Mr. Speaker, I had just finished telling the House that the admitted today that in fact the did raise concerns about political interference in the SNC-Lavalin affair to his face in September, which contradicted his claim in February that she had never once raised any such concern.
Now I will move on to another instance in which she also rang the alarm bell about the government's political interference in her role as Attorney General in the SNC-Lavalin criminal prosecution. In her testimony, she said, “Still on September 19, I spoke to [the ] on this matter when we were in the House...and I told him that engagements from his office to mine on SNC had to stop, that they were inappropriate.”
The and the government might try to deny that this conversation occurred. However, unfortunately for them, the has now released text messages from the 's chief of staff in which he confirms that the minister told him about the former attorney general's concerns. He relayed news of that conversation to Jessica Prince, the chief of staff to the former attorney general.
In other words, we know for a fact, based on the admission of the 's chief of staff, that the did raise concerns about inappropriate engagements from his office to hers on SNC, and that those engagements “had to stop”. That further contradicts the 's claim from February, when he said, “It was her responsibility to come forward, it was their responsibility to come forward, and no one did”.
Then, on October 26, there was a conversation between Jessica Prince, who was the former attorney general's chief of staff, and Mathieu Bouchard, senior adviser to the . The noted in her testimony:
However, on October 26, 2018, when my chief of staff spoke to Mathieu Bouchard, [the Prime Minister's senior adviser], and communicated to him that, given that SNC had now filed in Federal Court seeking to review the DPP's decision, surely we had moved past the idea of the Attorney General intervening or getting an opinion on the same question, Mathieu replied that he was still interested in an external legal opinion idea. Could she not get an external legal opinion on whether the DPP had exercised their discretion properly, and then on the application itself, the Attorney General could intervene and seek to stay the proceedings, given that she was awaiting a legal opinion?
The former attorney general then noted, “My chief of staff said that this would obviously be perceived as interference and her boss questioning the DPP's decision.”
This is another incident in which the chief of staff to the former attorney general told senior staff members in the 's Office that what they were asking for would constitute, or at least be perceived as, interference. That further contradicts the Prime Minister's claim that “It was her responsibility to come forward, it was their responsibility to come forward, and no one did.”
Then, of course, we have the meeting on November 22 between the former attorney general and two senior staff members from the Prime Minister's Office, about which the testified:
In mid-November, the PMO requested that I meet with Mathieu Bouchard and Elder Marques to discuss the matter, which I did on November 22. This meeting was quite long; I would say about an hour and a half. I was irritated by having to have this meeting, as I had already told the Prime Minister, etc., that a DPA on SNC was not going to happen, that I was not going to issue a directive. Mathieu, in this meeting, did most of the talking. He was trying to tell me that there were options and that I needed to find a solution. I took them through the DPP Act, section 15 and section 10, and talked about the prosecutorial independence as a constitutional principle, and that they were interfering. I talked about the section 13 note, which they said they had never received, but I reminded them that we sent it to them in September.
She went on:
Mathieu and Elder continued to plead their case, talking about if I'm not sure in my decision, that we could hire an eminent person to advise me. They were kicking the tires. I said no. My mind had been made up and they needed to stop. This was enough.
Yet again she had warned the 's staff that their involvement in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin needed to stop, that this was enough.
This is another piece of evidence, I believe backed up by journal entries and perhaps even text messages that followed, that demonstrates that the did warn the and his team that they were acting inappropriately, in contradiction to the Prime Minister's public statement later on, wherein he stated, “it was her responsibility to come forward, it was their responsibility to come forward, and no one did.” Of course she did.
Then, on December 5, the came forward yet again, in a meeting between herself and Gerald Butts, the 's most senior adviser. This is from her testimony. She stated:
On December 5, 2018, I met with Gerry Butts. We had both sought out this meeting. I wanted to speak about a number of things, including bringing up SNC and the barrage of people hounding me and my staff. Towards the end of our meeting, which was in the Château Laurier, I raised how I needed everybody to stop talking to me about SNC, as I had made up my mind and the engagements were inappropriate.
