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42nd PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 216

CONTENTS

Tuesday, October 17, 2017




House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 148 
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NUMBER 216 
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1st SESSION 
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42nd PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Speaker: The Honourable Geoff Regan

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayer



ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Routine Proceedings]

  (1005)  

[English]

Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Act

Hon. Harjit S. Sajjan (for the President of the Treasury Board)  
     moved for leave to introduce Bill C-62, An Act to amend the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Act and other Acts.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

[Translation]

Interparliamentary Delegations

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, two reports by the delegation of the Canadian branch of the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie, the APF.
    The first is respecting its participation at the bureau meeting and the 42nd ordinary session of the APF held in Madagascar from July 8 to 12, 2016.
    The second is respecting its participation at the meeting of the Education, Communication and Cultural Affairs Committee of the APF held in Benin on May 3 and 4, 2017.

Committees of the House

Procedure and House Affairs 

     Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Orders 104 and 114, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 40th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding the membership of committees of the House. If the House gives its consent, I intend to move concurrence in the 40th report later this day.

[English]

Prevention of Radicalization through Foreign Funding Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to present my very first private member's bill, the prevention of radicalization through foreign funding act. This legislation would provide a powerful tool to stem the flow of funding from foreign groups that promote radicalization and extremism in Canada.

[Translation]

    This bill deals with the so-called secret laws relating to the funding of organizations and institutions in Canada that support radicalization.
    Security experts and anti-radicalization representatives, including members of the Muslim community, are calling for greater scrutiny of funds intended to support radicalization.

[English]

    The bill sets out a schedule of foreign states, extending to individuals and entities that suppress religious freedom, impose punishments for religious beliefs, or have engaged in or facilitated activities that promote extremism, terrorism, and radicalization. Canadian individuals and institutions would be prohibited from accepting money or gifts from any state, individual, or entity listed on the schedule.
    My sincere hope is that the government will see the practical value of the bill and give it full and thoughtful consideration.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

[Translation]

Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act

    She said: Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to introduce my first bill in the House today, a private member's bill that seeks to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act.
    This bill seeks to correct the injustice faced by retired workers whose pension plans and group insurance plans are not protected when their company goes bankrupt or undergoes restructuring.
    I will do everything in my power to ensure that this bill receives royal assent, that way, we can help prevent retirees, like those from my riding who are here today to support me, from losing their pensions, and improve the existing legislation by giving pension plans' unfunded liabilities preferred creditor status, among other things. I hope my colleagues will be supporting this bill.

    (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

  (1010)  

Committees of the House

Procedure and House Affairs  

    Mr. Speaker, if the House gives its consent, I move that the 40th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, presented to the House earlier this day, be concurred in.
    Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?
    Some hon. members: No.

[English]

Petitions

Taxation  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition signed by campers who stayed at Wilderness Park in Dowling, Ontario, located in the spectacular riding of Nickel Belt. The petitioners call upon Parliament to ensure that campgrounds with fewer than five full-time year-round employees be taxed as small businesses.

[Translation]

Legislative Amendments  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present two petitions, petition 421 and petition e-587, which call on the government to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act.

[English]

Shark Finning  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present three petitions this morning. The first petition deals with an issue that this House has debated but has not yet taken action on, which is the sale, distribution, and trade of shark fins in Canada. Sharks around the world are endangered, and the petitioners ask the House to deal with what is illegal in Canada, which is the finning of sharks, and extend it to the trade in shark fins, which is not illegal.

The Environment  

    Mr. Speaker, in the second petition, many petitioners are calling upon the government to go farther than Bill C-48, which is is currently before the House, with respect to a tanker ban on the north coast of B.C. The petitioners ask that a ban on crude oil tankers extend through B.C.'s entire west coast.

Employment Insurance  

    Mr. Speaker, the petitioners in the last petition call upon the government to extend employment insurance sickness benefits to 52 weeks for Canadians who are battling cancer and other critical illnesses.

Questions on the Order Paper

    Mr. Speaker, I would ask that all questions be allowed to stand at this time.
    Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

[Translation]

Request for Emergency Debate

Supply Management  

[Standing Order 52]
    I have received notice of an application for an emergency debate from the hon. member for Mirabel.
    Mr. Speaker, the American administration's desire to abolish supply management constitutes an unprecedented threat to Quebec agriculture.
    By calling for the abolition of our agricultural model, American negotiators are out to get our dairy farmers and poultry producers. This is happening right now. Canada's negotiators need to walk away from the negotiating table any time supply management is mentioned.
    The urgent nature of this debate is quite clear. We need to take action in the House today. We will not allow the Americans to destroy our agriculture. This is a fundamental issue for Quebec, and quite frankly, for the rest of Canada too. We voted unanimously on a motion to fully maintain supply management, which is currently being threatened. We will not allow that. We have had enough of the ridiculous demands of the American administration. Once the Americans are ready to get serious and negotiate a free trade agreement that works for everyone, they will come back to the table, but for now, we need to send a clear message. We will not allow anyone to destroy our agricultural sector.

Speaker's Ruling  

[Speaker's Ruling]
    I thank the hon. member for Mirabel for raising this important matter. However, I find that the request does not meet the exigencies of the Standing Orders at this time.

Government Orders

[Business of Supply]

  (1015)  

[English]

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion—Minister of Finance's documents submitted to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner  

    That, given accusations by experts that the Minister of Finance’s family business, Morneau Shepell, stands to benefit from the proposed changes outlined in "Tax Planning Using Private Corporations" and assurances by the Minister that he has abided by his Public Declaration of Agreed Compliance Measures with respect to his family business, the House request that the Minister table all documents he submitted to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner between November 4, 2015, and July 18, 2017.
    He said: Mr. Speaker, the Finance Minister of Canada has awesome powers to help or hinder individual businesses, particularly those businesses that deal in products like pensions. A minister of finance knows beforehand about government decisions that move markets and push individual companies up or down, and his decisions can impact the direct bottom line of companies in which everyday Canadians invest and for which they work. No one in government has more power over taxation, regulations, tariffs, subsidies, or government bond auctions, all of which have direct impact on the fortunes of individual businesses.
     He who has the most control over the nation's finances should have the most transparency over his interests. From those to whom much is given, much is asked. We give ministers the power to impact the lives of everyday people. We expect that they prove they are exercising those decisions in the public interest and not the private interest. This is especially true of the Minister of Finance, for whom these powers are so vast.
    We are not dealing with an ordinary Minister of Finance. His father built a billion-dollar financial services firm. According to last available insider trader reports, the current finance minister held over $30-million worth of shares in that fine family business as of 2015. Since he became minister, he stopped disclosing his holdings, which is greatly ironic: we knew more about his interests before he was finance minister than we do now.
    Public filings with the insider trading reports ensured that he, as a corporate executive, was accountable to his shareholders. He now has no similar accountability to the 35 million shareholders we call Canadian citizens. This company is of direct interest to the minister's department.
    I will read from the Morneau Shepell website:
    Morneau Shepell is the largest provider of pension administration technology and services in Canada. We offer a full range of solutions from software to full outsourcing of pension administration.
    Who regulates pensions in Canada? It is the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions. To whom does that office report? Why, it is the finance minister, and that office regulates “...1,200 pension plans”.
    Interestingly, if we go to the Morneau Shepell website, it makes direct reference to that office, saying that the office appoints Morneau Shepell to wind down the pension plans of bankrupt companies. If a company pension plan is going under, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions needs someone to oversee the pension. In the meantime, it picks from a variety of providers. Of course, there is a financial benefit to whoever is selected, and Morneau Shepell brags on its website that it offers its own services to this office that reports directly to the finance minister.
    There are broad and sweeping regulations at a national level to federally regulated pension plans. Of course, Morneau Shepell offers those pension plans. Pension plans also purchase government bonds. The finance minister sells government bonds.

  (1020)  

    Every year we have new issuances of government bonds as the government runs deficits and needs to borrow money and past bonds come to maturity and need to be renewed. They are sold to institutional investors, such as pension funds, of which Morneau Shepell is one. The finance minister's family business buys government bonds and the finance minister sells government bonds.
    Then there is the issue of taxation. The finance minister, of course, is responsible for setting tax policy for the whole country. That is important for everyone, but especially for companies whose interests and activities are so dramatically impacted by tax levels and tax rules. Allow me to provide one example.
    The minister proposed in his July 18 consultation paper to double tax the investment income private businesses earn within their companies. The result is that many of them would be forced to take their retirement savings out of their private companies and put them into individual pension plans, a unique and not well-understood product. A few Canadians hold them, and far fewer companies offer them. One of those companies is Morneau Shepell. The minister might say that he did not take that into consideration when he made his public policy proposal, but we do not know that, because we are not familiar with what holdings he continues to possess.
    Furthermore, the minister has defended Canada's 40-year-long tax treaty with Barbados. That treaty allows Canadian companies and wealthy individuals to pay only 2.5% tax in Barbados and to then ship the rest of their profits back to Canada tax free. The minister's family business has registered a subsidiary in Barbados to take advantage of exactly those favourable tax conditions, so the finance minister is responsible for reviewing a tax treaty with a tax haven where his family business has a subsidiary.
    Here is what we know about the finance minister. His father built a billion-dollar family business. As of 2015, the finance minister was receiving employment income from that family business, and as of that same year, he had $30 million in shares in that company. Since he has become minister, we no longer know if he holds on to those shares, and it is not because the minister has not been asked. He has been asked on probably a dozen occasions, and he simply refuses to answer. For the longest time, most people thought he could not answer. It is in a blind trust, so he would not know.
    On Twitter late last week, I had an exchange with the Liberal member for downtown Toronto, who came leaping to the finance minister's defence by saying that the money is obviously in an arm's-length blind trust, so how could the minister possibly know where his money is, as it is all blinded to him. I do not blame that Liberal member for saying that, because most of the press gallery thought exactly the same thing. Everyone just assumed that if a finance minister has shares in a financial company, they would have to go into a blind trust.
    Through two weeks of intrepid investigative journalism, The Globe and Mail finally was able to extract the fact that the minister does not have a blind trust, so he knows what he holds. He knows his assets. He knows what they are. Why will he not tell everyone else? Some might suggest that this is an intimate, private detail that we could not possibly ask someone to volunteer to strangers. That is an odd response, given that he was, as a corporate executive, forced to reveal exactly the same facts. Am I the only one who finds it peculiar that a corporate executive had a higher standard of public transparency than the Minister of Finance?
    An hon. member: You are not alone.
    Hon. Pierre Poilievre: I am not alone, Mr. Speaker.

  (1025)  

    I think most Canadians would think that the man who directs our taxation regulations, subsidies, tariffs, and financial regulation policy in this country, and is responsible for $300 billion of public spending, would have a higher degree of public disclosure than a corporate executive. However, those who would expect that would be wrong, at least under the present government.
     I found this particularly surprising, because when I was a parliamentary secretary, I opened a very meagre stock portfolio. I will not say exactly how much, but it was well shy of $30 million. I know the members of the House are shocked to hear that. I am the son of two teachers. The reality is that I did not have $30 million. I went to the Ethics Commissioner, and she said, “Yes, I am afraid that is going into a blind trust.” At the end of the day, I put that in a blind trust for as long as I held it and maintained that blind trust separate and out of my control.
    We think a parliamentary secretary should not be able to know what he or she owns in the stock market. Why on God's green earth would we expect it to be appropriate for the finance minister to own tens of millions of dollars of interest without either putting it into a blind trust, divesting it altogether, or at the very least, telling the public what he holds?
    During the Paul Martin era, he owned Canada Steamship Lines. I thought it was particularly egregious the way that finance minister arranged his affairs, reflagging his ships to avoid paying the same taxes he imposed on other Canadians. At least we could debate those facts in the Martin era, because we knew them. He, at least, to his credit, made clear to Canadians that he had this massive shipping empire under his command, and then subsequently under the command of his children while he was pulling the financial strings of the country.
    Today we are expected to just trust the finance minister and assume he wants us to have blind trust in him, even though he does not have a blind trust himself. This is the same minister who already broke the requirements of the ethics act by covering up his offshore corporation in France, which owns his villa there, a villa that may produce rental income. That, of course, would not be taxed in Canada, because it would be held in that shell corporation offshore. Meanwhile, the minister wants to impose higher taxes on private corporations here in Canada, the mom and pop grocery stores that cannot afford the lawyers and consultants to set them up with offshore companies in France. They will pay higher taxes on their passive income while his policy allows him to continue to accumulate riches abroad, out of the reach of the same tax system he would impose on everyone else.
    Going back to the parliamentary secretary, when that member from downtown Toronto told us over Twitter that his minister had a blind trust, someone asked him why. He responded that it is the “laaaaaaaaaw”, with nine letter a's to emphasize the importance of the law. I honestly believe that the member thought the minister would have to have a blind trust to function in any kind of ethical environment and avoid conflicts of interest.
    We should all turn our thoughts to the junior staffers in ministers' offices who make modest middle-class incomes and have to put their $5,000 RRSPs in blind trusts. What must they think of a minister on the front bench who not only cannot be bothered to respect the same principle but who thinks he is entitled to hide his interests and potential conflicts from the Canadian people who pay his salary? That is emblematic of the kind of entitlement the millionaire finance minister and the millionaire Prime Minister have come to possess.

  (1030)  

    I understand why they would be out of touch. They do not appreciate that everyday Canadians do not have multi-million dollar trust funds handed down to them from their grandparents and their parents. The Prime Minister has been very blessed with what he likes to boast of as his family fortune. His grandfather ran an oil and gas empire, and the Prime Minister today is still living off the fruits of his grandfather's hard work and labour. The finance minister has been very blessed to come from a family that built a billion-dollar family business. Both of them are very well taken care of by these family trusts they enjoy and the inheritances that have been passed down to them. I do not begrudge their families their success, but I ask that they hold themselves to the same standard as everyone else.
    Average Canadians pay higher taxes under the government. We saw how the finance minister and the Prime Minister meticulously designed a tax increase, targeted at local businesses and family farmers, that would protect their family fortunes. The billion-dollar family business of the finance minister, Morneau Shepell, is publicly traded, so it faced no new taxes under this latest attack on small businesses. The Prime Minister went out and boasted to the media that his family fortune would not be affected by any of the tax increases. Meanwhile, the hard-working entrepreneurs who started with nothing and built their way from the ground up were expected to pay taxes as high as 71%.
    It is as though the finance minister and the Prime Minister were at the top of a castle wall looking down at the peasants and pulling up the ladder so that nobody could climb and join the court. This is the imagery the government creates when it protects the aristocratic wealth of the Prime Minister and the finance minister and prevents everyone else from having an opportunity to build a brighter future for themselves the same way the finance minister's father and the Prime Minister's grandfather were able to build for their families.
    This comes back to the essential debate we are having in this country. On the other side, we see a desire for a government-run economy. Do not get me wrong. People are able to get rich; it is how they get rich. In a free market economy, people get rich by having the best product. In a government-run economy, people get rich by having the best lobbyists. A free market economy allows people to get ahead on merit. In a government-run economy, people get ahead on connections. In a free market economy, people can only be better off if they sell things that are worth more to them than what they paid for them. In a government-run economy, people get ahead by using political power to transform itself into financial power.
    A free market system has allowed literally billions of people around the world to escape grinding poverty and achieve a better future for all. It is the greatest poverty-fighting machine ever invented. It is the best system we know. We understand that the government across the way does not believe in it. It believes in a government-directed economy, where insiders get ahead using their political power, where the power of force is used to extract money from the pockets of people who have earned it and to put it into the hands of those who have not.
    Ours is a struggle for the hard-working middle-class people who put in a hard day's work for a better life. We ask that the Prime Minister and the finance minister prove that they share that same goal by revealing to all Canadians the vested interests they possess so that all of us can ensure that they are acting in the public interest and not in their narrow private interests.

  (1035)  

    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member opposite has used a lot of time and resources in focusing on the finance minister, but on this side of the House we focus on Canadians.
    Last week, the same member waxed poetic about facts and the finance minister and I want to give Canadians some facts: fact, Canada's economy is growing faster than it has in more than a decade, in fact, at one of the strongest rates in the G7; fact, over 400,000 jobs have been created since we have taken office, most of them full-time jobs; fact, unemployment is the lowest it has been in more than a decade.
    What would the hon. member say to his constituents who are benefiting from these facts?
    Mr. Speaker, the member is correct in pointing out that the Prime Minister and finance minister have been given great fortune. The previous government left a balanced budget and a growing economy, the strongest balance sheet in the G7 by far and the lowest debt. That strong financial situation has, of course, allowed Canada to withstand the damaging policies that the Prime Minister has so far enacted over the last two years. We also see a much faster growing global economy, one in which the United States and the rest of the world are finally starting to recover from the original financial crisis that the Conservative government was able to help Canada withstand.
    That great fortune is landing in the lap of the Prime Minister and the finance minister, and they have a lot of experience inheriting great fortunes. The question is what they will do with it. Will they return to a balanced budget? Will they lower the tax burden so that hard-working people can continue to earn a better life for themselves and their families? Will they build upon the Conservative record, which reduced poverty to its lowest level on record and resulted in the biggest increase in median incomes on record? Will they build upon that successful low-debt, low-tax record, or will they squander this fortune they have inherited?
    Mr. Speaker, the official opposition's motion today is clearly of interest to Canadians. I do not know if “regret” is the right word, but it is lamentable, I suppose, that we need to spend a day in Parliament asking for something that should have been clear and obvious when the finance minister took on the most important job in the cabinet, outside of the Prime Minister's job. There has been a pattern with the finance minister.
    Maybe I am naive, but I think many Canadians believed the finance minister two years ago when he suggested that he would put his wealth into a blind trust. I believed him, because that was the obvious thing for a finance minister to do. Paul Martin did that, as well as a succession of finance ministers, because if they are wealthy and have assets that could be impacted by the decisions they make as finance ministers, the only way to shield themselves from ethical violations, either perceived or real, in which they would benefit from their ministerial decisions is to put all their assets into a blind trust, as the Prime Minister did. I believe the health minister and other ministers in the current cabinet did, like previous cabinets did.
    Today the Conservatives are requesting access to what the Ethics Commissioner was told. I believe those conversations, by their nature, need to have some element of privacy so that people can divulge information to the commissioner, and because MPs have to share a lot of personal information with her. If one has held a senior position in a private company like Morneau Shepell, one would have to divulge a great deal of personal information about one's shares and when those shares get sold. There is also legal counsel within a company to advise about the sale of shares. With Equifax recently, we saw senior management of a company that was in a lot of trouble suddenly start selling shares.
    However, on the political side, is there perhaps a gap in the way that our ethics and conflict of interest legislation is designed that something like this could happen, whereby, in a private meeting with an Ethics Commissioner, finance ministers could simply choose not to put things into a blind trust and choose, in that way, to expose themselves to a conflict of interest?
    I concern myself with the larger conversation in this country, which is our economy, how things are managed, and how a finance minister could continue to do his job when he is shrouded in this much personal controversy of his own making. Do we need to strengthen the way that disclosures happen so that the obvious and ethical thing happens each and every single time, not just by that person's particular choice?

  (1040)  

    Mr. Speaker, there are two issues here. One is, did the finance minister follow the law? The second is whether the finance minister is acting in the public interest.
    Let us start with the law. The finance minister appears to have broken the law in failing to report his offshore private corporation in France. With respect to the $30 million in shares he owned and may still own in Morneau Shepell, he may or may not be in compliance with the law. However, it is not enough to follow the law; that is the bare minimum. It is not enough for him to say, “Oh, I found a loophole, I do not have to report what I own because I managed to slide it into a family trust or I stashed away those shares in a private corporation and therefore they are out of public view. That loophole protects me from transparency.”
     That is not enough because the second standard I mentioned is the public interest. Consequently, even if the minister has found a way, with all the best lawyers and consultants and lobbyists, to benefit from a loophole from the law—loopholes are something he was attacking not so long ago—he still has to uphold the public interest. That is his duty in this place. Our role is to uphold the public interest, and the only way we can do that in this case is if he is transparent about his private interests.
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague, the member for Carleton, eloquently spelled out the issues here today and the high ethical standards all members should strive for.
    I have to address the comments by my friend, the Liberal MP for Whitby, who recited with dramatic effect a number of facts. I will recite a fact and I would like the member's comment on it. The fact is that the MP for Whitby, when responding to all small business owners on this issue, said, “Let me start by apologizing to each and every entrepreneur, small business owner, physician, and constituent in the Town of Whitby for the tone and the language that was used during the roll-out of these proposals.” She apologized for the tone because that finance minister has tried to play groups of Canadians off against each another, tried to suggest that all small business owners are somehow part of the wealthiest 1%, the Prime Minister's favourite phrase in this House.
     Could the member for Carleton inform this House why he thinks these ethical lapses and questions go to the heart of the confidence we can have in the finance minister when he is playing groups of Canadians off against each another, yet not even abiding by the basic ethical standards required of MPs in the House? That is a lack of confidence, by his own conduct. I would like the member's comments.
    Mr. Speaker, it is particularly galling that the finance minister would hide his own multi-million dollar investments from Canadians after he has travelled across the country, wagging his fingers at pizza shop owners, plumbers, and family farmers. He has called them tax cheats. He said they have tried to game the system to avoid paying their fair share. He has accused them of using loopholes. Now he is the one who is looking for a way around the rules to prevent Canadians from knowing what interests he holds. He is not prepared to hold himself to the standard he imposes on everyone else. Where I come from, that is called hypocrisy.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would remind hon. members that the Minister of Finance has been working with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner to ensure that he is abiding by all her recommendations and every conflict of interest law and that every appropriate measure is in place.
    The commissioner conducted a thorough review before issuing her recommendations, which the minister followed. The Minister of Finance has full confidence in the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner and in her recommendations. He is prepared to take any measure deemed necessary by the commissioner in order to avoid any conflict or any perceived conflict.
    The Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner has the full confidence of Parliament with regard to her ability to do her work with impartiality, integrity and independence. On this side of the House, we respect the commissioner's independence. This is the opposition's attempt to distract from what our government is doing for small businesses and the middle class.
    Let us talk about that. I am pleased to rise in the House to go over what our government is doing to improve tax fairness, reduce inequality, and foster inclusive growth. Earlier this month, the government concluded its consultations on its proposals for resolving the issue of tax planning using private corporations. Throughout these consultations, we listened to Canadians from across the country. It is fair to say that the federal government's consultations made it possible for a record number of Canadians to be heard. The Minister of Finance received more than 21,000 submissions and met Canadians from St. John's to Vancouver at roundtables and town halls as well as online forums. I also know that many members of all parties, especially Liberals, did the same thing.
    As the new Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, I personally met with many Canadians, including small business owners, farmers, and industry representatives to discuss these proposals. On behalf of the Minister of Finance, I would like to thank the many people who participated in the discussion. I especially want to thank them for their frank and extensive dialogue, which will help the government strike the right balance in carrying out its promise to improve tax fairness in order to help the middle class and to achieve inclusive growth.
    Yesterday, the Prime Minister announced the steps the government plans to take to further support Canada's small businesses. I will talk about this announcement in a moment, but first I would like to remind my hon. colleagues how we got to where we are today.
     First and foremost, I would like to assure all members that the government is committed to guaranteeing a healthy, business-friendly economic climate, as well as protecting the ability of Canadian businesses to invest, grow, innovate, and create jobs. In the two years since we came into office, more than 400,000 jobs have been created, most of them full-time. These results are due in part to strong economic growth and the sound investments our government has made in our economy and our society.
     Our fiscal position is better than forecast in March. In fact, for the fiscal year that ended on March 31, we had a budget deficit of $17.8 billion, which is $11.6 billion less than was forecast in 2015. Ours is currently the fastest-growing economy by far in the G7.
    The results for the second quarter this year showed that the economy grew by an impressive 4.5%. Over the past four quarters, our economy has grown at the fastest rate since the beginning of 2006. The policies we have put in place since we came into office, which include investing in infrastructure, giving more money back to the middle class, and implementing the Canada child benefit, have been praised worldwide for stimulating the economy and giving middle-class Canadians greater flexibility.

  (1045)  

[English]

    This strong economic growth is proof that the plan we put in place two years ago is working. We began laying the foundation for this economic growth the moment we took office. The first thing we did when we started our mandate two years ago, as people may know, was to raise taxes on the wealthiest 1% so we could cut them for nine million Canadians. This middle-class tax cut has been benefiting nine million Canadians, and we are proud of that. Single individuals who benefit from this tax cut are saving an average of $330 each year, and couples an average of $540 each year.
    Our government has also made child benefits more generous and better targeted to those who need them the most. With the new Canada child benefit, we have lifted hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty. Since July 2016, nine out of 10 Canadian families with children are receiving more in child benefits than they did under the previous system.
    We also expanded the Canada pension plan to ensure Canadians would be better off financially in their retirement. The strengthened CPP will provide more money to Canadians when they retire. so they can worry less about their savings and focus more on enjoying time with their families.

