Interventions in the House of Commons
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View Murray Rankin Profile
View Murray Rankin Profile
2017-06-21 14:59 [p.13093]
Mr. Speaker, this week, the Prime Minister received a dozen letters from jurors across Canada suffering mental health challenges after experiencing trauma from graphic evidence and disturbing trials. Members of all parties have supported Mark Farrant's tireless advocacy on behalf of Canadian jurors.
First, will the Prime Minister stand now and thank every Canadian who has served on a jury? Second, will the Prime Minister do everything in his power to work with the provinces to better support Canadians who have suffered from doing their jury duty?
View Murray Rankin Profile
View Murray Rankin Profile
2017-06-20 18:47 [p.13047]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Nanaimo—Ladysmith for her passionate advocacy on behalf of indigenous women in this context.
I was disappointed to hear her say that the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs has claimed “dire unintended consequences”. I would like her to advise the House just what those consequences would be, because gender equality is a human right, as she said. One would hope that would be the number one priority. What are these dire unintended consequences? Are they real, or are they simply a smokescreen for a failure to do the right thing?
View Murray Rankin Profile
View Murray Rankin Profile
2017-06-19 12:28 [p.12902]
Mr. Speaker, I too would like to congratulate the government House leader for her speech and acknowledge the hard work that she has provided in recent months. In her opening remarks, she talked of “working together to put our country's interests first”, and in her mandate letter there is also talk of working “with Opposition House Leaders”. Therefore, is the government House leader now committed to only changing Standing Orders in the future, the very rules of how our democracy functions, where there is multi-party support for the changes proposed; or does she still think that her government can amend these rules unilaterally?
View Murray Rankin Profile
View Murray Rankin Profile
2017-06-19 13:14 [p.12909]
Mr. Speaker, I am proud of how the hon. opposition House leader and I have worked together over the last few months in order to look after the rights of parliamentarians against the current government's power grab.
When the government House leader introduced her so-called discussion paper and then forced the Liberals at the procedure and House affairs committee to try to include it in their Standing Orders review, members will recall that the committee and House almost came to a grinding halt, slowing down the government's already lethargic legislative pace.
Would the hon. member agree that we likely would not have had to sit until midnight for the last four weeks if the government had simply used a consensus basis for proceeding to change the Standing Orders?
View Murray Rankin Profile
View Murray Rankin Profile
2017-06-19 13:21 [p.12910]
Mr. Speaker, I wish to say from the outset that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Beloeil—Chambly. I ought to say at the outset as well that it is with regret that the NDP opposes Motion No. 18. Had there been a better way, we would not necessarily have been here. This motion represents the final act of a failed attempt by the government House leader to unilaterally ram through changes that would overhaul rules that govern democracy and the House of Commons, and the government failed.
The Liberals would have done things that would have consolidated the power of the executive branch of government. I want to outline, therefore, how we got to this point. I do concede that many of the more odious things that the government wanted to slip in under the guise of a discussion paper never found a way into this motion, mercifully. Still, the government's wish list is mostly about trying to make the House function in a way that is simply more convenient to the government. That is not necessarily how democracy was supposed to work.
There are five things that this motion would do. I will address them in a bit of time, but they are the prorogation issue, omnibus bills, the timing of estimates, parliamentary secretaries at committee, and the use of filibusters at committee. I will examine them later, but first we need to talk about how we got here.
The Liberals promised to “Change the House Standing Orders to end the improper use of omnibus bills and prorogation”. That was in the mandate letter for the hon. government House leader. Instead, their motion simply would legitimize omnibus bills. It would do nothing as well to hinder the improper use of prorogation, which the Stephen Harper government used in 2008 and 2009. It would simply regularize that. Therefore, the cynicism in the standing order reform is really quite breathtaking. They also promised to make committees independent by removing parliamentary secretaries, but the motion would do nothing of the sort to prevent them from being there, from managing the agenda in the interests of their ministers, or from ensuring their majority membership voted the right way.
