Interventions in the House of Commons
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View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2019-04-11 15:17 [p.27054]
Mr. Speaker, I rise to respond to the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Chilliwack—Hope on April 10, 2019 with respect to statements made by the Minister of National Revenue.
My hon. colleague argued that by stating on numerous occasions that 1,300 new auditors were hired, the minister wilfully misled the House.
The hon. opposition member quoted an article from Le Journal de Montréal published on April 5, 2019, and argued that since the total number of auditors has grown from 6,265 to 6,457 since January 1, 2016, then the 1,300 number is erroneous and consequentially the minister misled the House.
House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, states at page 516:
In most instances, when a point of order or a question of privilege has been raised in regard to a response to an oral question, the Speaker has ruled that the matter is a disagreement among Members over the facts surrounding the issue, and as such, is a matter of debate and not a breach of the rules or of privilege.
The facts are clear. Looking at the numbers, we see that in 2016, 440 new auditors were hired. In 2017, it was 394. Finally, in 2018, there were 555 hired. This brings us to 1,389 new auditors between January 1, 2016 and January 1, 2019, which is consistent with what the minister has been saying inside and outside the House.
As such, I believe this is a dispute as to the facts, and it does not constitute a prima facie question of privilege.
View Mark Strahl Profile
View Mark Strahl Profile
2019-04-10 15:44 [p.26983]
Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a question of privilege concerning misleading comments made to the House of Commons by the Minister of National Revenue.
On December 13, 2018, the minister told the House that the Canada Revenue Agency “hired 1,300 new auditors”. Again, on February 5, 2019, the minister said, “we hired 1,300 new auditors”. This weekend, Quebec newspapers reported that these numbers were wrong and erroneous.
Le Journal de Montréal reported in an article entitled “Elle répète des chiffres erronés depuis cinq mois” that the real figure is 192 new auditors. That is about one-seventh of what the minister claimed to be the truth. Since January 1, 2016, the number of auditors has increased from 6,265 to 6,457.
Page 85 of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, describes the three-part test that must be met to establish that the House has been misled. First, it must be proven that the statement was misleading.
Ted Gallivan, deputy commissioner of Revenue Canada, told the newspaper that auditors were replaced as they retired or moved to other jobs. The minister tries to take credit for replacement hiring as so-called new auditors. Le Journal reported that:
Mr. Gallivan even admitted that, unlike [the Minister], he does not use the figure of 1,000 when praising the work of his department.
The minister's spin is, simply put, false.
The second arm of the three-part test is that it must be established that the member making the statement knew it to be misleading.
When called out on her misleading claims by an intrepid journalist, the minister and her office tried to backtrack. According to Le Journal:
The Minister's staff repeatedly told the Journal de Montréal that the Minister was too busy to grant an interview. In response to very specific written questions, her communications director sent us a short statement in which, lo and behold, the reference to “new” auditors had vanished.
She was caught and she backed down. The original statements were not simply some slip of the tongue, or this newest statement a slip of the fingers on a keyboard.
The newspaper reminded its readers that:
The woman who was appointed minister by the [Prime Minister] in late 2015 has been repeating this statement to anyone who cares to hear it since November.
The article goes on to provide a list of occasions in the House, at the finance committee, at press conferences and in written statements where the minister made her claim of new auditors. You can infer, Mr. Speaker, that the minister, confronted by the real facts, is tacitly acknowledging that her claims were misleading.
Finally, the third test laid out in Bosc and Gagnon is that the statements must have been made with the intention of misleading the House.
The comments I quoted earlier were made during question period. A plain reading of the situation is that they were obviously meant to deflect and parry opposition charges against the Liberal government's failures to take tax evasion seriously. The minister's comments were meant to contain the political damage of her lacklustre efforts to address tax evasion and the Liberal government's reluctance to crack down on the well-connected with deep pockets. However, it is not just members who were misled. It is indeed all Canadians.
The article quotes Toby Sanger, the executive director of Canadians for Tax Fairness, who said:
When the Minister spoke about more than 1,300 new auditors, I definitely thought that the number of positions had increased by that amount. I feel that I was completely deceived by the Minister...
Mr. Sanger is not alone. The minister has been trying to fool all Canadians but it has not worked.
In closing, I want to add a comment about how this satisfies the requirement for a question of privilege to be raised in a timely manner. As you can tell, Mr. Speaker, my first language is English. I do not sit for a Quebec constituency, so I do not routinely follow Quebec media in real time every weekend. This news, however, has come to my attention upon my return to Ottawa this week for the sittings of the House.
With that said, if you find a prima facie case of privilege, I am prepared to move the appropriate motion.
