House of Commons Hansard #396 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was company.


Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I see the hon. member for Calgary Rocky Ridge rising but he is in a different location so I am not sure. I recall recognizing him from a different location. I will have to consult the seating chart to see whether, in fact, I was correct. Perhaps I was incorrect the last time.

I see that he is in a different spot now. I must have been correct.

The hon. member for Calgary Rocky Ridge is rising on a point of order. I would ask the hon. member for Carleton to take a seat.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Pat Kelly Conservative Calgary Rocky Ridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I had momentarily forgotten the requirement to be in one's proper chair when rising. My apologies to you. Thank you for my being able to catch your eye and rise to speak for a moment.

As it is not clear to me, I want to confirm and ensure, as we have had debate and points of order raised on the rule of relevance and repetition, that all of the facts and arguments have been made properly on that. Therefore, I want to bring to your attention page 632 of Bosc and Gagnon. It describes debates on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne and the budget.

It states:

The traditions and practices of the House allow for the rule of relevance to be relaxed during debate on the motion for an Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne. During the days allotted to the debate on this motion, Private Members have the opportunity “to bring forward topics of their own choosing”. Consequently, debate tends to be very wide-ranging and the Speaker usually makes no effort to apply the rule of relevance. This is not the case, however, when the House is debating the Budget. The remarks of Members must be relevant to the motion before the House. All the same, the terms of the motion (i.e., that this House approve in general the budgetary policy of the government) are sufficiently broad to permit Members great latitude in their remarks—

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. I thank the hon. member for Calgary Rocky Ridge for these additional points. I think they effectively repeat some of the comments that were just recently made by me and other hon. members.

As I indicated at the time, I am quite cognizant of the scope of the issues around which relevance in particular are measured. As I say, I will continue to listen carefully to the hon. member for Carleton in that respect. Should it be necessary to interrupt him and bring that to his attention, I will do so. Other than that, I will consider the matter closed for the time being.

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Drummond, Official Languages; the hon. member for North Island—Powell River, Indigenous Affairs; the hon. member for Regina—Lewvan, Natural Resources.

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Carleton.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, where we last left off was on the importance of holding governments to account.

This is the House of the common people where we restrain the Crown and limit its powers to maximize the liberty of the people. In this instance, the allegation is that the Prime Minister personally and politically interfered with the criminal prosecution of a powerful corporation.

In other words, the judicial branch of government suffered, or almost suffered, a major act of interference by the head of the government in the person of the Prime Minister. As Parliament, we are the legislative branch but we have the accountability mechanism here in the form of question period, committees and the other tools at our disposal to bring the Prime Minister back in check when he abuses the other branches of government.

In other words, we do not as legislators dominate the judicial branch. We merely provide it with the laws it interprets, but we can act as its protector here in the House of Commons in instances where the executive has spilled over and invaded the territory of the judicial branch.

That is precisely what we are doing. Just as the judicial branch sometimes must constrain the executive, particularly when the executive infringes on the rights of the population., we as parliamentarians in the legislative branch can also restrain the executive when it attacks the sacred ground of the judicial branch. That appears to be what the Prime Minister attempted.

The decision to prosecute an enterprise charged with fraud and bribery is one left to independent prosecutors in the office of the director of public prosecutions. Interference in that prosecution by any member of the executive has the effect of contaminating the judicial branch with politics. We, as parliamentarians, are the decontamination team. We are here to decontaminate the corruption that spilled out of the executive and almost into the judicial branch, but for the courageous acts of the former attorney general, who closed the floodgates and prevented that contamination from spilling completely into this criminal trial.

Thank God, she was there. What a relief. Canadians should breathe a sigh of relief that we had such a woman of integrity doing that job at that moment. Do we think that things happen for a reason, that people are in a certain place at a certain time because they are especially needed there?

In May of 1940, Europe was collapsing under the aggressive attacks of an evil and mendacious dictator. If it had not already, France was soon to surrender. Germany had already successfully attacked numerous of its neighbours and Chamberlain, who had signed a “peace for our time” treaty with Hitler, was on the verge of almost losing confidence in the British House of Commons. While he commanded a majority still, it was clear that he did not have enough support in the commons to carry out a war effort.

There is a story of a famous meeting where Churchill, Chamberlain and Lord Halifax gathered together in one room. Oh, to have been a fly on that wall. It was clear that Chamberlain was on his way out, and the obvious replacement was Lord Halifax. Most people would have assumed it would be Churchill.

Who was Lord Halifax, and what was his plan? He was a widely respected member of the aristocratic elite and a senior Conservative of the British Parliament. He had engaged in efforts already, in the early stages of the Second World War, to initiate negotiations for the surrender of all of mainland Europe to Hitler. He initiated those negotiations through Mussolini. In other words, he was going to ask Mussolini to be the mediator in negotiations between Great Britain and Hitler on the surrender of Europe. That was his plan.

The three of them went into this meeting expecting that Lord Halifax would come out as prime minister. As certain historical accounts relay the events, Chamberlain said that he believed that he was losing the confidence of his caucus and perhaps of the commons and that he could no longer be prosecuting this war and would resign. On the question of who would replace him, he said that he thought it should be Lord Halifax. As the story is told, Lord Halifax said no, that he thought it should be Winston Churchill. Of course, Winston Churchill said, “I agree”.

Thank goodness that happened, because days later, when Churchill would become prime minister, he fundamentally altered the policy of the British government. It was not just that he was giving these stirring addresses to rouse the nation. There are many of those examples, and we can get lost in the soaring and brilliant rhetoric of the time. However, we miss, sometimes, that he actually changed the policy of the British government from one of survival to one of victory. He said, “You ask, what is our aim?... It is victory, victory at all costs”. He prosecuted the war with that full intention in mind. It was not to delay and frustrate the enemy for a later date, when they could one day renegotiate a settlement. It was to totally obliterate Hitler's Third Reich, and that is exactly what he did.

However, imagine if Lord Halifax had come out of that room as prime minister. Imagine the different world we would live in today. He would have attempted to negotiate a settlement that would have surrendered all of western Europe to a monster, but instead, we had a courageous lion who was prepared to fight and win at any cost. We might live in a very different world today had Winston Churchill, who in the years leading up to that moment was a very controversial and often very isolated backbencher during his wilderness years of the 1930s, not emerged as the prime minister, an unlikely prime minister, but arguably the most consequential one in modern history.