  (1050)  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would ask you to bring the member to order over relevance. The nature of today's motion is the appearance of a conflict of interest and calls upon the finance minister to table documents in the House, not to discuss the minister's track record.
    As I have mentioned before in the House, I really do trust the MPs in the room to come around and actually talk about the issue at order. Often I have heard many speeches go off on a tangent that I am not really sure where they will go, but then they bring it back. I will accept that comment, but I will leave it to the MPs to keep it on topic.
    The hon. parliamentary secretary.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member had listened to my introduction, he would know that I mentioned that the Minister of Finance worked with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner and that he will continue to do so in order to be fully compliant with all her recommendations at all times, as he has done from the start by working transparently.
    As I said in the introduction, the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner did a thorough review of the minister's file before he took office, and the minister followed her recommendations. We believe that the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner always acts in a perfectly honest and independent manner, and we respect her independence.
    I would like to speak more specifically to the good work that the Minister of Finance does for Canadians.

[English]

    Strengthening the CPP will increase the maximum benefit by about 50% over time, giving retired Canadians a more dignified retirement.
    Now we are moving on to the next step in our plan to grow the economy and achieve better tax fairness for middle-class Canadians and those working hard to achieve the middle class.
     We will be the first to point to small business as being one of the reasons the economy is growing the fastest in the G7.

[Translation]

    Our government is committed to ensuring that businesses can prosper in Canada. In keeping with that commitment, I am pleased to inform the hon. members in the Chamber that the Prime Minister announced the government's intention to lower the small business tax rate in 2019, while presenting proposals intended to fix a tax system that is inherently unfair for the middle class.
    The government intends to lower the small business tax rate to 10% as of January 1, 2018, and then to 9% as of January 1, 2019. These tax cuts are in recognition of the importance of small businesses to the lives of Canadians and of their contribution to the Canadian economy. Small businesses are a key driver of the Canadian economy. They represent 98% of all businesses and are responsible for over 70% of all private sector jobs.
    Low corporate tax rates are meant to promote capital investment in business and growth in Canada. These investments, whether they are for the acquisition of more efficient equipment or technology or for the hiring of additional personnel, make companies more productive and competitive.
    These investments also stimulate economic growth and help create jobs and raise wages. However, as the government lowers taxes for small businesses, it must ensure that Canada's low corporate tax rates support businesses rather than give unfair and objectionable advantages to a small number of wealthier and higher-income individuals, who use private corporations as a tax planning tool. That was not the intent of the measure.
    Our current tax system encourages the wealthy to incorporate so that they obtain a tax advantage. This means that, in some cases, a person who earns hundreds of thousands of dollars a year may benefit from a lower tax rate than a middle-class worker who earns much less. That is not fair, and our government intends to remedy that situation.
    This week, the government is introducing the approach it intends to take to better target tax strategies used by a relatively small number of high-income individuals, who benefit the most from existing tax rules. To do so, we are relying on the feedback Canadians provided during our recent consultations on tax planning using private corporations. We have heard from Canadians from coast to coast to coast. We are a government that believes that consulting with Canadians and members of Parliament is a good thing and that it helps us to strike the right balance.
    In the coming weeks and months, our government will announce the next steps in its plan to resolve the issue of tax planning using private corporations, a plan that reflects the comments we heard during our consultation period.
    With every one of the changes the government makes, it will do the following: support small businesses and their contributions to Canada's communities and our economy; keep taxes low for small businesses and support owners to actively invest in their growth, create jobs, strengthen entrepreneurship, and grow our economy; avoid creating unnecessary red tape for small business owners, who work hard, as we know; recognize the importance of maintaining family farms and work with Canadians to ensure we do not affect the transfer of a family farm to the next generation; conduct a gender-based analysis on finalized proposals to ensure that any changes to our tax system promote gender equity.
    As the Prime Minister confirmed at his announcement yesterday, the government is introducing a new proposal designed to limit the ability of a small number of owners of high-income private corporations to reduce the personal tax they have to pay by sprinkling their income to family members. However, the government intends to simplify its proposal on income sprinkling to guarantee that the changes we are proposing do not add any unnecessary red tape. We must emphasize that the vast majority of private corporations will not be impacted by the proposed income-sprinkling measures. In fact, we estimate that only 50,000 family-owned private businesses are sprinkling their income. This is a small fraction, around 3%, of Canadian-controlled private corporations.
    We are making changes in order to eliminate the tax advantages that only wealthier individuals with access to the services of accountants can enjoy. We have listened to small business owners, professionals, farmers and fishers, and we are going to act on what we have heard in order to avoid unexpected or undesirable consequences.
    This simplified proposal addresses the concerns we heard during the consultations. We heard that our initial proposal was too complicated and caused uncertainty among family members.
    We also heard the concerns of family businesses, especially those involved in agriculture or the fishery, about our proposals to limit the lifetime capital gains exemption. In light of the feedback we received from Canadians, we will not for the moment implement any measures that would limit eligibility for this lifetime exemption. We will also continue to carefully examine all the comments that the government has received.

  (1055)  

[English]

    In addition to the middle-class tax cut and the Canada child benefit I mentioned earlier, I would like to highlight some of the government's other key achievements to help support middle-class Canadians.

[Translation]

    For example, over the last two years the government prioritized the movement of people and goods by making historic investments in our infrastructure. The government made long-term investments in our infrastructure because it believes it to be crucial to the future of our country and our economy. That is why, in our first budget, we committed $11.9 billion over five years to support public transit, green infrastructure, and social infrastructure.
    Also, in the 2016 fall economic statement, we announced a further $81.2 billion that will go towards critical infrastructure over a period of 11 years. These funds will support public transit, green infrastructure, social infrastructure, transportation that supports trade, Canada’s rural and northern communities, and its smart cities. These are investments that improve the way Canadians live, commute and work.
    These public transit investments will help Canadians benefit from a faster commute, reduced air pollution, more access to well-paid jobs, and stronger economic growth. These investments reflect Canadians' commitment to one another and to future generations.
    We will have even more work to do going forward. Part of the work will involve making changes to create a fairer tax system for the benefit of all Canadians, one where hard-working small business owners are rewarded for their efforts, and big businesses are able to grow, create jobs, and contribute to our country's growth.
    Our announcement yesterday means greater support for small and medium-sized businesses. In these times of economic growth, Canadians need to share the fruit of that growth, and they deserve it.
    Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to sincerely congratulate the member for Louis-Hébert who is now the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance. We have the pleasure of being neighbours in the Quebec City area. He is a feisty politician for whom I have a great deal of respect and with whom I really enjoy crossing swords.
    Perhaps he has not noticed, but I would point out to him that his two predecessors are currently cabinet ministers. I am quite certain that the member for Louis-Hébert did not notice that, so I wanted to point it out. In all sincerity, I really respect my colleague.
    Now let us really get to the heart of the matter. The parliamentary secretary said a number of things that are worthy of closer scrutiny, particularly the facts. He said earlier that his government had introduced budget measures that leave more money in the pockets of families and that make the wealthy, the infamous 1%, pay more in taxes. The facts say otherwise.
    First of all, the Fraser Institute published a study two weeks ago that found that 80% of families are now paying $840 more than when we were in government. Also, with respect to the Liberal government's so-called attack on wealthy Canadians, the infamous 1%, the Department of Finance found, on page 16 of a study tabled last week, that there is $1.2 billion less in the government coffers, basically because of those of us who are better off.
    Does the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance agree with the Department of Finance, which found that the wealthy have ended up paying less tax under the Liberal government?

  (1100)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his kind words. We are neighbours in the Quebec City area, and I enjoy working with him. With regard to his comment that I am a feisty politician, perhaps he is somewhat responsible for that. As for my future, I will leave it to his consideration. Personally, I am focusing on what I have to do now, which is to support the Minister of Finance in his work to create inclusive growth in Canada.
    The numbers speak for themselves. When we took office in 2015, growth was slow, and investments were needed in infrastructure. Interest rates were low, and there were pressing needs in our cities and across the country. We thought it was the right time to invest in infrastructure to stimulate this growth, and that is what we have been busy doing since we were elected. The municipalities, particularly in Quebec, applaud the government's approach.
    The other part of our plan was to reduce inequality and to provide as much support as possible to those who need it most, by cutting taxes for the middle class and bringing in the Canada child benefit, which gives $454 million annually to families in the Quebec City region, where the hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent is from. Nine out of ten families in the Quebec City area are getting an extra $2,300 a year, tax free, which is good for small businesses and good for growth. We know that this has a direct impact on growth.
    That is why the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and economists the world over are applauding Canada's approach. The proof is in the pudding. Growth in Canada is at a record high, the highest in a decade, while unemployment is at its lowest in a decade.
    The Minister of Finance's approach is to stimulate growth with strategic investment in infrastructure and to reduce inequality, because we know that inclusive prosperity benefits everyone, the well off and not so well off alike.
    Mr. Speaker, I cannot help but admire such amazing footwork.
    I hope the Liberal Party's communications team fully appreciates just how much we believe the hon. member, whom we hold in high regard, is speaking in good faith. We sense in his voice that he wants to do politics differently. However, his voice is being used to justify the indefensible.
    The Liberal Party's website states:
    After a decade of Stephen Harper, Canadians' faith in government has never been lower. The reason is simple: Canadians do not trust their government...
    How can we trust you and your reassuring tone when, just today, as the finance minister's French villa just happens to be under fire, you come out with a new policy for cutting small business taxes? How can we be expected to trust you, honestly?
    Before the parliamentary secretary answers, I would like to remind hon. members that they have to speak in the third person. I am sure that, when the hon. member used the word “you”, he was not referring to the Speaker.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his question.
    As I said many times yesterday in the House, from the get-go, even before he was appointed to his position, the minister worked with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. The commissioner conducted a extensive review of his file and made recommendations that the minister followed. The minister is committed to following all of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner's recommendations to ensure that he is fully complying with all laws and all of the commissioners' directives. I do not know what more I can say.

  (1105)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his speech, in which he clearly outlined the relevance of the track record of the Minister of Finance: the strongest growth in the G7, the highest employment rate since we took office, the lowest unemployment in a decade, and the introduction of the CCB. In fact, the IMF has projected Canada's growth rate to be half a point higher than it originally projected.
    I am wondering if I could ask the hon. colleague a question. What are his constituents saying as they benefit from such a strong economy?
    Mr. Speaker, I come from a region where growth has been really intense. We have full employment in Quebec City. The problem that a lot of entrepreneurs face is a shortage of labour, which is a good spot to be in, in a way, but it needs to be addressed. I know we are working hard on that.
    It benefits small businesses when the middle class has more air at the end of the month. The policy objectives that we have put forward are to try to reduce inequalities. We have seen rising inequalities here in Canada and around the western world, and I think these trends need to be reined in. That is the ambition of the minister, and the ambition of the government, to make sure every Canadian has an equal opportunity, an equal shot at success in life.
    I cannot stress this enough. There is not a moment in this House that made me more proud than when I was sitting over there and saw the Minister of Finance rise to give his budget speech announcing the Canada child benefit. Back when I was growing up, it would have helped me, my mother, and my brother tremendously. It would have made a world of difference when we were growing up. I know it is making a world of difference for a lot of my constituents.
    In food banks around my riding, I hear that they have observed a decrease in demand because, as the member knows, the Canada child benefit that we have put forward is the most progressive it has ever been. We stopped sending cheques to families of millionaires, the most privileged and wealthy Canadians, to give more to those who need it the most. That is how it should be.
    This speaks a lot about the character of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance, who have at heart that, as the tides rise and our economies grows, everyone benefits from it.
    Mr. Speaker, this is my first chance to speak on the supply day motion. Most Canadians would find it astonishing that the Minister of Finance's private arrangements were not put in a blind trust.
     We assume these things, but when we look at our code of ethics—and this is what I want to ask the parliamentary secretary about—none of the obligations in this code of ethics appear to be enforceable, at all. Members of Parliament are free to ignore their obligations to operate to the highest standards, to not conduct themselves in ways that put them in conflict of interest.
    I had a recent experience that confirms for me that the code of ethics and our plain understanding are simply unenforceable. Would the parliamentary secretary agree that we should take steps to ensure that the code of ethics of parliamentarians is actually enforceable and that the words mean something?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for raising that point today. It is something that I would definitely be happy to discuss with her. However, as far as the minister is concerned, he has worked with the Ethics Commissioner from the get-go and will continue to do so, to follow her recommendations and any directives she may have for him to be in full compliance with the code and with our laws. This has been the case from the beginning and will remain the case as we go forward.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Jonquière, which I think is an excellent idea.

[English]

    It is with some interest, and I suppose with some regret almost, that I read the opposition day motion that came from the Conservatives today. The regret is only in the sense that we have to spend a day of Parliament asking for something that should be open and obvious to everybody, and that we have to go before Parliament, have a vote in Parliament, to ask one of the highest office holders in the land to be open and transparent with Canadians about a perceived and, I would argue, real potential conflict of interest within his portfolio.
    I would be surprised if, by the end of the day, the minister does not just walk into Parliament and place the documents in front of all Canadians. Clearly, that would solve a whole series of problems that we have with the current situation, which is highly unusual. I am not sure I have ever seen an opposition day motion like this. I am not sure I have ever seen a finance minister in this particular mess, which is a mess entirely of his own making and circumstance.
    I go back to the Prime Minister's own proclamation, his dedication to Canadians, which said:
...transparent government is good government. If we want Canadians to trust their government, we need a government that trusts Canadians.
    It seems self-evident to me that, if the government is saying to trust it, then the government must also trust Canadians. What we would ask the Finance Minister to trust Canadians with is that, if he is acting ethically, if he is acting in a way that does not personally benefit and enrich him and his family, then he should be able to tell us.
    Now, we have a couple of concerns with the way the Finance Minister has conducted himself, but I want to walk through this.
     If we go back almost a full two years to October 28, 2015, to an interview with The Globe and Mail talking about the Finance Minister coming in, the article reads that under the conflict act the Finance Minister “would be expected to either sell off his assets or place them in a blind trust”.
    The Finance Minister, prior to public life, in private life, ran a company called Morneau Shepell very successfully. He owned some $43 million in shares, give or take, we think, but we do not know. He has been asked 14 or 15 times now if he is still in possession of those shares, if he still owns assets, and if he is involved in the company. However, each and every time, he has refused to answer.
     Yesterday, at a press conference with the Prime Minister, there was this very uncomfortable moment when the press were asking the Finance Minister a direct question that only the Finance Minister could answer. As he moved forward to the microphone to answer, to be accountable to Canadians, as the Prime Minister demanded in his orders to cabinet, the Prime Minister said that he would be answering the questions. The Finance Minister had to take a step back and could be heard to say, “He's the boss”. The question that then relates to this is whether the Finance Minister has the confidence of the Prime Minister.
    He has certainly lost a great deal of confidence with Canadians, particularly in the small business sector, and particularly with Canadians who watch and realize that the Finance Minister owns a private villa in France, had sheltered it under a private company to avoid paying taxes if he were then to pass it on to his children, while promoting legislation that would have prevented the same ability for farmers to pass their farm on to their kids. The contradiction of this is incredible. The Finance Minister actually used the tax code in such a way as to shelter his private villa in Provence from taxes, while promoting policies that would not allow a farmer to sell his or her farm to his or her kids.
    We would think of that as out of touch, clearly, but then we start to step into the ethics of the question. We raised the concern earlier today. Late last night, I wrote to the Ethics Commissioner asking her to launch a second investigation into the Finance Minister's dealings. This is highly regrettable, because the Finance Minister, as of two years ago in an interview, said:
     I suspect all my assets will go into a blind trust.
    I've already communicated with the Ethics Commissioner in that regard.
     I, like most Canadians, believed him. Why? Well, it was because of course this is what he would have to do. The conflicts of interest, particularly for a finance minister, are obvious. If a finance minister owns assets, millions of dollars of shares in a company that deals with financial matters, the minister simply could not maintain his or her interests and would either have to sell the shares or put them in a blind trust where he or she could no longer affect them, as every finance minister I have ever heard of has done in the past.

  (1110)  

    What makes this finance minister special? Special would be one word for it. This is unprecedented. I have not seen a finance minister put himself in not only such a perception but actual conflict of interest with his duties.
    Let us take one example. It is not just the budget, not just regulating banks, not just trying to guide the economy and the effect that could have on his private holdings, but a specific example is a bill the finance minister promoted in Parliament. He sponsored it. It is Bill C-27, which changes the way pensions work in Canada, leading to the option of targeted benefit plans, which is what they are called. It is a transition from one to another. New Brunswick put this through. Who was the lead consultant when New Brunswick went through changing its pension plan to one of these targeted benefit plans? It was Morneau Shepell. That is interesting. The finance minister, while he was head of Morneau Shepell, promoted targeted benefit plans, these specific types of insurance schemes. Because his company worked on that and made profit from it, he made money from it.
    He then became finance minister, did not sell his shares in the company, kept his interests there, then promoted a piece of legislation that would help out that very same company that he is still involved with, from which he still benefits. It is jaw-dropping. If this is not the very definition of conflict of interest, I do not know what is. In future years, when Canadians studying politics look through the handbook of political terms, they will see “conflict of interest” and will see a picture of our finance minister there. I have never seen anything like this. There is no blind trust, no selling off the shares, but placing himself directly in the way of a conflict of interest accusation, so we have written to the finance minister.
    Let me quote again. This was in a declaration made from the Prime Minister's Office two years ago:
    Our plan for an open and accountable government will allow us to modernize how the Canadian government works, so that it better reflects the values and expectations of Canadians. At its heart is a simple idea: open government is good government. For Canadians to trust our government we must trust Canadians, and we will only be successful in implementing our agenda to the extent that we earn and keep this trust.
    Here is the good part. It is from the Prime Minister's Office, from his own lips.
    To be worthy of Canadians’ trust, we must always act with integrity. This is not merely a matter of adopting the right rules, or of ensuring technical compliance with those rules. As Ministers, you and your staff must uphold the highest standards of honesty and impartiality, and both the performance of your official duties and the arrangement of your private affairs should bear the closest public scrutiny.
    The last bit seems relevant to today, does it not? Has the finance minister sold his shares in Morneau Shepell? We have asked 14 times. He has refused to answer. Does he still have those shares? We do not know. Did he promote a bill that would in fact elevate the value of those shares? Yes, he did.
    There is no particular joy taken in watching the credibility of government, the trust and faith that Canadians need to hold in their government, take another hit. Lord knows we have had enough of them, from the Senate scandals to personal scandals. I have not in my 14 years, as brief a time as that has been here in Parliament, seen anything close to this, where the appearance and obvious example of a conflict of interest has existed.
    There is only one way to attempt to alleviate the cloud that sits over the finance minister right now, and that is if he comes forward with full disclosure, if he follows the documents he signed, the promises he made to Canadians when he came into cabinet, if he follows his own words, “I suspect all my assets will go into a blind trust” and that he had already communicated with the Ethics Commissioner in that regard, and if he follows the words of the Prime Minister: “If we want Canadians to trust their government, we need a government that trusts Canadians”.
    I do not know how the finance minister will get himself out of this mess. It will be incredibly difficult. I do not know how he does his job right now. Distractions at work prevent us sometimes from being good at what we need to do. Canadians need him to be good at what he does. Canadians need him to be focused on the task at hand. Canadians need him to be honest and consistent and have the highest ethical standards and integrity. I am not sure those things are true today.

  (1115)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am going to read from the Prime Minister's statement on open and accountable government. It says:
    Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries must avoid conflict of interest, the appearance of conflict of interest and situations that have the potential to involve conflicts of interest.
    Does the member think the minister has stood up to that standard set for him by his Prime Minister?

  (1120)  

    Here is the basic rule, Mr. Speaker, when people attain public office. They cannot make decisions that enrich themselves. They must recuse themselves. They must avoid not only I would argue, as the Prime Minister set the standard, the legal definition of conflict of interest where they vote on legislation or a budget or something where they know their vote will help benefit them personally. The Prime Minister said that is not enough, that people have to be beyond that, that they cannot even have the appearance of a conflict of interest.
    The finance minister has moved legislation in the House that will benefit a company in which he is still involved. He insinuated two years ago that he would remove himself from that conflict of interest. He declared that he would either sell off everything or move it to a blind trust. Our colleague from Trinity—Spadina said publicly that there was no worry because he had moved everything into a blind trust. He deleted that tweet, but the funny thing about Twitter and all those other things is that a picture can be taken of a tweet and it still exists.
    The Liberals were under the same allusion that many Canadians were under. I suspect many of my Liberal colleagues watching these things happen said that the minister would of course put it into a blind trust because everybody does, because that is the law, that is the ethical standard. It is in fact the standard the Prime Minister set and declared time after time in the House and to Canadians. I share those expectations with my Liberal colleagues. I thought the minister was not in a conflict of interest but I was wrong, The finance minister and now the Prime Minister have to be accountable for it.
    Mr. Speaker, I am quite disappointed in the official opposition, and once again the New Democratic Party is joining forces.
    There is no surprise here. The Minister of Finance has done tremendous work and that work has been articulated by a couple of members already. On every occasion, opposition members have opposed everything this government has tried to do, whether it is giving middle-class Canadians tax breaks and putting an extra tax on Canada's wealthiest, or many of the other financial initiatives undertaken by this government.
     Every member of the House has an obligation to go through the Ethics Commissioner, as does the Minister of Finance. The Minister of Finance is following the advice of Ethics Commissioner, Mary Dawson.
    Would the member agree that members should follow the advice of Mary Dawson? All of us are obligated to go through the commissioner, including the Minister of Finance. Why does the member not believe that all members of Parliament have an obligation, first and foremost, to follow the advice and recommendations provided by the commissioner?
    Mr. Speaker, the obvious pattern with my colleague is that the correlation between the lack of voracity and intelligence in his argument is directly opposite to the volume which is used by my friend to express those opinions.
    My friend shows outrage and feigned indignation when he knows that when the finance minister and other ministers swore themselves into cabinet, they said that they would not benefit from any of the decisions they would make.
    The finance minister insinuated to Canadians that he would remove himself from the conflict of interest by removing himself from direct benefit from Morneau Shepell. We all believed it. We only found out recently that the finance minister had a villa in France. It was only through investigative journalism that we found out he had a numbered company established so he could shelter that villa when he passed it on to his kids. Each and every step along the way he has not been forward and transparent as the Prime Minister swore on stack of bibles he and all his ministers would be. This is a question of trust and integrity.
    My friend from Winnipeg North has a particular job to do, which is to be in here and fill time or whatever it is that he seeks to do. However, the fact remains that the confidence required for a government to perform its duties rests on its integrity and its actions, and the actions of the finance minister.
    I am sure in a more quiet moment, my friend will realize that this does nothing for the trust Canadians require in their government and certainly does nothing for the confidence he hopes the Liberals will regain in two years time.

  (1125)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley for his tireless efforts and the excellent work that he does on the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, often on short notice. He advocates for the issues that he cares about both inside and outside the House.
    Once again, we have before us some major ethical issues involving this government. Over the past two years, we have talked about a number of scandals in the House and even outside the House with the media. The Liberals have shown that their government is anything but transparent. During the 2015 election campaign, the Liberals announced that the wind of change was blowing, that things would be different, and that their government would be transparent. However, the reason we are debating this Conservative motion today is that something unethical has occurred and we are trying to shed some light on it.
    We are discussing an issue that I wish we did not have to discuss, because that is not why I decided to stand for election in my wonderful constituency of Jonquière in 2014. We were elected to represent and to serve the interests of Canadians, not those in a particular privileged class. If it turns out that the Minister of Finance's family business stands to profit from the measures proposed in the document entitled Tax Planning Using Private Corporations, we must therefore conclude that we have before us a major problem of ethics and transparency.
    How is it that this government, just like the previous government, is not capable of being transparent and ethical in its dealings with all Canadians? We often hear talk of a cynicism towards politicians and politics in general. In my election campaign, in 2015, I did not urge people to vote for me; rather, I simply urged them to vote, to have their say. In a number of countries, people are risking their lives when they go to vote, so it is regrettable that, here in a democracy, we have to urge people to go vote. As we see in Quebec at the moment, as municipal elections are being held, there are advertisements urging people to vote.
    Why then are there members of the House of Commons who do nothing but increase public cynicism and the sense of dishonesty and a lack of transparency?
    I want to go back to the reason I entered politics, because it really was not for my own personal enrichment. I enjoy saying that I am a former mail carrier. I delivered mail all week for 15 years. I was very happy doing what I was doing, because I was providing people with a service. When I decided to stand for office, it was so that I could keep providing a service. As members of Parliament, that is something we often forget. We talk a lot about figures and about changes, but we forget all the little miracles that each member of this House can do every day.
    At times, desperate people come to see us, as was the case this summer. For more than two months, a man had been having trouble obtaining his employment insurance benefits. It was the first time this had happened to him, and he did not know where else to turn. He came to our office in Jonquière. We welcomed him and provided him with some services and explanations. We even looked for additional help for him through the wonderful community organizations in Jonquière. That is our ultimate goal as MPs. That is what all of us in the House should be doing. We are not here to accumulate wealth, but to serve all Canadians.
    Since I was speaking about my election and my commitments, I want to add that I had a meeting at the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner as soon as I arrived in Ottawa. I was given a document to fill out, which contained explanations. I do not come from a wealthy family. My family's riches consist of my parent's love and all the family values they taught me. That is what I am going to pass on to my children, and I believe that they are our greatest riches.
    I am also pleased to say that I have owned my own wonderful little home for 12 years now. It is my pride and joy. At first, I thought it was a bit strange when the commissioner asked me to list my few assets on paper.