In 2015, the campaign platform of the Liberals made a series of promises about parliamentary reform. It said this, “A Liberal government will restore Parliament as a place where accountable people, with real mandates, do serious work on behalf of Canadians.” One of the things they said they would do would be to change the rules so members and parliamentary secretaries may not be, or stand for, voting members on committees. This gives, I think, the clear impression that parliamentary secretaries and ministers would not be on committees at all; not so fast, as we will see.
They also said they “will ensure that the Parliamentary Budget Officer is truly independent...properly funded, and accountable only—and directly—to Parliament”. The current parliamentary budget officer and the former PBO, Kevin Page, have just criticized the changes that the government has made in giving new responsibilities to the parliamentary budget officer, fearing that they would have to have their work plan approved by the Speakers of the House and Senate before proceeding, hardly something that enhances the independence the Liberals promised us.
The Liberals said they would end abuse of prorogation and omnibus bills. That was included, as I said, in the mandate letter to the government House leader. She was to “Work with the President of the Treasury Board to ensure accounting consistency between the Estimates and the Public Accounts”—I will have more to say about that in a moment—and, my favourite, “Work with Opposition House Leaders to examine ways to make the House of Commons more family-friendly for Members of Parliament.” That has certainly gone by the wayside, as we see a four-week marathon session to midnight, which is hardly friendly to young families.
In March 2017, as the hon. opposition House leader has outlined, there was a so-called discussion paper where the government House leader. laid out the Liberals' plan to overhaul the rules of the House, clearly rejecting the traditional approach of requiring all-party agreement for major changes to the way this place runs. The Liberals simply did not seek all-party consensus. They simply thought they could ram through their changes; again, many of which were simply to make the life of a government easier. They did not succeed, I am happy to say.
They promised to eliminate Friday sittings. They have resiled from that commitment dramatically. Allowing ministers to vote without interrupting cabinet meetings is no longer there. Adding sitting weeks in January, June, and September is out.
Have the House sit longer on any given day, eliminate the summer and Christmas adjournment date at the government's discretion, remove tools of the opposition from routine proceedings, replace the tool of time allocation with a more powerful tool called “programming”, and so forth; a lot of those things did not make it to this part of our parliamentary process. Now we have a motion with merely five things.
There was also something called a “prime minister's question period” that did not make it. As of Friday it was in, but it is no longer there. I will ask Canadians to draw their own conclusions as to why. We are supposed to assume that it will still be part of their practice. I do not know what we are to take from that.
We saw a filibuster at PROC. We saw issues as we used our procedural playbook in this place to disrupt the government's agenda, to get Canadians' attention. The media and stakeholders rose to the occasion. We simply said as opposition that we would not stand for unilateral changes to this place. I am proud that both opposition parties worked together to find common ground in protecting parliamentary rights.
However, I want to give credit where credit is due. It was not just Conservatives and NDP, there were well-meaning, experienced Liberal members of Parliament who also understood how dangerous the government's course of action was. I refer, for example, to the hon. member for Malpeque, who on April 17 said this:
The reality is there’s not enough getting done in the House. I’ve been a long-term member and I strongly believe that you have to have at least consensus from the main parties to change the rules of the House.
We also heard from many Liberal backbenchers, encouraging us not to give up, understanding we were dealing with their rights as parliamentarians as well.
Eventually, the government has backed down and now we have what can only be described as pretty thin gruel before us. The government has been very ineffective with its legislative productivity. The Liberal government has passed half the bills that were passed by this time in the Harper government's mandate. The Liberals have introduced 56 bills into either the House or Senate, and now have passed 25 since they came to power. Notwithstanding that there have been a lot of time allocation motions in the last while, I think most Canadians will agree that had they worked with other sides of the House, we would have had a more productive Parliament.
I would like to address the five things, very briefly. On prorogation, within 20 days of the new session following a prorogation, the government would have to submit a report to the House explaining the reasons why it prorogued. What will that achieve? It will achieve virtually nothing. It will not stop the misuse of prorogation that we saw under Mr. Harper. In fact, it would simply allow rubber-stamping of prorogation. How cynical is that?
On omnibus bills, it was Mr. Harper who traditionally used the budgets for his omnibus bills, so it is not about a budget implementation act. It is about others. The Standing Order change would simply allow the Speaker to have the power to divide omnibus bills for the purpose of voting “where there is not a common element connecting the various provisions”. We saw the 300-page budget implementation bill that is before Parliament making all sorts of changes, which this would not affect.