Again we have the former attorney general specifically and clearly complaining about inappropriate engagements and that “everybody”, meaning the Prime Minister's team, needed to “stop talking to me about SNC”. However, knowing this, the went in front of 37 million Canadians at a press conference and claimed the had never come forward with any of her complaints about his and his team's conduct in the SNC-Lavalin corruption prosecution.
Then again on December 18, in a meeting between the 's chief of staff and the 's two top assistants, Gerry Butts and Katie Telford, she stated:
On December 18, 2018, my chief of staff was urgently summoned to a meeting with Gerry Butts and Katie Telford to discuss SNC.
She recounts the text messages she received from her chief of staff about that meeting—text messages, I might add, that she has now released to the public and to Parliament. One message said:
Basically, they want a solution. Nothing new. They want external counsel retained to give you an opinion on whether you can review the DPP's decision here and whether you should in this case.... I told them that would be interference. Gerry said, 'Jess, there is no solution here that does not involve some interference.'
Once again, a senior staff member in the former attorney general's office said to the top staff in the Prime Minister's office that what they were doing would constitute “interference”, yet the —and I know I am repeating myself on this particular quote—despite this fact, went on national television and looked 37 million Canadians in the eye and claimed that if the had any complaints or concerns about his involvement in the SNC-Lavalin prosecution, “it was her responsibility to come forward, it was their responsibility to come forward, and non one did.”
Then, on December 19, she did come forward again. She did this in her telephone call with Michael Wernick, the 's top public servant. I am going to read a few excerpts.
She said this of the 's conduct and the conduct of people around him, “It is entirely inappropriate and it is political interference.”
She said as well:
So we are treading on dangerous ground here—and I am going to issue my stern warning, because I cannot act in a manner and the prosecution cannot act in a manner that is not objective, that isn’t independent. I cannot act in a partisan way. I cannot be politically motivated. All of this screams of that.”
She said, “This is going to look like nothing but political interference by the Prime Minister, by you, by everybody else that has been involved in this politically pressuring me to do this.”
She said, “Does [the Prime Minister] understand the gravity of what this potentially could mean? This is not about saving jobs. This is about interfering with one of our fundamental institutions. This is about breaching the constitutional principle of prosecutorial independence.”
This is what she said of having to report back to the : “I hope that you do, because I do not think anybody respects this. This conversation that Gerry and Katie had with my chief of staff and I have it, like she wrote down what was said. Saying that they do not want to hear any more about the legalities but want to talk about jobs is entirely inappropriate.”
In fact, in that now infamous telephone conversation that has been recorded and made available for all ears to hear, the said the term “interference” no less than nine times. The Clerk of the Privy Council responded by saying, “All right. Well, I'm going to have to report back before [the Prime Minister] leaves.”
In other words, the Clerk of the Privy Council said that he was going to report back to the on the contents of his conversation with the , a conversation that the Prime Minister has used weasel words to avoid admitting he ever knew about it.
It is funny that after this audio recording came out, the Prime Minister swiftly said that he had not been briefed on the full contents of the conversation until the recording came out. Well, nobody is asking if he was briefed on the full contents of the conversation. People are never briefed on the full contents of any conversation. The question was whether he knew about the call before, during, or after it.
Today the asked the Prime Minister precisely that question over and over again, and not once did the Prime Minister answer it.
This is important, because it once again speaks to the credibility of the 's claim in February at that famous press conference, where he denied that the had ever raised any concerns about his political interference in the SNC-Lavalin criminal prosecution. We now know that the former attorney general again and again raised these concerns.
We know she did so because text messages, journal entries and audio recordings prove it. They include documents, recordings, text messages from September 16, September 17, September 19, October 26, November 22, December 5, December 18, December 19.
Would the have us believe that he did not know about any of the warnings that she and her staff made to his top personnel and ultimately to him on these more than half a dozen occasions? It is entirely unbelievable that he did know that she had spoken out when he went before the Canadian people and claimed that she had not spoken out.