  (1130)  

    However, it did not take me long to realize that I was in the big leagues now. The members of the House of Commons come from all different backgrounds. Some are wealthy, while others are less fortunate. Some own multiple properties or companies. That was when I realized the importance of declaring our assets and being ethically transparent. Even though I did not own much property, I understood that disclosing what I did own was important, for me, for all our constituents, and for all Canadians. It is not difficult for members to fill out forms and be transparent from the outset if they have nothing to hide.
    That brings me to the current government. As we have seen, this is not the first time this government has sought to benefit companies like the Minister of Finance's family business, Morneau Shepell. As my colleague said earlier, Bill C-27 could benefit these companies and benefit the Minister of Finance directly.
    Certain experts have also pointed out that the Minister of Finance's tax reform could have economic benefits for Morneau Shepell, as I said, because it will force doctors and other small business owners to purchase private pension plans. The tax reform and all the suspected conflicts of interest involving the finance minister since he was elected are another good example of the fact that the Liberal government is working more for its own interests and those of its friends. It is working only for itself.
    The Liberals keep repeating that the middle class is important, but I have to wonder whether they even know what exactly the middle class is. Is middle class determined by one's bank account or one's fortune? I see the real middle class every day, and I consider the people around me to be part of it. I help a lot of people around me. We talk about it and we live it every day. As MPs, it is important that we stay connected to our reality. We do not get that impression from the current government. No one should ever remain an MP if they are going to put their own interests first.
    I will wrap up because I am running out of time. I had a lot more to say. We talked about tax reform and we talked about helping our SMEs. We see that the government has done nothing to tackle tax havens head-on. A lot has been said lately about investments in the Bahamas. Why is the Liberal government reluctant to tackle tax havens head-on? It is going after the little fish, but not the big fish. Is it too complicated, too difficult? It is easier to go after ordinary workers, those who belong to the middle class.
     When I ran for office it was to represent my constituents of the riding of Jonquière, to give them a voice and to help my community grow. It never occurred to me to run to further my own interests or as a way to get rich. I believe that should be the case for everyone here in the House. I firmly believe that it is possible to do politics in an ethical and transparent manner. I find it extremely unfortunate that the Minister of Finance broke his word when he said that he was going to put his interests in a blind trust when in the end he did nothing of the sort. Worse yet, he introduced a bill to make himself richer. This kind of conduct is disappointing.
    Again, I cannot believe that we are being forced to waste our time on settling ethics issues in the House, when we were elected to serve the public and not to serve the interests of the privileged few.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the member has indicated that she has, as have all of us, met with the Ethics Commissioner. She also indicated that, after having that communication with the Ethics Commissioner's office, she ultimately abided by what had been recommended to her. That is what I understood her to imply through the translation.
     The Minister of Finance has done the very same thing. If in those discussions, Mary Dawson, our Ethics Commissioner, compels, requires, or requests that the Minister of Finance put things into a blind trust, he has indicated that he will do just that.
    The member has stated the government is not going after tax evaders. We know that is not true. This government has invested hundreds of millions of dollars to recuperate taxes from individuals, so that everyone pays a fairer share. We see that with respect to the tax breaks to Canada's middle class, something the NDP and the Conservatives voted against. They voted against the special tax on Canada's wealthiest. They voted against the Canada child benefit program. Whenever they have the opportunity to oppose the Minister of Finance, they oppose him. Although they are in opposition, there is a responsibility for them to be creative and constructive in their criticisms. To that end, I would ask the member this. Would she not agree that the Minister of Finance, like all of us, is obligated to follow the recommendations and advice of the Ethics Commissioner?

  (1135)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am going to address two of my colleague's points. First, as I mentioned, we wonder why the minister did not do what he was supposed to from the beginning. It is not complicated. You have to complete a questionnaire. Did he just forget because he has too many villas and too many assets? In that case, there is an obvious problem. When someone is caught red-handed, their excuse is that they forgot.
    It was very easy to properly fill out the form at the beginning and to follow the questionnaire. It was clear. You do not have to wait. I added information about my credit card limit, which I had to increase because of my parliamentary expenses. I filled out my form over the phone. It was something I had to do. I did it right away. It is not a big deal, and I did it. It is our responsibility as members.
    Second, I can throw back to my colleague the point about opposing something just to oppose it. Why did the government reject outright the bill sponsored by my colleague from Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, here in the House, which proposed a system for transferring family businesses that would have helped our SMEs and our family farms? That was an NDP proposal, one of many.
    Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague from Jonquière on her very valid remarks. I think she made it clear that all parliamentarians have obligations. To be absolutely sure the air is clear and everything is out in the open, we are required to disclose everything we have, and government members such as parliamentary secretaries and ministers are no exception to that rule. I know the member is quite aware of the tax evasion happening in tax havens. I would invite her to comment on the information brought to light here three weeks ago by the member for Carleton when he tabled documents revealing, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the Minister of Finance's company, Morneau Shepell, owned a company in Barbados that served as a tax shelter.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, whose work I admire very much and whose valuable contributions to these discussions I appreciate. We have the evidence, the facts, right here in the House. The question is why. Individuals who become MPs or even the Minister of Finance know that changes will be made to the tax system. The Minister of Finance has the power to give to and the power to take away from Canadians and must therefore adhere to a strict code of ethics. When information about assets in the Bahamas is brought to light here in the House, I need to know more. This is about tax evasion. Why is the government not digging deeper? Could it be to protect those very assets?
    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in this debate today. It will give the government an opportunity to rebuild its image and credibility in public finance. We are simply asking the government to have the Minister of Finance release the documents related to his personal possessions that may have a direct impact on the management of his department, the Department of Finance.
    I will not be alone in saying this, since I will shortly be sharing my time with my colleague, the hon. member for Langley—Aldergrove.
    From the outset, I would like to say how much I respect and admire the Minister of Finance as a person. I respect him because, when a man of this calibre becomes involved in politics, the entire political class wins. I am pleased to reiterate that we must have very high standards, especially the Minister of Finance, because his department is key to the Canadian economy.
    However, when the Minister of Finance is the owner of a $1-billion publicly traded family business that is directly impacted by each of the decisions made by the Minister of Finance, of course he has to be purer than the driven snow.
    Unfortunately, over the past few weeks, the opposite has been happening. I do not remember, but there must have been a former finance minister whose authority has been so scratched and bruised, even by the Prime Minister. I will come back to that later.
    Three weeks ago, in this very House, the member for Carleton tabled a document showing that the Minister of Finance's company, Morneau Shepell, has a subsidiary located in Barbados, a known tax haven for investors. That, in itself, is a major problem, which is why we would like the Minister of Finance to shed some light on this.
    To make matters worse, it would seem that the Minister of Finance has forgotten, for two years, to disclose the fact that his company owned another company that in turn owned a villa in Provence. Everybody owns property, and I perfectly understand that someone with pots of money may own lots of properties all over the place. However, to have forgotten about owning a villa in Provence is a little suspicious, to say the least.
    I should say, though, that perhaps it was at his villa in Provence that the Minister of Finance learned to speak such excellent French. I am not being sarcastic. I sincerely commend the minister on his proficiency in French.
    In addition, we learned from CBC that it was only because it hounded the Minister of Finance that he finally admitted that he had forgotten to mention his villa. We also learned from The Globe and Mail, and this goes to the heart of today's debate, that although the Minister of Finance is an owner and shareholder of a company worth tens of millions of dollars, his properties and assets have not been put in a blind trust.
    This is unfortunate, because it would have set the record straight and, more importantly, allowed the minister to act with his hands untied. It is not a failure to succeed in business, nor is it a failure to make a father's inheritance grow, as the minister did. Above all, it is not a failure to want to get involved in politics after having succeeded in business, quite the contrary. Still, there are ethical rules that we must follow at all times—exceed, even.
    That is what we are asking of the Minister of Finance today through our motion. In fact, we are asking that he table all the documents so that we know the truth about this.
    As I mentioned, three factors are tarnishing the moral authority of the Minister of Finance: the matter of his business in Barbados, a tax shelter and haven; the fact that he forgot to disclose that he owns a villa in Provence; and finally, the fact that he did not put his assets into a blind trust, which would have been the simplest and most effective solution.
    That is nothing compared to the direct attack that the Minister of Finance launched against small business owners in recent months. Let us remember that, on July 18, in the middle of the summer, when it was nice and warm and half of Canada was on vacation, he started a consultation, barely 75 days long, to review the small business tax rate.

  (1140)  

    When a consultation of that kind is launched in the middle of summer, it is either because the government's mind is made up, or because it has no desire to hear from Canadians. Fortunately, Canadians from across the country rose up to tell the Liberals that they were making no sense. Fortunately, here in the House of Commons, the official opposition has been asking the government every conceivable question, and some that are inconceivable, in order to tell it that it is making no sense.
    Let us remember that more than 110 of the 120 questions that the official opposition was able to ask in the first week were on this issue. We have taken the matter seriously because the direct attack made no sense. The Liberals wanted to raise taxes for small businesses that want to sell to the next generation. That is complete nonsense. The current government wanted to raise taxes for entrepreneurs who are putting money aside. In the private sector, business owners put money aside to use in the bad years, to pay bonuses, to invest in equipment, and even to use as a pension fund. The government wanted to collect more taxes from them, and I am not even talking about income splitting.
    We are talking three senseless direct attacks against our entrepreneurs. The minister did not have much time to answer questions yesterday because the Prime Minister did not want him to, but he did announce something that he seemed to think was the best thing since sliced bread. He was very proud to confirm that the government would be lowering taxes on entrepreneurs, on small businesses, to 9%. How wonderful.
    Hang on. Does anyone here remember the Liberals making that promise and breaking it? Now they are following through. Why did they break that promise? In the 2015 budget, our government made a law stating that the tax rate, which was 11% at the time, would have to drop to 9%. What was the first thing the current government did in its 2016 budget with respect to small businesses? It scrapped that obligation to lower the rate to 9%, even though it promised to do so. That is terrible. The government made a promise, broke it, and then brought it back to the table as though it were reinventing the wheel. Canadians are not fools. They knew it made no sense.
    Need I remind members of the sad fact that, when the government launched its full frontal attack on small businesses, the Prime Minister's two personal companies were miraculously unaffected by the changes the Liberal government wanted to impose? It is unbelievable. In addition, the Minister of Finance made it so that small businesses would have to pay more tax, while conveniently avoiding any impact to his family business. This is totally unacceptable and is what creates cynicism in politics.
    Need I also remind members that the current government was elected on a promise of running small deficits, deficits that are now 80% higher than what was promised. We were also promised a return to balance by 2019, but now, we do not even know when the government will balance the books, which is totally unacceptable. This spendthrift government has completely lost control of the public purse and has no idea how to manage it properly, and it needs to be called out.
    In closing, it is important that the Minister of Finance have the necessary authority to carry out his duties, as he is the architect of Canada's economic base and is the most important minister. I do not want to take anything away from anyone, but he is the most important minister in cabinet. That is why, under the leadership of the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, the then finance minister Jim Flaherty worked hand in hand with the Prime Minister. The same was true of the Honourable Joe Oliver.
    The current Prime Minister publicly scorns his own Minister of Finance. As far as I can remember, I have never seen a Prime Minister so arrogant, smug and scornful of his Minister of Finance. Yesterday, in the middle of a question period with journalists in Ontario, the Prime Minister said the following:

  (1145)  

[English]

    Ask the question to the Prime Minister, you have the chance to have the Prime Minister in front of you, ask the question to the Prime Minister.
    I have never heard that. Where is God?

[Translation]

    It is absolutely incredible. At the risk of wading into partisan politics a bit here, even during the worst years of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and his finance minister Paul Martin, two people who hated each other, never would Jean Chrétien have scorned his finance minister in that way. We are talking about the authority of the finance minister. We are in Canada. Canada is a strong and proud country that has to be led by a strong Prime Minister and a strong finance minister. When the Prime Minister undercuts the finance minister's authority, he undercuts the authority of Canada as a whole.
    Before moving on to questions and comments, I would remind the hon. member that traditionally in the House we try to have integrity and show respect for all members. When we are talking about other members, the Prime Minister, the leader of the opposition, we have to be sure not to use offensive language. If everyone can show that level of respect for themselves, then I think that will go a long way to improving the debate.

  (1150)  

[English]

    Questions and comments. The hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway.
    Mr. Speaker, during the last election, many Canadians voted for a new way of doing things. We have to remember that. Although this motion comes from the official opposition, the Conservative Party, the last four years of its administration were not exactly unmarred by ethical issues. There were many examples of Conservative senators who did not seem to know where they lived and claimed per diems in this city when they lived here, and to whom $90,000 was paid by operatives in the Prime Minister's Office, and there were attempts to suppress reports.
    When I campaigned during the last election, I heard a very clear message from Canadians that they wanted a strong recommitment to ethics in their government. The Liberal finance minister said that he would put his considerable assets in a blind trust, and two years later we find out that he did not. He forgot to list a numbered company that owns his villa in France, even though he is obligated to report all of his assets, including numbered companies. We found out he has assets parked offshore in noted tax havens like Barbados. Finally, we found out that he has been sitting at the cabinet table making decisions every single day for the last two years when he knows what his assets are and is making decisions on issues that would affect the value of those assets. At the same time, I have heard Liberals ask what the problem is. They do not seem to understand that there are clear conflicts of interest. Frankly, there are real conflicts of interest, not just apparent conflicts of interest, and serious ethical breaches.
    What is my hon. colleague's comment on the Liberals saying today that there is really nothing to see here, that Canadians should not be concerned about the Liberal finance minister, but we should, instead, be talking about other issues like the economy?
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague made some comments about the last four years the Conservatives were in office. Yes, people judged us. That is why Quebec NDP members in the House of Commons went from 50-plus members to 16 and the Conservatives went from five to 12. That was the result in the last election and it will be interesting two years from now to see how the NDP do in Quebec.
    I see my Liberal colleagues laughing. Just be quiet, I will get back to you guys.
    The finance minister is a very important person in cabinet and an even more important person in Canada. We need a strong finance minister. I respect the fact that the involvement of this millionaire finance minister in politics is a plus for everyone When someone of his level joins the political fight, it is great for all of us, but there needs to be a clear mandate and we need a clear view of everything to be sure that every decision made by his government will not benefit his own business. Morneau Shepell is one of the greatest Canadian businesses, but day after day it has to deal with the finance minister's decisions. This is why the finance minister should have no link at all with that business.
    I will remind hon. members that they are speaking through the Speaker and not to the Speaker, so when someone says, “You do this”, or, “You just wait”, it was not aimed at me. I do not want to take offence at that.
    Questions and comments. The hon. member for Winnipeg North.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to emphasize the importance of what the Ethics Commissioner actually said and ask my knowledgeable colleague a question, because I am sure he is aware of these types of situations.
    Let us go back to the Harper budget or even that government's legislative means in dealing with the Canadian Wheat Board. Their measures had fairly profound impacts on the Canadian Wheat Board. No doubt there were many Conservative farmers who would have been directly impacted. When we pass a budget, there are huge impacts. Maybe the member could clarify for Canadians why parliamentarians have to participate and why we have the Ethics Commissioner in the first place.

  (1155)  

    Mr. Speaker, based on what the member said, we are all in a conflict of interest. Why? It is because we pay taxes and vote on budgets that include tax measures. Based on that, we are all in a conflict of interest. This is why we have to be very clear and declare exactly what our assets are. Yes, some farmers are making profits for sure, but we are not talking about $1 billion, like Morneau Shepell. We are talking about family ownership and a few hundred dollars a year compared to a $1 billion. That is why this is a special case and why we need clarity and clarification. The first one who would benefit from that is the Minister of Finance.
    Mr. Speaker, it is a true honour to be in the House today to speak on this very important issue. I thank my colleague who just spoke for his tenacity in standing up for Canadians. It is a real honour to be part of the Conservative Party of Canada with its legacy of standing up for Canadian taxpayers.
    Over the years, when Canadians have seen fit to elect a party with an entitlement mentality like the Liberal party, eventually it creates a huge mess. We see Canada heading in that direction again. We are ready and committed to clean up any Liberal mess left over.
    I am particularly honoured to be able to share what I heard from my youth advisory board. I notified youth in my riding of Langley—Aldergrove that I would like to hold a monthly youth advisory board meeting with them to discuss issues that were important to them. We have held two meetings. The first was on the marijuana issue. These are youth in grade 12 up to and in university, some working on undergraduate degrees. They are very mature, wise, bright, and engaging young people, and it was interesting to get their perspective. It is a non-partisan youth advisory board, with people with all kinds of opinions. The consensus within the group on marijuana was that the government was moving way too fast, that it needed to provide education, to listen to police boards across the country, and to slow the process down. Many of them are okay with the legalization process for marijuana, but not the way the Liberal government is doing it. It is moving way too fast. It seems to have this artificial date of July 1 of next year that legalization must be in place by Canada Day, so that everyone can start smoking then. The group is very concerned about the government's approach to marijuana.
    I asked them what topic they would like to talk about next, and they said the new tax the government is wanting to put on Canadian small business. I found that fascinating. We met last Saturday morning and had another really good meeting that lasted for about an hour or an hour and a half. Some of the youth went into the meeting thinking that maybe the government was right and that some Canadians are not paying their fair share of taxes. To prepare for the meeting, the materials they received were general materials that all Canadians have access to. Much of it was non-partisan, and some partisan.
    Overwhelmingly, those who went into the meeting thinking that maybe the government was right changed their position 180 degrees and came out of the meeting saying that the government was wrong. Calling hard-working Canadians tax cheats is shameful, and they were really shocked at the government taking that approach. They also said that the government needed to slow the process down. The number one thing that every Liberal member of Parliament heard regarding their so-called consultations was to keep the consultations going. The Liberal Party held the consultations during the summertime, starting in the middle of July and continuing in August and September and ending at the beginning of October. In those two and a half months, people were on holidays, and the consultations were often held in the middle of the week at three o'clock in the afternoon when Canadians were at work. Those who were not on holidays were working, yet the Liberals still held these so-called consultations.
    The Liberals heard over and over again that they should keep the consultations going so they could continue to hear from people because they were not happy. The answer from the Liberal members was that the people were confused, that Canadians are confused and business is confused, so they would end the consultations to avoid the confusion. They would provide legislation so there would be no more confusion.
    The youth advisory board also said that this process needed to continue and that there needed to be additional consultations. I am very proud and happy to be able to pass on what I heard from them this last Saturday morning. It is a very wise group of young people.

  (1200)  

    Today, we are debating a motion by Her Majesty's official opposition. I have listened to the debate and the comments made so far, and I think back to Jim Flaherty, who was a finance minister in the Stephen Harper government. He was appointed and very quickly earned the reputation of being the greatest finance minister in the world.
     What an honour it was to be part of that government. He did deserve that title. He was an extremely bright, ethical, funny man. He had a great sense of humour. People liked to be around Jim. There was great sorrow at his untimely death. He was known as the greatest finance minister Canada probably has ever had. At the time, he was greatest in the world.
    Just yesterday when I was watching the news I heard the questions by the media as the government was trying to calm down people. There was a news conference where the government was saying that it is really looking out for what is good for Canadians, that it wants tax fairness and is launching its new programs around fairness and taxes.
    Canadians do not believe this. The media does not believe it. There is this cloud hanging over the finance minister. As has been pointed out, the office of the finance minister is extremely important. The finance minister is probably the most powerful posting in government in Canada. That finance minister has to be squeaky clean.
    I really do not want to attack that individual, because I do not know his intent. However, it is the responsibility of the government to make sure that everything is squeaky clean. That is what this Prime Minister promised, that he was going to be squeaky clean and all his ministers were going to be squeaky clean. Throughout the last two years, the first half of a one-term mandate, they were going to do things that were squeaky clean and transparent.
    There is great suspicion that things are not squeaky clean. I am hearing a lot of angst among Canadians that the government is not keeping its promises time and time again. The small business tax was supposed to be reduced. That was in the platform of the previous Conservative government, and it would have happened immediately. Now we are two years into this government's mandate, and look at what has happened to that. The government is in trouble now. Canadians are very upset with what is happening.
     The government has now announced that it will reduce the small business tax back down to the 9%. Well, actually, it will go down to 10%, and then just before the election it will be lowered to 9%. That is not what Canadians want. They have not been told the truth throughout the whole process.
    This motion is about wanting information. What did the finance minister declare to the Ethics Commissioner from the time of his appointment to July of this year when the consultation period started? That would indicate whether there was any intended self-benefit, or whether there is a conflict of interest. What is the motive of the Prime Minister and the finance minister?
     I have heard Canadians say that these two people have really not lived like hard-working Canadians. They live off a trust. They have multi-million dollar assets. They are not like you and me, Mr. Speaker. They are not like normal Canadians. They are very wealthy people. To whom much is given, much is required.
     Accountability is a critical promise by the Prime Minister. We need accountability from him, and we have not had it. We need accountability from the finance minister, and to this point we have not had it.
    It will be interesting as we go to a vote on this motion, probably later today, to see if the members of the Liberal Party keep the promises that were made in the Speech from the Throne at the start of this Parliament that they would be a transparent, accountable government. We are not seeing that from the leadership within the cabinet. Will the Liberal members demand that their Prime Minister and finance minister be transparent and provide the House with the details necessary for transparency?

  (1205)  

    Mr. Speaker, I have great confidence in my friend and hon. member across the way, and in fact, all of them on the other side, because their job is to take a situation and for the benefit of Canadians, paint the blackest, bleakest possible picture. However, I have even more confidence in the non-partisan commissioner whose job it is to review this and truly assess it from a non-partisan perspective.
    If the Ethics Commissioner reviews this and finds that everything is good and above board, will that be good enough for the Conservative Party and for him?
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Fleetwood—Port Kells for his kind compliment, and I return that. I think highly of him. He has worked hard. I have heard good reports about his constituency office work and his helping his constituents, so I congratulate him on that.
    Our concern is with the leadership of the Liberal Party and this entitlement mentality and the lack of transparency. The Ethics Commissioner can only make decisions based on the information provided. I think that is the issue today. Has the finance minister provided all the details of his assets?
    We cannot always believe the media, but we have heard reports that there are unreported assets. If that is the case, the Ethics Commissioner would not be able to make a true ruling. That is why we have this motion today that asks the finance minister, in full transparency, what he reported to the Ethics Commissioner. If he did not report all these assets, why not, and is he fit to be the finance minister of this country?
    I think it is very important, and it is fair. It needs to be transparent.
    Mr. Speaker, The Globe and Mail places the value of the finance minister's shares in Morneau Shepell at around $43 million. We know it is possible that with the proposed tax changes, HR management and pension consulting companies like Morneau Shepell could benefit from increased sales of individual pension plans as business owners shift their retirement savings from private corporations. We also know that Morneau Shepell has subsidiaries in Barbados and the Bahamas, where corporate tax rates are as low as 2.5%. We know that Morneau Shepell and the Morneau family trust are sheltered from the proposed tax changes, as is the Prime Minister's family fortune.
    When we add this all up and think about the small-business people at home who have now become a target of these proposed tax changes, do they have confidence that the government will do them justice when it looks at tax fairness as a whole? I wonder if they feel that CEOs and tax havens and the wealthiest Canadians are going to be under the same scrutiny, when we hear that the finance minister himself has these connections, potentially.
    Given all that, does the member feel that the business people in his community have that confidence in the finance minister?

