scab legislation many times. I believe that, on several occasions, the bill even reached third reading. It eventually failed because the Liberals voted against it. A few Liberal members did vote in favour of such a bill at the time, including Denis Coderre, Pablo Rodriguez and Marcel Proulx.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Order. I wish to remind the member that she must not refer to members of the House by name, but rather by riding.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Monique Pauzé Bloc Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, I just realized it when I saw you rising.

There have been dozens of votes on this issue, but the House of Commons has never managed to pass a bill such as this. Some sectors, for example telecommunications, are under federal jurisdiction. Quebec workers with jobs in this sector are not protected by anti-scab legislation. Thus, there are two classes of workers in Quebec: those protected by this type of law and those who are not. The bill sponsored by my colleague from Mirabel would ensure that everyone has the same rights.

My last remarks will be about preventive withdrawal. On international women's rights day, I held a meeting in my riding where we discussed women's rights, which vary depending on whether the job is in an area under federal or provincial jurisdiction in Quebec. Women were surprised to learn that they do not all have the same rights in Quebec. Women in federally regulated workplaces including, of course, the federal government and crown corporations, do not have the right to preventive withdrawal. This means all women who work for the federal government and its departments. There are also certain organizations that fall under a department, such as Bell Canada and national Canadian banks. There are several of them. In Quebec, women such as those I mentioned earlier do not all have the same rights. The bill introduced by my colleague would ensure that everyone in Quebec would have the same rights.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The hon. member for Mirabel has a five-minute right of reply.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


Simon Marcil Bloc Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, two weeks ago, on the International Day of La Francophonie, the parties here were all so proud of the French language. We were treated to solemn declarations, videos and Internet memes. We even heard Yves Duteil's lyrics quoted in the House of Commons. I could not believe my ears. I am not making this up. One would have thought Camille Laurin had been resurrected and elected to sit here in Ottawa.

Just 24 hours later, however, the Liberals and Conservatives were hard at work preventing hundreds of thousands of Quebeckers from doing their jobs in their preferred language, French. The theatrics should come as no surprise. Everyone here in Ottawa is quick to stand up for French, except when the time comes to bring in meaningful measures that make a difference in the real world. The major Canadian political parties want to vote down Bill C-420, which I am honoured to have introduced on behalf of the Bloc Québécois. It has one simple objective: to bring the federal government into the 21st century. With this bill, we are defending the rights of all workers in Quebec to work in our common language, French, Quebec's only official language.

To the other parties, allowing Quebeckers to work in French in Quebec is too much to ask. To the government it is even shameful. The Liberals told us in the House that French at work in Quebec was shameful. Bill C-420 establishes that it was not only not shameful, but a rather logical societal choice for workers in Quebec to work in the language of Quebec on Quebec soil. Bill C-420 also seeks to protect workers' freedom of expression by preventing federally regulated companies from using replacement workers. If the government wants to talk about something shameful, I would say that it is not French in the workplace, but rather the use of scabs during disputes, and with Ottawa's blessing, to boot.

The 1950s are long gone and the Bloc Québécois wants to stop the use of scabs at the federal level, but the Canadian parties are opposed to this, as usual. It is no surprise to see the Conservatives stuck in the past, since they are all about staying in the past. I was sure that earlier my Conservative colleague was going to confidently announce that the Earth is flat. However, the Liberals' insistence on maintaining working conditions that are straight out of the last century says a lot about the way Canadians view labour relations. Clearly, the people who want to move Quebec forward cannot expect much from the House of Commons.

Speaking of being firmly stuck in the past, I must also talk about how the federal government is lagging behind on gender equality, which means that Quebec women are discriminated against when they must use the preventive withdrawal program. Bill C-420 will ensure that the pregnant women who need this program can do what is in the best interests of their health and their baby's health without being penalized.