Let me reiterate what I have just gone through here. It is the number of times the did come forward.
I will explain why I am going to give this list. It is because the said that if anyone thought he had done something wrong on SNC, “it was their responsibility to come forward, and no one did.”
Well, she did on all of these occasions: September 16, 2018, in a phone conversation with the PMO staff in which she raised the problem; September 17, 2018, in a meeting with the and the clerk; September 19, in a phone conversation between the PMO top staff and the 's top staff; September 19, again, in conversations between the former attorney general and the ; October 26, in conversations between the chief of staff to the former attorney general, Jessica Prince, and the senior adviser to the Prime Minister; November 22, in a meeting between the former attorney general and two top advisers to the Prime Minister; December 5, in meetings between the former attorney general and Gerald Butts at the Chateau Laurier; December 18, in meetings between Jessica Prince, Gerald Butts and the Prime Minister's chief of staff; and, of course, December 19 in that famous and recorded phone call.
In all of those cases, she came forward and spoke up about the 's personal and political interference in the SNC-Lavalin corruption trial. Despite all of those times when she sounded the alarm bell, the Prime Minister stood before all Canadians and said she had never once raised a concern about this matter while she was attorney general. It was a patent falsehood. He looked Canadians straight in the eye and told them something he knew or ought to have known was completely false. He did so in an attempt to discredit his because she, of course, had demonstrated that he had personally and politically interfered in a manner inappropriate with the criminal prosecution of a Liberal-linked corporation accused of fraud and bribery.
This raises a number of important questions. Can we trust anything the says when he stands before Canadians and says anything at all?
The answer comes from the fact that he contradicts his own words on matters of national importance. These are not minor mistakes. He made the false statements that I have just discredited, at a press conference on a massive national controversy where he knew everybody would be watching him. We have to wonder the degree of mendacity that must consume this man that he would be capable of doing that, and the degree of incompetence that must reside in him given that the made clear that she had documentary evidence backing up her claims. The Prime Minister ought to have known at the time he stood forward and made that comment to Canadians that the former attorney general would want to step forward and validate her claims using the text messages and other personal notes that she had kept throughout the four-month campaign when he and his team were pressuring her.
I have just spent 25 minutes thoroughly disproving the 's February 15 press conference statement and showing that he made statements that he knew were false in respect of the 's earlier complaints about his role in the SNC affair. Let me move on to another falsehood that has been exposed.
In February when the was first accused of politically pressuring his , in a Globe and Mail article by Bob Fife and Steve Chase, he immediately came out and said the story was false and there was nothing more to it. We now know through 41 pages of evidence, some of which I have relayed in the House of Commons, that his denial was false. In fact, the pressure existed and it was real. Now members on the front bench of the Liberal government no longer even deny that the was pressured. They have now moved the goalposts and just claim that the pressure was not illegal, but that in itself is a very big change in their position.
The PMO issued statements in the 48 hours following the Fife-Chase story, in which it flatly denied pressuring the . It denied it altogether. Now Liberals tacitly admit that they did so and do not even contest the former attorney general's validated claims that they contacted her at least 20 times, directly or through her staff, in order to get her to change her position on the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin in its fraud and bribery case. That is a second contradiction.
Let me move now to a third contradiction. In that famous September 17 meeting the had with the , he twice told her that she had to immediately act to signal a willingness to negotiate a deferred prosecution agreement with SNC-Lavalin or the company would announce within weeks that its headquarters would leave Montreal. He and the Clerk of the Privy Council, along with others in the top levels of the Prime Minister's inner circle, made it clear that she had mere days to do this or the headquarters move would be announced. They even said that it would be announced before the Quebec election. That election was only days away.
We know a number of things about that claim. One is that the company has not since announced it will move its headquarters absent a deferred prosecution agreement. In fact, the headquarters remains in Montreal and no public announcement to the contrary has been made. Two is that the company cannot move its headquarters out of Montreal because it has a $1.5-billion loan agreement with the Quebec pension plan requiring that it remain in that city until the year 2024.