I relay this story merely to point out that sometimes certain people are in certain places at the right time. Although the stakes are nowhere as high today as they were then, as I think we will all admit, there is no doubt that there is something very important at stake in this particular controversy as well, and it is the independence of the prosecutorial arm of the government from politics. Had it been another attorney general, someone more malleable, someone whose convictions rested on sand rather than stone, we might have had a different outcome. That person might have said, “Sure. Clearly the prime minister wants this. It's illegal, but he gets what we wants. We know how he is. The clerk has made it clear that he is in a mood and he is going to get it done one way or another”.

A less courageous and principled attorney general might have just folded like a cheap suit and allowed that to happen. However, it was not someone else. It was this attorney general, and she stood up again and again. They pushed and they pushed, and she would not back down. She finally said that she felt like she was about to witness the Saturday night massacre, which was a reference to Nixon's Watergate firings. She said to the Clerk of the Privy Council that she was waiting for “the other shoe to drop”, and it did. Less than a month later, the Prime Minister would shuffle his cabinet and punt her from her position, making up a confusing and incredible, fantastic story about a game of musical chairs that resulted from the simple resignation of one Treasury Board president, who was completely unrelated to the situation at hand. She was then replaced with another Attorney General, who the Prime Minister thought would be more malleable.

This takes us to the future. What can Canadians expect of this case if the government is re-elected and the Prime Minister continues in office? They can expect that within weeks, he will direct his Attorney General, someone he believes will do his bidding, to sign a special deal with SNC-Lavalin. That is what he has done twice before. Once was on December 8, 2015, when his government immediately, upon taking office, granted an exemption to SNC-Lavalin, allowing it to continue bidding on federal contracts, even though it was charged with fraud and banned from bidding for being charged with fraud and bribery. The second time he attempted to provide a special deal for SNC-Lavalin was the controversy we are now discussing regarding his former attorney general.

Let there be no doubt that if the Prime Minister is re-elected, within days he will interrupt the criminal proceedings, the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, to protect the company from trial. He has noted, and so have his staff and former staff, that they can do this right up until the moment a verdict or a plea is rendered. In other words, he knows that he has time on his hands. He knows that if he is back in office, he can try this same game all over again. He has shown a relentless determination to allow this corporation to avoid criminal prosecution, and he will carry out that determination if he is given a chance after the next election.

That is yet another reason we cannot allow him to serve in this office one minute longer than necessary. We need to replace him with a prime minister who respects the independence of both the judiciary and the prosecution so that decisions on criminal charges are rendered by judges and juries, not by politicians. That key separation is essential for the successful functioning of any democracy. That is precisely why we are holding him accountable for his already egregious interference, and it is further why we will argue to the Canadian people the need to replace him to make sure that this kind of odious, monstrous interference is never allowed to repeat itself.

I look around this chamber today, and the member from the Okanagan is here. He was among the very first to notice this strange amendment to the Criminal Code that popped into the omnibus budget bill. There we were, at 10 o'clock at night, turning 500 pages as we rushed to pass a bill the Prime Minister said needed to become law quickly. All of a sudden, there it was, right before us, an amendment to the Criminal Code right in the middle of a budget bill. It was the last thing we ever thought to find there. It was like finding fish in trees, so completely out of place it was.

There was only one witness to comment on it, and it was a public servant who simply gave the technical explanation of what it was. That was it. There were no anti-corruption crusaders, no corporate accountability experts and no law professors to come forward and explain to us what we were getting ourselves into. We were told that, by the way, we had to move quickly. We had to get this passed.

All of us were asking the same question: Who is asking for this? Who wants this?

We all go to church suppers or neighbourhood farms, or we knock on the doors of our communities in the suburbs of Canada, and nobody ever says, “Our laws are really cruel to corporate criminals. We really ought to find a way to let the crooks get off without a conviction. Maybe they could just pay a fine, fess up, promise not to do it again, and that would suffice.” Nobody ever says, “Enough with all this business of trials and convictions. Enough with calling the executives before the court to testify under oath. That is too inhumane. We need to find a nicer way to do it.” I do not remember hearing that from anyone in my constituency at the tens of thousands of doors I have knocked on since last summer, yet it was indeed a top budget priority of the Liberal government in mid-2018. Then, of course, it became the Prime Minister's top priority in relation to his attorney general in September, as soon as that Criminal Code amendment became law.

All of a sudden, there was panic. The attorney general had to be called on the carpet to answer to the clerk and the Prime Minister about why she had not moved with haste to direct the director of public prosecutions to extend this settlement offer to SNC-Lavalin.

The company was concerned. It was telling the Clerk of the Privy Council and others about a board meeting that was coming up on September 20, only days away, and it asked if the Liberals could not get it off the fraud and bribery charges within the next week. It had a board meeting, for God's sake. How was it supposed to do business?

Of course, the right answer that a normal prime minister would give if a corporation made such a demand would be, “Get out of my office. Go to court. If you did nothing wrong, defend your case and get acquitted. I never want to see you here again.” That would have been the right answer.

However, the Prime Minister kept inviting them back again and again. He said that they were doing everything they could for them, but there was one problem with the attorney general. She was getting in the way and mucking up their plans. The government set it up so that SNC could get off without a trial. It even amended the Criminal Code to make it possible for this one company, but this nuisance attorney general would just not play ball. She was told that she had a few months to get it done or they would move her out.

That is exactly what the Liberals did. They sent her packing, because she would not play ball. The old boys told her how things were going to work, and she said that where she comes from, they have the rule of law, and it does not work that way. They told her that she was no longer the attorney general, and they found someone perhaps more malleable.

The Prime Minister said the cabinet shuffle had nothing to do with the former attorney general's refusal to co-operate and give a deal to SNC-Lavalin, but here is what we know for sure.

When she was the attorney general, the answer to SNC-Lavalin's request for a settlement was a clear “no”. She looked at the act, she looked at the decision of the prosecutor and said that it was not going to happen, period. Therefore, the status of that request was, no.

The new Attorney General comes in. What is his public position is on it? Maybe. Therefore, by moving the former attorney general out and moving a new one in, SNC-Lavalin has gone from “no” to “maybe”. The Prime Minister would have us believe that his decision had nothing to do with that issue. Of course it did and it has had the consequence of reopening the possibility that this company, charged with stealing $130 million from the poorest people in the world, might get off without a trial. That is the effect of the cabinet shuffle. The Prime Minister can deny that was his intention, but it is definitely the effect.