View Peter Julian Profile
View Peter Julian Profile
2019-04-10 15:49 [p.26984]
Mr. Speaker, I rise on the same question of privilege. I listened with great interest to the member's question of privilege. We will probably come back to the House a bit later to add some additional material.
View Pierre-Luc Dusseault Profile
View Pierre-Luc Dusseault Profile
2019-04-03 19:48 [p.26696]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to raise an extremely important issue, as Canadians are preparing their tax returns to pay the taxes owed to government.
The Auditor General's fall 2018 report could not have been clearer. The NDP has known and has has been saying for years that Canada has a two-tiered tax system. The Auditor General, who is independent, came to the same conclusion as the NDP that Canada has a two-tiered tax system: one for the rich and one for all other taxpayers.
Canadians are filing their taxes, and they are right to be worried and to feel that this system is unfair. I can understand those who are unhappy to see news reports about information leaks, such as the Bahamas leaks, the paradise papers and the Panama papers. There are more and more leaks, and they show that the wealthy, those with the most money in their pockets, can afford to pay tax lawyers big bucks to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. Canadians are understandably frustrated.
After reading about these leaked papers on tax havens, they feel even more frustrated to see that the Auditor General has also come to the conclusion that we have a two-tiered tax system. People who can afford to have trusts, bank accounts in tax havens or numbered companies around the world, mainly in low-tax jurisdictions, can avoid paying their fair share of taxes. People are frustrated that these taxpayers are able to hide their money from the Canadian taxman.
When the CRA realizes that something is afoot, it gives these taxpayers more time to answer the agency's questions. The agency gives them more latitude to respond, even though they use all sorts of tax schemes. However, when the average taxpayer honestly forgets to declare $1, $10 or $100, the CRA comes down on them like a ton of bricks to recover these small amounts.
First, these taxpayers cannot afford to hire tax lawyers to look after their affairs and, most importantly, they do not have the means to defend themselves against the CRA when it knocks on their door to collect what is owing.
Canadians are frustrated to see that the CRA always grants extensions to wealthy taxpayers with fortunes stashed abroad. The CRA agrees to extend their deadlines and sometimes even grants amnesties. We all remember the KPMG scandal. That may jog some taxpayers' memory. What happened was that people were caught participating in a tax scheme involving the Isle of Man, and the CRA offered them amnesty. Even though they had been caught red-handed, their debts were written off, and they got off scot-free. Smaller taxpayers do not get that kind of treatment from the CRA.
What has the government done since the Auditor General tabled his report? What has it done to remedy the situation and finally start moving towards a fairer tax system? At the very least, there needs to be an appearance of justice for taxpayers, who are preparing their tax returns as we speak.
View Deborah Schulte Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Deborah Schulte Profile
2019-04-03 19:52 [p.26697]
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to have this opportunity to rise in the House, respond to this question and get the facts on the record.
I can assure my colleague that administering a fair and equitable tax system, which meets the needs of Canadians, is central to the work of the CRA and a top priority for our government.
The CRA welcomes the Auditor General's review of its tax compliance work. Its compliance programs affect millions of taxpayers and involve billions of dollars each year. The Auditor General's report provides important information that helps to highlight what is working well in the management of the CRA's compliance activities, as well as to identify the areas that require more attention.
The CRA agrees with the recommendations in the report and has developed action plans to address them. In fact, the CRA had already started to address some of these recommendations as a result of our own internal improvement processes and procedures. We are committed to acting in all areas identified by the Auditor General within 18 months, at no additional cost to the government and without requiring any legislative changes.
In response to the Auditor General's findings and recommendations, the CRA continues to review its internal processes and procedures to ensure that its compliance work is consistent and respects due process.
Our government knows that there is more work to be done to combat tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance. These issues are complex and shift constantly as new schemes and structures are introduced by those looking to avoid their tax obligations. That is exactly why, through the last four budgets, our government has invested over a billion dollars in the CRA to give it the tools it needs to crack down on tax cheats.
In addition, the CRA will review its methodologies and approaches to ensure that its tax compliance reporting is more comprehensive and easier for Canadians to understand. Thanks to recent and unprecedented funding investments, the compliance functions of the CRA have been strengthened and are helping us to find more of those not paying their fair share.
The results of these increased efforts are tangible. Added audit capacity means that the CRA now has audit teams focused exclusively on offshore tax planning. Currently, the CRA is conducting more than 1,100 taxpayer audits that have offshore implications. There are a number of CRA teams in place that focus exclusively on multinational enterprises. We targeted promoters of abusive or illegal tax schemes that led to the assessment of roughly $48 million in third-party penalties in 2017-18 alone. With updated digital tools, the agency can now risk assess 100% of all large business corporate tax returns on a yearly basis, which greatly improves the ability to identify high-risk transactions. Last week, the CRA executed two search warrants in relation to a significant offshore tax evasion case in order to find further evidence in a $77 million case.