On filibusters, in the interest of time, I cannot say much more, except to say that was a positive change that came out of eleventh-hour negotiations.
On the budget and main estimates, the Treasury Board Secretariat could have time to have the main estimates reflect what is in the budget. That is a good thing. However, our concern as opposition is that this proposal merely reduces the amount of time the opposition and stakeholders would have to examine the main estimates.
The NDP must, regretfully, vote against the motion. We hope the government will never again attempt to unilaterally change the rules that govern all of us parliamentarians as we go about our duties in this place.
View Murray Rankin Profile
View Murray Rankin Profile
2017-06-19 13:33 [p.12912]
Mr. Speaker, yes, indeed, we are utterly opposed to the process that brought us here, but that would be to not understand or grasp what I am saying about the content of what was left on the table after the cutting room floor. On prorogation and omnibus bills, the two things the Liberals bragged about as commitments they would make in their mandate letter and during the campaign, all they have done is regularize them. The Liberals will not change the content. They are simply saying, “Hey, we have a prorogation.” What does that do in terms of enhancing accountability?
There are things such as the estimates process, which, with work, can be improved, but to take away a lot of the time we have to do our jobs as parliamentarians is a pretty weak start. The content as well as the process are at issue.
View Murray Rankin Profile
View Murray Rankin Profile
2017-06-19 13:34 [p.12912]
Mr. Speaker, I am not sure they do, because they seem to drip of cynicism and hypocrisy. To simply talk about prorogation but do nothing about it suggests that they really do not understand the abuses the Harper government brought to that process. Regarding omnibus bills, the big one was Bill C-38, the famous Harper budget implementation bill that included everything under the sun. This motion would not touch those budget measures; it would, rather, touch other measures.
Again, one wonders if they are cynical or are simply trying to check a box on some campaign program and say that they delivered. Meanwhile, the Liberals talk about things today that are not even there, such as the Prime Minister's question period, yet we are still supposed to take it on faith that they really mean it. I find it confusing.
View Murray Rankin Profile
View Murray Rankin Profile
2017-06-19 13:36 [p.12912]
Mr. Speaker, I agree that there have been some positive changes in this Parliament, such as the example the member gave of the electoral reform committee, which is something I was very proud of. I do not see why we cannot bring other committees in that would be more representative and have more independents on them. Indeed, there are standing committees and there are standing committees. We would also have a committee of parliamentarians established, under Bill C-22, which is not even within the realm of the Standing Orders. It is entirely separate.
Parliament is an infinitely adaptable institution. We have shown that in the examples the member gave and with the committee of parliamentarians. I think we can do better if we work together, but that is not addressed in what is before us in the motion.
View Murray Rankin Profile
View Murray Rankin Profile
2017-06-19 15:42 [p.12934]
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-362, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (economic substance).
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to introduce a bill that would amend the Income Tax Act of Canada.
I would like to thank my colleague, the hon. member for Sherbrooke, who seconded this bill.
This bill would crack down on abusive tax avoidance by denying tax breaks to transactions that lack real economic substance. These empty transactions, designed solely to avoid taxes, would no longer qualify for tax breaks.
Three years ago, I introduced a similar bill. Dr. Robert McMechan was present in the gallery. He was an expert in the field and was calling for this reform in his acclaimed book on international tax evasion. He has since passed away. Today I want to formally recognize his years of service to Canada as general counsel in the tax litigation section of the Department of Justice, and also acknowledge how valuable his expertise was to me in preparing this bill.
The bill would bring our laws up to speed with places like the United States, where President Obama used a similar law to raise billions for health care. It would build trust in the fairness and integrity of our tax system and recover hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue so we can offer better public services to Canadians. I look forward to discussing it with all members.
View Murray Rankin Profile
View Murray Rankin Profile
2017-06-13 17:31
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today in strong support of Bill S-226, which is entitled “Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act”. The bill would enable targeted sanctions against foreign nationals involved in human rights abuses. It would amend two existing Canadian laws, the Special Economic Measures Act, and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. In doing so, it would allow the government to declare individual human rights abusers inadmissible to the country and would freeze their assets in Canada.