We really have to wonder why the government is so obsessed with helping this one company get around the rules and avoid consequences. There are thousands of trials in Canada every year. People are charged all the time with crimes. Why this particular company? Why this particular group of well-lobbied-for executives? Could it possibly have something to do with the $100,000 of illegal donations that the company flowed to the Liberal Party of Canada? Those donations were funnelled through phony invoices, bonuses and expense claims, in a systematic fraud designed to move cash into Liberal Party coffers, and that has absolutely nothing to do with the decision?

I hear the deputy House leader of the Liberal Party blaming Stephen Harper, that it is Stephen Harper's fault that SNC-Lavalin gave illegal donations to the Liberal Party, that Stephen Harper must have somehow carried out mind control to force all of those executives to ask their employees to generate phony expense claims, bonuses and invoices so they could give the money to the employees, who would then give those donations to the Liberal Party. Stephen Harper then must have exercised mind control over the Liberal Party officials who received all of those donations and thought nothing unusual of them. It must have been Stephen Harper's incredible power of mind control that he was able to do that. I have to give that member across the way some points for creativity. First it was Scott Brison's fault. Now it is Stephen Harper's fault.

I admit it was Stephen Harper's fault. Let me tell people why. The member got me on to another train of thought.

Back in the sponsorship scandal, the Liberal Party was never prosecuted, even though it admitted it received a million dollars of illegal money. It was funnelled in through what Judge Gomery called an “elaborate kickback scheme”. Harper was always just a wee bit suspicious about why no one in the Liberal Party got prosecuted for it. He thought that maybe it was because the attorney general was a Liberal politician and controlled prosecutions, so maybe we should make the prosecutor independent from the political process.

That is why we created in the Accountability Act the director of public prosecutions, a completely separate office wherein decisions to pursue prosecutions of federal crimes would be made with no politics involved. So independent is this office that the director cannot even be removed by the executive without a vote in the House of Commons. Therefore, the process for removing a director is the same as for other officers of Parliament. Therefore, Stephen Harper created this office in the Accountability Act and he said that the only way an attorney general could direct the DPP to change course in any prosecution was in writing.

The attorney general has to write it down and publish that direction in the Canada Gazette so every Canadian has the ability to see what direction the politicians are trying to give to the prosecutor. There are no more backroom deals. It is because of that act that the Prime Minister could not secretly exert pressure on the prosecutor and allow that political interference to go ahead.

Therefore, yes, it is Stephen Harper's fault. He is the one who brought in the Federal Accountability Act, the very first act of his government. Because of that, the current Prime Minister got caught once again trying to help his friends in trying to violate the rule of law.

Therefore, we can blame Stephen Harper for something and be truthful about it. I know he is devastated to learn that the Liberals are blaming him for all of their political heartache right now, but as much as they would like him to be to blame, all of the misery is self-inflicted. Nobody forced the Prime Minister to help is corporate friends. Nobody forced him to interfere 20 times with the former attorney general to try to get to her shelve a criminal prosecution of a Liberal-linked corporation. Nobody forced him.

Yes, the lobbyists were persuasive; yes, they were abundant; yes, they were crawling all over Parliament Hill pressuring Liberals around him, but the Prime Minister had a choice. He could have said no to the old Liberal way of doing things. He could have said no, but instead he did exactly what Liberals always do, which is to help friends in high places, the powerful insiders, the people behind the scenes who pull the strings. He made a decision to let them drive his agenda and he is now suffering the consequences for that decision right now. That is the core reality.

We hear the Liberal member on the other side heckling away about Stephen Harper. The problem the Liberals are having is that they refuse to take responsibility for their own conduct. If they were to do that, they might be able to heal the wound. However, by continually lashing out and blaming everybody under the sun for the Prime Minister's personal conduct, they only make their problems worse.

First Scott Brison was to blame, then the former attorney general was to blame and now we hear it is Stephen Harper. I am sure we will hear soon that the former Treasury Board president is to blame. Everyone is to blame except the Prime Minister for his own conduct. He is making others pay for his mistakes.

The Prime Minister should learn from the case before him, that people must be held responsible for their own conduct. That is the case for SNC-Lavalin as well. If he had recognized the principle of personal responsibility, he would have understood that this corporation should have to go to trial to own up for what it did and for the actions that it allegedly carried out in Libya, with fraud and bribery amounting to $130 million. Would it not have made more sense for the Prime Minister to hold this company to the standard of law rather than to the instincts of politics? I think we all agree now that if the Prime Minister had thought in those terms, he would not find himself today in the state of disgrace in which he is currently.

Here we are at a fork in the road. There is a decision to be made by the members across the way. Will they allow the investigation to run its course so the truth can be known and the players can be held to account or will they continue with the cover-up?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.


Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. My colleague from Carleton mentioned the actions of the Prime Minister regarding a specific company. I think everyone in the House knows I am the member of Parliament for Oshawa. As the Prime Minister has bent over backwards to do so many things to save jobs in one company, I see it as a bit hypocritical that the budget does nothing to address the job losses in the auto industry, especially in Oshawa. We heard this past week that 1,500 more jobs—

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

To this point, the hon. member has not really been clear on what his point of order is about. I would ask him to perhaps get to that straight away. If he has a point of order, that is great, but what he is speaking of is a matter of debate. We will continue on.

The hon. member for Carleton.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Oshawa raised an interesting point, and in my opinion it is in order for us to talk about jobs in Oshawa. It might not be a point of order, but it is a point. I felt that he delivered it in a manner that is orderly, so I will address it in my remarks as well.

This Prime Minister has claimed, wrongly, that he was trying to save jobs by interfering in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin. I invite members to look back at my earlier remarks. In them I deposited conclusive evidence that there were not 9,000 jobs at stake in the SNC-Lavalin affair. That said, there are jobs at stake in other parts of the country for which the Prime Minister has done absolutely nothing to help mitigate the job losses.

Let us start with the auto sector.

The member for Oshawa is probably the greatest champion of the auto sector in the House of Commons. It is very hard to imagine anyone who has done more for that sector than that particular member. He has championed an end to regulatory red tape. He has fought for free trade. He has opposed excessive taxation. He has done all of this in order to make our auto makers as competitive as humanly possible so that our workers can earn a better living and our consumers can have access to even better products.

Now the Prime Minister stands by and witnesses as GM shuts down its operations and as Chrysler announces 1,500 additional job losses. While auto makers are adding jobs in other non-Canadian jurisdictions and the auto industry around the world is on the rise, here at home these companies are heading for the hills, and it is no surprise.

Let us go through the laundry list of all of the damaging policies that the current government has inflicted on our manufacturers.