Many of the areas the Auditor General flagged are common challenges for tax authorities around the world. Our government remains committed to ensuring that all Canadians meet their tax obligations and receive the credits and benefits to which they are entitled. Moreover, we remain committed to the protection and integrity of the tax system in order to ensure greater fairness for everyone.
View Pierre-Luc Dusseault Profile
View Pierre-Luc Dusseault Profile
2019-04-03 19:56 [p.26697]
Mr. Speaker, this answer and the Prime Minister's answer both clearly indicated that offenders would face the consequences of their actions.
However, the answer that was just given clearly indicates that offenders have still not faced any consequences. As a result, my supplementary question has to do with the results obtained by the Canada Revenue Agency.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue once again mentioned the investigations, searches and audits being conducted by the Canada Revenue Agency, but the government has no evidence to show Canadians that its fight against tax evasion has been effective.
Once again, while Canadians are filling out their income tax returns, can the parliamentary secretary tell us what tangible results the government has achieved in the fight against tax evasion and can she tell us about the convictions that have been made and the white collar criminals who have been sent to prison through the CRA's efforts?
The government has been in power for nearly four years now and there have been three financial scandals involving information leaks.
When will there be even just one conviction? People can be sent to prison for international tax evasion.
View Deborah Schulte Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Deborah Schulte Profile
2019-04-03 19:58 [p.26698]
Mr. Speaker, after 10 years of Conservative inaction, in 2015 we made the commitment to Canadians to crack down on tax evasion and ensure that everyone pays their fair share. We have invested $1 billion in the CRA to ensure that it has the tools that it needs to carry out this work.
To specifically answer the member's question, the minister tightened the rules relating to the voluntary disclosures program. That voluntary disclosures program was tightened up to prevent individuals named in information leaks from being able to make deals with the CRA and avoid facing prosecution. We made this decision knowing that it could take years to bring tax evaders to justice. We chose thorough investigations and sometimes a long justice process over quick dollar figures. That was a choice that our government made and I am pleased with the progress that the CRA is making on this important issue.
Canadians want justice and that is what we will deliver.
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
The Prime Minister needs to understand something that has become very difficult for him to appreciate. It is this. The House of Commons does not work for him. It is the other way around. He holds that office only as long as the majority of MPs in this place say that he holds that office. It is not an entitlement. It is not a family heirloom to be handed down from father to son. It is the property of the Canadian people, and through their delegation to us, it is our job to decide whether he is able to hold that office.
In the meantime, this chamber and its committees are one gigantic accountability machine, an accountability machine that demands answers for the government's conduct and, particularly, the Prime Minister's conduct. This is not the Prime Minister's personal self-esteem factory. We do not exist here to try to elevate his sense of ego and self-importance. It is not the job of parliamentarians to gush and heap praise on him and treat him with the adoration and respect he expects and demands. That is not what Parliament does.
Parliament is supposed to ask the difficult questions until such time as we get accurate and believable answers. So far, they have not been forthcoming. Thus, we march on and I continue speaking on behalf of my constituents. I think in this sense that I am carrying out the role that all MPs are supposed to do, which is to stand up, speak up and fight back when they see something wrong.
It is not only opposition MPs who do that. There are courageous members on the government side who have been willing to take a principled position, for example, the former attorney general. She was prepared to put her principles ahead of her career ambitions. Then we have the former Treasury Board president who, likewise, said that she was not prepared to be part of the cover-up and that there is much more to this story that needs to be told. Therefore, let us tell it.
I am ready to end my speech now. All I need is for a member of the government to stand up and commit that the majority Liberal-controlled ethics committee will open a full-scale investigation into the SNC-Lavalin corruption scandal. As soon as one member of the other side rises and purports to speak on behalf of the Prime Minister, I will terminate my remarks and allow the debate to go on otherwise.
Until that happens or until you stop me, Mr. Speaker, I will continue to speak up for accountability in the SNC-Lavalin corruption scandal. I thank the members who are here with me, providing moral support for me to stand here on behalf of the Conservative caucus but also on behalf of my constituents.
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
2019-04-02 16:09 [p.26642]
Mr. Speaker, where we last left off was on the importance of holding governments to account.
This is the House of the common people where we restrain the Crown and limit its powers to maximize the liberty of the people. In this instance, the allegation is that the Prime Minister personally and politically interfered with the criminal prosecution of a powerful corporation.