  (1210)  

    Mr. Speaker, I do not believe the business community in my community or across Canada has confidence in the Liberal government, its proposals, and the drastic tax changes that have been done or are being proposed without proper consultation.
    I was also shocked when the finance minister was asked in the House about his involvement and if there would be any direct benefit from this and whether he thought he would be in conflict. The finance minister said, “Not only did I not abstain, but I actively engaged in” the discussions. For the finance minister to be bragging of his engagement on this, when the optics are that he could be in conflict, is shocking.
    Small businesses, and Canadians in general, are very concerned about the entitlement attitude of the government.
    Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise here today to defend an individual of incredible integrity. We have heard a lot of attempts in this place to attack the integrity of the finance minister, but as we have heard, he has worked with the integrity commissioner, and to any questions, he has been more than forthright. Therefore, I am happy to rise here today to talk about the accomplishments of this minister and what he is doing, along with our government, to build a stronger middle class.
    Building a stronger middle class does not come without changes. The issue of tax planning and using private corporations is one of those changes that is required to finally bring equity to our tax system, something the finance minister has been behind from the start. We have been working, from the moment we took office, to implement these changes that benefit the middle class and those working hard to join it. These changes that are forthcoming are just another step in setting things right for the middle class, again something the finance minister talked about as a candidate and has now as the Minister of Finance.
    We took our first steps when Parliament resumed in December 2015, lowering taxes on the middle class, as promised, and raising them on the wealthiest 1%. Unfortunately, both the Conservatives and the New Democrats voted against that. This middle-class tax cut has been benefiting nine million Canadians, and we are extremely proud of that.
    We brought in the new Canada child benefit, which has lifted thousands of children out of poverty, including 16,000 in my riding of St. Catharines. This is a significant accomplishment, and one of the architects of it was, of course, the finance minister. As a result of the Canada child benefit, nine out of 10 families are getting more in benefits than they did under the previous government. With the CCB, we have ensured that child benefits are more generous and are actually targeted to those who need them most.
     Our government, under the leadership of the finance minister and working with the provinces, expanded the Canada pension plan to ensure that Canadians have financial security after a lifetime of hard work. The strengthened CPP will provide more money to Canadians when they retire, allowing them to focus more on what matters most: time with family.
     As members can see, our actions and the actions of the finance minister could not be clearer. The guiding principle of fairness is essential, and indeed, is the defining piece of our plan to strengthen the middle class. It is abundantly clear that when we have an economy that works for the middle class, we have a country that works for everyone.
    It is fitting that we are having this debate during Small Business Week, so let us talk about small businesses. We know that small businesses are the backbone of our economy. They are a key driver of Canada's economy. I think everyone in this chamber would agree with that. Small businesses account for 98% of all businesses and more than 70% of all private sector jobs. In recognition of how critical small businesses are to Canada's growth, our government, and again, the Minister of Finance, are taking action to help small businesses grow, invest, and create good, well-paying jobs.
    Yesterday the finance minister announced, along with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Small Business and Tourism, the government's intention to lower the small-business tax rate to 10% in 2018 and then to 9% in 2019. As a result, the combined federal-provincial-territorial average tax rate for small businesses will be lowered to 12.9% from 14.4%, ensuring that Canadians by far will continue to have the lowest small-business taxes in the G7 and the fourth-lowest among the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries. This lower rate will mean that small-business owners can retain more of their earnings to reinvest, to support the growth of their businesses, and for job creation.
    The finance minister also announced the government's intention to move forward on proposals to fix a tax system that is inherently unfair to the middle class. We have heard a lot of criticism about the finance minister, but he is one of the leading voices in this country on this side of the House to fight for a system that benefits the middle class and against those policies that are unfair to the middle class.
    We have a tax system currently that encourages wealthy individuals to incorporate just so they can get a tax advantage. This cannot continue. It leads to a solution where someone making hundreds of thousands of dollars can get a lower tax rate than a middle-class worker making much less. A person making $300,000 per year can save as much tax as an average Canadian can earn in a year. This is not acceptable, and our government and the finance minister are going to fix it.

  (1215)  

    In July, the finance minister launched consultations to hear from Canadians on how to fix things and how to then make—
    Order, please. I see the hon. member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands rising on a point of order.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There are a number of us here who are very enthused about this subject and about hearing the government's perspective on the motion we have before us. However, the member is about seven minutes into his speech and has not yet touched on the motion. I would ask if you could encourage him to speak to the motion and to the tabling of documents that have to do with the minister's ethical lapses and his failure to abide by the ethical conditions that have been laid out for him by the Ethics Commissioner and others, including the Prime Minister. If he could speak to that, we would be glad to hear his opinion.
    I thank the hon. member for his intervention. I recognize that the hon. member for St. Catharines, in his initial comments, made reference to the activities of the finance minister in a general sense. Considering that the subject of the motion today pertains to the performance of the finance minister in the course of his duties, I so far have not heard anything that is impertinent and not relevant to the discussion. Certainly, in the course of his time, the member for St. Catharines will bring the dialogue back in reference specifically to the motion. I am sure he will do that in the minutes ahead.
    The hon. member for St. Catharines.
    Mr. Speaker, hearing the attempt by the official opposition to criticize the finance minister, I am standing here to speak of the great work he is doing. The finance minister has worked with various commissioners, and there is no wrongdoing. I mentioned this to a colleague earlier, from the old commercial from the 1980s: where is the beef? This is a fishing expedition and an attempt to undermine the credibility of the finance minister.
    As I was stating, yesterday our government announced the intention to simplify the proposal to limit the ability of owners of private corporations to lower their personal income taxes by sprinkling their income to family members. We want to be very clear on this next point that the vast majority of private corporations will not be impacted by these sprinkling measures. Only an estimated 50,000 family-owned private businesses are sprinkling income. This represents only around 3% of privately controlled corporations. Again, we have a finance minister who is looking at what is best for the middle class. These are policies the previous government did not go after, policies that generally disproportionately benefit the wealthiest Canadians
    In addition, our government announced that it will not be moving forward with proposed measures to limit access to the lifetime capital gains exemption.
    As we continue to make progress, we will also continue to listen carefully to the submissions that have been received on these matters.
    As I conclude my remarks, I want to assure my hon. colleagues of the finance minister's, and the government's, plan to grow and strengthen the middle class.
    Job creation has been robust since we came to power, with 400,000 jobs created. Over the last 12 months, nearly 90% of the jobs created have been full-time positions. In the second quarter of this year, the economy grew by an impressively strong 4.5%. Over the last four quarters, our economy has had the fastest growth since early 2006. The Canadian economy is the fastest-growing economy in the G7 by a wide margin. A lot of that is thanks to the hard work of the finance minister. That is news Canadians can be happy about. It is great news.
    The finance minister continues to work hard to create a healthy and growing economy in which businesses can generate good-paying jobs and where the middle class and those working hard to join it can have confidence that they will succeed.

  (1220)  

    Mr. Speaker, the member talked about the finance minister, and described him as if his actions could not be clearer and more fair. He also talked about the middle-class tax break. However, when I think about the middle-class break, 17.9 million did not get a benefit from the middle-class tax break, which is two-thirds of working Canadians. Anyone who works full time and earns $23 an hour or less got nothing.
    The Liberals talk about how they want to help those who are not in the middle class to join the middle class, but when we talk about actions that could not be clearer, let us talk about how clear it is. They are forgetting about those who want to join the middle class every step of the way. They turn their attention to small business when they talk about tax fairness instead of CEO stock-option loopholes, and instead of tax havens. We want tax fairness. We want to see actions that could be clearer so that we actually see the clear picture.
    How can the Liberals defend or understand the middle class when the finance minister himself is so rich that he cannot even remember he has a holding company in France and others elsewhere in the world?
    We want a fair system. We want a finance minister who actually backs up his commitment to helping those join the middle class and the real middle class here in Canada. I would like to hear the member comment about those proposals that he is so proud of.
    Mr. Speaker, the member mentioned the nine million Canadians who did benefit from the middle-class tax cut. However, the one thing he did not point out is the Canada child benefit, which lifted 300,000 children out of poverty. This is working for the middle class and those working hard to join it. Unfortunately, the NDP voted against that proposal.
    This is a finance minister who cares about individuals, and cares about making an economy that works for everyone. The proof is in the pudding. We have delivered on those commitments. We are seeing the impacts, and we are seeing the growth in our economy, because the money is going to individuals who are going to spend it back in the economy. We are seeing that, and we are seeing the growth.
    The current Governor of the Bank of Canada, who was appointed by the previous prime minister, agrees. This plan is working, and the finance minister's policies are helping out.
    Mr. Speaker, the member's speech contained many things that would be certainly worthy of debate and discussion. However, I want to focus on the motion itself, and I would ask for the member's comments, as there are Canadians questioning the disposition of the finance minister's assets and want to know whether or not he still owns shares in Morneau Shepell, which is a company that offers retirement and pension management advice to businesses that are affected by the very tax proposal that was announced on July 18.

  (1225)  

    Mr. Speaker, as I said in my speech, the finance minister has complied with everything that has been requested. Assets have been disclosed. There is no issue. There is no report from any commissioner. The finance minister did his job, followed the rules, and continues to work with whichever commissioner has any questions for him. He worked very closely and disclosed everything.
    At the end of the day, if opposition members were as concerned about child poverty in this country as they were about going on a fishing expedition, I think we would have a better place to live. I am glad the finance minister is concerned about issues like that and growing the middle class.
    Mr. Speaker, I was very pleased to hear my colleague mention the integrity of the finance minister.
    I have heard many comments from members opposite about the circumstances of the finance minister's birth, but very little comment about the circumstances of the life of service that he has led. The finance minister I know has served his community, for example, on the board of Covenant House, which is the largest homeless shelter in the country. He served on the board and as the chair of St. Michael's Hospital, which serves the largest homeless population in the country.
    The Saskatchewan finance minister, Kevin Doherty, said about our finance minister in his discussion around his negotiations over CPP policy issues that:
He did a masterful job in listening to the different positions and understanding why there were concerns...The thing with Bill is that when he tells you something, you can take it to the bank...There’s no hidden agenda. There’s no telling you one thing and telling somebody else something else to try to get a deal.
    This is the essence of integrity—
    I would remind the parliamentary secretary, even when another hon. member's name appears in a quote we have to avoid that and use another reference in that case. I will just add that for member's benefit for next time.
    The hon. member for St. Catharines, a short response, please.
    Mr. Speaker, I agree with my hon. colleague. Here is an individual who works tirelessly, even before the campaign to help with the party's platform, despite his birth and his circumstances, to grow the middle class, and to cut child poverty. This is a person who should be celebrated, and whose integrity is without question.
    Mr. Speaker, I first want to thank the stakeholders in my riding of Vaughan—Woodbridge, who have provided and are providing feedback on the proposed consultation paper, “Tax Planning Using Private Corporations”.
    I have met with many small and large businesses in my riding, as well as tax experts from leading accounting firms to understand that tax fairness is something our government must pursue and that we do need to consult and listen to our stakeholders to get it right.
    The city of Vaughan is home to over 13,000 businesses, and an entrepreneurial spirit I find is unrivalled in the country.

[Translation]

    Our government continues to work for the middle class. We are helping the middle class.

[English]

    We know when the middle class succeeds, we all succeed.
    Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to talk about how the government is creating the conditions for all Canadians to succeed in a changing and exciting economy.
    When we came into office two years ago, we made a commitment to invest in our people, in our communities, and in our economy. We made a commitment to help grow the middle class and those working hard to join it. Our plan is working. We are now the fastest growing economy in the G7, not by a small margin but a wide margin. In the second quarter, the annualized growth rate hit 4.5%. Over the last four quarters our economy has grown the fastest since 2006. In two years, we have created—
    Order please. The hon. member for Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies is rising on a point of order.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to remind the hon. member across the way the motion reads:
    That, given accusations by experts that the Minister of Finance’s family business, Morneau Shepell, stands to benefit from the proposed changes outlined in “Tax Planning Using Private Corporations” and assurances by the Minister that he has abided by his Public Declaration of Agreed Compliance Measures with respect to his family business, the House request that the Minister table all documents he submitted to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner between November 4, 2015, and July 18, 2017.
    That is the motion before the House right now. I would hope the member across the way would recognize that is the topic of discussion today, not seemingly going down the topic the member is talking about. I just wanted to correct him on that. He might want to stick to the subject at hand.

  (1230)  

    I thank the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies for his comments. Members will know of course that speech in the House does need to pertain to the motion and the subject that is before the House. That is a general rule. Members will also know that members are given quite a degree of latitude in terms of how they make their arguments in this respect.
    I will listen carefully to the hon. member to make sure he remains on track. I will also say that in the course of a subject that invokes the activities, integrity as some may say, of the minister in this case, that is in question, speech and arguments around either side of those questions would certainly be within the boundaries of relevance, from my point of view.
    We will listen carefully to that, certainly, but again members have a fairly wide berth in how they make their arguments in this regard.
    We will now go back to the hon. member for Vaughan—Woodbridge.
    Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for your explanation. I thank my hon. colleague across the aisle for his intervention as well.
    I have known the member of Parliament for Toronto Centre, the Minister of Finance, for a few years now. When I think about the integrity and hard work that goes into our careers as politicians and as members of a community, I look to, and I am glad to say that I am friends with and on the same team as, the Minister of Finance. I know his integrity. I know the core values that he represents. I am glad to be on a team with the hon. minister.
    Going back to my comments today with regard to tax planning using private corporations, we as government and myself as an individual, always co-operate with all government bodies, including any meetings with the Ethics Commissioner and so forth. I would like to throw that back.
    Our economy is growing well. Our government has created 112,000 full-time jobs and this is because of the policies that we have put in place.
    Wage growth in this country is actually coming back. In September we saw an acceleration in wage growth and this is great for Canadian workers and great for Canadian families. It is also great for the people I represent. This too is related to polices that we have put in place and consultations that we have had and are having with regards to tax fairness.
    Our government laid the foundation for economic growth the moment we took office. The first thing we did was to cut taxes for nine million middle-class Canadians, providing over $20 billion of tax relief to Canadians. We also raised taxes on the wealthiest 1%, which was the right thing to do. Single individuals who benefit from this are saving an average of $330 per year and couples who benefit are saving an average of $540 each year.
    Our government has also made child benefits more accessible to Canadians, a simpler program, a tax-free program, providing on average $2,300 extra per year, per family. That is remarkable and again relates to the actions and the policies put in place by our finance minister. I am proud to be a part of that. I am proud to be a part of a team that cares for children who currently live in poverty, a team that cares for families who currently need a bit of assistance. That is what our party is about, again speaking to the integrity of the finance minister.
    The member of Parliament for Toronto Centre came together with his colleagues at the provincial level and came to an agreement to enhance the Canada pension plan. Think about that. Think about the previous government. For 10 years it did nothing with respect to CPP. The finance minister worked in collaboration with the provinces and Canadians will get an enhanced Canada pension plan that will benefit millions of them going forward.
    Yesterday, we announced the lowering of the small business tax rate. It has gone from 11% in 2015 to 10% in 2018 and will be 9% in 2019. This, part and parcel, involved listening to Canadians and small business owners, many of whom I represent.
    I have had a lot of feedback in the last few weeks. I can say to my constituents and small and large businesses back home that they have a voice here in Ottawa, that this government understands their concerns. Each of us as members of Parliament have brought their constituents' concerns back to Ottawa. That is what we are obligated to do. That is our job.
     This government is listening.
    I am proud to say that we have cut taxes for small businesses and they will benefit up to $7,500. This will provide tax relief over a couple of years of approximately $3 billion. This action should be applauded by all sides of the House.
    The Prime Minister made his intention clear yesterday during an announcement in Markham, and I certainly support it.
    To support this change the government will take steps to ensure that Canadian-controlled private corporation status is not used to reduce personal income tax obligations for high-income earners rather than supporting small businesses. We have a tax system that encourages wealthy individuals to incorporate just so they can get a tax advantage. This leads to a situation where someone making hundreds of thousands of dollars can get a lower tax rate than a middle-class worker making much less per year. That is not fair, and our government is going to fix it.
    On July 18, the Minister of Finance launched a consultation process, otherwise known as tax planning using private corporations. We have heard lots of feedback.

  (1235)  

    I know I have spent numerous hours going over the proposal, looking at it. We need tax fairness and we need to get it right. We are consulting and listening to all Canadians. I spent many hours understanding this paper and ensuring there were no unintended consequences, that it was a proposed consultation paper. We absolutely are going to get it right.
     We heard from business owners, professionals, experts, and our caucus on ways to improve our proposals to ensure we would not affect hard-working middle-class entrepreneurs, many who live in the city of Vaughan and many who I represent as the member of Parliament for Vaughan—Woodbridge, such as family businesses, farmers, and fishers. As someone who grew up on the north coast of British Columbia, I have many friends who are fishers. They still go out on their trawlers, seiners, gillnetters to try to make a living. I know how important it is that we protect and ensure they have a good livelihood. We have heard them and we are acting on what we have heard.
    In the short term, the government intends to simplify the proposal to limit the ability of owners of private corporations to lower their personal income taxes by sprinkling their income to family members. The vast majority of private corporations will not be impacted by the proposed income sprinkling measures. An estimated 50,000 family owned private businesses are sprinkling income. This represents a small fraction, 3% of Canadian controlled private corporations. All we are doing is extending the rules that are already in place on income pertaining to dividends, which is the right thing to do. That is tax fairness, and I know Canadians agree with us.
    Over the coming weeks and months,< we will announce the next steps in our plan to address tax planning using private corporations that take into account feedback received from Canadians during this consultation period.
    In all cases, our changes will support small businesses and their contributions to our economy and, most important, our communities. I know first hand, having worked in the private sector for over 20 years in finance, that small businesses are the backbone of our economy. We will do everything we can to help them grow. This is seen in the numbers, in the formation rates of small businesses, in business earnings. Businesses and consumers are buoyant because we have a program in place that is working.
    In this day and age, where there is so much misinformation, it is crucial that we set the record straight and stick to the facts. This is what I am doing here today. From the very beginning, we have been perfectly clear about our commitment to ensure that as our economy grows, the benefits go to the middle class and, yes, those working hard to join it, not just to those who are already successful.
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague is a good friend. We serve together on the finance committee. At the end of his speech, he alludes to the facts. The facts are that all of us as parliamentarians have to disclose what we have as assets. The facts are that there are rules around ministerial accountability on this issue. The facts are that the minister, unlike others in the House, has decided not to disclose what he did for two years and he has been found out. Those are the facts.
    I would ask the member, who I believe has personal integrity at his heart, to account for the fact that the finance minister has not abided by the ministerial rules and his mandate letter, which said he would be beyond reproach as far as any perception of such things.

  (1240)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am proud to call the member for the beautiful riding of Brantford—Brant my friend and a colleague in the House. We did serve on the finance committee. We serve our residents as well.
    When we call into question someone's integrity, we know that individually we all have personal responsibility, and I believe in that. I believe in integrity and in hard work. Those are my core values. I know for a fact that those are the same core values of the finance minister. I know for a fact that since the first day in office, the Minister of Finance has worked with the Ethics Commissioner to ensure her every recommendation and all conflict of interest rules are followed.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. However, I am afraid that my question might prove challenging because I get the impression that both sides of the House are talking about two completely different things today. The fact remains that I am concerned about the Minister of Finance's two years of silence.
    On a much smaller scale, I own a little cottage in Saint-Mathieu-du-Parc. Although our work schedule does not allow me to get out there as often as I would like, I did not forget that I had a cottage in Saint-Mathieu-du-Parc. Even if I go there only once a year, I am the owner of that cottage. Even if I never went there, my municipal and school tax bills remind me twice a year that I am the owner of that beautiful place.
    How can the Minister of Finance forget for two years, which potentially represents a couple of trips and a couple of tax cycles, that he owns a villa in France? Why did he not just disclose it?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, with regard to the Minister of Finance, the member for Toronto Centre, we have full confidence in the Ethics Commissioner and her recommendations. Obviously, every member of Parliament is willing to take any further steps to avoid conflicts, or any perception of conflicts, as deemed appropriate by the Ethics Commissioner.
    Again, I go back to integrity and what it means. It means fighting for kids who are living in poverty, helping those who need skills training, and putting innovation into the economy and growing it so all middle-class Canadians benefit. That is how we strengthen the economy for today and for the future.
    Mr. Speaker, the point I am trying to raise, because the debate today gives us an opportunity to do so, is that our Ethics Commissioner's advice and her saying that everything is being done according to Hoyle is absolutely useless in a common sense understanding of what we should do to maintain ethical standards. Our code of ethics, which is found in our standing rules book that is probably in every member's desk, is good to read. It calls on us to have high moral and ethical standards, and not to confuse our personal business dealings with our public work as an MP. None of it is enforceable.
    I call on the Liberal government to make our code of ethics enforceable, which previous governments have not done.
    Mr. Speaker, I am sure that any suggestions the hon. member has about strengthening any rules should be brought forward to the pertinent individuals to whom that pertains. I would hope the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands does so.
    My personal view is that we continue to work hard for all Canadians. We continue to hold to the values of integrity and hard work, ensuring that day in and day out we do what is right for our constituents, whether we represent a riding on the east coast, west coast, or in the middle.

  (1245)  

    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Calgary Rocky Ridge.
     As the member of Parliament for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke and on behalf of the hard-working people of the upper Ottawa Valley, I participate in today's debate regarding the lack of transparency in the government.
     I congratulate my eastern Ontario colleague, the hon. member for Carleton, for the excellent job he is doing as shadow finance minister for our Conservative government in waiting. The hon. member for Carleton is responsible for today's motion that the House is now debating.
    Today's debate is a familiar refrain in Ottawa since the last election. There is a lack of transparency or, as some would call it, a hidden agenda between what the government says and what it does, and who benefits. Is this example before Canadians today simply one politician gaming the system to his benefit, or are Canadians looking at systematic corrupt behaviour on a scale of the multi-billion dollar Ontario electricity scandal?
    Is the non-disclosure of all his vast corporate wealth by the member for Toronto Centre hiding the need for impartiality in decision-making that would be necessary had full disclosure taken place?
    The allegation has been made that the changes put forth by the member for Toronto Centre, apart from unfairly attacking small businesses or individuals who are incorporated, will enrich the personal wealth of the finance minister. The need for higher taxes in these changes being pushed through the House, without proper public consultation, have been brought about by the decision to run huge budget deficits.
    When I am asked the question about why the government is in such a huge deficit, I respond very bluntly that it is bad spending. The question then becomes, what kind of bad spending is resulting in such high deficits? I use the example of bad spending by the federal government on what the finance minister, the member for Toronto Centre, spent on a slick cover for his deficit budget booklet. The cover is used one day. Duplicate this example of bad spending across government and one can start to understand why the finances of Canada are in such a mess.
    In 2017, just a slick cover on the deficit budget cost taxpayers $212,000. That makes the $175,000 the Liberal member for Toronto Centre spent on a slick cover for his budget in 2016 seem like a bargain.
    Now to the member for Toronto Centre, who has a private European villa, and, to quote a national magazine, a “tax-dodging shell company...set up..to manage it”, something he neglected to disclose to the Ethics Commissioner, $212,000 must seem like chump change. “What is all the fuss?” the finance minister asks.
     Simply put, the fuss is that the finance minister promised Canadians that he would abstain from decisions and discussions that relate to Morneau Shepell. Instead, he has actively bragged that not only did he abstain but he actively engaged in the discussions and promotion of the policy that experts say benefits his family-owned company. Beyond that, the member for Toronto Centre failed to disclose a private corporation to the Ethics Commissioner. Most Canadians would never forget, if they owned a villa in France. To top it all off, the member for Toronto Centre admitted he did not place more than $30 million in Morneau Shepell shares into a blind trust.
    Few Canadians had the benefit of a trust fund from daddy growing up, or attended private schools or had a fat income waiting in a family business when they were done school. The family business in this case is showing other one percenters how to avoid their fair share of tax.
    In 2016, the median income for females in my riding was just over $25,000 per year. In fact, the bulk of all wage earners in my riding earn between $20,000 and $29,000 per year. Just the price of the slick cover on the 2017 deficit budget document would have paid the incomes of eight average working females in Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke. Those same individuals fall below the low income cutoff that normally qualifies a person for the supplement.

  (1250)  

    How ironic it is that one of the pieces of advice the member for Toronto Centre dispensed to his wealthy clients was how to game the system to collect the guaranteed income supplement. The guaranteed income supplement is intended for seniors who have no other source of income, except the universal old age pension. The supplement is means-tested. It is not intended for one percenters who hide their money to avoid paying their fair share of tax.
    To put into further perspective the amount spent by the member for Toronto Centre on a cover for a booklet, I would point out that the Conservative government and Prime Minister Stephen Harper spent $600 for a stock photo for the cover of the 2015 balanced budget that was presented to Canadians. Yes, $600, and the federal budget was balanced. There is no respect for today's tax dollars in Ottawa.
    The small business tax changes that have been presented by the member for Toronto Centre are a doubled-edged sword. On the one hand, the Liberal tax changes will unfairly tax doctors, farmers, small businesses, and a host of other hard-working Canadians, while on the other hand not touch the personal fortunes of the member for Toronto Centre and the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister benefited as a trust fund kid, as did his father before him.
    To be clear, the motion before us today requests that the member for Toronto Centre table all documents he submitted to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner between November 4, 2015, and July 18, 2017. Canadians have a right to know if the decisions being made by the member for Toronto Centre will be of personal benefit to his family fortune and the fortunes of other Liberal Party members.
    The test will be if Liberal Party members vote in favour of today's motion. If the member for Toronto Centre has nothing to hide, the vote should be unanimous in favour of full disclosure. If, on the other hand, Liberal members speak against this motion or, worse, do not support it, Canadians can rightly ask what the member for Toronto Centre is hiding. By not providing full disclosure to Canadians, every financial decision made by the minister must be called into question. In its attack on small businesses, doctors, and others, the government asks who benefits. It is big business, of course, the big business types that attend pay-to-play fundraisers hosted in places like downtown Toronto. Big business and big government are mere images of one another. Big business, like the current government, overwhelmingly leans left.
    Economists refer to the practice of giving handouts to big business as welfare capitalism, which is how much big business gets rich and most of it stays rich. Liberal-favoured big fundraisers make their fortunes exclusively through direct government subsidies and mandates. In Ontario, industrial wind turbines are the result of successful lobbying by the type of big business conglomerates favoured by the Liberal Party. Without government intervention, industrial wind turbines would represent a trivial part of the economy and not be a multi-million dollar drain on the pockets of electricity customers, who are forced into energy poverty by that bad spending. Unnecessary government intervention causes bad spending, starting with the government blowing over $200,000 on a cover of a budget and ending up with billions spent on social experiments that only hurt ordinary working Canadians.
    Canadians have already been exposed to the five principles of the Liberal Party's tax policy. First, it attacks small business. Just ask the families who run campgrounds how effective that attack has been. Second, it continues to raise taxes on small business while publicly stating the opposite. Third, it continues to burden job creators with unnecessary regulations and red tape to stifle creativity. Fourth, it continues to bring in tax changes that make it harder and harder for the family farm to survive and continue within the family in the next generation. Fifth, it ensures that the tax system will continue to favour big business at the expense of entrepreneurs, particularly female entrepreneurs, whose success in small business is breaking the glass ceiling.
    It has taken too long for Canadians to see just how out of touch the Liberal Party is with the needs and aspirations of ordinary Canadians. The member for Toronto Centre needs to get out of his Toronto glass bubble and actually listen to people, not to the one percenters he likes to associate with. The time has come for the government to listen to Canadians who respect the law, work hard, and play by the rules.