The Liberals implemented a carbon tax that will make it more expensive for factories to operate here in Canada. It is a job-killing tax. They have added new red tape that contributes to the administrative cost of operating a manufacturing facility on this side of the border. They signed on to a trade agreement with Donald Trump that puts a cap on the future growth of Canada's auto exports to our biggest market—and by the way, they made that concession to Trump without getting anything in return that we did not already have. They have done all of these things, and then they have stood by and watched as these policies have led to their natural consequences: massive job losses in the automotive sector.

It is not just the automotive sector. It is also the energy sector, where tens of thousands of western oil and gas workers and thousands of additional refinery workers in the east have suffered for lack of a pipeline.

When the Prime Minister took office, three of the world's most respected pipeline companies were ready to put shovels in the ground and get building. Trans Canada had energy east, Enbridge had the northern gateway project, and of course Kinder Morgan had Trans Mountain. One by one, all three of those companies have now left. They are all gone. They were, up until the day the Prime Minister took office, ready to deploy billions of dollars in building pipelines with their own money, but not anymore.

Trans Canada backed out after the Prime Minister changed the approval process for that pipeline, adding endless delays and changing the criteria by which the pipeline's approval would be judged to include what is called upstream and downstream emissions. In other words, the pipeline would not only be judged based on the emissions its own operations would cause but by the emissions caused by the production and later consumption of all the oil that would travel through it. No other pipeline in our competitor jurisdictions faces that same kind of test.

Furthermore, the Prime Minister imposes no similar requirement on Saudi, Algerian or Venezuelan oil. When the tankers from those countries arrive at our shores, he does not say, “Wait, you can't come in unless I do an examination of the upstream and downstream emissions of all this oil.” No, he just says, “Come right in.” That oil is converted into gasoline and pumped into Canadian cars and other manufacturing outlets for other uses, even though it has not been subjected to the same strict examination that the Prime Minister was going to impose on the energy east pipeline.

Therefore, that pipeline, which would have brought a million barrels of oil a day from western Canada to eastern refineries, was cancelled.

Then we have the northern gateway pipeline, a project that had the support of 80% of the four first nations communities along the path of the pipeline. They had signed onto partnership agreements that would have rendered them entitled to jobs, training, income for schools and hospitals, and an opportunity to escape poverty once and for all.

Even though those communities had signed those agreements, the Prime Minister was happy to violate that decision and veto the northern gateway pipeline. It is funny. He claims to believe in consultation with indigenous people. How many of the communities along the pathway of the northern gateway pipeline did he consult when he vetoed their right to build that pipeline?

Do we only believe in consultation if that consultation leads to the answer, “No”? It is apparently so. That is why numerous first nations groups are now taking the Liberal government to court for its refusal to properly consult them before killing their pipeline projects. There are great new consortiums of aboriginal business leaders now fighting, tooth and nail, to get these resource projects approved, but the Prime Minister is ignoring his constitutional duty to consult with those first nations, because he does not like what they have to say.

Then, of course, we have the Kinder Morgan pipeline, or Trans Mountain, as it is called. That pipeline should be without any controversy. It does not require any new right of way. It simply twins an existing pipeline to increase the capacity from 300,000 to 900,000 barrels a day, giving Alberta and Saskatchewan producers the ability to meet the Asian market of billions of people.

Unfortunately, the Prime Minister added so many delays and was so weak in responding to environmental extremists and foreign interest groups that the company finally said that it had had enough, it was not prepared to do business in Canada anymore and it was leaving.

In order to win the votes of the majority of Canadians who want pipelines, the Prime Minister engaged in a very costly and confusing public relations exercise. He said, “I know, we'll buy the existing pipeline.” It was $4.5 billion for a $2 billion, 60-year-old pipeline. Here is the thing: No one was looking for him to buy a pipeline. He did not need to buy the pipeline. We already had that pipeline. We want to build a pipeline.

Here is the difference between the Prime Minister's approach and ours. He bought a pipeline without building one. We will build one without buying it.

Just like we did in the Harper era where four major pipeline projects were built, including those that shipped oil to tidewater. Literally millions and millions of barrels of oil are currently shipped through pipelines built during the time when the Harper government was in office. We had also approved the northern gateway pipeline, which was about to begin construction when the Prime Minister took office and vetoed its construction altogether.

I want to go back to the Trans Mountain pipeline, a project for which the Prime Minister has now paid $4.5 billion and there is not a single shovel in the ground; not a single inch of pipeline has been built. Here is the irony. We have gone from the Texas company planning to invest $8 billion in Canada to build a pipeline here to the company taking 4.5 billion tax dollars out of Canada to build pipelines in Texas. I congratulate everyone. Our tax dollars are now being used to build pipelines in Texas.

TransCanada is moving more and more of its investment and operations to Texas. In fact, there are rumours it might take the word Canada out of its name altogether. All these companies are taking their operations, their dollars and their jobs and going to Texas. In other words, all our exes are in Texas, so the Prime Minister should hang his hat in Tennessee. I think he might enjoy Nashville.

Nevertheless, the fact is we need to defend our energy workers and their ability to ship their goods to market. They are not looking for welfare. They do not want a more generous government cheque in their mailbox. They do not want corporate welfare for the companies that employ them. They want the government to get out of the way and let them build pipelines. When the Conservative government takes office, it will clear the way for pipelines. The Conservative leader has laid out a very clear plan to make that happen.

First, the Conservatives will cancel Bill C-69, the “no new pipelines” bill. That bill extends further the hearing process to make it uneconomical and risky for proponents to put their money aside for projects in Canada. It requires that companies engage in ill-defined sociological debates about pipelines. For example, they would need to do a gender impact study. As far as I know, pipelines are genderless, but apparently the government believes that everything has to do with sociology and nothing has to do with economics. Liberals want a gender study on each natural resource project.

Most people were scratching their heads to try to understand what this meant, until the Prime Minister explained it to them. He was in South America and he explained that male construction workers bring negative gender impacts to rural communities. In the period after he made these bizarre comments, rural women from across the country started to share the gender impacts they had experienced from having construction workers in their communities. They shared that they bring jobs and pay taxes to fund local schools and hospitals. They support families.

By the way, Mr. Prime Minister should know that not all energy workers are men. There are highly skilled female energy workers whose jobs he has killed by blocking the construction of these key projects.

If he reads a gender impact study of a pipeline, why does he not actually go out to a natural gas or oil development project in western Canada and talk to real people on the ground instead of grandstanding at some fancy international conference in South America, showing off his spectacularly colourful and radiant socks as he lectures the world on the negative gender impacts of construction workers? These workers do important work for our economy and our country. There is dignity in what they do and they deserve our respect.