In other words, the judicial branch of government suffered, or almost suffered, a major act of interference by the head of the government in the person of the Prime Minister. As Parliament, we are the legislative branch but we have the accountability mechanism here in the form of question period, committees and the other tools at our disposal to bring the Prime Minister back in check when he abuses the other branches of government.
In other words, we do not as legislators dominate the judicial branch. We merely provide it with the laws it interprets, but we can act as its protector here in the House of Commons in instances where the executive has spilled over and invaded the territory of the judicial branch.
That is precisely what we are doing. Just as the judicial branch sometimes must constrain the executive, particularly when the executive infringes on the rights of the population., we as parliamentarians in the legislative branch can also restrain the executive when it attacks the sacred ground of the judicial branch. That appears to be what the Prime Minister attempted.
The decision to prosecute an enterprise charged with fraud and bribery is one left to independent prosecutors in the office of the director of public prosecutions. Interference in that prosecution by any member of the executive has the effect of contaminating the judicial branch with politics. We, as parliamentarians, are the decontamination team. We are here to decontaminate the corruption that spilled out of the executive and almost into the judicial branch, but for the courageous acts of the former attorney general, who closed the floodgates and prevented that contamination from spilling completely into this criminal trial.
Thank God, she was there. What a relief. Canadians should breathe a sigh of relief that we had such a woman of integrity doing that job at that moment. Do we think that things happen for a reason, that people are in a certain place at a certain time because they are especially needed there?
In May of 1940, Europe was collapsing under the aggressive attacks of an evil and mendacious dictator. If it had not already, France was soon to surrender. Germany had already successfully attacked numerous of its neighbours and Chamberlain, who had signed a “peace for our time” treaty with Hitler, was on the verge of almost losing confidence in the British House of Commons. While he commanded a majority still, it was clear that he did not have enough support in the commons to carry out a war effort.
There is a story of a famous meeting where Churchill, Chamberlain and Lord Halifax gathered together in one room. Oh, to have been a fly on that wall. It was clear that Chamberlain was on his way out, and the obvious replacement was Lord Halifax. Most people would have assumed it would be Churchill.
Who was Lord Halifax, and what was his plan? He was a widely respected member of the aristocratic elite and a senior Conservative of the British Parliament. He had engaged in efforts already, in the early stages of the Second World War, to initiate negotiations for the surrender of all of mainland Europe to Hitler. He initiated those negotiations through Mussolini. In other words, he was going to ask Mussolini to be the mediator in negotiations between Great Britain and Hitler on the surrender of Europe. That was his plan.
The three of them went into this meeting expecting that Lord Halifax would come out as prime minister. As certain historical accounts relay the events, Chamberlain said that he believed that he was losing the confidence of his caucus and perhaps of the commons and that he could no longer be prosecuting this war and would resign. On the question of who would replace him, he said that he thought it should be Lord Halifax. As the story is told, Lord Halifax said no, that he thought it should be Winston Churchill. Of course, Winston Churchill said, “I agree”.
Thank goodness that happened, because days later, when Churchill would become prime minister, he fundamentally altered the policy of the British government. It was not just that he was giving these stirring addresses to rouse the nation. There are many of those examples, and we can get lost in the soaring and brilliant rhetoric of the time. However, we miss, sometimes, that he actually changed the policy of the British government from one of survival to one of victory. He said, “You ask, what is our aim?... It is victory, victory at all costs”. He prosecuted the war with that full intention in mind. It was not to delay and frustrate the enemy for a later date, when they could one day renegotiate a settlement. It was to totally obliterate Hitler's Third Reich, and that is exactly what he did.
However, imagine if Lord Halifax had come out of that room as prime minister. Imagine the different world we would live in today. He would have attempted to negotiate a settlement that would have surrendered all of western Europe to a monster, but instead, we had a courageous lion who was prepared to fight and win at any cost. We might live in a very different world today had Winston Churchill, who in the years leading up to that moment was a very controversial and often very isolated backbencher during his wilderness years of the 1930s, not emerged as the prime minister, an unlikely prime minister, but arguably the most consequential one in modern history.
I relay this story merely to point out that sometimes certain people are in certain places at the right time. Although the stakes are nowhere as high today as they were then, as I think we will all admit, there is no doubt that there is something very important at stake in this particular controversy as well, and it is the independence of the prosecutorial arm of the government from politics. Had it been another attorney general, someone more malleable, someone whose convictions rested on sand rather than stone, we might have had a different outcome. That person might have said, “Sure. Clearly the prime minister wants this. It's illegal, but he gets what we wants. We know how he is. The clerk has made it clear that he is in a mood and he is going to get it done one way or another”.