  (1255)  

    Mr. Speaker, the member opened her speech by citing her responses to constituents. I wonder what the member opposite would say to her constituents who are benefiting from a strong economy, strong employment, the lowest unemployment we have had in a decade, and the Canada child benefit, which are all initiatives introduced by our current finance minister.
    Mr. Speaker, the people in Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke have not been able to benefit from any growing economy because their wealth has been overshadowed. In fact, their wealth is mostly non-existent because of the huge taxes and the cost of living in the Ottawa Valley. Add to that the cost of electricity that is driving out jobs and, quite frankly, driving people out of their homes.
    Mr. Speaker, before the member spoke, a government member talked about facts. The member talked about the middle-class tax break helping the middle class, but forgot to mention the fact that 17.9 million Canadians are not eligible for the middle-class tax break, namely, the working Canadians who earn $45,000 a year or less, who get nothing from it. The Liberals talked about the fact they are revising the small business tax, but have forgotten to revise the CEO tax loopholes on tax havens. The Liberals talked about the Minister of Finance going to the Privacy Commissioner about his disclosures, but they forgot to mention that the minister also forgot to mention his cottage, which is an incorporated company, and forgot to mention his promise to put his investments in a blind trust.
    It is one thing for the government members to talk about the details and important facts of what they are doing for the middle class and the small business community, but quite another for the finance minister not to talk about what he should disclose to the Canadian public. Maybe the member can talk about that difference.
    Mr. Speaker, when the finance minister forgot about his failure to put $30 million worth Morneau Shepell shares into a blind trust, he was also knowledgeable of and benefiting directly from his decision to tax the retained earnings of businesses. That is the money that business owners set away so they can expand, or that farmers save for a rainy day or a bad season. More to the point, Morneau Shepell is the company that stands to gain the most from the individual pension plans peddled to business owners to protect their retirement incomes, who think that instead of setting money aside for a rainy day, all this money will come raining down on them through this other way of saving for retirement.
    Mr. Speaker, shortly after the finance minister announced the business tax changes that would impact a broad range of Canadians, including doctors, there was a widely publicized Morneau Shepell poster placed in the Saskatoon community hospital. I do not know whether the member saw it, but clearly its purpose was to talk to doctors who would potentially be significantly impacted by these tax changes. That would be a direct benefit to Morneau Shepell. Could the member comment on that?
    Mr. Speaker, one thing we have noticed in the hospitals is that there are whiteboards put into the emergency reception area, and the whiteboards say how long it will take before a patient can see a doctor. If these proposed tax changes go ahead, hundreds of doctors, including the entire staff of the emergency room in Thunder Bay, have said they will leave Ontario. As a result, even if an emergency department still exists, it will be many hours before a person in dire need will actually be seen by a doctor.

  (1300)  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in favour of today's motion that calls upon the finance minister to table all documents he submitted to the Conflict of Interest Commissioner between November 4, 2015, and July 18, 2017. July 18 was the day of the now infamous discussion paper, which came complete with draft legislation that would completely transform the taxation of Canadian-controlled private corporations if fully enacted by, among other things, severely discouraging small business owners from investing in their companies to support themselves in retirement.
    The reaction to these tax proposals was immediate. They were universally panned by tax preparation professionals. In fact, I am not aware of a single professional private sector accountant who supports them.
    Today's motion is about conflict of interest and the appearance of conflict of interest. As thousands of professionals, entrepreneurs, shop owners, construction contractors, fishers, and farmers nervously contacted their lawyers and accountants to find out how they would be affected by these changes, some of them, including those who would perhaps face an increase in taxes of up to 71%, were told that it might be in their best interest to start an individual private pension. They were shocked and appalled to learn that this is a specialized financial service and that the leading supplier of this product is none other than the finance minister's family business, Morneau Shepell.
    The appearance of a conflict of interest in this matter has drawn people's attention to the finance minister's private business affairs more generally. Canadians, including members of the Liberal caucus, had assumed that the finance minister's shares in Morneau Shepell had either been sold or placed in a blind trust. His family business is a pension management and advice company, and the minister is in a position to influence consumer behaviour via its products.
    The Liberals ran on an idealistic platform that included many promises. Many Canadians believed these promises to be sincere and elected the Liberals. As we know, they promised only a modest budget deficit of $10 billion to pay for infrastructure and to then return to a balance. We now have a structural deficit that far exceeds this so-called modest maximum, without any plan to return to a balanced budget. They claimed they would reduce taxes on middle-class Canadians, but then stripped away all the credits that most middle-class families use, leaving the average Canadian family paying over $800 in additional income tax under the current government. That was before they contemplated the draconian small business tax changes, and before their most recent disaster, the announcement about taxing the discounts of retail employees. They made a few other promises, like changing the voting system within 18 months, which was perhaps an unwise promise. Nevertheless, it was completely abandoned.
    However, for purposes of today's motion, the promise that we need to talk about is their promise to be the most open and transparent government in the history of Canada. One of the first things the government did was to publish the mandate letters of the Prime Minister to each member of his cabinet. It is worth looking at these mandate letters.
    In the mandate letter to the finance minister, the Prime Minister stated:
...Canadians need to have faith in their government’s honesty and willingness to listen. I expect that our work will be informed by performance measurement, evidence, and feedback from Canadians.
    The letter continues:
    It is important that we acknowledge mistakes when we make them. Canadians do not expect us to be perfect—they expect us to be honest, open, and sincere in our efforts to serve the public interest.
    Indeed, they do. In fact, they expect the government to put the public interest ahead of the personal interests of members of cabinet.
    The letter goes on to state:
    This will include: close collaboration with your colleagues; meaningful engagement with Opposition Members...Parliamentary Committees and the public service; constructive dialogue with Canadians, civil society, and stakeholders, including business...identifying ways to find solutions and avoid escalating conflicts unnecessarily. As well, members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery, indeed all journalists in Canada and abroad, are professionals who, by asking necessary questions, contribute in an important way to the democratic process. Your professionalism and engagement with them are essential.

  (1305)  

    At yesterday's bizarre press conference in Stouffville, we can hardly blame the Minister of Finance. The journalists who were there, who were just beginning to understand the potential depth of the finance minister's compliance issues, wanted to question him. The Prime Minister more or less held the podium, and at first tried to prevent the finance minister from answering. He said that they had a chance to ask the Prime Minister a question, rather than let his finance minister answer.
    The mandate letter concludes by saying:
    As Minister, you must ensure that you are aware of and fully compliant with the Conflict of Interest Act and Treasury Board policies and guidelines. You will be provided with a copy of Open and Accountable Government to assist you as you undertake your responsibilities. I ask that you carefully read it and ensure that your staff does...as well. I draw your attention in particular to the Ethical Guidelines set out in Annex A of that document...As noted in the Guidelines, you must uphold the highest standards of honesty and impartiality, and both the performance of your official duties and the arrangement of your private affairs should bear the closest public scrutiny. This is an obligation that is not fully discharged by simply acting within the [letter of the] law.
    The statement on “Open and Accountable Government”, which the Prime Minister referred to, said something that has been repeated many times in this House but is important. It states, “Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries must avoid conflict of interest, the appearance of conflict of interest and situations that have the potential to involve conflicts of interest.”
    Now we know a few things. We know that the Liberal government has broken a litany of election promises such as electoral reform, deficit targets, reducing the tax burden on middle-class Canadians, and access to information reform. We know that the government has repeatedly made a mockery of the Prime Minister's statement on open and accountable government on everything from cash for access fundraising to the Prime Minister's visit to billionaire island, as well as attempts to appoint Liberal loyalists as key office holders to Parliament and failure to find replacements for officers with expiring terms, including the Ethics Commissioner.
    We know that the government has proposed a draconian tax hike on small businesses, which everybody knows is nothing more than a tax grab induced by an insatiable appetite for tax revenue to plug an out-of-control deficit of the government's own making. We know that the reaction to this so-called tax reform is expert recommendation to some people to obtain retirement and investment services like those provided by Morneau Shepell. We know that the minister has failed to comply with the Conflict of Interest Act by failing to disclose an interest in a private French corporation apparently used to manage his French villa. We know that the minister's substantial family fortune is not held in a blind trust, as one would expect. We do not know whether he still holds the $30-plus million in shares that he owned in 2015.
    Given the foregoing, one must conclude that either the Minister of Finance is so completely out of touch with the reality of small business that he has allowed these tax proposals to go ahead and come out on July 15 without any forethought to the consequences, or the Minister of Finance actually thinks that small business owners really are under-taxed at best or a bunch of cheaters at worst. Canadians are considering a third possibility, and that is that he decided to put the interests of his family's business ahead of the interests of Canadian citizens.
    I do not want to have to believe the latter. I do not want Canadians to be in the position that they even have to consider the possibility of the latter. With our motion, the Minister of Finance is being invited to clear at least some of the air and end speculation around what is obviously, at a minimum, the appearance of conflict of interest.
    Will the Minister of Finance, who has already demonstrated a failure to accurately disclose his affairs by failing to disclose the French corporation that owns his villa, set the record straight and table all documents submitted to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner? That way, he can let Canadians judge whether he stood to gain from his proposed changes outlined in the paper entitled “Tax Planning Using Private Corporations”.

  (1310)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am somewhat disappointed in terms of the degree to which the Conservative opposition party has really tried to personalize this issue.
    We all know that every member of Parliament has an obligation to go to the Ethics Commissioner. The Ethics Commissioner provides each and every one of us, through her office, the opportunity to be transparent in terms of what it is that we need to declare. The Minister of Finance has clearly indicated that he will follow the recommendations and advice of the Ethics Commissioner. Thus, we have the Ethics Commissioner who is apolitical versus the Conservative opposition members who have taken every moment they have ever had in the last two years to be critical of the Minister of Finance. They voted against the tax break to Canada's middle class. They voted against a tax on Canada's wealthiest. They have been speaking out loud and clear against tax fairness among many other initiatives by the Minister of Finance.
    I ask the member why would Canadians, or anyone, want to follow the advice and recommendations from the Conservative Party when we actually have an independent office designed to assist members of all political parties in terms of what it is that they need to do? The Minister of Finance has committed to following the advice of the commissioner.
    Mr. Speaker, I have to address a few things that the member said. To begin with, we are not personalizing this issue. There are journalists, citizens, and people questioning whether the finance minister has put his family and business interests ahead of that of the Canadian public. I do not want that to be true. I do not want to live in the type of country where this type of behaviour happens.
    I want the finance minister to answer the questions that people are putting to him. I am not certain how many times he has been asked this morning, either 14 or 15 times, whether he still has shares in Morneau Shepell. He could answer the question, table the documents, and put the issue to bed.
    The answer that the member is giving the House is the technical answer, “It seems like he is probably following the law”. However, his obligations are not merely discharged by following the law. That is the minimum, and he is to be held to a higher standard according to both his mandate letter and the statement on open and accountable government.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on his very eloquent speech.
    I have to acknowledge that I approve of the wording of this opposition motion. However, I would have preferred to have devoted one hour rather than a whole day to this common occurrence, as important as it may be. That is too bad. It is obvious that the Minister of Finance should have complied with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner's requests. It is an unacceptable omission on the part of the person holding that office.
    This is also an opportunity for me to reveal that the government stooped so low as to promise to reduce the small business tax rate from 10.5% to 10% and then to 9%, and then waited until there was a crisis to make good on its promise. The SMEs in our ridings have been waiting a long time for this election promise to be kept.
    Does my colleague not find it appalling that our SMEs are getting a consolation prize?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his kind words. Yes, the small business owners in my riding, and in different parts of the country that I have travelled to over the last several weeks, have expressed their outrage. I share and fully understand why they are upset. What compounds the level of anger felt by entrepreneurs and business owners, as the government is characterizing them as under-taxed at best, and cheaters at worst, is when they then see that the finance minister is in the business of pension products that many small business owners are being now encouraged to buy. We need to put this to bed. We need to get rid of any appearance of conflict of interest so that the finance minister will have some credibility to execute his office.

  (1315)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the member for Pierrefonds—Dollard.
    It is a pleasure for me to speak to the House about the government's plan to help the middle class and all those working hard to join it. We were elected by promising Canadians real change in what we do and how we do it. Canadians sent a clear message in the last election, and the constituents of Ottawa—Vanier gave me a clear mandate and a clear message last April.
    They expect us to keep the promises we make to them. Our actions to date demonstrate that that is exactly what we are doing. We promised to make investments in order to stimulate economic growth, strengthen the middle class, and help those working hard to join it. We promised to provide more direct assistance to people in need by scaling back assistance to those less in need.
    Let us look at what we have accomplished so far. From the beginning, one of the government's top priorities has been to level the playing field so that all Canadians would have the opportunity to succeed. That is why our government's first action was to raise taxes for the wealthiest 1% and cut taxes for the middle class. We also introduced the Canada child benefit. Compared to the previous child benefit system, the new benefit is more generous and better targeted to those who need it.
    We enhanced the Canada pension plan to give Canadians a more dignified retirement after working their entire lives and making such vital contributions to society. We also made historic investments in infrastructure and invested in a major training and skills acquisition plan. It is increasingly clear that our plan to ensure economic growth is working. We have the fastest growing economy in the G7, by far.
    In the second quarter of this year, our economy grew by an impressive 4.5%. In the past four quarters, our economy has enjoyed the fastest growth since 2006. Our economy is currently growing at an impressive rate of 4.5%, which is, I repeat, the highest rate since 2006.
    Some 400,000 jobs have been created since we took office. These are significant results that are having a direct impact on the quality of life of Canadians, the middle class, and those working hard to join it. Through major public investments, we will continue to invest in Canadians themselves, their talents, their commitment, and their determination.
    The hon. member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan on a point of order.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the member is giving a speech on the situation of the economy, and some points that one might contest. However, the motion we are debating actually says:
    That, given accusations by experts that the Minister of Finance’s family business, Morneau Shepell, stands to benefit from the proposed changes outlined in “Tax Planning Using Private Corporations” and assurances by the Minister that he has abided by his Public Declaration of Agreed Compliance Measures with respect to his family business, the House request that the Minister table all documents he submitted to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner between November 4, 2015, and July 18, 2017.
    This is the motion we are debating. Therefore, I think the rules of the House prescribe that the member address that motion and its particulars in terms of the unethical conduct of the Finance Minister.

  (1320)  

[Translation]

    I thank the hon. member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan for his comment. It is true that all members must consider the relevance of their comments to the subject at hand. Today, the motion before the House requires members to always consider the mandate of the Minister of Finance.
    The hon. member for Vanier has spoken for three and a half minutes and, to this point, I have heard no reference to the Minister of Finance. I expect that, in the next few minutes, the hon. member will be speaking to the matter before the House.
    I remind hon. members that they must make sure that they speak to the matter before the House. At the same time, they have a lot of freedom as to their arguments.
     I will be listening to the speeches given in today's debate to ensure that this is the case.
    The hon. member for Vanier has the floor.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to continue my remarks. As I mentioned earlier, a number of initiatives have been put in place since we were elected, since our government came to power. There is still a lot of work to do and we are in the process of getting it done. To that end, yesterday, the Prime Minister, accompanied by the Minister of Finance, announced the government's intention to lower the small business tax rate to 10% in 2018 and to 9% in 2019, while moving forward on proposals to fix a tax system that is inherently unfair to the middle class. We want to ensure that the 9% tax rate for small businesses and the low tax rate for other corporations will be used for investments, growth, and job creation in the business community.
    Our tax system encourages wealthy individuals to incorporate just so they can get a tax advantage. As a result, someone making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year can get a lower tax rate than a middle-class worker making much less.
    In July, the Minister of Finance launched consultations to hear what Canadians had to say about what adjustments could be made so the tax system works for the middle class. We heard the opinions of business owners, professionals, experts and members of our caucus on how to improve our proposals so that they do not affect hard-working, middle-class entrepreneurs like family businesses, farmers and fishers. We listened to their comments and we are following up on what we heard. The minister is following up on what he heard. That is his role as finance minister.
    In the short run, the government intends to streamline the proposal that would limit the ability of private corporation owners to pay less personal income tax by sprinkling their income to family members. Over the next few weeks and months, the government will unveil the next stages in its plan, which the Minister of Finance is mandated to promote, to address tax planning using private corporations. The measures we take will reflect the feedback that we have reviewed to date, and we will continue to carefully review the remaining feedback.
    The government will continue to support small businesses and their contribution to our communities and economy. We will keep a low tax rate for small businesses and support their owners so that they can actively invest in the growth of their businesses, create jobs, boost entrepreneurship, and stimulate the growth of our economy.
    We recognize the importance of maintaining family farms, and we will work with Canadians to ensure that the upcoming measures do not keep family businesses from being passed on to the next generation.
    We will perform a gender-based analysis on the final proposals to make sure any changes made to the tax regime promote equality between men and women.
    I want to reassure all Canadians and all members that every measure we take will support women's ongoing success. The Minister of Finance will do his utmost to make sure that Canadians can have confidence in these measures.

  (1325)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the member talked about initiatives that the government had put forward, especially the middle-class tax cut. Two-thirds of working people, nine million Canadians, were not eligible to benefit from the middle-class tax break, anyone who earns $23 an hour or less and works full time. I know many people in the member's riding have been excluded from the middle-class tax break.
    The Liberals have turned their attention to and put a square focus on small business in their tax fairness policy, as they call it. However, they forgot to talk about CEO tax loopholes and tax havens in their tax fairness policy.
     I have huge concerns when the government talks about tax fairness, the middle class and those they want to help join it, when they are not included in the tax fairness policies.
    The finance minister forgets to declare his company that might have a cottage in France, and a Prime Minister who will not be affected by these changes to the small business tax. We know they do not understand when we talk about middle class Canadians and tax fairness.
    Maybe the member could tell us who is in the Liberal middle class. We would like to know.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question and speech.
    I want to reiterate the importance of the new measure that was announced yesterday. As mentioned earlier, we announced that we have lowered the small business tax rate from 10% to 9%. I see this as an opportunity to strengthen Canada's small and medium-sized businesses. This is a measure that will truly support small businesses and their owners and help us keep growing our economy.
    I think we need to really look at the measures being implemented and those to come.
    Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague's speech on the motion we have put forward today.
    Her speech reflected exactly the same attitude we have seen from the Liberal government since the beginning. The government is trying to divert attention. It is trying to talk about other things, because it knows that it acted poorly. It knows that it did not listen to Canadians, small businesses, and farmers. It knows that decisions were made in Toronto. It knows that one of the government's economic advisers thinks family farms do not exist and that they are just parcels of land to help farms and farmers pay less tax.
    My colleague's speech sums up very well the way the government is addressing the very important issue in our motion, the credibility of the Minister of Finance.
    My question is very simple: can my colleague, who has just made a speech on all sorts of topics other than today's motion, tell us whether she thinks, yes or no, the Minister of Finance should submit all his documents to the House so that it can assess his competence and credibility?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his comments.
    As members know, the Minister of Finance took this summer's consultations very seriously. The good news is that I personally had the opportunity to speak with a number of my constituents who had serious concerns. With their help, I was able to submit some suggestions to the finance minister, and he took them into account. We can see the results of that today with the new measure brought in to help small and medium-sized businesses, including the ones in my riding.
    In Ottawa—Vanier, 66% of residents earn less than $50,000 a year. The new measure announced yesterday will encourage small and medium-sized businesses to invest in the region. That is just one example of the suggestions the Minister of Finance took into account in order to move forward with new measures to strengthen our economy.

  (1330)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the motion before us essentially casts aspersions on the character of our finance minister. It talks about accusations. It talks about the minister standing to benefit. It is a simple motion.
    Before I get in to the motion, I have a confession to make. I have been involved in tax avoidance.
    An. hon. member: No.
    Mr. Frank Baylis: Yes, I have done it for multiple years.
    Mr. Peter Fonseca: I don't know if I want to know about that.
    Mr. Frank Baylis: Mr. Speaker, I have been buying RRSPs. I am deferring my taxes as well, but I am avoiding taxes and I am doing it legally. I plan to continue to do it.
    My point is that tax planning is legitimate. The government puts in a number of rules to encourage us to plan in certain ways. RRSPs are designed to help people save for their retirement. It is a tax planning measure that allows people to avoid taxes, encouraging them to put aside money for when they retire.
     There is a difference between that and tax evasion. Tax evasion is doing something illegal to not pay taxes. There are no rules. People are evading taxes.
    Our government has not criticized any of our citizens for tax evasion. There is nothing wrong with tax planning. What happens at times is that certain structures that are designed to encourage certain behaviour also encourage other behaviours that the government may or may not want. When that happens, the situation is looked at and addressed. That is what the government has been doing in this case. It has been looking at whether certain rules are being used in certain ways that were unforeseen. This happens all the time. It happens when any law is introduced. It is the law of unintended consequences. That is what our finance minister is trying to deal with today.
    The motion purports that the finance minister is looking to help a company with which he used to be involved. That is not the case at all. The case is looking at a tax planning strategy that is used in the ways we want it to be used, but also in ways we do not want it to be used.
    The key point is that anybody involved in tax avoidance through proper planning is not a tax cheat, is not doing anything illegal, is using the rules to his or her benefit. There is nothing wrong with that. There is something wrong when people are involved in tax evasion, but we are not seeing that tax evasion. This has happened but why does it happen? Because tax rules are complex.
    Taxing involves putting something in place and expect a certain outcome, but at times other things happen. The rules are looked at after a while and we see certain behaviours we want to encourage, but we also see a few other behaviours we do not want to encourage. When that happens, we look to make certain changes.
    The finance minister is working on exactly that. He is not looking to attack anybody. He is not looking to denigrate any part of our society. He is not looking to attack farmers or physicians. He is not looking to attack anybody.

  (1335)  

    He is simply looking at tax strategies that are working in ways that we do not want to encourage in certain key instances. That is all of it.
    This government's commitment is to the middle class and, it should be underlined, those working hard to join it, absolutely. Most of our 1.8 million Canadian-controlled private corporations are very small businesses and they are the middle class. Our government is committed to not do anything to hurt those businesses, and we are working diligently in that direction. This paper does not talk about any of those issues. It does not bring up one measure that has been proposed by the finance minister with which it is in disagreement. This brings up character assassination.
    It is the job of the opposition to critique the laws that are being proposed. It is the job of the opposition to say that something proposed in the government's tax changes is not correct. However, we are not seeing that. We are not seeing the opposition doing its job. We are seeing the opposition members engaging in character assassination instead of saying they see a problem with the way farms are being targeted. Fair enough; let us hear it, but we do not have it here—

  (1340)  

     We do. We did say that.
     Yes, it wasn't important enough to trump character assassination. Members could say they see a problem with how it is affecting small business, but it was not important enough to trump character assassination.
    There is an old saying, “If you live in a glass house, don't throw rocks”. The House of Commons is not a glass house, but we are engaging in rock-throwing instead of a constructive debate and critique of any one aspect of what is being proposed.
    If opposition members see opportunities to improve the legislation, I strongly suggest they put them forward. They could put them forward in a constructive manner, and the government would be very open to considering any constructive feedback. This is what we have been engaged in for the last 75 days, and the finance minister continues to be open to hearing feedback on how to improve these suggested changes. I expect to see more changes being implemented.
    If there are good ideas and suggestions, I would tell the opposition to put aside these silly motions of character assassination and put forward good suggestions for the finance minister to consider. I know he is open-minded. I know he is working hard for the Canadian economy, and I am certain he will listen to them.
    Mr. Speaker, the member spoke about tax-planning strategies, but what we really saw is topic avoidance and accountability evasion from the government. He called this a silly motion. The motion calls for the finance minister to table documents in the House with respect to his compliance or non-compliance—one of those two—with very clear rules by the Ethics Commissioner. This can happen. Sometimes people forget that they own villas in France. I get it. However, it would help if the minister simply tabled the evidence so that people can see it.
    The member asked that we raise other issues with respect to tax changes. I invite him to stay for question period. I think he will see some of that take place in a very short time. What is his problem with voting in favour of a motion that asks for the minister to table the information? If the minister does not want to table the information, is that not quite revealing in and of itself?
    Mr. Speaker, my problem is this. We have different sections in government. Different people do different things. For example, we have the Ethics Commissioner. It is the Ethics Commissioner's job to look over these documents, and she has done her job. If there has been an oversight, she will look into it. If we are talking a technicality here, let the commissioner do her job. While she is doing her job, it might be a good idea for the opposition members to do their job.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I find it strange that my colleague oopposite would use metaphors that could so easily be turned against his party. He talked about how people who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Well, maybe the Liberals themselves should heed that old saying, but in their case, it would not be a glass house, it would be a glass villa.
    In recent weeks, the government has been going after small businesses and poor people, turning a blind eye to all manner of tax evasion, and, worst of all, tolerating behaviour like that of the Minister of Finance. The fact that he did not disclose how deeply he was involved in the pension fund business when he was making laws affecting that very sector is unacceptable. The Liberals should choose their metaphors carefully.
    Does my esteemed colleague see the shame in waiting until now to lower the small business tax rate from 10.5% to 10% and to 9% in the coming years? This is a bald-faced attempt to distract us from the villa issue and the fact that the minister did not disclose everything to the commissioner.
    Mr. Speaker, I have spoken to a number of small business owners for whom this tax cut is no mere distraction. They welcome this measure and are very happy about it. They think it is an excellent initiative on the part of our government, one that was part of our election platform.
    I am not sure how to answer the member's question when he claims that small business owners think reducing their tax rate significantly is a distraction. It is by no means a distraction. It is a very important initiative for our economy.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, if this is not an ethically challenged government, it is clearly incompetent: 10.5 million bucks to a convicted terrorist; the small business tax proposals that are falling flat; losing the northern gateway pipeline; the Petronas energy project; energy east, with $50 billion in investment down the drain, and thousands and thousands of lost jobs.
    I read an article about energy east, and the author described how it was lost. He attributed it to regulatory dysfunction. I wonder if there is a pill to cure that kind of dysfunction.
    The minister's excuse for not reporting his villa was that it was only an “administrative” failure. Imagine that. A minister of the crown is saying that it was an early administrative failure. Would the member have a comment on the minister's excuse for why he did not report his villa?
    Mr. Speaker, the member touched on a number of issues. I was trying to keep track of them as he was going along, but there were so many. He was all over the place, and I had a hard time catching it.
    What I can say is that the finance minister has been doing his job, collaborating in depth with the Ethics Commissioner. The Ethics Commissioner is happy with what she has seen. She has not raised an issue. She is doing her job. She is moving forward with it. It has been disclosed, perhaps not in the exact manner it was supposed to be disclosed, but that can be fixed, and it will be.