They will get our respect when the Conservative government forms office.

First, we will scrap Bill C-69, the no new pipelines bill.

Second, our Conservative leader has announced that he will invoke subsection 92(10) of the British North America Act to declare pipeline projects to be to the general advantage of Canada.

This a power that our founding fathers created in our Constitution for the federal government in the case of any interprovincial construction project. For example, if a rail project or a pipeline or any other project travels over provincial boundaries, then all of the approvals for that project can be uploaded to the federal government under subsection 92(10) of the Constitution. In this way the prime minister and his executive branch can set up the approval process that prevents parochial, not-in-my-backyard local politicians from blocking the construction of pipelines.

We understand that in a federation, it is impossible to have the free flow of goods, services and people if individual municipal or provincial decision-makers are able to block those projects anywhere along the line.

Imagine if we allowed just any municipality to say that it was going to ban the passage of a railway through its community and would not allow railways there. Well, I guarantee that not a single railway would traverse our country. It would be impossible. That is why the federal government is exclusively responsible for railways.

It should be the same with pipelines. All it takes is a prime minister who has the courage to make it so by invoking subsection 92(10) of the Constitution that our founding fathers provided to us when they brought about Confederation over a century and a half ago.

Third, we will place strict time limits on the hearings so that we will not have endless processes that go nowhere. We will signal to businesses from around the world that they have a particular and confined time period during which they will get either a yes or a no. Once they have that answer, they can proceed. No business is going to tie up $10 billion or $15 billion for five, six or seven years when they can go to jurisdictions almost anywhere else on the planet and build their projects within less than two years, or at least start them. Therefore, the Conservative leader will bring in strict time limits on the hearings.

Fourth, the Conservative leader has announced that his plan for pipelines will ban foreign money and foreign interests from the hearings on these projects.

We know why these groups want to block the construction of pipelines. It is in their naked self-interest to keep ripping off Canadians by banning us from building pipelines and getting our product to market. It is clear why Saudi, Algerian, Venezuelan and other interests would want to ban us from getting western oil to eastern refineries. That guarantees that they can continue to corner the market for our very large refineries in the eastern part of the country.

Furthermore, it is clear why American oil companies would like to see us fail to build pipelines. After all, absent pipelines to tidewater, Canada is forced to export 99% of its oil to the United States of America at massive discounts, which have equalled, in some cases, more than 50% below world prices. We sell them the product for $15, and they can resell it for $55 or $60. No wonder these American oil interests have funded phony environmental groups to obstruct and block the construction of Canadian pipelines here in Canada.

The Leader of the Opposition's plan is to ensure that only those who have either specific and unique expertise related to the project or who are resident on or near the project's construction itself will appear at hearings. People will not be able to just claim esoteric interest in pipelines and environmental policy and then burn up hours upon hours of hearing time before the National Energy Board under this proposed change. Instead, the studies will focus very specifically on the expertise of people who know what they are talking about with respect to the particular project and the people who live along the affected path. That is it.

All of this can and will be done while carrying out our moral and constitutional obligation to consult with first nations people, who are increasingly the most passionate proponents of resource development across the country. We will no longer allow the hard left in this country to stigmatize and stereotype first nations people as monolithically opposed to resource development.

In fact, the resources for which we propose to allow development are, in many cases, on the property of the first nations themselves. They are the owners, and therefore they should have the harvesting rights in many of these particular projects. That is why we will streamline the approval process to get resource projects built. In the process, we will lift thousands of first nations people out of desperate poverty and into great upward mobility with jobs, schools and hospitals paid for through revenues generated from their communities.

That is—

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands is rising on a point of order.

Statements by Minister of Justice and Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of JusticePrivilegeGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to make some comments on the question of privilege that was raised from the question period answers on February 7 and 8. It is important that we do this now.

There is new information that has come forward, and certainly it is relevant, because in less than an hour the Liberal Party is going to be making some decisions that will impact the careers of a couple of its members. It is relevant that since the House last—

Statements by Minister of Justice and Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of JusticePrivilegeGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I will remind the hon. member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands that with regard to additions to points of privilege that are under consideration and on which the Speaker has not yet provided a decision, normally these are brought up after question period, for example, at normal times of interruption in the course of the day.

I am mindful that certainly members have the opportunity to raise additional new points of information that are relevant to questions of privilege that have already been put to the House, and I remind the hon. member of that.

I will go ahead and recognize him and he can carry on. I will be interested to know what new information he wishes to add. As a reminder on this type of intervention, we are mindful that other members have the floor. We do not normally interrupt for questions of privilege in the midst of debate.

I will recognize the hon. member and ask him to be concise in his additional points of information on the questions of privilege that he is referencing.

Statements by Minister of Justice and Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of JusticePrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this and I will be concise. I will stick as closely as I can to my notes and hopefully we will be able to get through that. I appreciate the opportunity to state this because it is relevant at this time.

On February 7 and 8, the Minister of Justice and his parliamentary secretary offered flat, bald denials of an article that appeared in The Globe and Mail. They referred to the allegations as false. The hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton has referred to some of these so-called allegations and the subsequent justice committee evidence that confirmed them.

I want to speak to two of the allegations, just very quickly, particularly in light of the evidence that was posted late Friday afternoon on the justice committee's website, which adds to a further corroboration of the reporting of Robert Fife, Steven Chase and Sean Fine. The original newspaper article's sixth paragraph informed readers that:

Sources say [the hon. member for Vancouver Granville], who was justice minister and attorney-general until she was shuffled to Veterans Affairs early this year, came under heavy pressure to persuade the Public Prosecution Service of Canada to change its mind.

At page four of the committee's February 27 evidence, the hon. member for Vancouver Granville said, “The Clerk then said that he spoke to my deputy and she said that I could speak to the director."

Later on page four, she recounted:

Mathieu and Elder also raised the idea of an “informal reach out” to the DPP. My chief of staff said that she knew I was not comfortable with that, as it looked like and probably did constitute political interference. They asked whether that was true if it wasn't the Attorney General herself, but if it was her staff or the deputy minister. My chief of staff said “yes”, it would....

Meanwhile, on the morning of March 6, Gerry Butts, the Prime Minister's ex-principal secretary, tried to spin all of this heavy pressure, saying, on page 26 of the evidence:

We thought that the more thought and advice and process that could go into this and the more transparency we could bring into the decision-making process, the better off we all were going to be, going forward.