Ottawa penalizes Quebec women who work in federally regulated workplaces. They are the only ones who cannot avail themselves of Quebec's parental leave plan, even though they work in Quebec. All Quebec women are entitled to at least 90% of their salary in the event of preventive withdrawal, except federally regulated employees. These women receive just 55% of their salary, which is essentially half. Furthermore, they are not eligible for employment insurance. Two-thirds of women overall do not even have access to the program.

Women should be encouraged to protect their safety and that of their babies, not penalized for it. Nevertheless, my colleagues from other parties are going to vote for the opposite, as usual. That is on them. I know that the NDP proposed similar amendments and bills, but I am talking about the Conservatives and the Liberals. It is always the same thing with them in any case. Perhaps we should arrange for their women voters to get wind of this.

In short, the Liberals and the Conservatives are, as usual, going to vote against the following three principles: workers' language rights, their right to strike and the rights of women workers. The fact is that Quebeckers are not getting what they need from Ottawa. They are not getting what they need from elected officials who are out of touch with the reality in Quebec.

The Bloc Québécois believes that Quebec has everything to gain by voting for representatives who understand Quebec and who understand that, in Quebec, we take the side of workers, not the side of employers. We always come down on the side of French, particularly when it requires political courage. That is what Quebeckers want. They want elected officials who speak for the people in the federal Parliament, not officials who speak for Parliament to the people.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

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

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Some hon. members



Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

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

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Some hon. members


Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

All those opposed will please say nay.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Some hon. members


Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, April 3, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

Suspension of SittingCanada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

We will now suspend until noon.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:52 a.m.)

(The House resumed at 12 p.m.)

February 25 Meeting of Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration—Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderPrivate Members' Business



The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I am now ready to rule on the point of order raised on February 28, 2019, by the hon. member for Calgary Nose Hill concerning events that occurred at meetings of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration on February 25 and 27, 2019.

I want to thank the hon. member for Calgary Nose Hill for having raised the matter and the member for Don Valley West for his comments.

In her intervention, the member for Calgary Nose Hill explained the circumstances that gave rise to her point of order. That is, on February 25, the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration was debating a motion when the chair of the committee suspended the meeting to allow members to vote in the House, indicating at the time that the meeting would resume after the vote. However, as the member stated, when they returned, they “waited [for] some time for the quorum to be met, which never occurred.” The chair then left the room without either resuming or adjourning the meeting. Consequently, in response to a point of order raised at their next meeting, the chair confirmed that the meeting had indeed been adjourned. Upon appeal, that decision was upheld.

Contending that the adjournment was a unilateral and prohibited decision of the committee chair, the member for Calgary Nose Hill made it clear that the premise of her objections was twofold. That is, committees do not have any authority to act beyond the powers granted to them by the House and, specifically, they cannot circumvent, even indirectly, Standing Order 116(2).

To answer these objections, and in fact determine the authority of the Speaker in this matter, a comprehensive understanding of not only the words found in Standing Order 116(2) but also of its scope and applicability is important, particularly since this is the first instance in which this Standing Order has been invoked.

Standing Order 116(2) states:

(a) Unless a time limit has been adopted by the committee or by the House, the Chair of a standing, special or legislative committee may not bring a debate to an end while there are members present who still wish to participate. A decision of the Chair in this regard may not be subject to an appeal to the committee.

(b) A violation of paragraph (a) of this section may be brought to the attention of the Speaker by any Member and the Speaker shall have the power to rule on the matter. If, in the opinion of the Speaker, such a violation has occurred, the Speaker may order that all subsequent proceedings in relation to the said violation be nullified.

While the language of this rule is unambiguous, the Chair must, as always, understand and consider carefully the meaning, and even intention, behind the words. In other words, what was the purpose of adding this standing order to our rules or what new expectations or parameters does it bring? Essentially, it seems to the Chair that this new rule is intended to safeguard debate in committee from a procedural hijacking, so to speak, that would permanently end debate on a motion.

