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  • His favourite word is finance.

Conservative MP for Beauce (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 59% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Department of Industry Act June 1st, 2018

Madam Speaker, I will start by saying that I am somewhat disappointed with my Liberal colleague's position on this bill, given that it has the support of those on the left in the NDP and those on the right in the Conservative Party.

In Canada, it is a good sign when those on the left and socialists support a bill that limits corporate handouts to businesses. That is good news. This bill ensures that there is greater transparency concerning the amounts and the financial grants or contributions that the government gives to major corporations.

What is a little disappointing is that these corporations currently receive assistance from the Canadian government. We are told that they receive repayable loans and contributions. However, when we take a look at the numbers, more than 200 companies in Canada received millions of dollars in loans. We might be talking about $300 million or $60 million. In fact, $702 million was paid out to companies, but we do not know if this contributions were repaid. Some of these loans date back to 1997. Why do we not know if they were repaid?

It is true. My colleague was quite right in saying that when individual loans are repaid, the repayment is indicated on the department's website. However, there are no further details for some loans. I will quote what it says on the government website. There is no information about the repayment of certain loans because this:

“Indicates that the company has not provided ISED with an authorization to disclose repayment information.”

What we take from that is that the companies themselves are the ones who decide whether they want their loan repayment to be made public or not. That should not be the case. That is taxpayers' money, and Canadians have the right to know what is happening with it and whether it was paid back or not. That is what this bill seeks to do. It is a very clear and simple bill.

Under the bill, when a company like Bombardier or ABM receives financial assistance from the government, the government must, within 90 days, publish on its website the amount of the loan and the insurance provided to the company by the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, as well as the type of insurance provided, whether loan or credit insurance. We want to know the missing details, which would tell us about all of the loans made, the loan insurance or credit insurance provided, and the grants awarded, as well as the circumstances of the loan and the terms and conditions of repayment. The government does not want to go along with that.

Indeed, the government does not want to share that information, claiming that it could be part of a company's trade secrets. I really do not believe that a loan repayment and the repayment conditions are part of a company's trade secrets. The repayment method and schedule are not trade secrets. That should be public, since the money given to those companies comes from all taxpayers.

This is unfair for small businesses, especially businesses in Beauce and the other regions of Canada, which are forced to pay taxes and, at the end of the day, never receive any of these loans. We want to know whether they are loans or grants. If financial assistance has not been repaid after 20 years, why was it not paid back? What were the repayment terms and conditions? That is what we do not know. That is what the bill calls for. It is a very simple piece of legislation.

I am very disappointed that the government is not being more transparent and is letting big corporations decide whether taxpayers will get any information about repayment of those loans. That is a real shame.

The Liberal Party and the government could have been more open with taxpayers and proven that the $702 million handed over to companies over the past few years were not grants, but were indeed repayable loans with repayment conditions. Now Canadians are wondering about the $702 million. The fact that we do not know the repayment arrangements suggests to me that the money was given to those businesses.

Since we do not know how the money is supposed to be repaid, that means it was a grant. This is a real letdown.

Beauce Art May 30th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I would like to tell the House about a cultural organization in my riding called Beauce Art. Its mission includes contributing to the development and promotion of arts and culture. Every year Beauce Art presents a major international event. From May 27 to June 17, my region will host a symposium with the theme “sculpting history in the great outdoors”. Artists from eight countries and diverse cultural backgrounds will come together in Saint-Georges, in Beauce, to give residents a taste of a live creative experience. This will be an opportunity for each artist to share how he or she views history and interprets the facts. This international sculpture symposium is a major tourist attraction for Beauce.

I invite my colleagues to attend this event and I encourage everyone to come and see what Beauce has to offer.

Department of Industry Act April 19th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague.

We have some very learned members in the Conservative Party who know their history, like my colleague. I am proud to be here, in the House, with all of my colleagues. It is a privilege to represent the people, and we are part of a very small club. However, we must do what is needed to honour the Canadian Constitution and constitutional standards. We are here to hold the government to account on what it is doing with taxpayer money. We are having to go so far as to introduce a bill to get answers on transparency. This goes against the parliamentary principle, and I hope that my Liberal colleagues will realize this. I thank my colleague for raising one more point in favour of this bill.

Department of Industry Act April 19th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, when the government is involved, we must have transparency. Everyone must know what is happening. That is the challenge we have right now with the government. The government is involved with more than $700 million and we do not know what happens to the money when it goes to corporations. However, it is supposed to be reimbursed but it has not. The government is part of the economy. I do not question that today. If we look at the bill, I am questioning what is happening with taxpayer money.

