The House resumed consideration of the motion.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the opposition motion calling on the to finally act in the interests of full disclosure.
There is a well-regarded book called The Improbability Principle: Why Coincidences, Miracles, and Rare Events Happen Every Day by David Hand. According to the author, there are five laws contributing to the improbability principle. There is the law of inevitability, the law of truly large numbers, the law of selection, the law of the probability lever, and the law of near enough.
What is the improbability principle? Mr. Hand states it as follows: extremely improbable events are commonplace. Mr. Hand's theory has been proven by the actions of the Liberal government, and if by some miraculous coincidence Mr. Hand is watching CPAC at this exact moment, he is welcome for the book plug and for proving him right. How? Well, however improbable it would seem that the would go on a record promise-making spree so soon after being elected, Hand argues that it was always possible and indeed probable. For example, this is the very first time in Canadian history that both the and the are both being investigated by the Ethics Commissioner at the same time. Now, before Mr. Hand gets too big an ego, I think every Canadian knew that the Liberals' ethical lapses were inevitable long before he noted the first law of inevitability.
I suppose it was also inevitable that, in response to questions from the opposition about the scandals, the would deflect by chalking up our questions to mudslinging and petty politics. Well, if it is mudslinging and petty to point out that the government is acting unethically for its members' personal gain, then I proudly wear those labels. However, dismissing our concerns as matters not to be discussed in the House is shameful.
Just because the Liberals do not like talking about their unethical actions, it does not mean they have any right to dismiss legitimate concerns as distractions. It does not mean the has the right to run away from journalists' questions saying that he does not report to journalists. It does not mean the has the right to dismiss questions as mudslinging, and neglect to provide an answer. In doing so, the and the entire Liberal government show complete disrespect and contempt for this institution, for accountability, for the opposition, and fundamentally for Canadians themselves by dismissing questions about their ethics as mere distractions, mudslinging, or petty politics.
This arrogance is typical of the Liberal government. Its members believe they are above the law. They believe that it is not wrong as long as they smile. However, by dismissing ethics and conduct as irrelevant, the Liberals forget that they are accountable to Canadians through their responsibility to the House, and they must answer for their unethical and law-breaking decisions, whether they like it or not.
The government seems tired of deflecting questions about the ethics, but there is a simple solution. If the finance minister does not want to answer questions about his financial holdings and whether he benefits from government legislation that he actually creates, then he should just not own stock in companies impacted by his decisions. He should fully disclose the assets he owns and controls.
What is in the numbered companies that he is trying so hard to hide? Is he voting for legalizing pot because he has shares in a pot company? Is he handing out millions of taxpayers' dollars in bonuses for Bombardier because he is a shareholder? How about some engineering companies or others that stand to gain from the new infrastructure bank? With his distain for ethics displayed so far, Canadians have every right to second guess his every move.
This solution applies to the entire government caucus. If the does not want to answer questions about using enormous amounts of taxpayers' money to fund his vacations to billionaire island, then he should not take expensive vacations on the taxpayers' dime. If the Liberals do not want to talk about broken promises, they should just stop breaking promises. However, that is the problem with the government. The Liberals promise to act ethically, openly, and with an eye to accountability, but as with so many promises to date, they cast aside any casual nod to openness and transparency the moment it becomes inconvenient to be honest.
It has been apparent from day one that “open by default” is just another promise to be broken once in power, but let us let the Liberal record speak for itself.
A year ago we were talking about the cash-for-access fundraisers. The Liberals were selling government access for donations but bowed under political pressure once they realized they could no longer pretend they were not wrong, promised to do better, and then went right back to selling access. The Liberals were forced to back down from expensing limousine travel to the taxpayer. If it were not for the “petty” opposition, the Liberals would still be charging Canadians absurd amounts for limo rentals. Last Christmas, the took a private helicopter to billionaire island for a vacation, compliments of a registered lobbyist, and then he failed to disclose the true cost to taxpayers.
If it were not for the mudslinging of the opposition and pressure from the media, we would not have any idea that the broke the law by flying in a private helicopter and accepting a gift from a registered lobbyist.
Earlier this year, the introduced reforms to the Access to Information Act, which the Information Commissioner herself deemed regressive. The minister was supposedly open to amendments, cue the smile, but then summarily dismissed the majority of our substantial amendments to the act.
Recently the government operations and estimates committee tabled a unanimous report recommending a substantial overhaul of the whistle-blower act. The promptly blew off the proposed overhaul, instead opting to limit any reforms to minor tweaks, the type of reform that every expert warned was insufficient to protect whistle-blowers.