Before I address the substance of the bill, I want to say a few words about where it comes from. Most of us in the House are by now familiar with the sad if not tragic story of Sergei Magnitsky, the man honoured by name in the bill. Mr. Magnitsky was a lawyer in Moscow acting on behalf of Bill Browder, an American businessman managing an investment fund there. Mr. Magnitsky uncovered a $230-million corruption scheme involving officials in Russia's interior ministry. He was arrested, jailed, and held without trial for almost a full year. He was denied medical attention as well. He was tortured and eventually killed. He died in November 2009 at the age of 37, after being beaten by prison guards. He was posthumously tried and convicted of the very fraud he had uncovered. That is Russian justice.
Since then, Bill Browder has been fighting for justice and action from the international community. My colleagues and I have had the privilege of meeting with Mr. Browder on several occasions throughout our work on the bill. The progress we have seen so far, with legislation passed in the United States and the United Kingdom, is due in no small measure to the tireless work of Mr. Browder and his colleagues. Indeed, Mr. Browder has devoted his life to this cause: justice for his former lawyer, Mr. Magnitsky. We in the House owe them a debt of gratitude for championing this cause and for presenting us now with an opportunity to establish Canada as another leader in holding human rights abusers accountable.
Of course, Mr. Browder and the others fighting for justice for Mr. Magnitsky are not alone, just as Mr. Magnitsky's case was, sadly, not unique. Testimony from activists and academics before both the House and Senate foreign affairs committees has reinforced the prevalence of such abuses around the globe and the culture of impunity that too often accompanies them, especially at the international level.
That is why it is so important that the bill be global in scope. Though it is inspired by the memory of Sergei Magnitsky and the fight for justice by those who knew him, its effects will reach far beyond Russia.
As Garry Kasparov told the House foreign affairs committee last year, “Money is always looking for safe harbour”. Bill S-226 would deny safe harbour in Canada to those who deny and destroy the rights of their own citizens, wherever such acts were committed. It would also put wind in the sails of those fighting that corruption and that injustice in their own countries.
The NDP has consistently called for targeted sanctions against those responsible for human rights violations and for greater coordination of Canada's regime with the European Union and the United States. However, what is remarkable today is the degree of agreement across all parties and both chambers. I note that the bill echoes recommendations of both the House and Senate foreign affairs committees, as well as motions passed by both chambers in 2015. Not only that, every recognized party in the House committed to the adoption of this type of targeted sanctions legislation in the last federal election. Therefore, I hope this long overdue bill will now be passed swiftly.
As I said earlier, the bill would amend two laws, the Special Economic Measures Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, to allow for targeted sanctions against individuals.
How would that work? It would apply to those responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, and other gross human rights violations, as well as those who would use their public office to expropriate public wealth, including through corrupt contracting, bribery, and the extraction of natural resources.
It is therefore broader in scope than the Freezing Assets of Foreign Corrupt Officials Act, which applies primarily to the misappropriation of public property and is triggered at the request of a foreign government.
The bill would allow for sanctions to be imposed on individuals in cases that did not meet the high and government-focused threshold currently required by the existing Special Economic Measures Act. Every sanctions regime currently authorized under that act uses the “grave breach provision” , as it is called, which refers to violations of international peace and security that are “likely to result in a serious international crisis.” In other words, the threshold is very high before action can occur. The murder of an opposition leader or the misappropriation of natural resource wealth may not spark that international crisis, but it ought to bring consequences from the international community. The bill would allow Canada, finally, to do just that.
Bill S-226 would also tighten the linkage between the Special Economic Measures Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. As it stands, listing under the former does not automatically lead to a declaration of inadmissibility under the latter, the immigration legislation.
As the report of House foreign affairs committee correctly noted, the complexity and layering of Canada's sanctions regime, which includes several distinct legislative authorities, can offer flexibility but can also breed, frankly, confusion and overlap. This disconnect between imposing economic sanctions under one act while declaring inadmissibility under another has to be fixed. This bill would fix it.