A less courageous and principled attorney general might have just folded like a cheap suit and allowed that to happen. However, it was not someone else. It was this attorney general, and she stood up again and again. They pushed and they pushed, and she would not back down. She finally said that she felt like she was about to witness the Saturday night massacre, which was a reference to Nixon's Watergate firings. She said to the Clerk of the Privy Council that she was waiting for “the other shoe to drop”, and it did. Less than a month later, the Prime Minister would shuffle his cabinet and punt her from her position, making up a confusing and incredible, fantastic story about a game of musical chairs that resulted from the simple resignation of one Treasury Board president, who was completely unrelated to the situation at hand. She was then replaced with another Attorney General, who the Prime Minister thought would be more malleable.
This takes us to the future. What can Canadians expect of this case if the government is re-elected and the Prime Minister continues in office? They can expect that within weeks, he will direct his Attorney General, someone he believes will do his bidding, to sign a special deal with SNC-Lavalin. That is what he has done twice before. Once was on December 8, 2015, when his government immediately, upon taking office, granted an exemption to SNC-Lavalin, allowing it to continue bidding on federal contracts, even though it was charged with fraud and banned from bidding for being charged with fraud and bribery. The second time he attempted to provide a special deal for SNC-Lavalin was the controversy we are now discussing regarding his former attorney general.
Let there be no doubt that if the Prime Minister is re-elected, within days he will interrupt the criminal proceedings, the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, to protect the company from trial. He has noted, and so have his staff and former staff, that they can do this right up until the moment a verdict or a plea is rendered. In other words, he knows that he has time on his hands. He knows that if he is back in office, he can try this same game all over again. He has shown a relentless determination to allow this corporation to avoid criminal prosecution, and he will carry out that determination if he is given a chance after the next election.
That is yet another reason we cannot allow him to serve in this office one minute longer than necessary. We need to replace him with a prime minister who respects the independence of both the judiciary and the prosecution so that decisions on criminal charges are rendered by judges and juries, not by politicians. That key separation is essential for the successful functioning of any democracy. That is precisely why we are holding him accountable for his already egregious interference, and it is further why we will argue to the Canadian people the need to replace him to make sure that this kind of odious, monstrous interference is never allowed to repeat itself.
I look around this chamber today, and the member from the Okanagan is here. He was among the very first to notice this strange amendment to the Criminal Code that popped into the omnibus budget bill. There we were, at 10 o'clock at night, turning 500 pages as we rushed to pass a bill the Prime Minister said needed to become law quickly. All of a sudden, there it was, right before us, an amendment to the Criminal Code right in the middle of a budget bill. It was the last thing we ever thought to find there. It was like finding fish in trees, so completely out of place it was.
There was only one witness to comment on it, and it was a public servant who simply gave the technical explanation of what it was. That was it. There were no anti-corruption crusaders, no corporate accountability experts and no law professors to come forward and explain to us what we were getting ourselves into. We were told that, by the way, we had to move quickly. We had to get this passed.
All of us were asking the same question: Who is asking for this? Who wants this?
We all go to church suppers or neighbourhood farms, or we knock on the doors of our communities in the suburbs of Canada, and nobody ever says, “Our laws are really cruel to corporate criminals. We really ought to find a way to let the crooks get off without a conviction. Maybe they could just pay a fine, fess up, promise not to do it again, and that would suffice.” Nobody ever says, “Enough with all this business of trials and convictions. Enough with calling the executives before the court to testify under oath. That is too inhumane. We need to find a nicer way to do it.” I do not remember hearing that from anyone in my constituency at the tens of thousands of doors I have knocked on since last summer, yet it was indeed a top budget priority of the Liberal government in mid-2018. Then, of course, it became the Prime Minister's top priority in relation to his attorney general in September, as soon as that Criminal Code amendment became law.
All of a sudden, there was panic. The attorney general had to be called on the carpet to answer to the clerk and the Prime Minister about why she had not moved with haste to direct the director of public prosecutions to extend this settlement offer to SNC-Lavalin.
The company was concerned. It was telling the Clerk of the Privy Council and others about a board meeting that was coming up on September 20, only days away, and it asked if the Liberals could not get it off the fraud and bribery charges within the next week. It had a board meeting, for God's sake. How was it supposed to do business?
Of course, the right answer that a normal prime minister would give if a corporation made such a demand would be, “Get out of my office. Go to court. If you did nothing wrong, defend your case and get acquitted. I never want to see you here again.” That would have been the right answer.
However, the Prime Minister kept inviting them back again and again. He said that they were doing everything they could for them, but there was one problem with the attorney general. She was getting in the way and mucking up their plans. The government set it up so that SNC could get off without a trial. It even amended the Criminal Code to make it possible for this one company, but this nuisance attorney general would just not play ball. She was told that she had a few months to get it done or they would move her out.