Before its introduction, members could have, for example, forced a debate on a debatable motion by moving the previous question, which is not procedurally permissible in committee, thus requiring committee chairs to rule it out of order. A challenge of such a ruling could have resulted in its being overturned, thereby forcing the chair to put an end to debate and depriving members of the opportunity to further deliberate on a question.

At the very core of this new provision, then, stands the desire to allow committee members to participate fully in their deliberations without being unduly stopped from debating matters until their natural conclusion. Defence of this mattered to the extent that it was, in fact, fortified with a recourse, and a new authority for the Speaker, in the event of a clear violation.

However, this is not to be interpreted as being applicable in all instances of debate ending in committee. For instance, on occasions when a committee adjourns before deliberations are concluded or agrees to a motion to adjourn debate on a question, a permanent end to the debate is not triggered in the matter outlined in Standing Order 116(2); rather, debate on the matter is still permissible and may come back before the committee at a future date to be determined by either the chair or the committee.

To answer whether the matter now before the House is one which Standing Order 116(2) was intended to address, as Speaker, I have scrutinized the evidence and minutes of the February 25 and 27 meetings of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.

It is my view that the manner in which the meeting of February 25 was adjourned was procedurally sound as it was due to a lack of quorum, a fact avowed by the member for Calgary Nose Hill. This is a pivotal factor since the debate on the motion did not end permanently in consequence. In fact, the motion being debated at the time by the committee remains unresolved and may be taken up again at a later date. Accordingly, Standing Order 116(2) does not apply in these circumstances and, as Speaker, I am unable to intervene as provided for in this new standing order.

The remaining question then is whether the committee's proceedings strayed outside the powers granted to it by the House, the sole body able to grant them. The fact that committees are generally the masters of their proceedings is in no way diminished by Standing Order 116(2). Consequently, barring a report from a committee, the Speaker will not usually intervene in committee matters. From the evidence presented in this instance, the Chair is unable to conclude that the circumstances are exceptional enough to warrant an intervention, without the House having been seized of the matter by way of a report from the committee, as is the usual practice.

I thank all hon. members for their attention.

The House resumed from March 19 consideration of the motion that this House approve in general the budgetary policy of the government.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address the cover-up budget. Now of course the Liberal government is heading into an election. I hear applause from across the way, but I am not sure they will be applauding after they get the verdict of the people. A “verdict” is an appropriate term, though, because of course we are dealing with a very serious set of allegations and apparent corruption emanating from the SNC-Lavalin scandal.

I call it the cover-up budget because the government has decided to use the old Kathleen Wynne three-step. Step one is a massive scandal. Step two is massive deficit spending to distract from it, and step three is massive tax increases after the election to pay for it all. We know that the Kathleen Wynne three-step was designed by none other than Gerald Butts, the former PMO puppet master who recently resigned in disgrace over the SNC-Lavalin scandal.

Going into this budget, the government was obviously overtaken by the public frenzy around revelations that the Prime Minister interfered in a criminal trial to help a Liberal-linked company get off charges. The Liberal government splashed $41 billion of new spending around, in order to distract from it all. The Liberals will be quick to point out that $41 billion is just if one uses cash accounting. We can use accrual accounting and it works out to $23 billion.

However, the bottom line is this. The Prime Minister has broken his promise of balancing the budget this year. He is planning, in fact, to add even more to the national deficit next year. All of this is part of a scheme to spray billions of dollars at Canadian voters to distract them from the scandal before the election and then raise their taxes to pay for it after the election.

In order to understand the cover-up budget, one needs to understand the scandal that it attempts to hide. Let me turn my attention now to that. Before I do, though, I will point out that we are returning full circle because this scandal started with the last budget. The government introduced budget 2018, which made vague reference to addressing corporate crime. It seemed to be rather benign, possibly even something that all parties could support. Everyone is against corporate crime after all, or so we thought.