Three is that it just signed a 20-year lease on its building in Montreal and announced a multi-million dollar renovation to the headquarters to accommodate its thousands of Montreal-area employees. A company does not do purpose renovations for its employees and then get up and move. It is a waste of money.
Four is that moving the SNC-Lavalin headquarters out of Montreal would not in any way limit the company's criminal liability in the charges of fraud and bribery. Those charges would go ahead no matter whether the headquarters of SNC-Lavalin were located in London; Washington; Sydney, Australia; or Kalamazoo. At the end of the day, the trial would happen no less. It is not like an individual bank-robbing fugitive, who skips the country and vanishes into the Bermuda Triangle, never to be prosecuted. The company is facing prosecution no matter where its headquarters is. Therefore, the 's claim that it would move was never sensible at all.
Five is that the CEO of SNC-Lavalin has said, in an interview on the Business News Network, that he never threatened that the headquarters of the company would leave if the prosecution proceeded. Finally, we know that any damage to the company's reputation as a result of a conviction would be similarly severe if the company signed on to a deferred prosecution agreement, because signing said agreement would require SNC to admit to egregious criminal acts of fraud and bribery. Doing so through a criminal conviction or doing so through an admission in such an agreement would have an equally large impact on the company's reputation. Therefore, signing an agreement would not in any way, shape or form protect the company's headquarters in Montreal, as the falsely claimed.
It is interesting that when I asked the in the House of Commons whether he had told the that the headquarters would move, he denied having said so. The problem with that denial, and here we have yet another falsehood, is that he had repeated the false claim that SNC would move out of Montreal and Canada altogether at his famous February 15 press conference. In other words, he is making this false claim not just to her face but to all Canadians and, therefore, cannot deny having made it at all. That is yet another false statement that the Prime Minister and his office have made in this entire affair.
I just listed three falsehoods that the has uttered in respect of his involvement in trying to halt the charges against SNC-Lavalin for fraud and corruption. That does not even take into consideration the falsehoods his staff members have stated. Gerald Butts came before the justice committee and said that if they were doing anything wrong why were they not having this conversation in September, October, November and December. However, all of the documentary evidence shows they were having exactly that conversation in September, October, November and December. Text messages show that they were having that conversation in September, October, November and December. By his own admission, he had that conversation with the at the Château Laurier lounge in December.
The has admitted that he attended meetings with the where she raised her objections, in September. We have text messages showing that the conversation was happening in the two middle months of October and November. In other words, Gerald Butts' statement that they were not having that conversation in those four months was just patently false, and proven false now by evidence. It is not hearsay, but evidence such as text messages, journal entries and of course we now have heard the audio of the conversation in December with the Clerk of the Privy Council.
The fact that Gerald Butts felt no compunction about going before a parliamentary committee and stating such a patent falsehood just speaks to how liberally the government and its most senior members are prepared to dispense with the truth in order to defend themselves in this corruption scandal.
If a prime minister and members of his inner sanctum are prepared to contradict themselves and state easily disprovable falsehoods over and over again, is that really the behaviour of someone who has nothing to hide?
If it is, if they in fact have nothing to hide, then why will they not let us conduct a full investigation? Why do we not take all the names of the people who appear in those text messages, which are now in the possession of the House of Commons, and bring them before a parliamentary committee to question them on their alleged interference in the SNC-Lavalin corruption trial?
If the is so confident that he and his team did nothing wrong or illegal, why would he not let the sunshine in? After all, during the campaign, he said that sunshine was the best disinfectant, or as he called it, plagiarizing Laurier, “Sunny ways, my friends. Sunny ways.”
Let us open up the curtains in the ethics committee and let the sunshine and the warm glow pour in, and let us see what we find when all the dark corners are lit up. So far, the has refused to allow the sunshine in. He shut down the justice committee and he shut down the ethics committee, so we have a justice committee with no justice and an ethics committee with no ethics.