Department of Industry Act April 19th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, what the NDP is saying hits close to home for me, because I am very much of the same mind. Their comments align with the Conservative principles of freedom and responsibility. I am thrilled that my colleague is saying yes to the Conservative principles of freedom and responsibility. He is absolutely right about Bombardier and about other companies that receive these loans. When Bombardier accepted the loans, its executives did indeed give themselves huge bonuses. That was taxpayer money. This is where our views coincide with those of the NDP members, because taxpayer money is important. We need to get the details of this secret agreement, but as my colleague said, the most important thing is to get taxpayers their money back.

Department of Industry Act April 19th, 2018

moved that Bill C-396, An Act to amend the Department of Industry Act (financial assistance), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is rather unfortunate that we are forced to introduce a bill to ensure greater transparency. It must be said that the Government of Canada provides financial assistance to many businesses. The purpose of the bill is to ensure that when the government says that its financial assistance is repayable, Canadian taxpayers are actually informed that they have been repaid. We do not have that information and that is the purpose of the bill. It is a very simple bill.

I stated that it is unfortunate that we have to introduce a bill because I want to go back to 2006 when I was the industry minister. The information was available. When the industry minister provided repayable assistance, taxpayers could go to the department's website and find out which companies had received financial assistance, how much they received, and the repayment terms.

We have been asking the government for a lot more transparency for many months now. Let us not forget the $275-million repayable loan that the government gave Bombardier a few months ago. I asked the government what the terms and conditions of that loan were, and I was told that they were secret. That is unfortunate because taxpayers will not know whether that money has been repaid. What is more, although the government gave that money to a very reputable company, jobs still left Montreal. Meanwhile, members will recall that shareholders received very generous bonuses, thanks to the $200-odd million the government gave Bombardier.

That said, these agreements are not secret. They should be made public because taxpayers have a right to know where their money is going. That is why we had to introduce a bill today to tell the government that the official opposition, with the support of the NDP, I hope, wants to know what happens with any future grants and whether the amounts are actually repaid.

I am going to give a few figures because the industry minister is really responsible for the contributions and funding given to companies. This is not a new problem. I see here that the Government of Canada gave $57 million to Bell Helicopter. When we look at the “repayment” column on the department's website, it says that the information is confidential. No information is provided. The problem is that the loan was granted int November 2003 and we do not know what is happening with it. We found out about the loan when it was made public a few years later in 2006-07, as I said, but we do not know whether it has been repaid.

I am looking at another file, that of CMC Electronic Inc. In 1997, the government granted CMC $23 million. Was that money ever paid back? No. I can go on because the list is long. I will name only a few. IBM Canada, a company that does very well, received $33 million from the Minister of Industry. Was that money paid back? No, no one knows, because that is confidential. When I look at all this and add up all the companies that did not repay the money they received, I see that more than 200 companies received repayable loans and grants that just slipped through the cracks. No one has any idea what happened to the money that was given to nearly half of those 200 companies. No one knows if, in fact, the money was given as a grant or not. Unpaid repayable loans become subsidies. There is no information for 45% of these companies.

Even more alarming is that this money given to the corporations represents more than $700 million in unpaid loans. Is this $700 million in subsidies to big business or not? No one knows because no one has any idea about the repayment status of these “subsidies”.

Since this is taxpayer money there is nothing confidential about it and everything should be made public. Some civil organizations are asking for this information. They have taken the matter to court to find out what happened with these grants or so-called repayable loans.

The bill is very simple. It says that when the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development gives a business a grant or a non-repayable loan, taxpayers and Canadians should be able to find out if the money is repaid or not. That is a cornerstone of democracy. That is why I am happy my NDP colleagues support this. I very rarely agree with socialists, but they are being sensible here. Like me, they can see that, in this case, the government is using its power to say things are secret when they are not secret.

I hope to have the support of my Liberal colleagues as well. During and after the election campaign, they talked a lot about transparency, open government, and accessible government. If that is really what my Liberal colleagues want to achieve, this is their opportunity to walk the talk. They can choose to take action and support this bill to signal that transparency is important in Canadian society and tell Canadians that upwards of $700 million will be repaid.

It is unfair that so many small businesses, including some in Beauce, do not have the luxury of getting subsidies—excuse me, repayable loans that, between you and me, turn into subsidies when they are not repaid. Businesses in Beauce work hard, pay their taxes, and obey the law, but they do not have this luxury and cannot access any of that money. The government should treat everyone fairly and make sure the money is repaid.

I have a suggestion for my Liberal friends. When the $700 million is repaid, if indeed those were repayable loans, they can use the money to lower the tax rate for all businesses in Canada and adopt a policy that is actually fair and will create wealth.

The bill is on the table, and I am eager to hear from my Liberal colleagues. I think they will see the light and support it.