Then when we were sitting in a finance committee meeting, nearing midnight, going through the nearly 500 pages of omnibus budget legislation that flowed out of the 2018 budget, we stumbled on something that surprised us. It was an amendment to the Criminal Code. Everyone in the room was shocked, including the Liberals.

The Liberal member for Hull—Aylmer looked at it and said that it did not smell right and looked like we were giving a “slap on the wrist” to large-scale corporate criminals. I could paraphrase a colourful quote. He said, “if I steal $10, I'm in trouble, but if I steal $10 million, I can work this out”. That was the impression he got from amendments the finance minister introduced to the Criminal Code in his budget.

The chairman of the committee, a lifelong Liberal and a devoted partisan member, said on the record that he thought it was inappropriate that such an amendment to the Criminal Code would find its way into a budget bill and that we would discuss changes to criminal penalties at the finance committee rather than at the justice committee where the Criminal Code is normally debated and addressed.

Throughout all of this debate, the question mark that kept appearing in everybody's mind was who was asking for this. Why were they trying to amend the Criminal Code in the budget? Who is behind this change?

Obviously, somebody must want it, or the government would not have gone through so much trouble to draft such an amendment. We would find out later on exactly who was driving this change. It was SNC-Lavalin.

A story appeared in February, in The Globe and Mail, saying that the Prime Minister and his team had personally and politically interfered with the former attorney general in order to get her to extend a special deal to SNC-Lavalin that would shelve the charges of fraud and bribery in order to allow the company to go on with business as usual. Budget 2018 had made that possible. It had created something called deferred prosecution agreements. Essentially, these agreements allow companies to avoid trial or prosecution, and even conviction, if they fess up, apologize, pay a fine and promise not to do it again.

Of course, if a homeless guy is charged with stealing a loaf of bread, he has no similar approach he can take. He cannot simply knock on the Prime Minister's door and ask if he would mind calling the Attorney General, who will call a Crown attorney and agree to set aside the charges as long as the guy gives back the bread and promises not to steal it again. That does not exist for other people. However, the Liberal government has created this special deal available to powerful corporate criminals in cases, apparently, like this one.

The amendment to the Criminal Code gave very specific criteria against which any corporation's desire to have such a deal must be judged. Canada's top prosecutor, known as the director of public prosecutions, considered SNC-Lavalin's request for such a deal against the criteria in the Criminal Code and the facts of the case. She concluded that SNC-Lavalin did not qualify for a deferred prosecution agreement.

Some of the factors she would have considered are the following. Did the company voluntarily tell authorities of its crimes? The answer is no. The company was caught when one of its officials was charged in Switzerland and ultimately found guilty of crimes in that country. That was what led authorities in Canada to learn that the crime had happened, not a voluntary disclosure from corporate executives to the Canadian government. Second is the severity of the offence. Was this a minor offence, an oversight or a small failing that could be treated with a minor penalty? The answer to that is no.

Let me turn my attention now to that particular issue. There has been this racist undertone to the story. People have said, sure, SNC-Lavalin might have bought prostitutes and other gifts for the Gadhafis. Sure, the Gadhafis got free yachts, but that is just the way things are done in those countries over there. People should just understand that if Canadian businesses are going to do commerce abroad, this is the kind of muck they are going to have to get into. So goes the argument.

This case is not just about the sordid examples of bribery, as disgusting as those are. It is also about fraud, which is the other allegation the company faces in Canadian courts in this particular matter, fraud of the Libyan people in amounts totalling $130 million. I do not know about you, Madam Speaker, but I think that stealing from poor people is a pretty miserable way to make money, and our justice system should not treat such crimes as minor affairs because “that is just the way things are done over there”.

The reason so many of these countries are so poor is precisely because of such parasitical corruption that drains the national wealth, empties the pockets of taxpaying citizens in those countries without giving them anything in return, forces them to pay every time they want to go about their business and live their daily lives, and creates a massive imbalance of power in favour of those who have money to pay bribes and against those who do not.