  (1345)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am going to be splitting my time with my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles.
    It is going to be hard to follow the comedy show that we just witnessed from our friend from Hastings—Lennox and Addington. I know it is a difficult day for the Liberals on the other side. This is a tough one for them to explain to their constituents about the ethical lapses of the finance minister. Let us just get back to the basics. All we are asking for today is for the finance minister to be completely transparent here and that he follow through with the request of the motion that the House will hopefully adopt later today, to table all the documents that he submitted to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner between November 4, 2015, and July 18, 2017.
    A lot of people will ask why that is important. We are talking about the second most powerful person in the cabinet of the Government of Canada. This the individual who has all the control over the financial levers of our country. This is the individual who has to have the most trust of Canadians, of investors, and of our financial markets. This is the individual who has to make sure he is working in the best interests of Canadians and not of himself. What we have witnessed so far is that this minister hates transparency, hates accountability, and really has a lapse in judgment in trying to circumvent the rules that have been laid out by the Conflict of Interest Commissioner.
    As a former parliamentary secretary, when I was sworn in, I had to immediately comply with the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. There is a complete act called the Conflict of Interest Act for ministers and parliamentary secretaries as well as the book that the Prime Minister himself has updated on the accountable government, a guide for ministers and parliamentary secretaries. We have to look at all the rules that are in there, on which the Minister of Finance himself has refused to follow through. That in itself is something where the minister is really letting down not only his own caucus, but I really feel sorry for all my friends on the other side who have to sit through this miserable situation, listening to the Minister of Finance try to weasel out of this situation and actually have the Prime Minister step in and handle all the questions at a press conference because the minister was not able to do it himself. The Prime Minister was definitely disappointed in his finance minister. I can say that based upon what happened.
    In the guidelines, there is a section in chapter IV, part 1, called “Ministerial Conduct”. The Prime Minister's own book says:
    Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries must act with honesty and must uphold the highest ethical standards so that public confidence and trust in the integrity and impartiality of government are maintained and enhanced.
    Looking at the definition of integrity and as it relates to ethics, we see it says in Wikipedia, “In ethics, integrity is regarded by many as the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one's actions.” We are not getting that when we look at the Minister of Finance and how he has completely dodged the issue of being transparent, of making sure that he has done things to the letter of the law, that all the is are dotted and the ts are crossed. I do not know whether he was trying to find loopholes in the Ethics Commissioner's guidelines or in the Conflict of Interest Act, because he definitely has broken the law in the way it is defined in the Conflict of Interest Act as it applies to ministers.
    I am sure the members of the cabinet have all read the documents and they are all well aware of what needs to be done here, but the thing that struck me the most is that, once they become a public office holder, they have to provide all disclosure to the Conflict of Interest Commissioner. In subsection 22(1), the act says:
    A reporting public office holder shall, within 60 days after the day on which he or she is appointed as a public office holder, provide a confidential report to the Commissioner.
    That is two months, not two years but two months. Let us do the math over there. That never happened, because the French villa was not on that original list. Once they do report it, there is a public declaration, in subsection 25(2), which states, on “certain assets”:
    A reporting public office holder shall, within 120 days after the day on which he or she is appointed as a public office holder, make a public declaration of all of his or her assets that are neither controlled assets nor exempt assets.
    That is two months beyond the two months that the minister already had, so four months. Let us do the math—it is four months in total—for our Liberal friends.

  (1350)  

    We heard about the French villa that was reported in July of this year, two full years after the Minister of Finance was sworn in to cabinet. Here is an individual who completely missed the mark, and he is calling it an administrative oversight, which is just unheard of.
    It further states, section 26:
    (2) The summary statement must contain the following:
(a) for each controlled asset of the reporting public officer holder, and for each asset of the reporting public office holder that the Commissioner has ordered divested under section 30, a description of the asset and the method used to divest it;...
    All of his assets would have received direction from the Ethics Commissioner.
    It goes on to state that he has to:
(b)...recuse himself or herself under section 30, a description of the matter and information regarding the process to be put in place by the reporting public office holder and others to effect the recusal; and
(c) for any other matter in respect of which the Commissioner has issued an order to the reporting public office holder...
    Everyone sitting over there who is a parliamentary secretary or a minister of the crown has had to follow these rules. That is everybody except the Minister of Finance. That is why it is so important that we get the documents from the Ethics Commissioner herself, so that we, as parliamentarians, and Canadians can see whether the integrity of the finance minister is in question. If he said he received direction from the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner and somebody in that office said no, he did not need to put his assets in a blind trust or he did not need to disclose that he has a beautiful villa, owned by a private corporation, in France, possibly earning income from rentals to tourists or people who love the Mediterranean, that we need to find out. The only way to do that is if the Minister of Finance is honest and up front, and provides those documents to all of us in Parliament.
    The other part of this is the requirement for divestment of assets through that appointment. Through the divestment, a minister has to either sell them, so that they do not influence the person's behaviour as a minister of the crown, or put them into a blind trust. When I was sworn in as parliamentary secretary in the previous government, I had to put my little farm into a blind trust. My wife had to be the manager and I was allowed to work on the farm, but not allowed to provide any input into the day-to-day operations of the farm. I was not allowed to talk to any of our clients, some of whom were my buddies. We could process cattle together, move them from pasture to pasture or vaccinate them, anything like that, as long as we were working, but I could not talk about any of the contracts that existed between them, as clients, and myself, as one of the owners of the blind trust.
    Therefore, there are rules to follow. We know for a fact that the Minister of Finance did not put his considerable assets in Morneau Shepell into a blind trust. He was sitting on millions of shares worth over $32 million. As I said, the finance minister is the most important person in cabinet. He handles the finances of this country. He is really the flag-bearer for the most ethical behaviour, and we are not seeing that since he did not put his French villa into a blind trust.
    To add insult to injury, we also now find out that Morneau Shepell has a private corporation called Morneau Shepell Bahamas, registered in Barbados, where it gets preferential tax treatment at an income tax rate of 2.5%. Through a tax treaty that Finance Canada negotiated with Barbados, it can repatriate that money back into Morneau Shepell Canada at no Canadian tax level at all. It pays its 2.5% income tax in Barbados, brings the money back here, and redistributes it through dividends to its shareholders, the Minister of Finance being one of the biggest shareholders of the company.
    Let us also look at the overall issue of how this has completely hurt the finance minister's credibility. All we are asking is that he finally be honest, show some integrity, and provide parliamentarians and Canadians with the respect we deserve, the respect that the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner deserves, the respect that everyone involved in this issue deserves by being honest and up front, and disclosing all of the information he has relating to his relationship with the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.

  (1355)  

    
    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives have opposed everything that the current Minister of Finance has done. What did the Conservatives do when we decreased taxes on Canada's middle class? They voted no. What did the Conservatives do when we put on a special tax on the wealthiest 1%? They said no. What do the Conservatives do when we talk about tax fairness? They say no.
    I suggest that the Conservatives have once again found a topic to disagree on with the Minister of Finance. However, I believe that Canadians as a whole will have more faith and trust in what the Ethics Commissioner has to say than they do members of the Conservative Party who have consistently been critical of the Minister of Finance.
     The Minister of Finance himself has said that he will follow the advice of the Ethics Commissioner. I understand why we will not follow the advice of the Conservative Party. It is because we believe in Canada's middle class.
    Mr. Speaker, the member for Winnipeg North can sit here and yell and scream at the top of his lungs all he wants, because I can tell members that nobody that I have talked to on the small business tax changes trusts the Liberals. They even trust them less because of the actions of the Minister of Finance.
    The member can rally on and say that things are just great, but all the Liberals are doing is saying that there is one set of rules for the Liberals and a different set of rules for all the rest of us, and that is not right.
    Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Finance, I wish to table these documents in the House, in both official languages.
    I thank the hon. minister.
    The hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman will have three minutes remaining in his time for questions and comments when the House next returns to debate on the question.
    We will now go to Statements by Members.
    The hon. member for Brossard—Saint-Lambert.

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

[Translation]

International Day of the Girl

    Mr. Speaker, October 11 is International Day of the Girl, a day of celebration proclaimed by the United Nations. Canada has joined other countries in making the issue of the rights of girls front and centre. Canadians recognize the importance of empowering girls and giving them opportunities for real growth.

[English]

    Empowering girls empowers our communities. Globally, equality for girls starts with access to clean water, education, and health care. It also means ensuring that girls lead lives free of violence, oppression, and discrimination.

[Translation]

    The International Day of the Girl is an opportunity to celebrate our country's energetic young women and the positive change they initiate.

[English]

    Last week, on October 11, I had the great privilege of hosting a discussion with students of Champlain College Saint-Lambert. Their enthusiasm, participation, and insights reiterated that girls' rights and the empowerment of younger generations are as crucial today as ever.

[Translation]

    I want to say a big thank you to the students, professors and directors at Champlain College Saint-Lambert for welcoming me so warmly on the International Day of the Girl.

[English]

Thalidomide

    Mr. Speaker, when will the government act to compensate the forgotten survivors of thalidomide? For close to 60 years, these Canadians have suffered from the ravages of this horrible drug that was approved by the government of the day, and as they age their conditions are worsening.
     In the spring, the health committee made a series of recommendations to the minister after hearing from thalidomide compensation evaluation experts from around the world. The committee recommended that the Canadian criteria for compensation be re-evaluated, that survivors who have been rejected receive a physical exam, and that the compensation requirements err on the side of compassion.
    Another Christmas is fast approaching and these survivors cannot wait another week, month, or year to finally hear some good news from the government. These victims have lived a life of pain, suffering, and discrimination. When will the government do the right thing and help these people?

  (1400)  

Retirement Congratulations

    Mr. Speaker, there are people of such energy, vision, tenacity, and commitment to community that they become the foundation of the quality of life we all enjoy. Natalie Chapman is such a person. She has devoted herself to building a loving community around those who are socially isolated.
    After Natalie served over 20 years as director of the West Island Association for the Intellectually Handicapped, friends recently gathered to wish her a happy and well-deserved retirement and to honour her remarkable advocacy for those with intellectual disabilities and their families.
    Natalie believes deeply that it not only takes a village to raise a child and to care for the vulnerable, but that it also takes goodwill and investment to keep that village strong. Natalie leaves WIAIH a resilient community resource, confidently focused on the future. Natalie has created a lasting legacy and set the bar high for what it means to care for and fashion a community that truly includes everyone.

World Mental Health Day

    Mr. Speaker, one in three Canadians will experience a mental illness or substance use disorder, or SUD, in his or her lifetime. Shockingly, more than 10 Canadians die by suicide each day. Suicide rates of indigenous youth in Canada are among the highest in the world. More than half of Canadian adults, and almost half of Canadian youth, say they cannot cope with unexpected difficult problems and day-to-day demands. Many people suffer in silence.
    World Mental Health Day provides each of us with an opportunity to pause and reflect on the importance of mental health and how we can help those living with mental illness. That is why it is so important to recognize World Mental Health Day each year on October 10.
     I encourage the government to officially designate October 10 as World Mental Health Day in Canada through resolution or legislation.
    I thank advocates like Carol Todd for their tireless efforts to raise awareness of mental health issues.

Daphne Caruana Galizia

    Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to pay my respects to Ms. Daphne Caruana Galizia, the Maltese journalist whose life was tragically cut short yesterday when a bomb exploded in her car shortly after she had left her home. Ms. Caruana Galizia bravely investigated corruption and organized crime in Malta.
    We unequivocally condemn this barbaric attack, and express our deepest sympathy to her family, and to all those affected by her tragic death. We must continue to support journalists from around the world in their pursuit of the truth, and the preservation of the fourth estate. As a former journalist, I praise Ms. Caruana Galizia' s dedication to truth, and call upon my colleagues in this House to stand united against this horrific attack.

Diwali

    Mr. Speaker, many Canadians will join Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and others from around the world on October 19 to celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights, which symbolizes good over evil. Diwali is now an international event, even acknowledged by the United Nations.
    Tomorrow evening I will be hosting the 17th National Diwali Celebration 2017 on Parliament Hill. We have come a long way since I first inaugurated this event back in 1998. We are the first western democracy to celebrate Diwali in Parliament. The success of this truly Canadian national event is due to the participation of the Indo-Canadian community.
     This year too, more than 30 temples and community organizations from Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, and Ottawa will help me organize this event. I invite all my colleagues to join me tomorrow at the event. I want to wish everyone a happy Diwali.

Hispanic Day on the Hill

    Mr. Speaker, today is a special day as we celebrate the second annual Hispanic Day on the Hill.
     As the daughter of a Mexican immigrant, the Hispanic and Latin American communities are very close to my heart. I am blessed that in Davenport, the riding I represent, there is a thriving, vibrant, and growing Spanish-speaking community, whether from Mexico, Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia, Cuba, El Salvador, or many other Latin American countries.
     In a world where we see increasing intolerance, Canada is a beacon of light, showing that diversity is a strength. Indeed, the contributions of our Spanish and Latin American communities enrich Canadian society and culture.
     I would like to close by warmly extending an offer to all my colleagues in the House to join us for our second annual Hispanic Day on the Hill celebrations in the Speaker's chamber today from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
    [Member spoke in Spanish]

  (1405)  

Kathleen Rice

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today during Women's History Month in recognition of Kathleen Rice, Canada's first female professional prospector.
    Kate was born in 1882 to a wealthy industrial family in St. Marys, Ontario, attended the University of Toronto and graduated in mathematics and physics in 1906.
    Kate recognized early on the injustice of her half-pay teaching salary and decided to join the Manitoba gold rush. To add to the insult, as a non-person, Kate's plan to homestead in The Pas meant she had to have her brother sign the papers.
    A sharpshooter, survivor, brilliant prospector, and Cree linguist, Kate staked many claims in Manitoba on her significant mineral discoveries, and was a correspondent for The Globe and Mail. Kate loved the majestic beauty of Manitoba's north, and for 40 years lived in a modest log cabin near Rice Island in Manitoba.
    This month, let us stake our claim and recognize Kate Rice as an extraordinary role model.

The Economy

    Mr. Speaker, it is time to start saying no to the deliberate destruction of the western Canadian economy.
    These Liberals are very carefully sabotaging natural resource development and the prosperity that comes with it. For decades western Canadian natural resources have led the Canadian economy.
    Now the government insists on interfering with that prosperity. The hypocrisy on pipeline approvals, the politicization of the regulatory approval process, and the hundreds of billions of dollars of lost investment are crippling the western Canadian economy.
    On top of all of that comes an even larger threat, the carbon tax that the Liberals are about to impose. This tax is built on lies, that it will somehow change our environment, that it will be fiscally insignificant, and that it will somehow be revenue neutral, whatever that is. The reality is that this is a massive tax grab by irresponsible governments, that it will exclude some of the worst polluters by letting them buy their way out, and that western Canada will be hardest hit.
    From the west, it looks like this Prime Minister is trying to finish the job that his father started.

Small Business Week

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to celebrate Small Business Week.
    As a small business owner, I know first hand the hard work and sacrifices required to start and grow a business. Small businesses are the backbone of the Canadian economy, accounting for 30% of our GDP and employing over eight million Canadians, including many in Surrey.
    Not only have we cut the small business tax rate by 2%, we have launched Innovative Solutions Canada, which allows small businesses to access government procurement tenders, and we have increased the capital available to entrepreneurs through the $400 million venture capital catalyst initiative. Under our government's leadership, the BDC has announced a new $50 million fund to support women in tech and has exceeded its lending target of $700 million for women entrepreneurs.
    All of this has made Canada the best country in the G7 to start a business. To all middle-class entrepreneurs and small business owners across British Columbia, across Canada—
    The hon. member for Niagara Centre.

Marine Transportation

    Mr. Speaker, today is marine day, a day to celebrate Great Lakes-St. Lawrence shipping. The Chamber of Marine Commerce is here celebrating with us on Parliament Hill today.
    It may surprise some to learn that Great Lakes-St. Lawrence shipping contributes 227,000 well-paying jobs to Canada's economy, while moving 160 million metric tonnes of cargo annually. Annually, Great Lakes-St. Lawrence shipping brings in $35 billion in business revenue and contributes $5 billion in tax revenues.
    In addition to a stellar safety record, this method of shipping also results in an 84% reduction in carbon emissions versus trucks and trains. In the Niagara region, the marine industry plays an integral role in the regional economy. Forty million metric tonnes of cargo passes through the Welland Canal annually on over 3,000 vessels.
    I rise today to congratulate all the hardworking people in this critical industry who contribute so much to the success of Canada-U.S. trade.

  (1410)  

Christopher Seguin

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to extend my deepest condolences to Melissa Seguin and her young sons, Logan and Harrison, for the loss of their father and her husband, Christopher Seguin. I have known Christopher for over nine years in his time as vice-president of advancement at Thompson Rivers University. He generated millions of dollars for student awards, ground-breaking research, and major buildings. Most recently he stepped up to the plate and provided leadership while supporting the B.C. wildfire evacuees. With the Rotary Club of Kamloops, he established the Starfish Pack program to help feed young children, and he volunteered for the Kamloops Food Bank for the past decade.
    Sadly, Christopher was an exceptional leader of our community who died at age 39 from an accidental overdose. This highlights a crisis that we have on our hands. No one is immune. I always thought that one day I would be paying tribute to Christopher in this House and looking up at him in the visitors' gallery, not delivering a memorial to a good friend. Despite our best efforts, we need to do more. I call on the government to call a national emergency.

[Translation]

Montreal North Chamber of Commerce and Industry

    Mr. Speaker, on the occasion of its 70th anniversary, I would like to highlight the contribution of the Montreal North chamber of commerce and industry, located in the riding of Bourassa. The chamber of commerce and industry is a key player in Montreal North's economic development. It has been able to modernize and adapt the services it has provided over the years.
    Recently, and much to its credit, the chamber of commerce and industry made room for young people in this vitally important sector that is the economy. I commend the outgoing chair of the board of directors, Ms. Gaetana Colella, for her years of service, and extend my best wishes to the new chair, Sylvain Picard, and to the board of directors, as they continue to attract and support investors in Montreal North.

Drummondville Region

    Mr. Speaker, 2017 is a special year for a few of the organizations that are the pride of the people of Drummondville. In arts and culture, the Maison des arts Desjardins Drummondville is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. There is no doubt that this cultural centre has contributed to the booming performing arts and visual arts scene both locally and regionally. I would like to acknowledge the entire team at Maison des arts and its general and artistic director, Marie-Pierre Simoneau.
    In the world of sports, the Requins de Drummondville swim club is also celebrating its 50th anniversary. This swim club has helped make swimming accessible within our community and has trained swimmers who have gone on to succeed on the Canadian sports scene.
    I would like to acknowledge the excellent work of the volunteers on the club's board of directors, chaired by Jacques Thibault, as well as head coach Amélie Poirier. Thank you to these organizations for making Drummondville and the region shine.

[English]

B.C. Wildfires

    Mr. Speaker, this past summer British Columbia was ravaged by wildfires, and as difficult as it has been, we have seen fellow Canadians step up to help their neighbours. The City of Fort St. John deployed five crews over the summer. It is my privilege to honour them now, as follows: Shift Captain Brent Morgan, Captain Ryan Tancock, Captain Simon Caughill, Matt Crompton, James Grant, Ryan Bowie, Jasen Donszelmann, Adam Horst, Craig Faulkner, Chris Austin, Matt Troiano, Matt Dawes, Gordon Mckay, Leo Sullivan, and Brandon Moore. I would also especially like to mention Chief Fred Burrows, who deployed during their first week at Williams Lake and took on the role of task group leader.
    On behalf of all residents of Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies in British Columbia, I thank all the firefighters and first responders who worked so selflessly this past summer to battle the B.C. wildfires. We thank them from the bottom of all of our hearts.

International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to bring attention to the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Twenty-five years ago, the United Nations declared that this day would be devoted to the poor, the vulnerable, and those who need our help. Today is an opportunity to acknowledge, support, and listen to the concerns of those experiencing poverty, and to discuss and take action to eliminate poverty.
    As chair of the human resources committee, poverty is an issue of great importance to me. Our committee spent the last year travelling across the country to produce an in-depth poverty reduction report. We analyzed the current state of poverty in Canada, as well as effective solutions to reduce its occurrence.
    I am looking forward to reading the national poverty reduction strategy when the minister releases it. Poverty is a critical issue, and those of us in the House must always consider our decisions as they affect the most vulnerable among us.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

  (1415)  

[Translation]

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, the other side of the House has demonstrated blatant hypocrisy.
    During the last election, the Prime Minister accused local business owners of being tax cheats, and yet, his right-hand man, the Minister of Finance, hid from Canadians for two years the fact that he owns a private company overseas. His own minister avoided paying taxes in Canada.
    When will the Liberals come clean with Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, everyone works with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner to ensure full compliance with all her recommendations and legislation with respect to conflicts of interest.
    The Minister of Finance has full confidence in the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner and her recommendations. I would also like to say that Parliament has full confidence that the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner will carry out her work in an impartial manner and with integrity.
    That is preposterous, Mr. Speaker.
    In the eyes of the Prime Minister, a farmer from Lac-Saint-Jean is a tax cheat; a restaurant owner in Old Quebec is a tax cheat; the owner of the corner garage is a tax cheat; the family members running a family business are tax cheats. However, he sees no problem with his right-hand man, the Minister of Finance, stashing money overseas in a private company for the past two years.
    Why do the Prime Minister and his minister think they are above the law?
    Mr. Speaker, as Minister of Small Business and Tourism, I am very proud of the announcements we are making.
    The changes we are making reflect what we have heard from Canadians. The income sprinkling proposals will be simplified to help family businesses. As we make the system fairer, we are also fulfilling our commitment to lower the small business tax rate. This rate was 11% in 2015 and will be lowered to 9% by 2019.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister wanted to take all the questions yesterday, but he will not answer any questions today.
    The law requires that ministers put their assets in a blind trust within 120 days of being appointed, but we have learned that the finance minister chose not to put his family fortune into a blind trust. The law is in place to prevent conflicts of interest, and Canadians deserve to know whether the minister is using his position to benefit his family company.
    The question is simple. When did the finance minister sell his shares in Morneau Shepell?
    Mr. Speaker, since taking office, the Minister of Finance has worked with the Ethics Commissioner to ensure that her every recommendation and all conflict of interest rules were followed.
    As the Minister of Small Business and Tourism, I am very pleased with the announcement we made yesterday. I am very pleased we are working on behalf of Canadians. I am very pleased we are working on behalf of our job creators. This week is Small Business Week, and we must thank our job creators. That is why yesterday's news was excellent news that we would be reducing the small business tax rate to 9% by 2019. We will continue to do the good work they expect us to do.
    Mr. Speaker, no small business owner expects that the government will target them and call them tax cheats. That is what the government has been doing for months now.
    These are the facts. The law requires ministers to either put their shares in a blind trust or sell them within 120 days of being appointed. We know the finance minister chose not to place his Morneau Shepell shares into a blind trust, so again, this question is very simple. When did the finance minister sell his shares in Morneau Shepell?
    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance, as I am sure all members do, works closely with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner to ensure that the rules are followed. All recommendations that were made to him, he accepted. Every year there is a review of the paperwork, and we will continue to work with her to ensure that all rules are in compliance.
    It is Small Business Week. It is an exciting week for our job creators. We have committed to reducing the small business rate to 9% by 2019. More so, we listened to exactly what their concerns were to ensure that any rules will work in--

  (1420)  

    The hon. Leader of the Opposition.
    Mr. Speaker, the one thing we can always count on with the Liberals is that eventually they start acting like Liberals.
    The minister has travelled the country for months calling pizza shop owners and farmers tax cheats, accusing all kinds of hard-working Canadians of trying to avoid paying their fair share. The whole time, it was he himself who was avoiding paying his fair share.
    Is there anyone over there who is even slightly embarrassed about the hypocrisy of the finance minister keeping his shares out of a blind trust and not disclosing this to the public?
    Mr. Speaker, this government was elected on a commitment to Canadians to ensure that their voices were heard in this place, and that is exactly what members of Parliament are doing.
    We appreciate the constructive feedback that is coming to the government to ensure that any rules that are implemented work in the best interests of Canadians, especially our job creators, our small businesses. Those are the very people we work hard for every single day.
     Yesterday there was an excellent news announcement. We will reduce the small business tax rate from 11% to 9% by 2019. We are not moving ahead with the capital gains exemption, because we listened to farmers and fishers. We want to ensure that intergenerational transfers of businesses continue. We will support--
    That is a funny answer, Mr. Speaker, because this morning the commissioner said that she never told the finance minister not to place his assets in a blind trust.