In the sensational audio recording filed with the justice committee last week, we heard from Michael Wernick, the Prime Minister's hand-picked Clerk of the Privy Council, in his words saying, “Is there anybody that can talk to Kathleen then about the context around this or to get her to explain why”.

Recall again that the Attorney General and his parliamentary secretary called these allegations false. The evidence patently begs to differ. Again, these two government spokespersons misled the House or were themselves misled to that end.

The other allegation to address is the one at The Globe and Mail article's 23rd paragraph, where we read:

Sources said the justice minister was also encouraged to hire an outside legal expert to furnish an opinion on the suitability of a remediation agreement.

The allegation was also, as the Chair will remember, called false by the current justice minister and his parliamentary secretary. However, the former attorney general gave the following testimony to the justice committee on February 22, on page four of the evidence:

We did not hear from anyone again until October 18 when Mathieu Bouchard called my chief of staff and asked that we—I—look at the option of my seeking an external legal opinion on the DPP's decision not to extend an invitation to negotiate a DPA.

This would become a recurring theme for some time in messages from the PMO, that an external review should be done of the DPP's decision....

However, on October 26, 2018, when my chief of staff spoke to Mathieu Bouchard and communicated to him that, given that SNC had now filed in Federal Court seeking to review the DPP's decision, surely we had moved past the idea of the Attorney General intervening or getting an opinion on the same question. Mathieu replied that he was still interested in an external legal opinion idea. Could she not get an external legal opinion on whether the DPP had exercised their discretion properly, and then on the application itself, the Attorney General could intervene and seek to stay the proceedings, given that she was awaiting a legal opinion?

The Prime Minister's former principal secretary, Gerald Butts, corroborated this repetitive series of exchanges when he appeared at the justice committee's March 6 morning meeting. On page two of the evidence, he is recorded as saying:

So what, exactly, was staff talking to the minister about? We had a view, which was informed by Department of Justice advice, that it would be appropriate for her to seek independent advice from an eminent Canadian jurist or panel of jurists. We believed that this was appropriate....

Later, on page three, he said:

When you boil it all down, all we ever asked the Attorney General to do was to consider a second opinion.

Then in that audio recording filed with the justice committee we heard Michael Wernick saying, “I think [the Prime Minister] is thinking about getting somebody else to give him some advice.... He just wants to understand more at this point of why the DPA route is not taken up...he is thinking of bringing in someone like Bev McLachlin to give him advice on this or to give you advice”.

This blows a huge hole in the side of any claim that The Globe and Mail story on February 7 was false. It was just the opposite in fact.

Once again, the Attorney General and his parliamentary secretary misled the House or were misled by someone who wanted to achieve that same result.

In conclusion, I want to turn to the possibility raised by the House leader of the Official Opposition in her preliminary remarks that the Attorney General and his parliamentary secretary were merely victims of a poor briefing from the Prime Minister or the Clerk of the Privy Council and were fed falsehoods to be spread in the House of Commons.

I would urge you, Mr. Speaker, to consider the ruling of Mr. Speaker Jerome on December 6, 1978. The case is summarized at footnote 249 of page 116 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, where it says:

On November 3, 1978, Allan Lawrence... charged that he had been deliberately misled by a former Solicitor General. Acting on behalf of a constituent who suspected that his mail had been tampered with, Mr. Lawrence had written in 1973 to the then Solicitor General who assured him that as a matter of policy the RCMP did not intercept the private mail of anyone. However, on November 1, 1978, in testimony before the McDonald Commission (a royal commission created by the federal government in 1977 to look into the illegal activities of the RCMP, and headed by Justice David McDonald of the Supreme Court of Alberta), the former RCMP commissioner stated that they did indeed intercept mail on a very restricted basis and that the practice was not one which had been concealed from Ministers. Mr. Lawrence claimed that this statement clearly conflicted with the information he had received from the Solicitor General some years earlier...On December 6, Speaker Jerome dealt with a number of points raised in the presentations on the question of privilege and ruled the matter prima facie.

In considering the testimony heard at the McDonald Commission, Mr. Speaker Jerome said in his ruling at page—

Statements by Minister of Justice and Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of JusticePrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. I thank the hon. member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands for these additional points. I think I have heard enough in this regard. The hon. member has made some additional points. I am not so sure some of it may have been on the record at an earlier time. He did note, however, in his conclusion that as it relates to more recent events his additional comments are in that regard. I assure him that these points will be taken under consideration.

Members will know that they have a right to be heard with respect to interventions for points of order and questions of privilege, but presiding officers have the ability to decide at which point enough has been put on the record to permit conclusions and deliberations on these matters. I thank the hon. member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands for these additional comments.

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

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, in the same spirit as my colleague, I would like to point the attention of the House to a very important article written in the National Post just yesterday. The author is Kelly McParland. It is entitled, “Here's what Liberals are asking you to believe about the SNC-Lavalin saga.” It states:

In order to believe [the Prime Minister’s] version of his dispute with his former attorney general, you have to accept that an astonishing series of missteps, misunderstandings and lost opportunities were entirely innocent.

You have to believe that when [the former attorney general] told [the Prime Minister] in September that she had made up her mind and would not interfere with the decision to proceed with a prosecution against SNC-Lavalin, he either didn’t grasp what she was saying, or didn’t accept how serious she was.

You have to trust that none of the numerous complaints she made over the ensuing weeks, warning that the pressure being exerted was inappropriate and had to stop, made it through to [the Prime Minister].

You have to consider it wholly believable that Gerald Butts, the political whizz-kid and guru considered the brains behind the throne, likewise missed or misinterpreted the signals, and didn’t alert his boss that they had a real problem.

You have to find nothing odd in the fact none of the supposedly highly-skilled and politically adept people surrounding [the Prime Minister] appreciated the severity of the warning [the former attorney general] was making: that if [the Prime Minister] used his office to muscle a subordinate to interfere in the independence of the public prosecutor, he was racing headlong towards a cliff and was taking his government with him.

Even though [the former attorney general] says she has “documented evidence” to the contrary, you have to believe that the Prime Minister’s Office never received the formal explanation — known as a Section 13 — outlining the reasoning for going ahead with the Lavalin prosecution, and that, in all the months of back-and-forth among ministers, their staff and the PMO, no one took the time to acquaint [the Prime Minister] with the contents of that report.