As Professor Meredith Lilly noted in testimony before the committee, “there's no convincing rationale that the Canadian government would want to impose economic sanctions against an individual yet still allow that person to come to Canada”. The foreign affairs committee appears to have endorsed that conclusion in its recommendations to us.
It is also important to note that Bill S-226 would require the appropriate parliamentary committees to conduct annual reviews of the individuals and entities targeted for freezing of assets and travel bans. This is an appropriate and useful role for Parliament to play. It strikes me as particularly important in light of another recommendation in our foreign affairs committee's most recent report. That report noted a concern, based on the experience of other jurisdictions, that existing mechanisms for ministerial review of sanctions decisions may be insufficient with respect to their procedural fairness and their transparency.
In light of that, the committee recommended the enactment of an independent administrative review mechanism for individuals and entities that felt that they had been wrongly targeted.
In the context of that broader recommendation, the bill's provisions for parliamentary committees to regularly review the government's sanctions targets is important and timely.
I am proud of the spirit of collaboration that has guided the bill through both chambers and their committees. The bill responds to a call for justice by those who know first-hand the corrosive effects of corruption and violence on a political system. Indeed, one of its proponents, Boris Nemstov, a democratic leader in Russia who spoke in support of this legislation in Ottawa in 2012, was later assassinated.
The bill would make Canada a leader in holding those responsible and complicit in such crimes and human rights violations accountable, through targeted economic sanctions and travel bans. Passing the bill would send a powerful signal to those fighting for justice for Sergei Magnitsky that Canada would not be a safe haven for those responsible and complicit in such crimes to enjoy the fruits of their crimes.
View Murray Rankin Profile
View Murray Rankin Profile
2017-06-12 13:26 [p.12466]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by simply associating myself with the eloquent remarks of the member for Durham and to say how much the NDP and its entire House of Commons family respects the hon. member for Scarborough—Agincourt. I was talking with my colleague from Courtenay—Alberni, who reminded me how eloquent the member was when we had an orientation for new members and how meaningful it was when he came forward.
I was so taken by his remarks today, not only about the work-life balance health issue he addressed but also about the need to thank people at the Tim Hortons, as he pointed out, or to be a little more civil on the roads. The member exemplifies that tradition of civility that we hope we can sometime get back in a more meaningful way in this place.
I had the honour and privilege to attend an event in the hon. member's riding of Scarborough—Agincourt during the time of the controversial debate involving medical assistance in dying. I got a chance to see the member in action with his constituents, and I can report to the House, without a shadow of a doubt, just how much he was respected and indeed loved by the members who were there.
I want to say to Jean and his family, I know how important it is for all of us to have family to hold us up. I know how much they have held up this member as well. On behalf of the New Democratic Party, I simply want to say how much we appreciate this member.
View Murray Rankin Profile
View Murray Rankin Profile
2017-06-09 11:22 [p.12425]
Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development told Canadians that the government had conducted a national security review, full stop, of the takeover of a Vancouver high-tech company by a Chinese company. However, that is the opposite of the truth. The minister is trying to pretend that there is a difference between, wait for it, a national security review and the national security review process. The minister is playing cynical word games. This is deceptive, but worst of all, he is misleading Canadians.
Were the Liberals not supposed to be better than this?
View Murray Rankin Profile
View Murray Rankin Profile
2017-06-09 11:26 [p.12426]
Mr. Speaker, these commissioners work for all Canadians and report to Parliament, not to the government of the day. This is to ensure their independence so they can investigate any government, regardless of their political affiliation. The Liberals attempted to change that tradition for their own partisan benefit, but luckily for our democracy, they failed.
Will the Liberal government now accept responsibility for its actions, and with humility, agree to a new process that would prevent partisan appointments in the future?
View Murray Rankin Profile
View Murray Rankin Profile
2017-06-08 10:11
Mr. Speaker, on this important day when the House will be considering an NDP motion on nuclear disarmament, I am pleased to present a petition from my constituents in Victoria.
The petitioners call the attention of the House to Canada's recent opposition to a UN resolution to begin negotiating a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons. These constituents call on Parliament to take a position independent of NATO and the United States, and support a treaty to prohibit the development, production, transfer stationing, and use of nuclear weapons.