That being said, I have some hope that this investigation may well resume, and I base that on the comments of two Liberal MPs who are members of the ethics committee. Two members have stated that the reason they were initially against having an ethics committee investigation into the SNC-Lavalin affair was that it would be premature. We needed to see all the documentary evidence. At that time, it had not been tabled with the House of Commons.
Well, now it has. The documents came to all of us on Friday evening. We have now had an opportunity to read through the plethora of text messages, journal entries and written accounts, and of course we have all listened to the famous audio tape. Now that we have seen all the evidence that is available so far, those two Liberal MPs who claimed that the investigation was premature can put their minds at ease and allow that investigation to go ahead.
What more could we find if we did such an investigation? One, we could find out why the stated falsely that the had never raised any concerns about his interference in the SNC-Lavalin affair. Two, we could find out if someone lied to the former attorney general in order to try to get her to shelve the criminal prosecution, itself potentially a crime under section 139 of the Criminal Code. Three, we could find out if the shuffle of the former attorney general out of her position was specifically designed to allow for SNC-Lavalin to get a deferred prosecution agreement. I will pause on this point for a moment.
Let us examine the state of play in SNC-Lavalin's quest to have its corruption charges shelved. Under the , its quest had failed. She had considered whether or not it would be appropriate to overturn the top prosecutor and instruct that a deal with SNC-Lavalin go ahead to shelve the trial, and she had decided that it was not appropriate.
Her mind was made up, something we see in the conversations that were recorded, the text messages that were sent and the other written evidence that has since been provided. In other words, under the , SNC-Lavalin's request to have the charges shelved was denied.
The current , the person who replaced the outgoing justice minister, has now said he is open to the idea of granting a deferred prosecution agreement.
The cabinet shuffle caused a material change in the state of play. With respect to SNC's desire to have a deal shelving charges, we have gone from a “no” under the to a “maybe” under the current .
Whether or not the wants to deny that was his intention, it is the result of the shuffle. There is absolutely no doubt that the status of a possible deferred prosecution agreement for SNC-Lavalin has changed as a result of the cabinet shuffle. The door was slammed shut under the . The door is now open under the current .
We need to know if the current received any instructions on this matter before he got the appointment. Did the , or more likely a member of his staff or inner circle, communicate to the incoming or those around him that his role as the top law officer of the Crown would involve extending a settlement to SNC-Lavalin?
If the answer is yes, then we would know that the purpose of the shuffle was precisely to get a special deal for this powerful Liberal-linked corporation. That was the theory that the outgoing had in her mind. She has since written in her letter to the justice committee that she was planning to resign as veterans affairs minister if the incoming attorney general decided to impose a settlement to shelve the charges against SNC-Lavalin. She believed, as she said numerous times to the 's inner circle at the time of the shuffle, that she knew why she was being moved. The reason was that she believed the was determined to see this Liberal-linked company get out of a trial, and she was not prepared to do it.
If she is right, then the corollary of that fact is likely that the incoming was willing to grant a settlement to the company. Canadians need to know that.
Here is the real and serious risk to the rule of law going forward. Even if we forget about the abuses that might have happened in the past, it is highly possible and maybe even probable that the plans to use his new and more malleable to issue a settlement, shelving the SNC-Lavalin fraud and bribery charges right after the next election.
If the plans once again to interfere politically and have his issue a written directive to the top prosecutor, instructing her to shelve the charges and sign a deal with this company, then Canadians should know about it before they go to the polls.
I am prepared to make an announcement, if I can be so bold, about the approach Conservatives would take in this matter. I can state confidently that if the current Conservative leader is made prime minister in October, he will not direct his attorney general, whomever he or she may be, to interfere and shelve the criminal charges that SNC-Lavalin faces. Canadians can know that. He has stated very clearly that he will not politically and personally interfere to extend a deal to SNC-Lavalin.
They do not know that about the current . He and his current are leaving open the possibility, amazingly so, that they may still politically interfere in this trial. That is the astonishing thing. Let us just behold that for a moment.