If you want to agree with complaints that the whole affair has been overblown, you need to accept at face value the apparent inability of Michael Wernick, supposedly among the top minds in the civil service, to understand why [the former attorney general] refused to use the “tools” she had at her disposal to halt the prosecution of SNC, even after she made crystal clear in their 17-minute phone conversation that using those tools would inevitably explode in the face of the government. And you need to take seriously Wernick’s claim that he didn’t pass on the message to [the Prime Minister], despite specifically telling [the former attorney general] he had to “report back,” because everyone left town the next day on a holiday.

This is the same Wernick, remember, who opened the conversation by warning that time was of the essence, that [the Prime Minister] was eager to find a solution, and had earlier testified that if she had concerns, the minister could have contacted [the Prime Minister] any time, at any hour, because he was always available.

It’s a lot to accept. But there’s even more to digest. For instance, how is it that neither Butts nor [the Prime Minister] realized something was badly amiss when [the former Treasury Board president] told them [the former attorney general] might feel that shuffling her out of her job was punishment for refusing to cave to [the Prime Minister's] demands? And how could they be shocked when [the former attorney general] demurred from accepting a transfer to Indigenous Services, a post she’d made known she could never accept.

McParland goes on to ask, “Is it really feasible that no one in the Liberal hierarchy foresaw that imposing limits on [the former attorney general]’s ability to testify before the Justice committee would strike a negative chord with Canadians, or that letting Liberal MPs peremptorily shut down the committee in the wake of her testimony would only make things worse?”

McParland further writes:

There are Liberals out there who insist they can buy the whole package, that accept [the Prime Minister]'s bland assurances over the minister’s detailed evidence. Somehow they can listen to the Wernick phone call and not see what’s going on: a minister being strong-armed by a powerful messenger armed with warnings that the boss is “going to find a way to get it done, one way or another.” They argue that [the Prime Minister] would never act in such a threatening manner, that it’s out of character.

But the truth is, it’s entirely in character, and the proof has been there all along, in multiple examples of [the Prime Minister]’s response to situations that try his patience. Such as when he elbowed his way across the Commons to berate a member of the opposition. Or the moment in Edmonton when he sarcastically suggested a woman use the term “peoplekind” rather than “mankind.” Or his determination to block students from summer jobs unless organizations employing them signed a statement attesting to support Liberal values.

Or his snarky response just last week to an inconvenient intruder at a Liberal fundraiser who tried to draw attention to the ongoing health problems at Grassy Narrows, a First Nations community long troubled by mercury poisoning.

Over more than three years of working closely with [the Prime Minister], [the former attorney general] has had plenty of time to learn what lies beneath the pleasant image the prime minister works so hard to project. “I am not under any illusion how the prime minister…gets things that he wants,” she tells Wernick in their recorded phone call.

“I am having…thoughts of the Saturday Night Massacre here, Michael,” she confesses, alluding to Richard Nixon’s desperate effort to save himself from Watergate by taking a buzz saw to his justice department. “I am waiting for the…other shoe to drop.”

The shoe dropped a few weeks later, when she was ousted from her job, then resigned to make clear her differences with [the Prime Minister]. The prime minister’s version of her departure is that it resulted from an “erosion of trust” of which he was entirely unaware, in spite of the events of the previous three months, the warnings she issued, the stark alert issued to Wernick and the concerns raised by [the former Treasury Board president].

Maybe it’s possible that the prime minister really was caught off guard, that his aides and advisers failed to bring the danger to his attention. But if that’s the case, you have to ask yourself whether a government that could make so many errors in judgment, could miss so many signs of trouble, could press ahead with a bad idea even when one of its senior members is waving her arms and shouting “stop!” — you have to ask yourself whether a government so clumsy, myopic and accident prone has any business running the country.

I was just quoting directly from the opinion piece of Mr. Kelly McParland, published April 1, 2019. All of the words in it are to be attributed to him. Though they are very well authored, I do not want to indirectly attempt to take ownership of his words.

Therefore, at the end, I will be seeking unanimous consent to table his op-ed so that the formal record will show that the words I just uttered were his and not mine, although I endorse them.

Having analyzed what Mr. McParland wrote, I believe he has captured very well the incredible story the Prime Minister is asking Canadians to digest, which is that all along, in this four-month campaign of relentless pressure, wherein members of the Prime Minister's inner circle, including the Prime Minister himself, interfered 20 times with the attorney general's role, it was all a big misunderstanding, that he just did not get the message, that she just was not clear enough, that he failed to communicate and that his only mistake was that he ought to have picked up the phone and called her a few more times.

The irony is that this is exactly the wrong answer. The problem was that he was calling her too much. He had asked his team to descend on her. It was relentlessly “hounding” her with “veiled threats”, inappropriate “pressure” and “interference”. These are all words from current members of the Liberal caucus. He wants us all to believe that this was just a big misunderstanding, that nothing inappropriate happened of which he was contemporaneously aware, and that this is just a learning experience, like a high school kid who forgot to study for a mid-term math exam or something and therefore got a bad mark.

We all accept that prime ministers of all colours will learn on the job. It is a very difficult one. However, the problem here was not one of inexperience. It was one of character, one driven by a Prime Minister determined to get whatever he wanted, no matter the price, even at the expense of our rule of law. It was a Prime Minister who progressed in doing these things even when his own attorney general, the top law officer of the Crown, had pleaded with him to please stop, in the name of God, and let her independently administer her portfolio. It was a Prime Minister who was acting in the narrow interests of a Liberal-linked corporation, with a mile-long rap sheet of corruption, including the conviction of its most senior executives. That is what the Prime Minister undertook between September and December of 2018, followed up by a great crescendo of a cabinet shuffle that would move a qualified attorney general out of her job and replace her with someone more malleable, someone willing to do the Prime Minister's bidding.

If members do not believe me, then let us ask the Prime Minister this one simple question. He wants us to digest this incredible story that these events were all a big misunderstanding. If that is true, will he invite all the players to come before the ethics committee as part of a full and open investigation so that Canadians can get to the truth? The justice committee has shut down its inquiry. All the evidence it will receive it has received. Now it is time for the ethics committee to do its work and complete the investigation.

A week from today, that committee will convene. Numerous members of that committee, including Liberal members, have indicated an openness to an investigation. Yes, they voted down an investigation once before, but they said the reason they did so was that it was “premature”. They said they needed to see the final submission of evidence and the file closed at the justice committee in order for the ethics committee to begin doing its work. Now that has been done, so the two Liberal members who used the term “premature” will be invited to follow their words with action and vote with members of the opposition a week from today to resume the investigation, call all the witnesses, hear all the testimony, gather all the evidence, scrutinize all the claims and report all the findings to the Canadian people.