To those people who say that this is just the way things are done over there, we should never accept that this is the way things are done. That is why we signed on to international conventions against fraud and corruption, because we wanted to put an end to those practices so that the people in countries like Libya could turn their destinies around and build prosperous societies based on the honest and legal flow of commerce. As long as wealthy western corporations believe they can go with impunity into poor countries and bribe the leaders to steal from the people, those people will always live in poverty, and that poverty will be partly our fault if we are complicit in it or if we fail to punish those who carry it out.

The reason we have international conventions is that the traditional practice of many corporations was to go in, pillage and plunder, and then leave before local authorities could prosecute them, going back to western countries, where they continued to operate with impunity. In other words, if companies like SNC-Lavalin are not prosecuted over here, they will continue to carry out the alleged crimes we witnessed in this case over and over again, and countless people in the poorest countries in the world will forever pay the price.

We, as Conservatives, do not accept that this is the way business is done. We will ensure that while Canadian businesses should have the legitimate right to do well by doing good, to trade with the world, and to grow and prosper, they shall never make a buck by stealing from the world's poor.

Let me go into the specifics of the allegations of fraud and bribery that SNC faces in Canadian courts today, the specifics of the case that the Prime Minister tried to set aside by pressuring his former attorney general to sign a special deal with that company. I will go through it, starting with a quote by Global News:

In 2015, the RCMP charged SNC-Lavalin, along with its international division, with corruption and fraud in relation with their business dealings in Libya.

The RCMP said officials at the company attempted to bribe several public officials in the country, including dictator Moammar Gadhafi, as well as other businesses in Libya.

RCMP officials said SNC-Lavalin also lied to Libyan companies to defraud them of nearly $130 million.

The Financial Post wrote:

SNC and its subsidiaries SNC-Lavalin Construction Inc. and SNC-Lavalin International Inc. are also alleged to have defrauded various Libyan public agencies of approximately $129.8 million.

I quote further from the Financial Post:

According to police, Ben Aissa established a scheme in which two companies, Duvel Securities and Dinova International, billed SNC roughly $127 million for helping the firm win dozens of major contracts in Libya during the 2000s. In fact, Swiss and Canadian police say, Duvel and Dinova were shell companies controlled by Ben Aissa. The money—including US$1.5 million spent on a yacht for Saadi Gaddafi—was used to bribe Libyan officials and pad the bank accounts of Ben Aissa and Mr. Bebawi, who left SNC in 2006.

I quote from Global News, again:

In Switzerland, an ex-senior employee from SNC-Lavalin pleaded guilty to fraud, corruption and money laundering in relation to his business in Libya in 2014—before the RCMP charges. Riadh Ben Aissa acknowledged in court that he bribed Saadi Gadhafi, son of Libya’s late dictator Moammar Gadhafi, so SNC could win contracts.

I quote from the National Post:

Receipts gathered during an investigation of a former SNC-Lavalin executive show $30,000 in payments to Saadi Gadhafi for sexual services in Canada.... Transactions they wrote in as “companion services” in their expense reports would cost between $600 and $7,500 each. Close to $10,000 in services went to a single escort service in Vancouver. Other payments went to a Montreal strip club and covered events at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, such as box seats for a Spice Girls concert.

It is very easy to dismiss some of this salacious bribery as just part of a broader soap opera, that obviously the participants in this behaviour might be morally corrupt themselves, but at the end of the day some will ask, “What is the overall problem that we are trying to address?”

I would bring attention back to the earlier excerpts that I read, and I am going to read it again. The reason for all this bribery was so that SNC could defraud various Libyan public agencies of $130 million. In other words, they delighted the pleasures of top Gadhafi family members as a means to an end, and the end, of course, was to steal $130 million from some of the poorest people in the world.