They call on us to set as our goal the elimination of these weapons and to support a framework to achieve that end.
View Murray Rankin Profile
View Murray Rankin Profile
2017-06-08 13:44
Mr. Speaker, it is always such a pleasure to follow my colleague from Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke. His eloquent speech is inspirational to me.
I would like to read another inspirational quote, from the high representative for disarmament for the United States. She said, on June 2, “Disarmament breeds security. It is not a vague hope or aspiration but must be a concrete contribution to a safer and more secure world.” She concluded that this ban treaty is a “core component” of mechanisms under the United Nations for “our collective security.”
She is so right, and that is why it is so deeply disappointing for me as a Canadian to stand in this place and observe the Liberals walking away from the leadership role that this country has played in the past.
Here is an anecdote. When I was a much younger high-school student, a gentleman came to my high school. It was probably the proudest moment of my life to that point. That gentleman was Lester B. Pearson. I was head of the student council, and he came and talked about peacekeeping. He won the Nobel Prize for peacekeeping. How proud I was that day of a Liberal prime minister leading the world to create a safer place for children in that audience and for our children today.
I think of Mr. Axworthy and the Ottawa treaty. He is another Liberal who stepped up and showed leadership when it was claimed it would make no difference, just another silly United Nations paper exercise. Now the Liberals brag about that, and justifiably.
Here we are today, talking about why Canada should walk away from over 100 other countries in the United Nations who are trying to create a safer world for the next generation. Here we have the top five—I could not find 10—list of why the Liberals think this is a joke and should not be proceeded with.
I want to go there, but first I want to tell members about what happened yesterday in a very emotional meeting that was organized where Ms. Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of Hiroshima, came to speak to parliamentarians. I must say I was moved by what she had to say. She was a young girl when they dropped that bomb in Hiroshima and watched her nephew melt away before her very eyes in 4,000-degree heat. Canada is her adopted country. She is a social worker now in Toronto.
What was the most concerning to me as a Canadian is that she said she has been “betrayed” by her adopted country, Canada, for failing to be part of this historic United Nations meeting that's considering the legal ban on nuclear weapons. Ms. Thurlow reminded me—and I confess I did not know this, but I looked it up and she is absolutely right—that the bomb that was dropped on her family and her neighbours in Hiroshima was fuelled by uranium from Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories and refined in Port Hope, Ontario, so Canada has been part of this story, sadly, from the get-go.
Nothing in the mandate letters of the former minister of foreign affairs or the current minister even talks about nuclear disarmament, even though we know we are leading the way with weapons of mass destruction. Be they biological or chemical weapons or the landmines treaty, Canada is right there. However, when it comes to nuclear weapons, what happened to Canada? What happened to that leadership I talked about before?
My colleague from Laurier—Sainte-Marie, the critic for the NDP on foreign affairs, stood in this place, how many times, to ask about the government's participation in the UN talks that are soon to be under way? She stood seven times and seven times got a non-answer, which is no answer whatsoever.
Therefore, it might be helpful if I could, in the interest of time, go to the top five Liberal reasons for doing nothing.
Number one is the fissile material cut-off treaty, and it is an important thing. What did someone just say? If we do not have the matches, we are going to prevent the fire, so that is a good thing. Yes, it is sort of like saying that gun control efforts should be abandoned because they undermine progress on bullet control. I suppose that is the logic that the Liberals use.
I am entirely in favour of the fissile material cut-off treaty. Who would not be? Good for Canada for stepping up, in that context, and trying to prohibit the further production of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium. That has to be a good step. However, that does not mean we cannot do other things with the over 120 countries on this planet that want to make progress on this. If we are talking about a straw man argument, that would be one: hiding behind the fig leaf of justifiable work on the fissile material cut-off treaty. That is argument number one.
Argument number two is that our position must be consistent with our NATO allies. Members heard it here first today. Multilateralism only seems to be what our NATO allies want and what Mr. Trump wants. I thought Canada wanted to be leading the world at the UN Security Council. Maybe I missed that, but it seems shocking—
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