Canada Business Corporations Act April 19th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased, as are all my colleagues in the official opposition, to support this bill. As my colleague just mentioned, the bill contains provisions to foster diversity on boards of directors. It is a sound move for corporations and it is a good decision. We are quite pleased to support this bill.

Canada Business Corporations Act April 19th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has spoken at great length on the amendments that the Senate made to Bill C-25. I would therefore like to talk a bit more about the general content of the bill.

It is important to state why the official opposition voted for the bill or why it has the unanimous support of the House. It is because it is intended to modernize the acts governing Canadian corporations, namely the Canada Business Corporations Act, the Canada Cooperatives Act, the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act, and the Competition Act.

The bill seeks to reform some aspects of these acts to make the process for electing directors of certain corporations more modern and efficient. It also seeks to modernize communications between corporations and their shareholders and clarify that corporations and co-operatives are prohibited from issuing share certificates and warrants in bearer form. However, the most important part for those tuning in is that the bill will affect over 270,000 federally regulated companies, many of them small and medium-sized businesses across Canada. They will be positively affected by these changes.

As my colleague said, the amendments made to these acts stem from a study conducted by a House of Commons committee in 2010 and extensive consultations held by Industry Canada in 2014. Consequently, it was high time that the House modernized this bill.

Furthermore, financial regulators have already adapted to these amendments, and some have adopted regulations in order to comply with the future legislation.

I would like to remind my colleagues that we in the House are responsible for modernizing the legal environment that corporations operate in. That is a good thing. It is a noble and meaningful goal. However, we also need to think about the economic environment that these small and medium-sized businesses operate in. There are more than 200,000 SMEs across Canada.

That concerns me a bit more. The current economic environment is not conducive to investments. Let us be honest. The investments made by these small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as the larger companies, are what create wealth and drive the economy. More investment means more jobs. Today, because of the Liberal government's policies, investments are on the decline.

My colleague, the finance critic, said during question period that capital is leaving Canada. It is a disaster. Where is it going? It is going across the border to the United States where President Trump lowered the corporate interest rate from 35% to 21%. The U.S. is attracting capital because the Government of Canada is raising taxes and adding more regulations, which is another way of telling foreign investors not to invest in our energy economy.

The fact is that government red tape and slow moving processes have caused investments in Canada's energy industry to drop by more than $84 billion over the past two years. Indeed, $84 billion in investments in the Canadian energy sector were simply cancelled. Imagine the impact that has on job creation in the country.

That is not all. As everyone knows, Canada has been open to foreign investment ever since Brian Mulroney's first government in 1984. The Liberal government of the day had set up an agency to select foreign investors. When Mr. Mulroney's government took over in 1984, one of the first things it did was get rid of that agency and welcome foreign investment because it knew that investment creates wealth. Since then, Canada has made much progress thanks to foreign and domestic investment.

Now, however, foreign investors are stampeding for the exit. They are leaving Canada. Direct foreign investment in Canada plunged from 42% in 2016 to 27% in 2017 under a Liberal government. Why? Because the economic environment is not conducive to investment and wealth creation. Today we are glad the legal environment is good because Bill C-25 will modernize the Canada Cooperatives Act and the Canada Business Corporations Act. We agree with that.

However, we need to change the economic environment. We need to attract foreign investment. To do that, as the official opposition has been saying for months, we need less regulation and lower taxes. Crucially, the government has to stop taxing Canadians and funnelling the proceeds to big corporations in the form of subsidies and non-repayable loans.

I would add that businesses have lost confidence in Canada. Canadian business investment has declined by 5%, or $12.7 billion, since 2015. What happened in 2015? Oh right, the Liberal government took office and proceeded to scare off foreign investment. Our business people are now reluctant to invest because of this government. This spells disaster for our country's economic future.

We will understand the impact of this drop in investments in the months and years ahead. Fewer investments mean fewer jobs. That is the sad part of all this.

I fully agree with the government on the need to modernize the legislative framework surrounding business corporations. That is a good thing and we support it. However, we do take issue with the economic environment the Liberal government has created for our country. It will spell disaster for future generations.

That being said, I have to say that we fully support all the amendments to this bill brought forward by our colleagues in the Senate. I hope the House passes this bill as soon as possible. I also hope the Minister of Finance understands the situation in which Canadian entrepreneurs are being forced to operate and can assure them of a brighter future.

Canada Business Corporations Act April 19th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech on Bill C-25 and I would like him to know that the official opposition fully supports it. As we know, the House voted unanimously in favour of the bill a few months ago. The hon. member did a fine job explaining the changes, but could he clarify whether these changes also apply to both the Canada Business Corporations Act and the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act?

The Environment April 19th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I think the opposition members are desperate. I would ask them to be patient and wait a few years since it was my own decision not to publish the book. One day, they will be able to read my writings.