Let us all agree never again to refer to these alleged crimes as victimless crimes. They are not victimless crimes. There are people living in squalor in other parts of the world because crimes like this take place.

I list all of that chronology in order to address the criteria in the deferred prosecutions section of the Criminal Code, which says that such agreements will be available only when the severity of the crime is limited. In other words, if it is not a serious crime, if it was a mistake with limited consequences and minimal damage to any victims, the government is then entitled to enter into a negotiation with an accused corporate criminal in order to resolve it through a deferred public prosecution agreement.

Based on what I have just read to you, Madam Speaker, I think you will agree that this was not a small, petty crime. This was a serious, egregious and systematically executed crime carried out against the Libyan people. Therefore, on that basis, SNC did not qualify for a deferred prosecution agreement, if we are reading the act as it is written.

The next criterion in the act that determines whether the top prosecutor should enter into negotiations with an alleged corporate criminal for a deferred prosecution agreement asks the prosecutor to consider whether this was an isolated incident.

I ask, was this behaviour by SNC-Lavalin an isolated affair, or was it part of a pattern of behaviour? Was it just a few rotten apples in a faraway land who did some dirty dealings and had no link back to Canada? Well, obviously, the answer is no.

While these charges I am about to read have nothing to do with the deferred prosecution agreement the Prime Minister sought, they do speak to the Criminal Code criteria on whether or not the company has a systematic history of corruption or whether this was an isolated case. Again, I read from Global News, which said:

...three top executives were also charged with bribery in relation to the McGill University Health Centre. Former CEO Pierre Duhaime, along with McGill officials, pleaded guilty in the case.

A company that tries to rob people in faraway lands might just do the same back here at home. In other words, those people who comfort themselves by saying “Sure, they're ripping off other people, but that doesn't cost us any money” had better actually check the facts, because from a rotten tree comes nothing but rotten fruit, and we have paid the price here in Canada for that corruption, as evidenced by the guilty plea of the company's former CEO. This is not a junior intern who stole a candy bar; this is the top official in the entire company.

Again, Global News stated that:

Quebec prosecutors are working with the RCMP on the possibility of new criminal charges against SNC-Lavalin tied to a contract to refurbish Montreal’s Jacques Cartier Bridge, court documents show.

Here we have it again: more corruption involving major Canadian infrastructure projects. Of course, the state of our dilapidated bridges in many parts of this country is well known. In Montreal, it is especially the case, and when the people of Quebec and Montreal suffer the consequences when corruption by companies like this descends upon major projects that affect their daily commute demonstrates that corruption does not come without a cost.

Global News continued:

In court documents, the RCMP lays out a bribery scheme involving a $127-million Jacques Cartier Bridge contract in the early 2000s. Former federal official Michel Fournier pleaded guilty in 2017 to accepting more than $2.3 million in payments from SNC-Lavalin in connection with the project.

Again, we see that this corruption does not have borders, that we are not immune from the effects of a company that decides it is going to buy its way to public contracts rather than earn those contracts on merit.

Further, Global News wrote that:

In 2011, an SNC employee whose job was to facilitate travel of SNC employees in and out of Libya was arrested in Mexico and accused of attempting to smuggle Gadhafi’s son and family out of the country. The employee was eventually released from jail and not charged in Canada.

As well, the Global News article stated:

The company was also banned from bidding on projects by the World Bank for 10 years over alleged misconduct during a bridge construction contract in Panama.

Now we are in Panama. We have gone from Libya to Montreal and now to Panama.

The article continues:

During an investigation from CBC and the Globe and Mail, it was alleged there was an internal accounting code for bribes.

Let us remember that I said one of the criteria for getting access to a deferred prosecution agreement is that the alleged corporate criminal had no other track record of corruption, that the alleged incident was an isolated one and that it was completely out of character. All of us agree that the justice system should take that into consideration as a mitigating factor.