I want to quote one witness who was at OGGO to provide a human aspect to the government's broken promise. David Yazbeck, a whistle-blower advocate, stated in committee:
...if I can be a little strong and almost emotional here...whistle-blowers are heroes. They risk their families, they risk their careers, and they risk financial stability in order to make the operation of government better and therefore improve the lives of Canadians.
The system....doesn't work. It needs to be fixed. This committee has a golden opportunity to do that. I would urge you to listen to people like us and do that. This is not only better for whistle-blowers. This is also better for Canadians.
In response to a motion I tabled asking the to appear in committee to detail the concrete actions the government plans on taking to protect whistle-blowers, the Liberal committee members voted it down.
The Liberal record of closed-by-default and broken promises continues with the 's recent troubles. After having been fined $200 for breaking the law, the minister is trying to pretend that he has done nothing wrong. Given that there were actual punitive actions taken against him, he is deliberately misleading the House and Canadians as a whole when he says that he has always acted according to the law.
The Liberals promised to do better. They promised to go above the spirit of the law, but the fine from the Ethics Commissioner shows that the government is not even willing to follow the letter of the law. There is no one, save for this government, that would defend its actions, yet every day, the Liberals continue their charade and pretend that they are on the side of the angels. They make promises they have no intention of keeping, accuse the opposition of being petty for, heaven forbid, opposing their agenda, and dismiss any legitimate questions about their lack of ethics as distractions not worthy of this place.
Canadians deserve better. The will not even apologize for breaking the law, let alone for misleading the House about his actions and hiding his assets. He spent months attacking small business owners as tax cheats for trying to escape the death grip of taxes being imposed by the government, when it turns out that he is doing the exact thing he has accused others of. Again, he refuses to apologize.
The claimed that now that he has divested his ownership of Morneau Shepell, he can act freely and without conflict. He does not seem to realize that he has implicitly admitted to being in conflict for the past two years of his mandate. Since September, it has been surprising revelation after revelation for the minister. Hand's law of inevitability has proved true.
Again, it is a simple solution. He could prevent any future surprises just by fully disclosing his assets, as promised by the Liberals and demanded by the of his entire cabinet. Looking at the Liberal's mandate letter tracker, under “don't break conflict of interest laws and make millions on a company you legislate”, we can consider this one “under way with challenges”.
This is why we work to demand accountability from the government, why we hold its feet to the fire every day in question period, and why we will not back down from making the Liberals answer for their betrayal of the trust of Canadians.
The mandate letter tracker is a shining example of Orwellian doublespeak, Liberal spin, and the government's inability to police itself. Therefore, we will continue to keep asking the what else he is hiding in his numbered companies.
When we look at the Liberal government, like all Liberal governments we all know, some familiar themes keep popping up. When challenged, they hide behind the lowest standard. They deflect questions of integrity and ethics and act like rules are for the little people and not themselves. That is all very Liberal and all very inevitable indeed.
Mr. Speaker, it is always an honour and a privilege to rise in this House and speak to Canadians about the hard work the is doing for Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
The motion says “sunshine is the best disinfectant”. That is why on October 19, 2015, after 10 years of cloudy skies, people in Canada voted for real change and let the sun shine in. Let me repeat that: let the sun shine in.
We have been clear right from the beginning that the economy needs to work for the middle class and those working hard to join it. This is a must. My parents immigrated to this country, because they knew that in this country, there were rules, and as long as one followed the rules and worked really hard, they could be successful. That is why we have had a clear focus to ensure that hope and hard work succeeds for Canadians all across this country.
First we introduced a middle-class tax cut, which continues to benefit nearly nine million Canadians. Then we introduced the Canada child benefit, which has lifted hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty. Compared to the previous system, in which child benefits were not targeted and were given to millionaires, the CCB is an after-tax targeted benefit that is helping a lot of families, including in my riding of Brampton East, where almost $10 million has been given to Canadian families in need of additional assistance.
In the fall economic statement, the announced the government's intention to accelerate the indexation of the CCB by two years, to July 2018. This simply means better support sooner to ensure that the CCB continues to play a vital role in helping low- and middle-income Canadian families with children.
This was announced less than a month ago, and I had the honour and privilege of hosting the Right Hon. in my riding. He met with families in my riding that had young children, who thanked him for the investments in families with the Canada child benefit. It was a great day.
Every time I get up in this House, I invite all members to my riding, especially the Speaker, because it is a wonderful place. We run basketball camps on Sundays. I want to see the Speaker there shooting some hoops with the people of Brampton East.