That is exactly what the Liberals did. They sent her packing, because she would not play ball. The old boys told her how things were going to work, and she said that where she comes from, they have the rule of law, and it does not work that way. They told her that she was no longer the attorney general, and they found someone perhaps more malleable.
The Prime Minister said the cabinet shuffle had nothing to do with the former attorney general's refusal to co-operate and give a deal to SNC-Lavalin, but here is what we know for sure.
When she was the attorney general, the answer to SNC-Lavalin's request for a settlement was a clear “no”. She looked at the act, she looked at the decision of the prosecutor and said that it was not going to happen, period. Therefore, the status of that request was, no.
The new Attorney General comes in. What is his public position is on it? Maybe. Therefore, by moving the former attorney general out and moving a new one in, SNC-Lavalin has gone from “no” to “maybe”. The Prime Minister would have us believe that his decision had nothing to do with that issue. Of course it did and it has had the consequence of reopening the possibility that this company, charged with stealing $130 million from the poorest people in the world, might get off without a trial. That is the effect of the cabinet shuffle. The Prime Minister can deny that was his intention, but it is definitely the effect.
We really have to wonder why the government is so obsessed with helping this one company get around the rules and avoid consequences. There are thousands of trials in Canada every year. People are charged all the time with crimes. Why this particular company? Why this particular group of well-lobbied-for executives? Could it possibly have something to do with the $100,000 of illegal donations that the company flowed to the Liberal Party of Canada? Those donations were funnelled through phony invoices, bonuses and expense claims, in a systematic fraud designed to move cash into Liberal Party coffers, and that has absolutely nothing to do with the decision?
I hear the deputy House leader of the Liberal Party blaming Stephen Harper, that it is Stephen Harper's fault that SNC-Lavalin gave illegal donations to the Liberal Party, that Stephen Harper must have somehow carried out mind control to force all of those executives to ask their employees to generate phony expense claims, bonuses and invoices so they could give the money to the employees, who would then give those donations to the Liberal Party. Stephen Harper then must have exercised mind control over the Liberal Party officials who received all of those donations and thought nothing unusual of them. It must have been Stephen Harper's incredible power of mind control that he was able to do that. I have to give that member across the way some points for creativity. First it was Scott Brison's fault. Now it is Stephen Harper's fault.
I admit it was Stephen Harper's fault. Let me tell people why. The member got me on to another train of thought.
Back in the sponsorship scandal, the Liberal Party was never prosecuted, even though it admitted it received a million dollars of illegal money. It was funnelled in through what Judge Gomery called an “elaborate kickback scheme”. Harper was always just a wee bit suspicious about why no one in the Liberal Party got prosecuted for it. He thought that maybe it was because the attorney general was a Liberal politician and controlled prosecutions, so maybe we should make the prosecutor independent from the political process.
That is why we created in the Accountability Act the director of public prosecutions, a completely separate office wherein decisions to pursue prosecutions of federal crimes would be made with no politics involved. So independent is this office that the director cannot even be removed by the executive without a vote in the House of Commons. Therefore, the process for removing a director is the same as for other officers of Parliament. Therefore, Stephen Harper created this office in the Accountability Act and he said that the only way an attorney general could direct the DPP to change course in any prosecution was in writing.
The attorney general has to write it down and publish that direction in the Canada Gazette so every Canadian has the ability to see what direction the politicians are trying to give to the prosecutor. There are no more backroom deals. It is because of that act that the Prime Minister could not secretly exert pressure on the prosecutor and allow that political interference to go ahead.
Therefore, yes, it is Stephen Harper's fault. He is the one who brought in the Federal Accountability Act, the very first act of his government. Because of that, the current Prime Minister got caught once again trying to help his friends in trying to violate the rule of law.
Therefore, we can blame Stephen Harper for something and be truthful about it. I know he is devastated to learn that the Liberals are blaming him for all of their political heartache right now, but as much as they would like him to be to blame, all of the misery is self-inflicted. Nobody forced the Prime Minister to help is corporate friends. Nobody forced him to interfere 20 times with the former attorney general to try to get to her shelve a criminal prosecution of a Liberal-linked corporation. Nobody forced him.
Yes, the lobbyists were persuasive; yes, they were abundant; yes, they were crawling all over Parliament Hill pressuring Liberals around him, but the Prime Minister had a choice. He could have said no to the old Liberal way of doing things. He could have said no, but instead he did exactly what Liberals always do, which is to help friends in high places, the powerful insiders, the people behind the scenes who pull the strings. He made a decision to let them drive his agenda and he is now suffering the consequences for that decision right now. That is the core reality.