Indeed, we all know stories of a youngster who makes a one-time mistake that is completely out of character. The justice system looks at the person and says that this is not who the person is and administers a punishment that allows for the very quick restoration of that person as a member of society.

That is why we have proportionality in the system and that is why deferred prosecution agreements are supposed to be judged on the basis of whether the company in question engaged in an isolated incident or whether it was systematically part of the company's overall character. That excerpt answers the question. Not only were they engaging in bribery, but they had also developed an internal accounting code for it.

Imagine the trouble we would have to go through, the participation we would have to have from various members of the accounting system, in order to develop a whole code. It is not just corrupt activity; it is then corrupt coding in order to process that activity. A code would be a system and system is the root of systematic. This is systematic corruption, and any government that would attempt to give a systematically corrupt company the ability to avoid prosecution has to answer for its own ethics in the process.

It is interesting that this attempt was made by the government across the way, because Liberals know something about SNC's corruption. They participated in it. According to the Commissioner of Canada Elections, SNC-Lavalin gave approximately $100,000 of illegal donations to the Liberal Party. The commissioner, for reasons that are unknown to me and that I still cannot understand, decided not to pursue the allegations through a full criminal conviction but instead signed an agreement, basically a compliance agreement.

In that agreement, the company admits not only that it flowed $100,000 to the Liberal Party but that it did so in a manner that was absolutely systematic, almost on an industrial scale. It was having employees manufacture phony expense claims and was giving out phony bonuses. It then communicated to employees that they had to then take the money they were receiving fallaciously and hand it over to the Liberal Party in the form of $100,000 in donations.

We all know the donation limits at the time were about $1,200. In other words, no person could give more than about $1,200 per year and no company could give any donation at all. Unions and corporations were and are banned. The executives created a bunch of phony bonuses and a bunch of phony expense claims, with phony receipts, and then SNC executives would then flow that money to the Liberal Party.

That is systematic, premeditated, carefully planned out corruption. Once again, with the Liberal government in power, there was no prosecution of the offence. It was simply signed off by the elections commissioner as a compliance agreement. The money was returned and they were allowed to go on without any consequence.

It seems that wherever SNC and the Liberals interact, there is a special deal. At the City of Ottawa, the company has been given the contract to extend the transit system to the south end of town, a project I strongly support and which I championed. The company did not apparently meet the technical requirements that are necessary, even though some of their competitors did, but somehow the company won the contract anyway.

My point in raising all of these examples is to demonstrate that contrary to the requirement that deferred prosecution agreements should only be made available to companies for whom the alleged offence is an isolated incident, SNC-Lavalin has shown systematic and repetitive acts of corruption, most of them related to fraud and bribery. In other words, the director of public prosecutions was absolutely right to refuse the company such an agreement.

However, that was not good enough for the Prime Minister. He introduced an amendment to the Criminal Code through his omnibus budget specifically so he could help SNC-Lavalin. This company had lobbyists swarming all over Parliament Hill. It had made direct contact with top officials in the government. The chairman of SNC-Lavalin, Kevin Lynch, a former clerk, called the present-day clerk. There were dozens of registered lobbying interactions between top company officials or other lobbyists and high-level members of the Liberal government.

The Prime Minister said he was going to get it done one way or the other for this company. When he learned, presumably in early September, that the top prosecutor had informed the company that it would not be availed such a special deal, he then thought it was not a problem, he would call the former attorney general, she would overturn the prosecutor, there would be a deal for SNC-Lavalin and we would get back to business as usual. That was the plan.

In fairness, that is how things have worked for SNC for a very long time. The Prime Minister had every reason to think that would work. However, he encountered a problem that he did not expect to find in his own cabinet, a person with principle, someone who understood the law and viewed it as her job to respect the law. The Prime Minister assumed that if he made clear to her the political imperative, she would find a way to cast the law aside and overturn the top prosecutor in the land to offer a special deal to SNC-Lavalin in its $130-million fraud and bribery case. She said no. She looked at the act and said that clearly the company did not qualify for a deferred prosecution agreement. Furthermore, it would literally be unprecedented for an attorney general to overturn a decision of the independent prosecutor and she said she would not do it.