[Translation]

    Yesterday, my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley wrote to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, asking her to launch an investigation into the personal assets of the Minister of Finance and into Bill C-27, which he is sponsoring.
    We now know that the minister did not place his fortune into a blind trust as a number of people, including the hon. member for Spadina—Fort York, believed. He believed it because it made so much sense.
    My question is simple. Why did he not do so?
    Mr. Speaker, as I said, since he took the position, the Minister of Finance has been working with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner to make sure that all her recommendations and the legislation on conflicts of interest are followed to the letter.
    The Minister of Finance has full confidence in the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner and her recommendations. He is ready to do whatever is necessary to avoid a real or perceived conflict of interest.
    I must also mention that the commissioner has full confidence in Parliament's ability to do its job impartially and honestly.
    Mr. Speaker, the troubling thing about this whole story is that the minister did not have the sense to see that his situation was problematic. Nobody can deny that, if Bill C-27 becomes law, Morneau Shepell will benefit from a significant boost to both its business and its revenue.
    As a major shareholder in the company, the Minister of Finance stands to gain personally from the passage of this bill.
    I know my definition of “conflict of interest”. I would like the minister to share his definition.
    Mr. Speaker, this is Small Business Week in Canada, and as the Minister of Small Business and Tourism, I would like to congratulate them for the work they do.
    The changes we are making are a direct response to what we have heard from Canadians. The income sprinkling proposals will be simplified to help family businesses. As we work to make the system fairer, we will keep our promise to lower the small business tax rate, which was 11% in 2015 and will drop to 9% in 2019.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is not just the opposition that believed that the finance minister's massive investments were in a blind trust. That is what many Liberals believed as well. Earlier this month, the member for Spadina—Fort York tweeted that the finance minister's shares in Morneau Shepell “were put in an arms length blind trust [when] he was sworn in 2 years ago.”
    This is about a serious breach and potential conflict of interest. Will my friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development stand in the House and explain when he was told this untruth and who told it to him?

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, as the Minister of Finance has said on many occasions, he is working with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. He will continue to do this important work.
    What is more important is that it is Small Business Week, and this government has committed to reducing the small business tax rate from 11% to 9%. This government has committed to listening and engaging with Canadians. Not only have we listened, we have responded to the very real challenges and concerns they are facing. We will continue to ensure that the tax system is more equitable and works for more Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, so I guess it is not just the finance minister who is not taking questions today. My friend from Toronto must have gotten the PM shove, as they call it.
    This is an important question, because we may be looking at the most blatant conflict of interest in modern Canadian history. The finance minister introduced Bill C-27. This bill would significantly benefit Morneau Shepell and all of its shareholders, like the finance minister. He has not divested nor placed his millions of shares in a blind trust.
    What is worse: this massive, troubling conflict of interest, or the fact that Liberals do not seem to think there is a problem in the first place?
    Mr. Speaker, as Minister of Small Business and Tourism, I will say that I am very proud that this government is actually listening and engaging with our job creators to ensure that the tax system works for them. The minister has full confidence in the Ethics Commissioner and her recommendations and is willing to take any further steps to avoid conflicts, or any perception of conflicts, as deemed appropriate by the Ethics Commissioner. Moreover, this government is taking action to ensure that the economy continues to grow and that our small businesses continue to create jobs in their communities, benefiting the entire community. We will continue to work hard on behalf of small business owners.
    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance started by saying he had revealed all of his holdings to the Ethics Commissioner. Now we know he has an offshore company in France that he did not disclose.
     He then said to the media, “I suspect all my assets will go into a blind trust.” That was two years ago. We now know that this did not happen either. Finally, he claimed that the Ethics Commissioner told him he should not put his holdings in a blind trust. Today she testified under oath that she told him no such thing.
    We cannot believe the Minister of Finance. When did he sell his shares?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I want to reassure the House. The Minister of Finance has always been very transparent with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, and he has always worked proactively with her to ensure that all the rules in place and her recommendations are followed. He is always working proactively with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. He even wrote to the commissioner seeking another meeting to see if there were additional recommendations that might apply. He is committed to following every recommendation that the commissioner may have in order to remain in full compliance with the rules that govern us all, in the House.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance had spokespeople from Morneau Shepell tell the media that his Morneau Shepell shares were in a blind trust. He had the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families tell me on Twitter that his holdings were in a blind trust. He told the media himself two years ago that he suspected that his holdings would go into a blind trust. We know now that none of that was true. We also know that Morneau Shepell has holdings in the tax haven of Barbados.
     When did the minister sell his shares in Morneau Shepell?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, the Minister of Finance has always worked in collaboration with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner in an entirely transparent manner to ensure that he is in compliance with the rules that govern all of us in the House. We have confidence in the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, and the minister has even written the commissioner seeking another meeting to discuss his assets and to follow every instruction she might have regarding his personal assets.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, they may trust the Ethics Commissioner, but how can Canadians trust these Liberals? As of late yesterday, the Parliamentary Secretary for Urban Affairs was still falsely claiming that the finance minister's assets were in a blind trust. The Prime Minister himself indicated that it was the Ethics Commissioner's responsibility in these matters, yet she testified today that it was the minister's choice not to put the shares in a blind trust.
    The daily revelations of the finance minister show nothing but hypocrisy, and I want to know one simple thing. When did the finance minister sell his shares in Morneau Shepell?

  (1430)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, as I said, the Minister of Finance has been working with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner from the very beginning of his term to ensure that she had a full picture of his assets and that he would be in compliance with all rules governing us here in the House. He is also committed to acting on any and all recommendations she might make following a request that he initiated to meet with her.
    If I may, I would add that the Minister of Finance is a man of great integrity who has dedicated himself to public service for the past two years with a record that makes others pale by comparison and is the envy of the world: the strongest growth in the G7 and inclusive prosperity for all Canadians.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the finance minister seems to have one set of rules for himself and a completely other set for everybody else. He made the choice to attack hard-working Canadian entrepreneurs while protecting his own personal wealth. He is the one who is hiding an offshore account, and he will not tell Canadians why he did not put his vast personal wealth into a blind trust, like the law requires.
     Let me be clear. This was his choice, always his choice, and these are his ethics we are talking about. I just want to know, when did the finance minister sell his shares in Morneau Shepell?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the House has full confidence in the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, and the Minister of Finance is committed to working with her. He requested a meeting with her in order to make sure he was following any recommendations she might make to him. As he has done since the beginning of his term, since he took office, and even before that, he will continue to work with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, as he has always done. That is what is expected of all members of the House.
    Mr. Speaker, this is a serious issue of critical importance. The Minister of Finance is the architect of every one of Canada's economic and tax policies. Morneau Shepell is a multi-billion dollar company on Bay Street that applies Canada's tax policies every day. It is a perfect example of a conflict of interest right out of the gate.
    The question is clear: when did the Minister of Finance sell his shares in Morneau Shepell?
    Mr. Speaker, from day one, the Minister of Finance has met with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner and worked with her to ensure that he followed all of her recommendations and that he was in compliance with the rules that govern us all. He is committed to doing the same moving forward, again in close collaboration with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, who has the full confidence of the House.
    Mr. Speaker, I am still thankful for one thing: the member for Louis-Hébert has been authorized by the Prime Minister to answer questions, unlike the Minister of Finance. At least that is something. Seriously, the situation is completely untenable; we are talking about the moral authority of the Minister of Finance of Canada, here.
    When did the Minister of Finance sell his shares in Morneau Shepell?
    Mr. Speaker, as I said, the Minister of Finance has worked with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner since he first took office. This has been ongoing and he asked for a meeting with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner to ensure that he was in full compliance at all times. That is expected of all members of the House. If I may say so, public service is important to the Minister of Finance, who, in the past two years, has given Canadians the strongest growth of the past decade and reduced child poverty by 40%. I am very proud to serve with him.

International Trade

    Mr. Speaker, it was confirmed today that the Americans are demanding an end to our supply management system within the next 10 years. They are also demanding 5% of our market. When it comes to protecting our supply management system, the Liberals are certainly used to kowtowing to our trade partners. For us, however, the protection of our supply management system is non-negotiable, and we will not allow it to be chipped away any further.
    To avoid repeating the same errors that were made with CETA and the trans-Pacific partnership 11, can the minister confirm today that the Liberals will not allow the agreement to be chipped away any further?
    Mr. Speaker, our government strongly supports Canada's supply management system and Canadian families and producers. Our government remains committed to listening to what Canadians have to say about international trade. We recently held a round table on NAFTA with Canadian farmers, including dairy, poultry, and egg producers. The proposals our American partners have made regarding supply management are unacceptable, and we will continue to support the supply management system and all agricultural interests.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, supporting supply management means saying “no”. Dairy is officially on the table. The U.S. has called for a definitive end to Canada's supply managed system and is demanding immediate further access to our markets. This is outrageous. Both the Liberals and the Conservatives have no problem putting our supply managed sector up for grabs in trade deals like TPP and CETA, but this time, the Liberals must protect our industry and say “no”.
    Will the minister drop the spin and finally tell the U.S. that supply management is not on the table?

  (1435)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, we are the party that implemented supply management, and we are going to continue to defend it. Dairy trade between Canada and the United States massively favours the U.S., by a ratio of five to one. For eggs and poultry, the U.S. has seen an increase of 209% since NAFTA was signed. The U.S. has a trade surplus of $246 million. I want to reassure the House and our dairy, poultry, and egg farmers that we are going to defend our supply management system.

[English]

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, it is disturbing to discover that the Finance Minister broke the law by hiding his offshore corporation for two years. It is even more disturbing to now find out that he did not put his millions of dollars in shares in a blind trust as required by the law. It must be because he sold the shares, otherwise he broke the law. Therefore, when did the Finance Minister sell his shares in Morneau Shepell?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, since the start of his term, the Minister of Finance has been working with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner to ensure that he is in full compliance with all the rules that govern us and that he follows any recommendation that she may make.
    Just today, the minister wrote to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner seeking a meeting. He is open to any recommendation she may make, such as a blind trust, for example.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, those are the same talking points as on billionaire island and the Liberal cash for access fundraisers. I asked a very simple question.
     The Minister of Finance has said hundreds of times that his government is open and transparent, but he refuses to come clean with Canadians. He has been hiding the ownership of his offshore corporation. Now he will not come clean with Canadians about his business interest that put him into this conflict of interest.
    When will the minister finally come clean with Canadians and tell them whether he still owns shares of Morneau Shepell?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, since the start of his mandate, the Minister of Finance has always been open and transparent with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. He is committed to continuing on that path, and to taking any steps she may recommend to make sure that he is in full conformity with the rules that govern members of Parliament, parliamentary secretaries, and ministers in the House.
    Mr. Speaker, the rules are very simple and apply to every one of the 338 MPs here: we must disclose our assets within 60 days.
    There is good reason to wonder whether the Minister of Finance is working in his own interest and that of the Liberal Party or in the interest of all Canadians. We know that he did not disclose his personal affairs for more than two years.
    My question is so simple that I am not sure the parliamentary secretary will attempt to answer it.
    Does the minister still own shares in his company? If so, when will he sell them?
    Mr. Speaker, as I said, the Minister of Finance will continue to work with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner to comply with the rules that govern us.
    The member wants to know who the Minister of Finance is working for. I can tell him that the minister is working in the interest of the 300,000 children we have lifted out of poverty with the Canada child benefit, of the 437,000-plus jobs we have created, most of them full-time, and of the strongest growth we have seen in the past 10 years.
    These factors are the reason Canadian entrepreneurs are prospering. Our Minister of Finance is working in the interest of Canadians, regardless of their income or origins.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, when he was elected, the Minister of Finance held about $30 million in shares in Morneau Shepell. When he was appointed finance minister, he promised to put his fortunes in a blind trust, but he broke that promise.
     For the last two years as finance minister, he has been making decisions that could have directly helped his family business. We know he has gone out of his way to protect his family fortune from any negative tax changes.
    When will the Prime Minister stop sheltering his Minister of Finance? Let him answer the question. When did he sell his shares in Morneau Shepell?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, let me set the record straight for my colleague.
    The Minister of Finance wrote to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner today seeking a meeting. He is committed to following up on all of her recommendations regarding his personal affairs. He made that commitment upon becoming Minister of Finance, and he has honoured it ever since. He has been working with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner since the very beginning of his term.

  (1440)  

[English]

Health

    Mr. Speaker, we know that millions of Canadians cannot afford the medicines they need. The PBO confirms that we can provide prescription coverage to every single Canadian, while saving billions of dollars.
     Later today, the House will vote on an NDP motion to start negotiations with the provinces and territories within one year to create universal pharmacare. This is a common-sense proposal, sound public policy that will help millions and save billions.
    Will the Liberals join us and support pharmacare for all Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, Canadians pay too much for prescription drugs. Our government is taking bold action now to bring down the prices, while we also explore the need for a national formulary. We joined the provinces and territories as members of the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance. Also, in budget 2017 we are investing over $140 million to help improve access to pharmaceuticals.
     These actions will save Canadians money as we continue to work with provinces and territories to make prescription drug prices more affordable and more accessible to all Canadians.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, we have just learned that more than 60 people died from opioid overdoses in Montreal this fall, and the situation is only getting worse across Canada.
    A number of stakeholders are calling on the government to declare a state of emergency. Even President Trump recognizes that the situation in the United States calls for a protracted battle and significant funding.
    What is the government waiting for? When will it declare the opioid crisis a Canada-wide emergency?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we are in a national public health crisis in Canada and we are responding in a way that is comprehensive, collaborative, compassionate, and also evidence based. We recently announced an investment of $7.5 million that will enhance the development of evidence-based practices that could be used by those dealing with this crisis on the ground. These build on our investment in budget 2017 and many actions to date.

Social Development

    Mr. Speaker, today is both the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty and Housing on the Hill Day. Given the recent poverty reduction conference and the unprecedented investments over the past two budgets, we know that fighting poverty and meeting Canada's housing challenges are at the forefront of this government's agenda.
     Could the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development tell the House what he is doing on those important issues?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Vancouver Centre for being such a strong advocate of a more inclusive and more fair society.
     Our government believes that housing is the cornerstone of the lives of families and communities. We are going to announce, in the next few weeks, the first-ever national housing strategy, which will be a key input in our poverty reduction strategy. We look forward to building on those strategies to make sure that all Canadians have a real and fair chance to be well and to succeed in our society.

[Translation]

International Trade

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, I was in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, and I met with dairy producers who are worried about their future. What worries them is the Liberals' doublespeak about supply management. Although the Minister of Foreign Affairs tried in vain to put the toothpaste back in the tube, her parliamentary secretary was very clear. When it comes to supply management, there is room for negotiation with the U.S.
    Why is the Liberal government ready to negotiate and thereby jeopardize the future of dairy, egg, and poultry farmers?
    Mr. Speaker, our government is fully in favour of supply management and it will continue to defend it. As I said earlier, dairy trade between Canada and the U.S. massively favours the U.S., by a ratio of five to one. Canada is the second largest export market for dairy products in the United States, surpassed only by Mexico. The minister and I have made it clear that we will defend supply management and the system in place.
    Those are just words, Mr. Speaker. The Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister think that farmers are scheming to save on taxes. Mr. Wolfson, their economic adviser, claims family farms do not even exist.
    Could it be that the parliamentary secretary was misquoted?
    Here are his exact words when he spoke of supply management in Denton on October 11:

[English]

     “Is there room to discuss and negotiate? Of course.”

[Translation]

    Of course.
    When will the government stop the doublespeak and abandon its plan to open supply management to negotiations with Washintgon?

  (1445)  

    Mr. Speaker, as I said, our government strongly supports supply management, farmers and their families. As we have said from the very start in the House, we will continue to defend producers from the Americans. I also said that the United States' proposals are unacceptable. Therefore, we will continue to support our dairy, poultry and egg producers and all of our agricultural interests.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives know that protecting Canadian farmers from unfair competition and dumping is critical to maintaining economic stability in rural communities.
     American negotiators are aggressively pushing to unlimited access to Canada's supply managed agricultural sectors. This threatens farmers across Canada, including those who produce milk, eggs, and poultry. Can Canadian farmers trust the Liberals to preserve the family farm? Does the government have a plan to protect Canadians' way of life?
    Mr. Speaker, Canada is the biggest market to the United States, bigger than China, Japan, and U.K. combined. As members know, we are dealing with the most protectionist U.S. government since the 1930s.
     We defend supply management. We believe in the family farms. We would like to encourage our neighbours to the south to emulate the good example set by our negotiations in the CETA trade issues.
     Having said this, within NAFTA there are certain things we cannot accept and we will not accept. We will continue to defend our values.
    Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary for Canada-U.S. relations clearly knows how to win friends and influence people in the U.S. Just three days after he said he was open to negotiating supply management, the Americans tabled their offer. They want an end to supply management.
     Under Conservative governments, the Americans respected our system of supply management, but the Liberal government is literally ready to sell the farm. When will that member and the government stop saying one thing to Canadian farmers and another thing to their friends in Washington?
    Mr. Speaker, we on this side of the House, and those who are fortunate enough to be on our portion of the other side, believe in supply management. Indeed, everyone in this House, with the exception of certain members of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, believe in supply management. The same is true of the gang opposite.
    We are delighted to defend supply management and will do so at every opportunity.

Public Services and Procurement

    Mr. Speaker, it has been a year since the current government's self-imposed deadline to fix the Phoenix boondoggle came and went. Last weekend, when asked for a new deadline, the Treasury Board president said, “I could pull a figure out of the air and give it to you, but I'd rather tell the truth.”
    Of course, the truth is that the government does not have a plan to fix Phoenix. Therefore, my question for the minister is simple. We know you do not have a plan to fix Phoenix, but when will you have a plan to have a plan?
    Order, please. I will have to remind the hon. member for Regina—Lewvan to direct his comments to the Chair. I think he was here. We will not talk about who was here and when and all of that, but yesterday I mentioned to members that of course, if they say “you” in here, they are referring to the Speaker, and I do not think he meant to refer to the Speaker.
    The hon. Minister of Public Services and Procurement
    Mr. Speaker, it is unacceptable that hard-working public servants are not paid the money they are owed. Recently, an independent third-party report clarified that decisions made by the previous government put this project at a significant risk and exposed it to significant risk of failure.
    We are doing everything we can in the areas of governance, partnerships, business processes, and capacity to make sure that public servants get the money they are owed. We will not stop until this is fixed.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please. I am having trouble hearing what people are saying, and I have to hear them so we know if there is someone breaking any rules.
    The hon. member for Jonquière.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Liberals have been responsible for this fiasco for two years now.
    Even the senior director at IBM Canada who designed Phoenix admitted yesterday evening that the system was flawed. However, neither the company that designed the system nor the government seems to know how much longer it will take for 150,000 people to be paid correctly and on time, of course. I will ask the question one more time.
    Does anyone know how long workers will have to wait for this disaster to be behind us?

  (1450)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is unacceptable that public servants are not getting the salary they are owed. We are taking substantive measures to resolve this problem, including a $140-million investment in recruiting, hiring, and training new employees, emergency pay advances, and opening up satellite offices, among other things. We will leave nothing to chance.

[English]

Aerospace Industry

    Mr. Speaker, Bombardier received millions of dollars in grants from the Government of Canada to develop the C Series. The public funds were given to a Canadian corporation to develop a Canadian expertise. However, yesterday we learned that Bombardier sold a majority stake in the C Series to a foreign corporation, Airbus. Therefore, my question is very simple. Will the government immediately take action to recover the millions of dollars that should have been given to Canadian taxpayers?
    Mr. Speaker, with respect to the joint venture, the repayment terms have not changed. What I do not understand is what the member opposite and the official opposition have against the aerospace sector. When we invested in research and development, they opposed us. When duties were imposed on Canadian airplanes, they went missing. Now we have more market access, which means more production and more jobs in Canada, and again they are opposing this. What do they have against the aerospace sector and good-quality jobs in Canada?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, we are not big fans of the secret agreements that the Government of Canada negotiated with Bombardier.
    The minister told us that Bombardier will have to reimburse the money. That is simple enough. Now, it is doing business with a new company, a foreign company. My question for the minister is quite simple.
    When will taxpayers be reimbursed for the money that was given to a Canadian company to develop expertise here in Canada? When will Canadians be reimbursed?
    Mr. Speaker, our government supports the aerospace sector and we will continue to work hard for the aerospace sector.

[English]

    Let me be very clear. Under the Investment Canada Act, the process that I oversee, we will make sure we get maximum economic benefit. That means the head office will be here in Canada. That means production will be here in Canada. That means good quality jobs will be here in Canada, jobs that pay, on average, 60% more than other manufacturing jobs.
    We will always defend Canada's national interests, and we will always defend the aerospace sector and the good-quality jobs from coast to coast to coast.
    Mr. Speaker, we expect support for Alberta, not Alabama.
    Yesterday, Bombardier announced that the French company Airbus would receive a majority stake in the Bombardier C Series aircraft. Now Airbus cannot really lose here, and Bombardier cannot really lose either. After all, they are riding high on millions of Canadian taxpayers' dollars. Do we know who stands to lose? It is Canadian taxpayers.
    Can the minister guarantee Canadian taxpayers will be fully repaid by Bombardier before this transaction is approved?
    Mr. Speaker, again, I do not know why the members opposite continue to undermine our aerospace sector.
    This is an anchor company that has made a world-class plane. Now this plane has access to the world. It has access to global markets. That means more production. That means more jobs.
    What do the members opposite have against this? We will continue to support our aerospace sector, and we will do our due diligence. We will do our homework under the Investment Canada Act to maximize economic benefits for all Canadians.

[Translation]

Canadian Heritage

    Mr. Speaker, in my constituency, creative industries are an integral part of the economy. We know that our francophone creators are among the most respected in the world. Recently, the Minister of Canadian Heritage unveiled her vision for Creative Canada, which calls for a major investment to help our creators through the Canada Media Fund.
    Can the minister give us more details about her vision for this major investment?

  (1455)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle for her question and for her excellent work. As part of Creative Canada, the government will, starting in 2018, increase its contribution to the Canada Media Fund in order to provide it with stable funding. With that new investment, we are directly supporting jobs for our authors, producers, directors, actors, and technical crews. Last year, the fund invested $117 million in francophone projects in the country. We are committed to supporting our creators.

[English]

Taxation

    Mr. Speaker, we know the Liberals are desperate for money when they have to start taxing discounted hamburgers and other employee discounts.
    The Minister of National Revenue claims that she has asked officials to fix the problem, but she will not disclose to us just how she plans on doing that.
    This will not hurt those among us who own French villas, but it will mean higher taxes for those who are hard-working Canadians, such as single moms, first-time employees, new Canadians, and young workers.
    Will the minister finally table in this House the instructions that she sent to her officials, or is this just simply another broken Liberal promise?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, since the start of our mandate, the government has been focused on helping the middle class. The documents in question did not reflect our government's intentions. I repeat, the rules have not changed. We will continue to ensure that our actions support the middle class. As the Prime Minister has said, we will not be targeting retail employees' discounts.

[English]

Housing

    Mr. Speaker, last week I met with residents of the Post 83 Co-operative in my riding, and they are very worried. Forty-five families could lose their homes when the federal government pulls funding from co-operative housing next year.
     Given the looming expiry of co-operative operating agreements across Canada, will the government agree to make this funding permanent and protect the housing for low- and middle-income residents?
    Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for his question, which is exactly what we want to hear: the kind of housing support that the federal government needs to provide to all sorts of housing providers, including co-operatives and not-for-profit housing providers.
    I had the privilege of meeting many of them this morning. They are keen on working with us for the long term. They have waited for us for a long time, and we are back.