Bill C-84—Notice of time allocation motionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Waterloo Ontario


Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would like to advise that agreement could not be reached under the provisions of Standing Orders 78(1) or 78(2) with respect to the third reading stage of Bill C-84, an act to amend the Criminal Code with regard to bestiality and animal fighting.

Under the provisions of Standing Order 78(3), I give notice that a minister of the Crown will propose at the next sitting a motion to allot a specific number of days or hours for the consideration and disposal of proceedings at the said stage.

Bill C-92—Notice of time allocation motionAn Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and FamiliesGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Waterloo Ontario


Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would like to advise that an agreement could not be reached under the provisions of Standing Orders 78(1) or 78(2) with respect to the second reading stage of Bill C-92, an act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families.

Under the provisions of Standing Order 78(3), I give notice that a minister of the Crown will propose at the next sitting a motion to allot a specific number of days or hours for the consideration and disposal of proceedings at the said stage.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Waterloo Ontario


Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

While I have the floor, I would like to inform the House that Friday, April 5, will be an allotted day.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Waterloo Ontario


Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I also wish to designate Wednesday, April 3, as the day appointed for the conclusion of the debate on the motion to concur in the 14th report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

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

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The hon. member for Carleton has about 30 seconds left. I will let him finish, and then we will go from there.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, allow me to use that 30 seconds to make an announcement to the House.

As you know, I have been speaking non-stop for hours now. I will terminate that speech as soon as the government announces it will agree to co-operate with the ethics committee investigations so that all Canadians can get to the truth on the cover-up and bring justice to this scandal.

I have two more days for my speech. While I have been invited by numerous members to provide such speeches, I am prepared to put aside those words in the interest of having a full-scale investigation if the government announces it will agree to just that.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

April 2nd, 2019 / 5:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

It being 5:30 p.m., the time provided for government orders has expired.

I should bring to the attention of hon. members that because of the special order made earlier today regarding Bill S-1003, there will be no Private Members' Business hour today.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

5:30 p.m.


Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am here today because several months ago, I asked an important question of the government about the sterilization of indigenous women. At that time, we knew that at least 60 indigenous women in this country had come forward, with the most recent case being as recent as 2017. The government response was this:

We are actively working with partners in provinces. We are working with faculties of medical education and health professionals to ensure that culturally safe care is available across the country.

I am here today to receive an update from the government on its actions to date.

The reality is that the history of forced sterilization of indigenous women is a sad part of the history, and obviously the present, of this country. I have met some indigenous women who were sterilized. I have heard sad stories of young women who were in residential schools in British Columbia. They were sent to the hospital to get a procedure done. They did not know what it was for. When they were returned to their residential school, they were told that they were no longer able to have children in the future. These stories are a sad part of the history of Canada, and it is devastating that they are now part of what is happening in this day and age.

When we talk about reconciliation, when we talk about moving forward, these human rights violations should be a significant focus for the government.

Recently, in a news article, a woman explained how she tried to leave the room before being operated on, and the doctor wheeled her back in, asking the nurses if she had signed a consent form and ignoring her saying repeatedly, “I don't want this.” That is shocking in this day and age in this country. It is something we should all be concerned about.

The Saskatoon Health Region has formally apologized for coercing women into sterilization. It did that in July 2017.

That is one step, but it does not address the big issue, which is why this is happening in our country. What is happening that we are not able to prevent it?

Over 100 women have come forward in two class action suits, one as recent as 2017 and the others from 1990 to the early 2000s. Further to that, allegations are now surfacing in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, British Columbia and the territory of Nunavut. At this point, no one has been charged in Canada for coercing an indigenous woman into sterilization, and we should be seriously concerned about that.

I am here to make sure that the Liberal government knows that indigenous people and non-indigenous people across Canada are watching. They know that the UN called for a criminal probe on the topic in late December 2018. The NDP member for Vancouver Kingsway formally requested an RCMP criminal probe into the matter this past February.

Canadians are waiting. They want answers and they want them soon. This is a matter of human rights. This is a matter of the federal government standing up for reconciliation. This history has been a silent history. We need to bring it into the light, and we need to make sure that it does not happen again.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

5:35 p.m.

Dan Vandal Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Services, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, members on this side of the House share the outrage of Canadians about allegations of the coerced sterilization of indigenous women. Coerced and forced sterilization is a clear violation of both human rights and reproductive rights.

There is no question the practice is abhorrent and cannot be tolerated. This should never happen to any woman.

As made clear by the Minister of Indigenous Services, the health and safety of indigenous women and girls is one of our government's highest priorities. Action is being taken on multiple fronts to ensure that all indigenous women receive culturally appropriate and safe health services.

For instance, ISC is investing in services such as the maternal child health program to support healthy pregnancies and reproductive health and rights. For the first time, these investments include midwifery.

The department is also strengthening prenatal support and education programs, including changes to the prenatal escort policy. This means that the safety of indigenous women is being improved by ensuring that every mother knows she is entitled to an escort at the time of her child's birth.

The Minister of Indigenous Services has responded to recommendations made in February 2018 at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

The minister is working with indigenous partners to produce information material for health care providers and patients on proper and informed consent and issue guidance on reproductive health options.

In addition, the department has established an advisory committee on indigenous women's well-being to inform ISC of current and emerging issues in health and across the social determinants of health, with a focus on sexual and reproductive health and rights.

The advisory committee held its inaugural meeting in mid-February, with representatives from the Assembly of First Nations, the AFN Women's Council, ITK, NWAC, Pauktuutit, Les Femmes Michif, the National Aboriginal Council of Midwives, the National Aboriginal Circle Against Family Violence and the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. The next meeting is scheduled for later this spring.

Given that health care is a multi-jurisdictional, indeed, a multi-sectoral responsibility, we must work with other partners to improve access to culturally safe health services and support indigenous-led approaches to health care delivery. Our government is working with provinces and territories to establish a working group on cultural safety and humility in Canada's health care system. The first formal meeting is expected to take place in April.

We hope our provincial and territorial counterparts join us in redoubling our efforts to stop all violations of women's rights. Ensuring health care workers receive cultural competency training was also one of TRC's calls to action. In collaboration with national indigenous organizations, ISC is reaching out to professional bodies such as the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons to increase the cultural competency of health professionals.

It is also important to recognize that informed consent policies are administered at the local level within hospitals. This means that hospital administrators and area health authorities are needed in the effort. We all have a part to play in ensuring indigenous patients receive quality health care that is free of prejudice. As the work I have highlighted underscores, there can be no debate about this government's determination to do just that.