We hear the Liberal member on the other side heckling away about Stephen Harper. The problem the Liberals are having is that they refuse to take responsibility for their own conduct. If they were to do that, they might be able to heal the wound. However, by continually lashing out and blaming everybody under the sun for the Prime Minister's personal conduct, they only make their problems worse.
First Scott Brison was to blame, then the former attorney general was to blame and now we hear it is Stephen Harper. I am sure we will hear soon that the former Treasury Board president is to blame. Everyone is to blame except the Prime Minister for his own conduct. He is making others pay for his mistakes.
The Prime Minister should learn from the case before him, that people must be held responsible for their own conduct. That is the case for SNC-Lavalin as well. If he had recognized the principle of personal responsibility, he would have understood that this corporation should have to go to trial to own up for what it did and for the actions that it allegedly carried out in Libya, with fraud and bribery amounting to $130 million. Would it not have made more sense for the Prime Minister to hold this company to the standard of law rather than to the instincts of politics? I think we all agree now that if the Prime Minister had thought in those terms, he would not find himself today in the state of disgrace in which he is currently.
Here we are at a fork in the road. There is a decision to be made by the members across the way. Will they allow the investigation to run its course so the truth can be known and the players can be held to account or will they continue with the cover-up?
View Rachael Harder Profile
View Rachael Harder Profile
2019-03-20 15:38 [p.26225]
Madam Speaker, this is about a Prime Minister who wanted to do a favour for friends. He wanted to do a favour in the form of allowing them off the hook.
In order to do this favour for his friends, he first needed to strong-arm the former attorney general into doing the dirty work for him. She stood in his way, between the action of justice and the action of injustice, the action of maintaining integrity and the action of polluting our justice system.
The former attorney general faithfully stood in that passageway and she resisted the strong-arming movements of the Prime Minister, his attempt to manipulate her to facilitate his desire rather than uphold justice.
We are talking about the Prime Minister of Canada. This is a leader on the world stage. This is an individual in whom Canadians have placed a great deal of trust. This is an individual in whom we have placed the responsibility of guiding our country. Instead of stewarding this place of trust and responsibility, he has actually abused his position of power.
Why should Canadians care? They should care because the Prime Minister, when he ran for election, made a series of promises, and they were the right promises. He said that we needed to be open and honest. He promised his government would do that.
The Prime Minister promised he would let the light shine in, that he would be more open, more transparent. He said, “It is important that we acknowledge mistakes when we make them.”
At another time, in the former attorney general's mandate letter as the justice minister, he said, “ I expect you to ensure that our initiatives respect the Constitution of Canada, court decisions, and are in keeping with our proudest legal traditions.” He went on to say:
We have committed to an open, honest government that is accountable to Canadians, lives up to the highest ethical standards, and applies the utmost care and prudence in the handling of public funds. I expect you to embody these values in your work and observe the highest ethical standards in everything you do.
The Prime Minister asked his former attorney general to abide by these principles. She did; he did not. Now she is the one being silenced.
The Prime Minister, during his election run, also said this, “Sunny ways my friends, sunny ways. This is what positive politics can do.”
Those of us on the side of opposition are asking the Prime Minister to abide by his words “sunny ways”. Why are we not allowing the sun to shine in? Why are we not allowing the details to come forward? Why are we not giving the former attorney general of Canada the opportunity to share her story?
This matters to Canadians. In the same way they have the opportunity, I daresay the privilege, to elect their officials, they also have the responsibility to hold them accountable. Now, of course, those of us on the side of opposition share that responsibility with Canadians. We, too, will hold the government to account. We, too, will in fact insist that the truth be told, which to date, it has not been.
Let us look more closely at what happened, and to do so, let us look at a number of voices that have been shared. Starting with the former attorney general herself. She said:
For a period of approximately four months, between September and December of 2018, I experienced a consistent and sustained effort by many people within the government to seek to politically interfere in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in my role as the Attorney General of Canada in an inappropriate effort to secure a deferred prosecution agreement with SNC-Lavalin.
She went on to talk about multiple phone calls, multiple emails, multiple text messages, multiple meetings that were held to try to pressure her. She goes on to talk about veiled threats that were issued toward her. This all came out during her initial testimony to the committee.
She also said that the Prime Minister stressed that there was an election taking place in Quebec and that therefore she needed to do this. She needed to do the Prime Minister's dirty work. That is interesting.
What we have here is a case of sustained and inappropriate pressure. We have an issue of the Prime Minister actually bullying the former attorney general, trying to get her to do his dirty work. As a result, we know that the former attorney general was fired from her post as the attorney general and was moved into a different cabinet post, and then she eventually resigned from there.