Moving right along, we also announced the government's historical agreement with the provinces to enhance the Canada pension plan. At maturity, it will increase the maximum retirement benefit by about 50%. In today's dollars, that represents an increase of nearly $7,000, to a maximum benefit of around $20,000. With the recent action by the Government of Quebec to enhance the Quebec pension plan in a similar fashion, Canadians from coast to coast to coast can now look forward to a safer, more dignified retirement.
Our government knows that those working hard to join the middle class can face financial barriers to joining or rejoining the workforce. That is why, as part of our agreement to enhance the Canada pension plan, we increased the working income tax benefit. Because the economy is growing, we are doing even more to help those working to join the middle class. In the fall economic statement, the government announced its intention to further enhance the WITB by an additional $500 million per year. This will provide even greater support for current recipients and will ensure that more workers can qualify.
In the fall economic statement, the government also announced its plan to reduce the small business tax rate. By doing this, the government will help small business grow and create jobs. The small business rate will be lowered to 10% just five weeks from now and to 9% a year from now, in 2019. This means up to $7,500 in federal corporate tax savings per year to help entrepreneurs and innovators do what they do best.
Small businesses are a key driver of our economy and a cornerstone of our communities across this country. As our plan works to grow the economy, small businesses see the benefits of that growth with lower taxes. As we lower taxes on small businesses, we are committed to ensuring that low taxes support businesses, business growth, and investment and do not give personal tax advantages to the wealthy over the middle class.
We inherited a system that encourages wealthy individuals to incorporate in order to pay less tax. This means someone making $300,000 can save about as much on tax as the average Canadian who earns $48,000. We are making changes to address tax advantages that only the richest individuals using high-priced accountants can take advantage of.
We have listened to small business owners, professionals, farmers, and fishers and will move forward in a way that protects small businesses, the middle class, and innovators and entrepreneurs.
There is more. Budget 2017 also laid out the government's plan to invest $81 billion over 11 years in public transit, and in green infrastructure, social infrastructure, and transportation infrastructure in support of trade in rural and northern communities—
Mr. Speaker, I feel like I am back at law school, so thank you so much for the lesson on how to present an argument. In his point of order, my hon. colleague said I was not being relevant, but the fact of the matter is that the first six minutes was just my preamble. I will get into it.
We started by saying that sunshine is the best disinfectant. The Ethics Commissioner has a role to play and we all respect her for the great job she does in ensuring that all members of the House, including ministers, the , opposition members, members on the backbench, members of the third party, and independent members, are held to high ethical standards. All members are elected to the House by great Canadians and sit down with the Ethics Commissioner to make sure they are onside and do not have any conflicts of interest with their government and parliamentary work.
The proactively sat down with the Ethics Commissioner when he was elected as the MP for , and subsequently appointed as the Minister of Finance. He followed her advice. He set up a conflict screen and he went forward building a stronger economy for Canadians. That is simply what the matter is about. There is a set of rules. The minister followed those rules. He met with the Ethics Commissioner. She provided a recommendation and he followed that recommendation and went on to build a great economy in the last two years.
That is the problem, and I get it. When I was in opposition, I was an innocent bystander. I have had the great fortune of being in politics since I was age 19, including as a volunteer. When members are on the opposite side of government, it is frustrating, especially being on the opposite side of our government, which has the fastest growing economy in the G7, has created 500,000 new jobs, has cut taxes for the middle class, has reduced taxes for small businesses, and increased the Canada child benefit and lifted 300,000 children out of poverty.
Of course, people will find things to talk about. Opposition members love to talk about relevancy. The Ethics Commissioner did her job. The followed her recommendation and now is focused on making sure that Canadians from coast to coast to coast have an opportunity to work hard and succeed. That is what we are focused on, and opposition members can focus on distracting us, but it is not going to work. We have seen this song and dance before, and that is why sunny days started on October 19, 2015, and will continue for years to come.
With the budget, the government showed its commitment to put together a new housing strategy to help ensure that Canadians have more affordable housing meeting their needs. Yesterday, the right hon. and the announced how they would make housing more affordable for Canadians. Canada's first ever national housing strategy is a 10-year, $40 billion plan that will give Canadians a place to call home. It will promote diverse communities and will build housing that is sustainable and accessible.
All of the government's investments to date are having a real impact on Canadians and our economy. The Canadian economy is the fastest growing economy of the G7 countries. How come the opposition never likes to talk about that? The Canadian economy has created over 500,000 jobs since our government was elected in 2015.