After the two months that the has had, one would think the approach he would take to putting this to rest would be to say definitively to Canadians that he is out of this, that he is not going to get involved ever again in a criminal prosecution. To the contrary, he is saying exactly the opposite. He is saying that his current may still interfere in the trial, that he may write a letter to the top prosecutor requiring that the prosecutor extend a settlement to the company. That would be a gross miscarriage of justice. Let us think about that.
If a homeless person is charged with stealing a loaf of bread, that person does not have the ability to knock on the door of the Prime Minister's Office and ask, “Can you make the judge go light on me? Could you ask the Crown prosecutor to drop the charges and sign a deal where I just apologize and give back the stolen bread?” If it does not work that way for a homeless man, why should it work that way for a powerful, multi-billion dollar, Liberal-linked corporation?
If we live in a country where corporations have the ability to buy justice with wads of cash paid to lobbyists, those lobbyists can swarm all over Parliament Hill like flies on honey and influence the to step in and let the corporation off. If that is really the way the Prime Minister wants to administer the justice system in this country, we should know about it before the election, so that Canadians can consider it in their vote.
In other words, this is not just about holding the government accountable for what it has already done. This is about giving Canadians all of the information about what the government might yet do.
If the thinks he can defend the possibility of having his get this company off trial, then he should go on the campaign trail and say so. He should go from one end of the country to the other and tell people that. He should go to Montreal and talk to the people who have been robbed by this company and its executives in the bribery affair at the Jacques Cartier Bridge, or at the McGill University Health Centre, another instance of bribery.
More than that, the next time he is in Africa, he should go to Libya and go into the streets of the ghettos where the people live in squalor. He should tell the people there that he has no problem granting special deals to the company that is alleged to have stolen $130 million of their money, because that is the allegation before us here. Some have tried to trivialize it by saying that it was just Gadhafi getting yachts and prostitutes from this Canadian corporation. They say it was just a victimless crime, and therefore it is better to settle the matter and avoid a messy trial. That is the argument we hear from proponents of a so-called deferred prosecution agreement for SNC-Lavalin. However, it was not a victimless crime. It was wretched, parasitical corruption that robbed the people of Libya of $130 million. These are among the poorest people in the world. They do not have $130 million to spare. If that kind of wretched corruption is not deserving of prosecution in a criminal court, then I do not know what is.
Furthermore, this is not a case of a few bad apples making a small mistake and the company finding out and reporting that mistake. Rather, the company had to be caught. It was only when Swiss authorities found out about some of the corruption and prosecuted one of SNC's perpetrators that the RCMP got wind of the matter and began its own investigation, which resulted in the charges roughly four years ago.
It was not that the company was so honest and so pure in trying to expel from its midst these bad apples that it came forward and fessed up and tried to make it right. No, it had to be caught, just like it had to be caught in the bribery case of Jacques Cartier Bridge, the bribery case of Montreal, and criminal allegations that have surfaced with respect to the company in Mexico, in Panama, in Switzerland, in Libya, and God knows where else. This is a company with a track record of systemic corruption at the highest levels. The former CEO has pleaded guilty to bribery. We are not just talking about a few small bad apples who played junior roles in faraway lands. It is a problem of systemic corruption, top to bottom, through and through.
This is going to be on the ballot in the next election. Canadians will have to decide whether they think it is appropriate for a prime minister to personally and politically interfere to shelve criminal charges of fraud and bribery against a powerful party-linked company like this one. That is one of the reasons we need the ethics committee to get all the facts now, before Canadians vote. If the 's intention is to let the company off after the election, when he no longer needs voters, he should say so now. He should look people in the eye and say that he believes that the in his cabinet would be completely justified in writing a directive to the prosecutor saying, “Settle this matter, make it go away, sweep it under the rug, let them pay a fine, say sorry and move on.”
I can tell members that this will not be the position of the Conservative Party. The Conservative position will be very simple and very clear: The prosecutor and the prosecutor alone should decide how to proceed with these criminal charges.
So far, the prosecutor, the DPP, has shown that she understands the law, and she has acted in a manner that is correct in this case. We expect that she should be allowed to continue to do so. A Conservative government will make sure that she or anyone who replaces her, with time, has that independent role.