She thought that would be the end of the story. Ultimately, it should have been. The government should have said that it had a very qualified attorney general, who has experience as a prosecutor and a meticulous understanding of the law, who had looked at the act and concluded that the top prosecutor was right and the company does not deserve a deal. That is where the story for the political actors ends and where the independent judicial process carries on.

Before I go any further, for the listeners out there who might not be aware of how strict the separation between politics and the courts is, let me give them a few examples.

The former Quebec premier, Jean Charest, was a member of this House and a minister in the Mulroney government. He very innocently called a judge one day about a case. There was no corrupt intent. He simply called because he thought he was advancing the public interest. Do members know what happened to him? He resigned. He was done.

In the previous Conservative government, former minister John Duncan received some input from a constituent about a case that was before a quasi-judicial board. He had no personal interest in it. The constituent was raising a legitimate grievance about how he had been treated in the process. As an MP, he thought he would call the quasi-judicial board and make an intervention to help his constituent. Again, he had pure motives and a legitimate desire to help a fellow Canadian. There was nothing untoward or corrupt. Do members know what happened to him? He resigned. Why? Because we, in this country, accept a strict division between judicial bodies and political bodies.

It is absolutely strict. It is so strict that everything we say in the House of Commons is exempt from being admitted in a court of law against the people who spoke it. The principle, of course, is that just as politicians do not interfere in the courtroom, judges do not interfere in the House of Commons. There is a strict separation.

I provide this as background so that when we describe, as I am about to do, the relentless effort by the Prime Minister and his team to interfere with a criminal court proceeding, everyone is aware of just how rare and inappropriate this is. If it is a resigning offence for a minister in the previous government to call a quasi-judicial body about a constituent's concern, surely it is a resigning offence for the Prime Minister of Canada to carry out a consistent and sustained campaign of interference with his Attorney General to stop a $130-million fraud and bribery case from going ahead. However, that is exactly what he did.

I am going to relay the story of his interference not from the vantage point of a Conservative or a New Democrat or even of an angry anti-Liberal journalist, if there is such a thing, but from the the vantage point of Liberals themselves. Remember, all of the allegations in this scandal come from the Prime Minister's cabinet. This is what makes the scandal so exceptional. Normally governments are criticized or accused of things by members of the opposition or the media. In this case, the allegations all come from people the Prime Minister thought enough of to put them in charge of major government departments.

What did these people say? The former attorney general, someone the Prime Minister entrusted with the top law office of the land and eventually entrusted with the care of our veterans, said that the Prime Minister and his team carried out “sustained” and “consistent” interference, that she experienced “veiled threats”, that she was hounded and that the entire campaign reminded her of the “Saturday night massacre”, a reference to Richard Nixon's mass firings in the Watergate scandal. Again, to the Liberal MPs rolling their eyes on the other side of the House, these are not hyperbolic allegations from the official opposition; they are words from the Liberals' own former attorney general.

Of course, as the Prime Minister said, she could not possibly be believed. His senior staff members have lined up to undermine her credibility and suggest that she was just angry because she lost her “dream job”, as Gerald Butts called it. The only problem, which is a big problem, is that she kept records of what happened. She kept notes, texts, and other contemporaneous documents, and of course, she has audio recordings to prove it all.

Why would she have recorded a conversation with the Prime Minister's top public servant on this matter? It is because in September, October and November, she had been hounded—

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader has a point of order.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, I suspect that if you were to go over the last half an hour of debate from the member opposite, you will find that we have been very patient. Today's debate is about budget 2019. I would ask that the member opposite, at least every so often, use the word “budget”, so that people who are watching are aware that this is a budget debate.