I am hearing a little heckling from my NDP colleagues, so I would love to remind them that the Canada child benefit, which has directly helped to lift 300,000 children out of poverty, is something that party voted against. Until they can come full circle and realize that they voted against middle-class tax policies, they really should not throw stones when they live in a glass house. Among young Canadians, the unemployment rate is the lowest on record. Labour market participation among working age women is at an all-time high. Canada also has the lowest net debt-to-GDP ratio among the G7. According to projections by private sector economists, in just five years from now, the federal debt-to-GDP ratio could be at its lowest level in 40 years. Our plan is working, but we are not done yet.
As we look forward to the future and our next federal budget, the government remains focused on how best to grow the Canadian economy, and how to make sure that the growth benefits all Canadians. That means it will continue to make smart investments in people and communities, to ensure continued progress for the middle class and—
Mr. Speaker, I absolutely would love to repeat myself.
An hon. member: Yes, you would. It is also against the rules.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Raj Grewal: Again, the hon. member from York—Simcoe should speak when he is spoken to. He has had opportunities to rise in this House and ask a question. In six and a half minutes, I look forward to his rising to ask me a question. I will be happy to answer it.
More importantly, the Ethics Commissioner was appointed with a mandate to ensure that no member of Parliament violates the conflict of interest rules, whether he or she is a backbencher, minister, the , an independent member of Parliament, or any of the 338 members who serve in this House and were duly elected in a democracy. The Ethics Commissioner is independent of this House of Commons, which we respect.
The hon. member from Toronto Centre was elected and appointed as the . He met with the Ethics Commissioner proactively. The commissioner wrote instructions to him, which he followed, and then he focused on building a stronger economy for Canadians.
I understand why the opposition does not want to talk about this, because it is nothing but good news on the economy, again and again. This is because the unemployment rate is going down and more jobs are being created, amounting to half a million jobs, with the strongest growth rate in 10 years. That is why my colleagues on the other side of the House keep on coming up with fancy words, word play, and trying to distract Canadians. They are not going to distract our government or divide us. That is the politics of the Harper regime.
We are focused on sunny ways. We know that sunshine is the best disinfectant. That is why we are focusing on growing a strong economy. It means that we continually have to make smart investments in people and communities to ensure continued progress for the middle class, and to make investments in lifelong learning to give Canadians the tools they need. It also means ensuring that government's policy and budgetary decisions consider the impact on both genders and advance gender equality.
I think I have tabled more proof than we need that the and the Government of Canada are doing a great job for Canadians.
Since coming to office, the has focused on improving the lives of the middle class. Under his leadership we will continue to ensure that Canadians who work hard will have an opportunity to succeed, to ensure that we protect the most vulnerable people in our society, and to ensure that we give an opportunity to all Canadians from coast to coast to coast to achieve their very own Canadian dream.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
Today, we have the honour to debate a motion that was put forward by the opposition, which reads:
That the House agree with the Prime Minister’s statement in the House on November 1, 2017, that “sunshine is the best disinfectant”; and call on the Finance Minister to reveal all assets he has bought, sold or held within...his private companies or trust funds since he became Finance Minister, to determine if his financial interests have conflicted with his public duties.
I would also like to read a quote from the , which states, “he trust Canadians have in public institutions—including Parliament—has, at times, been compromised. By working with greater openness and transparency, Parliament can restore it.”
That is what is happening today. Parliament is overseeing and debating a motion that seeks to restore what has been compromised by the over the past couple of years.
I have another quote from the , which states:
We have also committed to set a higher bar for openness and transparency in government. It is time to shine more light on government to ensure it remains focused on the people it serves. Government and its information should be open by default. If we want Canadians to trust their government, we need a government that trusts Canadians. 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.
Those are the words of the to the in his mandate letter.
We are speaking on this subject today, because the has broken trust with Canadians through a pattern of perhaps half-truths or premeditated dishonesty, we do not know for sure. However, for two years the finance minister held shares. worth approximately $20 million, in Morneau Shepell, a company that he now regulates as finance minister. He held these shares outside of a blind trust, despite his colleagues, on both sides of the House, believing his shares were in a blind trust.
While he held these shares, the finance minister introduced Bill , which would create a targeted benefit pension plan. TBPs are highly specialized products offered by, guess who, Morneau Shepell. Only after the finance minister was revealed to be not holding his assets in a blind trust did he acknowledge any wrongdoing and agree to sell those assets.
The is under investigation by the Ethics Commissioner for tabling Bill while continuing to hold shares in Morneau Shepell. The and the finance minister are two of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, officials in the country. Canadians must trust that they will act in the public interest rather than in their own private personal interest.
As the has said, sunshine is the best disinfectant. Therefore, let us throw open the shades and reveal the assets of the .
To quote the again, he stated, “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.” That is from the Prime Minister to the finance minister. Therefore, let us test that.
We know the