That is exactly what the Director of Public Prosecutions Act foresaw when it became law in 2006 with the passage of the Federal Accountability Act. It foresaw an independent prosecutor, completely free of politics, someone who had so much leeway that she could not even be fired by the or any member of the government unless all of the House of Commons voted to validate such a firing. The purpose of that was to keep the prosecutorial function of our legal system out of the reach of politicians, yet the extended his reach as far as he could to try to interfere with that in this case.
What is perhaps even more insulting is that the thought he could distract Canadians from the resulting scandal by spraying $41 billion of cash at them in his recent cover-up budget. He thought Canadians would completely forget that his had accused him of interfering in a criminal prosecution if he pulled out a fire hose filled with dollar signs and sprayed it all over the country. Frankly, what has happened is not that the budget has distracted from his scandal; his scandal has distracted from his budget. It does not seem to matter how much money he sprays around. Canadians are determined to protect the independence of our prosecution and our rule of law in this country.
Here is the bad consequence that comes from that kind of pre-election political spending. It comes with a cost. I call it the Liberal three steps: massive scandal before the election, massive deficit spending to distract from it, and then of course, massive tax increases to pay for it all after the election is over.
Money is not free. The government does not actually have any money. All it spends comes from the people who earned it in the first place. It cannot give people anything without first taking it away, and the likes to take it away. He has already raised taxes on the average Canadian family by $800. He took away tax credits for kids' sports, children's art, students' textbooks and some of their tuition fees. He took away the transit tax credit from passengers on buses. He took away numerous other tax breaks, like income splitting, which helped bring fairness to families where one spouse earns more than another. He brought in new tax penalties for small business, including those who share their work and earnings with family members or who save within their company for retirement, maternity leave or a rainy day. He has increased CPP payroll taxes for both small businesses and workers. That does not even include the carbon tax, which kicked in on Monday, punishing commuters and seniors on fixed incomes who are trying to heat their homes.
That is the 's record of tax increases so far, but the worst is yet to come. We know that, because he has tried to raise taxes even more. He attempted to tax health and dental benefits provided by companies to their employees. He backed off after those companies and those employees rose up against him. He tried to impose a 73% tax on the passive income of small businesses. He tried to double the tax paid by farmers and small business owners when they pass their companies down to the next generation within their families. He even tried to take away the disability tax credit from diabetics.
Finally, the tax increase that was perhaps the most disgusting, and from which he was forced to back down, was when he tried to tax employee discounts, like when a waitress gets a free chicken salad sandwich at two in the morning when she is on her 15-minute break. The wanted the restaurant owner to add the value of that sandwich to the waitress's T4 slip so that she could pay tax on that at the end of the year. It was just petty. His desire to extract more money from the pockets of the people who earn it so he can spend it for them is insatiable, and it is just getting started. He put all those tax increases on hold, but they will all be back after the next election when he no longer needs voters but still needs their money.
Then there is the truth about the carbon tax. The claims that an Ontario family will pay only about $600 in higher gas, heat, groceries and other inflation costs. However, we are asked to take his word for it. I filed access to information requests to get all the supporting documents that led to that calculation, and guess what I received? I received a big pile of documents with black ink all over the numbers. In other words, they gave me the costing, they just did not let me see the numbers. Why? If the tax costs what the government claims, would it not want to produce all the numbers so that Canadians could confirm that fact? The government did not, because this tax will cost much more than the government admits.
The cost is hard to calculate, unlike income taxes, which we can calculate at the end of the year when tax returns are filed or by simply looking at the payroll deductions, and unlike sales taxes, which we can add up simply by looking at the receipts for things we buy.
Carbon taxes are insidious. They are embedded in every single good and service we buy. Sometimes they are embedded and compounded multiple times in the same product. For example, when one buys a piece of farm equipment, one will pay for the transportation of the farm equipment to the local John Deere outlet but also pay a tax on the energy used in the manufacturing outlet that assembled it. There is lots of steel in John Deere tractors, so one will pay for the carbon tax that was embedded in the cost of shaping and moulding that steel at the steel mill.