Public Safety

    Mr. Speaker, indigenous Canadians make up 4% of Canada's population but 25% of the federal prison population. We know that there are historical and systemic issues that have combined to cause this problem, and that is why the government has been focusing on bringing about socio-economic change in collaboration with indigenous communities.
    Will the Minister of Public Safety tell us what he is doing to ensure that indigenous people involved in the criminal justice system will receive the support they need to rehabilitate and heal, which ultimately makes Canadian communities safer?
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Northwest Territories for his work.
    The overrepresentation of indigenous people in our criminal justice system is an intolerable situation, and we are working very hard to address it. Yesterday, I was pleased to announce an investment of $10 million in the indigenous community corrections initiative to support community-based, culturally relevant projects providing alternatives to incarceration and supporting safe reintegration. It is part of $110 million in the last budget to help fix systemic problems in the criminal justice system.

Human Rights

    Mr. Speaker, today human rights activists and leading members of the Muslim community brought a petition to the House of Commons asking the government for stronger action on the atrocities being committed against the Rohingya. We add our voices to theirs, as we have for over a year and half. Specifically, petition organizer Fareed Khan said he would like to be able to ask the Prime Minister why he did not raise this issue during his speech to the UN. Mr. Khan cannot ask the Prime Minister that question directly, so I will.
    Why did the Prime Minister not speak about the Rohingya during his UN General Assembly speech?
    Mr. Speaker, everybody in this government is seized with the issue of the Rohingya. We know that the responsibility for ending the persecution of the Rohingya falls squarely upon the commander-in-chief, the military leadership in Myanmar, and Aung San Suu Kyi. On September 30, the minister spoke directly with the commander-in-chief, and the minister said to him that the violators of human rights must be held accountable, humanitarian access into the region must be permitted, and the Annan report must be implemented. Canada's ambassador to Myanmar has joined 50 other foreign ambassadors to visit the Rakhine State. We continue to be seized with playing a role in resolving this situation.

  (1500)  

[Translation]

International Trade

    Mr. Speaker, our agricultural sector received a death threat from the American government yesterday.
    By calling for the abolition of supply management, American negotiators are attacking our milk producers, our poultry farmers, and our regions. Does anyone really think that we would let this slide? Let me say it in a way that everyone will understand: no way.
    Will the government stand up and refuse to abandon our farmers by immediately walking away from the negotiating table any time supply management is mentioned?
    Mr. Speaker, our government strongly supports supply management, farmers, and their families.
    Our government remains committed to listening to Canadians on international trade issues. We recently had a round table on NAFTA with Canadian farmers, including dairy, egg, and poultry producers. Our American partners' proposals regarding supply management are unacceptable. We will continue to support our dairy, egg, and poultry producers and all of our agricultural interests.

Employment

    Mr. Speaker, there are people on the North Shore and in all our regions who have worked their entire lives.
    People like the retirees of Cliffs Natural Resources put their heart and soul, and their talents into their jobs and then were left high and dry because the company went bankrupt. When one has to choose between food or paying for chemotherapy or ostomy supplies, things are not good.
    What is the minister waiting for to take action? How many shattered lives does he need to justify taking action?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as the member opposite knows, these types of particular instances that occur with job losses sometimes go before the courts under the CCAA, but more importantly, our government understands that we need to be there to help these citizens during these difficult times, help these workers, help the families, and help these different communities. We will remain engaged. We will work with the stakeholders and the communities to find solutions and a path forward to create more opportunities and more jobs.

Broadcasting of House Proceedings

    Forty years ago today, the “gavel-to-gavel” parliamentary proceedings of the House of Commons were broadcast live on television for the very first time.

[Translation]

    This first televised broadcast launched the concept of television as an electronic Hansard. The success of the Canadian experience ultimately led other legislative bodies to allow the broadcasting of their work, based on the model proposed by the House of Commons.

[English]

    We have come a long way since that first live television broadcast, and despite the rapidly advancing forms of social and digital communications reframing how we communicate with Canadians, broadcasting service continues to play a key role in keeping our fellow citizens informed about the business of Parliament, and even manage the sound quite well. For the past 25 years, the Cable Public Affairs Channel, or CPAC, has worked in partnership with us to ensure that Canadians have a front-row view into the very centre of our democracy.

[Translation]

    We thank them.
    Mr. Speaker, given the importance of the matter, allow me to remind you of some of the comments made yesterday in the House.
    In response to an excellent question put by my colleague from Niagara West, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs stated, “...I did not say the words ascribed to me.”
    I seek the unanimous consent of the House to table the transcript of the video in which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs clearly states:

[English]

    “ Is there room to discuss and negotiate? Of course.”

[Translation]

    Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House?
    Some hon. members: No.
    The Speaker: There is no unanimous consent.

GOVERNMENT ORDERS

[Business of Supply]

  (1505)  

[English]

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion—Minister of Finance's documents submitted to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner  

    The House resumed consideration of the motion.
    There are three minutes remaining in questions and comments after the speech by the hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman.
    The hon. member for Courtenay—Alberni.
    Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague from Pierrefonds—Dollard brought up, in reference to the Conservative motion today, that those living in glass houses should not be throwing rocks. I think about those living in glass houses in France, Barbados, the Bahamas, and on Bay Street. Maybe they should not be throwing rocks at people like the small business people in our country. I would like to hear from the member how he feels about the fact that perhaps those people living in glass houses should be looking at CEO stock-option loopholes, tax breaks for the wealthiest Canadians, and those who are using tax havens in our country.
    Mr. Speaker, this is what is so hypocritical with the debate we are having today. The Liberals are trying to protect the Minister of Finance, who had an ethical lapse in not providing all the information regarding the property he owns through a private corporation, which includes a beautiful villa in France. As we know, most small businesses using private corporation structures are being attacked by the very same minister. The Liberals are calling them tax cheats. That type of rhetoric and demeanour and the way the Liberals are treating our small business community I heard about loud and clear this past week when we were in our ridings. In the round tables I participated in in Winnipeg, in Beausejour, and in Stonewall, our small business community is so upset they are not getting the respect they deserve. They are not getting the same types of opportunities to put their money into tax havens in Barbados or the Bahamas, as the Minister of Finance has done.
    In the motion today, all we are calling for is more transparency. We are asking the minister to present all the documentation he has had between his office and the Ethics Commissioner, and also, if he has sold his shares, to disclose that to the House. The only way he could get around not having a blind trust is to have liquidated his assets.
    As a farmer, who was a parliamentary secretary, I had to put my farm into a blind trust while I served as a public office holder. Why did the Minister of Finance not put his assets into a blind trust as well?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to start with the basics. First, this is Canada. The people here in this House represent this country. We are a democracy, not a dictatorship. As Canadians, we are governed not only by laws, but also by a code of ethics. We parliamentarians are here to serve Canadians, and Canadians expect us to govern this country in an exemplary fashion.
    As parliamentarians, we must be the first to honour the laws we pass. Any parliamentarian who fails to take seriously the laws we pass or the code of ethics we swear to abide by clearly does not understand our responsibilities or our mandate.
     Second, Canada is a beacon to the world. This country may not be perfect, but it is the best in the world when it comes to natural beauty, the beauty and strength of its people, and good governance practices. Many people around the world dream of making Canada their home, and for good reason.
     However, Canada and what it represents are a fragile thing. The things that make this country great did not come about by accident. It is no accident that there is peace in Canada and major tension in other countries. It is no accident that our country is stable while so many others are in dire straits. Our ancestors were not perfect, but I honour them because they laid a solid foundation upon which we today can build a future. If we wish to continue to prosper and to strengthen our stability, we must never forget what is important. As members of Parliament, we must never lose sight of our mandate, our responsibilities, and the laws that govern us.
     Furthermore, when a member is appointed to cabinet, he or she is held to a higher standard when it comes to compliance with the law and our code of ethics. As the saying goes, to whom much is given, much is required. A minister of the Crown has access to a lot of privileged information and is granted many decision-making powers. These powers must be managed judiciously, taking into account the well-being of all Canadians. A minister cannot be negligent or selfish in the administration of his or her powers and office. There is too much as stake.
     That being said, I would now like to give my personal opinion. We in the House are used to getting vague answers from the Liberal government. When the Liberals answer our questions, they use big words that mean nothing. We have seen a few examples of this recently. The Liberals are insulting our intelligence and that of Canadians. However, we would be naive to rely on their answers to get at the truth.
     We in the opposition are looking for the truth, but from different sources. We are not the only ones looking for the truth. Canada’s business community, Canadians, the media, and even the Liberal backbenchers, those who are not listening to what I am saying right now, are looking for the truth about the Liberals’ proposed tax reform.
     Yesterday after the caucus meeting, some Liberal MPs came to us frustrated. They are still awaiting the details from their own Minister of Finance, perhaps because he himself is waiting for instructions from Gerald Butts. Where is Mr. Butts? The Minister of Finance would like to have a word with him.
    This Liberal circus is laughable, but the Canadian economy is a very serious subject. We have reason to be concerned because the Liberals are doing an excellent job of misgoverning this country. Bravo!
    Even the liberal media cannot ignore this parody of governance. Media coverage of this tax reform has Canadians worried. I can only hope that some of the reports are false. For example, some stories indicate that Morneau Shepell could benefit from the finance minister’s tax changes. If that is true, the minister would be in a conflict of interest, and he should be looking for another job.

  (1510)  

    The Minister of Finance also failed to disclose a private corporation to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, and he admitted that he failed to put more than $30 million in Morneau Shepell shares in a blind trust. That is unbelievable. All members of the House, particularly cabinet members and even parliamentary secretaries, have a basic obligation to report absolutely everything. If we have $10,000 in an RRSP, it has to be reported. If not, the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner may send us a letter telling us that we are in trouble.
     We are talking about $30 million. That may not seem like a lot of money to the finance minister, but it is an enormous amount for Canadians watching at home.

[English]

    Does the Minister of Finance believe he is entitled to his entitlements? Does he think it is not fair and not hard to make priorities?

[Translation]

     Does the finance minister intend to tell Canadians about his tax reform and how it seems to benefit his companies and that of the Prime Minister himself? Canadians want to know the truth about this reform.
     Canadian businesses and Canadians must know the truth. That is the only way they can know whether this government truly believes in job creators.
     This reminds me of a famous quote from a former Liberal prime minister, who said: “I don't know. A proof is a proof. What kind of proof? It’s a proof. A proof is a proof, and when you have a good proof, it’s because it’s proven.” I did not make that up. It was said by a former Liberal prime minister who everyone remembers.
     I hope the finance minister remembers the words he spoke at his swearing-in ceremony, and that the rest of us do too for that matter. Right now, I am not convinced that he does.
     Why must Canadians always wait for answers to such easy questions? There could be no easier questions.
    The sooner the finance minister gives the House the details regarding his investments, the sooner the Prime Minister will give him permission to speak to the public and the media.

  (1515)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I take great exception to the fact that the Conservatives have opposed everything the Minister of Finance has tried to do. They heckle “Hear, hear“ across the benches.
    I have seen the results of the actions of the Minister of Finance. We could talk about the historical number of jobs that have been created, 400,000-plus. We could talk about the issue of tax fairness for Canadians. We could talk about tax breaks for Canadians. Everything the Minister of Finance does, the Conservative Party does nothing but criticize.
    Why should Canadians believe the Conservative Party on this issue when we have an independent commissioner responsible for ethics, who has indicated he has done nothing wrong, from what we can tell? The minister is prepared to even meet with the Ethics Commissioner.
    The issue is conflict of interest. You're off topic.
    I want to remind members that the question is being directed through me to another member, who actually has the floor as soon as I recognize him. I am sure he will answer accordingly.

[Translation]

     The honourable member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles.
    Madam Speaker, I agree. The question must be directed through you to me. I am nonetheless happy that the parliamentary secretary is asking me a question, and I am trying to understand how he can believe what he is saying.
    From the beginning, two years ago, I have had a great deal of respect for the finance minister. I think he is a very successful businessman, and he is stylish and kind. However, it is the minister’s actions that are currently being judged. The minister and the individual are two different people. The Minister of Finance of Canada introduced tax reforms in the middle of the summer. Everyone stood up, not just members of the Conservative Party, everyone in Canada. Canadian entrepreneurs stood up and said that these measures would not work, that they went against their interests, and that the reform made no sense.
     Then we heard that there were some ethical issues. We all know that ethics are the cornerstone of our work and, as I said in my speech, Canadians rely on us. We have here a minister who failed to report $30 million in assets and maybe more. Do not try to tell me that that is okay.
    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his contribution to this debate.
     I am wondering what he thought about the answers we have been given so far regarding the information that has come to light, namely, that the minister may not have placed his assets in a blind trust, even though everyone, even the Liberals, seemed to think that he had. It was understood that the minister had done that. The answer we have been getting from the minister and other Liberal members is that the minister is prepared to work with the commissioner, that he is prepared to meet with her, and that he even sent her a letter today about meeting with her.
     Does my colleague not think that it is a bit late to be dealing with the situation now, and that the minister should have put his affairs in order much sooner?
    Madam Speaker, that is a good question.
    We get a letter from the commissioner's office every year. Since I first got here, I have received a letter or email every year without fail, asking me whether there are any changes to report in my situation. I look at the letter and realize that I cashed in my RRSPs, so I have to report it.
     The minister must have received the same letter every year. We have been here for two years. Even if the minister forgot to report $30 million dollars in the first year, he could have thought about it later. I think that he could have thought about the fact that he had $30 million and a villa in France and that he should report it. However, he did not.
     Was it intentional? Was it a mistake? When you have too much money, it may be possible to forget about some of it. However, I believe that he had enough people working for him, including about 100 accountants, to remind him, so I think he should have been able to report these things.

  (1520)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, where to start in trying to deal with what the Conservative Party is sharing with us this afternoon. Maybe I will start by responding to the concluding words of my colleague across the aisle, who said that the villa should have been declared. My recollection is that it was reported in November 2015. The Financial Post mentioned the fact that the Minister of Finance had a villa in France. Does that mean opposition members or their research department are not even aware of this?
    This is why I bring it up. We really cannot trust the Conservative Party on this issue. Some might suggest any issue, but I will be a bit more generous to my friends across the way. This is one of the issues on which we really cannot trust the Conservative Party.
    Kevin, this is humiliating. Just stop.
    That's pathetic.
    Madam Speaker, each and every one of us, including myself, is responsible to the Ethics Commissioner, even the member across the aisle who yelled “pathetic”. Even that member has an obligation to the Ethics Commissioner. All those members, including the Minister of Finance, have an obligation. All means all inclusive. We all had to submit requirements. We all consult with the commissioner's office. The commissioner's office provides us with the information we need to know in order to be, and appear to be, transparent and accountable to the constituents we represent or to Canadians as a whole. The minister—
    The finance minister is exempt.
    I want to remind members on the Conservative side that they were afforded the opportunity of not to being heckled by members on the other side when they were giving their speeches. I would ask that they refrain from heckling to allow the parliamentary secretary to give his speech. If members on that side have questions, I will be glad to entertain them right after his speech.
    The hon. parliamentary secretary.
    Madam Speaker, when the Ethics Commissioner's office contacts myself, I respond. I suspect members on both sides of the House will respond, whether he or she is a New Democrat, a Conservative or a Liberal, where follow up takes place with individual members because the commissioner's office may have some concerns. That is no different than what the Minister of Finance has done.
    The Minister of Finance has made it very clear. He has said that he will meet with the Ethics Commissioner and will seek her advice and recommendations, and act accordingly. That is the responsible thing to do, and what each and every one of us are obligated to do.
    As some of my colleagues say, what we have today is an effort from the official opposition, joined by the New Democrats, to go on some sort of a witch hunt or character assassination. Let us go into the details of that.
     Why should Canadians, or anyone who is listening, believe the Conservatives or the New Democrats who at every opportunity they get attack the Minister of Finance, the Prime Minister, and others within this government? One might argue that they are the opposition and that is their job. Yes, there is a great deal of merit for that argument. Having said that, it is every initiative.
     I want to remind the viewers and the members opposite to degree they have been critical of this government and, in particular, of the Minister of Finance. People should ask themselves why they should believe in and take the advice of the Conservatives when they have been critical of the Minister of Finance since day one.
    We would be ill-advised to take advice from the Conservatives on this and many other issues in which they have demonstrated they have a natural, instinctive bias to attack. That is demonstrated in their actions. I believe Canadians understand and appreciate what this government has been able to accomplish in a relatively short period of time through the actions of the Minister of Finance.
    Again, I highlight, as I go through each one of these initiatives, that we will find the Conservative Party attacking the Minister of Finance, with no exceptions.
     The most recent one is the tax fairness policy. Day in and day out, the Conservative Party fights against tax fairness. The Minister of Finance led the debate among Canadians, which started, in a big way, back the month of July, when a presentation was made.
     It is interesting as there seems to be a bit of a divide between the New Democrats and the Conservatives on this. I do not hear members of the NDP criticizing many aspects of the tax fairness policy. I give them credit for recognizing the fact that the issue is tax fairness.
     On the other hand, the Conservatives yell and scream that this is an attack on business and middle class. Nothing could be further from the truth with respect to the whole tax initiative. It has been that way since the month of July. It all about tax fairness. People would not know if they listened to the opposition party, as they take the extreme position and try to use it as a wedge issue. In fact, the government has been very supportive. I use small business as an example.

  (1525)  

    How often do we hear Conservative members saying that the Liberals are attacking small businesses, or the government is attacking small businesses? I would suggest that they wake up and understand reality.
    It was only yesterday that we as a government fulfilled a campaign platform promise. We actually made a commitment to reduce the small business tax rate from 10.5% to 9%. That is something we promised, and that is something we fulfilled. It was announced yesterday.
    That is not the first time we have been there to help small business. I talk to small businesses. If members talk to small businesses, what they will find out is that the primary thing every small business wants is customers. If they have customers, they have opportunities.
    Mr. John Brassard: You've got to be in business to have customers.
    Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: You have to have customers in order to be in business.
    I just want to remind members that there cannot be any discussion back and forth. Address the comments to the Chair. I will remind the member for Barrie—Innisfil to please hold his comments. I am sure that I would be pleased to recognize him during the question and comment section.
    Madam Speaker, along the line of supporting small businesses and how to create customers, the best way to do that is to put more disposable income in the pockets of Canada's middle class. It is the middle class that drives our economy. That is what creates the jobs, the middle class.
    If we address the importance of Canada's middle class and those striving to be a part of it, we will have a more successful, robust economy. In 18 months we have been able to clearly demonstrate that. Let us look at some of the numbers. I am big on trends, and I am very impressed by the job creation numbers, with over 400,000 jobs created in less that two years. That is more jobs than the Harper government was able to create over 10 years. The plan is in fact working.
     This is the point in regard to small business, that we gave the tax break to Canada's middle class. We actually reduced the taxes of Canada's middle class. What was the response of the Conservative Party? It voted against it, but it was that the tax cut that put money in the pockets of—

  (1530)  

    On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am just wondering if the jobs numbers were in any of the documents the minister provided the Ethics Commissioner, because—
    That is not a point of order. Comments and questions come afterwards. Maybe the member would like to get up. As the member is well aware, during debate there is some flexibility. As to the discussion, I will remind the member that he is to keep his comments on the motion itself. I also recognize that there is some flexibility in the discussion at hand.
    Madam Speaker, to appease my colleague across the way from Elmwood—Transcona, who maybe was not paying attention to my whole presentation, I have consistently said that the opposition, including in good part the NDP, have consistently opposed the Minister of Finance in every way, just like the motion today does. The NDP members are working with the Conservatives, even though the Ethics Commissioner has said that nothing has gone wrong. The Ethics Commissioner has not sent advice or a recommendation to the Minister of Finance, who has done exactly what the member across the way has done.
    We enhanced business through a tax break for the middle class and both the Conservatives and the NDP voted against that. We know there have been many other initiatives. The opposition parties jointly voted against the Minister of Finance when it came to the tax increase on Canada's wealthiest. I would argue that it was about tax fairness, but they chose to oppose the government.
    There have been a number of initiatives by the government that have been led by the Minister of Finance. Look at the Canada pension plan. The Minister of Finance worked with federal counterparts across every province and territory on a very important deal. One of my colleagues referred to how the Minister of Finance was working with other ministers. It was the finance minister from Saskatchewan who commented on the integrity of the national Minister of Finance. He said it was nice to see Minister of Finance follow through on the things he said, and there is a tremendous amount of respect for him, which ultimately resulted in an enhancement of the CPP, something that the Harper government was unable to achieve, let alone have an interest in. It ensures that Canadians will have more money in their pockets when it comes time to retire in the years ahead. What was the response by the opposition parties? They called it another tax and then went on to attack the Minister of Finance once again, even though other political parties at the provincial level did not see it as a tax. They see it as an investment for retirement for Canadians in the future, but not the Conservative Party here. They are so fixated and wanting to attack the Minister of Finance that they have focused their attention day in and day out criticizing the minister because of this so-called tax, which was not really a tax.
    We can talk about the guaranteed income supplement, which I thought was long overdue. The former government ignored that file and we now have a new government with the Minister of Finance who wants to get more seniors out of poverty. That is what the increase to the GIS was all about. In good part, it was a huge success. Once again, the Conservative Party—

  (1535)  

    We have a point of order.
    The hon. member for Elgin—Middlesex—London.
    Madam Speaker, I am coming back to relevance. Today's motion is focusing on the minister and his ethics, not on the guaranteed income supplement or the Canada pension plan. I recognize that we have flexibility here, including on the part of the Chair, but the member is so far away from this discussion, I hope that he can get back on track very soon.
    I have indicated before that there is some latitude in the speeches. However, I will remind the member to maybe review the opposition motion, and I am sure that he will bring his speech back to that.
    The hon. parliamentary secretary.
    Madam Speaker, to the member across the way, hopefully this will help, and I say this with all sincerity. If the member reads the motion, the motion itself is an attack on the Minister of Finance. You are asking that the Minister of Finance to provide documents that you are not asking of any other—
    I remind the member to address the questions and comments to the chair as opposed to individual members.
    Madam Speaker, the Conservative Party is asking the Minister of Finance to produce documents and do things that no other member of the House is requested to do.
    If members listen to what is being said, they will find that I am arguing that every time the Conservatives get an opportunity to attack the Minister of Finance, they do so. These are the examples I am providing. These members might not like to be reminded of their attitude and voting records on something that is really important to all Canadians, but it is worth noting that, much like the motion we are debating today, the Conservatives continue to want to attack the Minister of Finance.
    I then contrasted and put the question to viewers or anyone who might be listening, in particular, my Conservative colleagues across the way, that the Conservatives are not the body, thank goodness, that determines what is ethical or not. We have an independent officer of Parliament to determine that. In this case, it is the Ethics Commissioner, and the Ethics Commissioner is someone we continue to work with.
    However, it is interesting how the Conservatives try to give the impression that the Ethics Commissioner is super busy. I would argue that the Ethics Commissioner has always been busy. When I was in opposition, there was no shortage of issues that we encouraged the Ethics Commissioner to look at. I believe members will find that the Ethics Commissioner looks at not just one side of the House but all sides of the House.
    We have a Conservative opposition that wants to try to give the impression that the Minister of Finance is in fact breaking a law or doing something that is against our code of ethics. In fact, the Conservatives have not tabled or brought forward anything that gives any clear indication that this is in fact the case. Therefore, I ask: Why would we listen to the Conservative rhetoric on the issue when we have an Ethics Commissioner who is charged with that responsibility?
     I believe Canadians will look to the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, because it is independent. I do not have to expand on why that office is independent, but it is much like the independent Commissioner of Elections Canada. We also have an independent auditor general. We have these independent officers of Parliament. This is their job.
    Not one Conservative can stand and point to a recommendation from the Ethics Commissioner that the Minister of Finance, or any other member, whether Conservative or NDP, is in violation of the Conflict of Interest Act and conflict of interest code, or is not following the advice or recommendation of the Ethics Commissioner. Instead, they are just denigrating, as they have consistently done in response to a number of points I have raised this afternoon, the Minister of Finance and the fine work he has been doing on behalf of the Government of Canada.
     When we look at the results, they are very clear. I will use the simple example of jobs, because jobs matter. There were 400,000-plus jobs created in less than two years.

  (1540)  

    Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to hear my friend from Winnipeg North speak in the House. I invite Canadians to check out an amazing website called openparliament.ca, because they can see what MPs have said throughout the course of their parliamentary lives. For someone as verbose as my friend, it is a treasure trove for people like me to see if he is consistent in his views in this Parliament.
    On May 21, 2013, the member for Winnipeg North called for an emergency debate in the House of Commons related to ethics and disclosure and conduct at the time. The irony is that at that time, the emergency debate the member was requesting dealt with staff members in the Prime Minister's Office, not members of Parliament and not finance ministers, which is what this opposition day motion is about today. He wanted an emergency debate in the House of Commons about the conduct of staff. He ended his request by saying, “There can be no more important issue for the House of Commons than ensuring the integrity of our parliamentary institutions.”
     That is what this debate today is doing. He should be applauding, not deferring this debate. I would invite members from his riding to check out the consistency of that member. The outrage he showed in the past seems to dissipate now, with the actions of the Liberal government.
    Madam Speaker, it is interesting that the member across the way would bring that up as an example. It was a truly amazing occurrence that was taking place in