Did I mention that the government is charging HST on the carbon tax? It is a tax on a tax. The estimate of the cost of the carbon tax does not include the compounding effect of the HST on the carbon tax.
If despite everything I have just told members they still believe that the carbon tax will only cost what he says, that does not account for his plan to increase the rate after the next election. According to government documents from both environment and finance, after 2022, just three years from now, the tax will have to increase in “severity”. That means the rate will actually go up, but by how much?
According to an Environment Canada document, the rate would have to go up to between $100 and $300 a tonne of carbon. Right now, the rate is only $20. If it did go up to $300, it would be 15 times higher than it is right now. Based on the government's own numbers, that would equal $5,000 for a family of 2.5 people in Saskatchewan, or $3,000 for a similar family in Ontario.
If someone has a big family fortune, an extra $5,000 in higher gas, heat and grocery costs would not be such a big deal. However, unlike the , most Canadians do not inherit tax-preferred trust funds, and therefore, they cannot absorb the cost of a $3,000 or $5,000 carbon tax, as may be the case if he is re-elected.
The has no empathy whatsoever for people who are struggling with the cost of living. In fact, he was in Vancouver and was asked about the $1.60 a litre people were paying for gas not long ago in that city. He said that is exactly what we want. He wants high gas prices, because he thinks they will make people behave better. I am not exactly sure what behaviour he is referring to. Does the believe that people should stop driving to work or stop heating their homes? Are those bad behaviours, according to the Prime Minister?
We know he has no concern whatsoever about increasing the cost of living by imposing higher taxes. He has done it already. All the evidence, from the carbon tax cover-up to his attempted tax increases elsewhere, suggest that he will do much more after the election, when he no longer needs voters but still needs their money.
That was the Kathleen Wynne-Dalton McGuinty technique for 14 years. Who was the architect of that agenda? It was Gerald Butts, the outgoing PMO puppet master, who recently resigned in disgrace because of the SNC-Lavalin scandal. We know that he is still the 's intellectual architect, the man who is calling all the shots and will be running the Liberal campaign. His modus operandi is to rack up massive spending and pay for it by piling taxes on the working class. That is why Ontario had the highest poverty rates and the lowest middle-class income growth of any province in Canada during the McGuinty-Wynne reign. We do not need to see that disaster exacted on Canadians.
The next reason we know the current will raise taxes is that he is running out of money. His deficits are growing. They are $20 billion this year, the year in which he promised a balanced budget. Remember his famous words, “the budget will balance itself”? That sure has not happened in the appointed time schedule he claimed it would during the last election. That debt will always metastasize into higher taxes, because somebody has to pay those rich bondholders. They do not lend us money out of the goodness of their hearts. They expect to get more back from Canadians than they lend, and they will if the keeps adding debt at unsustainable rates.
That is the record so far. There is good news and bad news. The good news is that we are not broke yet. The bad news is that we will be if the current is re-elected.
Families who are running out of money but are not yet broke sit down at the kitchen table and discuss what to do about the situation. The responsible decision is to right the course, get back on track and start to balance the family budget before the repo man comes knocking on the door five or six years down the road. They do not go on a vacation to some fancy island in a faraway place, blow even more money and say they will worry about the repo man when he arrives at their home and they will cross that bridge when they get to it. No, they make responsible decisions in the present and modest adjustments to get on track so that they can be financially sustainable into the future.
That is exactly what Canadian households expect of their politicians. They expect that we, like them, live within our means, spend only what we have and leave more in the pockets of Canadians. They know, because they have had to make household payments, that the basic rules of life are that we cannot borrow our way out of debt, budgets do not balance themselves and we cannot make other people pay for our mistakes.
These are lessons the would do well to learn. I suspect he will not, but that is okay. In October Canadians will have another choice, the son of a working-class family who understands the basic rules of life that we have to live within our means, leave more in people's pockets and let them get ahead.