The Prime Minister would try to convince Canadians that there were two different experiences and that her interpretation is simply wrong. However, why will we not legitimize her voice? Has the Prime Minister not advocated for all this time that we would listen to the women among us? In particular, I would hope that we would listen to the former attorney general of Canada, who, I might add, is the very first indigenous female attorney general that this country has seen. Why would we not listen to her voice? Why would we not give it weight?
When that did not work, the Prime Minister decided that he would try another excuse. He said that it had to do with protecting 9,000 jobs that exist within SNC-Lavalin, but we know now that is not true either. The CEO of the company has come forward and said that this is not the case at all and that he actually never said that to the Prime Minister.
Well, that is one voice, the former attorney general, and of course the Prime Minister has tried to squash her voice.
However, out came another voice, and that was the voice of Gerald Butts, the chief adviser to the Prime Minister. His voice said, “I quit”, and he walked out. That is interesting.
Then came another voice, the voice of the former president of the Treasury Board, and she too said, “I resign”, but she wrote a letter with her resignation. In her letter she said:
The solemn principles at stake are the independence and integrity of our justice system. It is a fundamental doctrine of the rule of law that our Attorney General should not be subjected to political pressure or interference regarding the exercise of her prosecutorial discretion in criminal cases. Sadly, I have lost confidence in how the government has dealt with this matter and in how it has responded to the issues raised.
She finished her letter by saying that “There can be a cost to acting on one’s principles, but there is a bigger cost to abandoning them.” She could not be more correct.
Now we have three voices in the mix, but then there was a fourth. The Clerk of the Privy Council also tendered his resignation.
Then just today the member for Whitby also resigned. She resigned and shared her story of also being bullied by the Prime Minister. She shared a story of the Prime Minister calling her up and yelling at her over the phone so loudly that her husband could overhear the entire conversation.
This does not speak of a Prime Minister who deeply cares about wanting to serve his country. This does not speak well of a Prime Minister claiming to be a feminist.
Let us look at this. He has three female members who have all resigned from their posts, who have left, who have shed light on the fact that the Prime Minister has mistreated them.
Let us look at another set of voices, shall we? Let us look at the media.
The media have said that “It's fair to say that it's a constitutional crisis.” A former judge said that in an article.
The former Ontario attorney general said that “It opens the door to prosecuting enemies of the government and giving immunity to its friends, which is despotic.”
The Toronto Star said that “It is going to be impossible to look at Justin Trudeau's government the same way again.”
The National Post said that “ sounded and felt like a death knell for the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau.”
There is plenty of commentary out there—
View Jenny Kwan Profile
View Jenny Kwan Profile
2019-03-18 19:41 [p.26140]
Mr. Speaker, in November, I was alerted to two troubling cases in which Syrian refugee families were targeted by the CRA for Canada child benefit clawbacks. We have long known that the government has failed to provide proper access to language training for the Syrian refugee cohort. We also know that in the government's struggle to find Syrian refugee families affordable, long-term housing, many families were moved around numerous times. As a result, many Syrian refugee families entered month 13 without having had access to the settlement services they needed to integrate into Canadian society during their first year here.
Despite all of this, the CRA had apparently deemed it reasonable to target these families. In at least two instances during the summer, refugee families were given short timelines to respond to CRA demands to prove eligibility for the CCB. Despite it being the summer, one family had to prove that their children were enrolled in school, which is a difficult task on a tight timeline when school is out. This was made more difficult by the family's lack of technical English knowledge.
As a result, one family did not respond quickly enough, and the CRA billed them $27,000. Thankfully, the family's private sponsorship group found out and were able to help the family clear things up. This allowed the group to intervene in advance to prevent a second targeted family from being billed.
The CRA has long been accused of only targeting so-called “low-hanging fruit” for audits and clawbacks, but this is a new low.
The use of tax havens, tax-law loopholes and aggressive tax avoidance schemes result in fat cat CEOs and wealthy international corporations failing to pay their fair share every single year. The stock option loophole allows the wealthiest executives to drain over $1 billion from federal and provincial budgets. Federal and provincial governments lose an estimated $7.8 billion through wealthy corporations hiding their profits in offshore tax havens.
The paradise papers and the Panama papers provide the compelling details of the aggressive tax avoidance that is well entrenched in Canada, yet the CRA has done little to address the issues presented there. Instead, it goes after refugee families.
Whether it is ignoring the issues of aggressive tax avoidance by the wealthiest among us, paying billions for a 65-year-old leaky pipeline to bail out a Texas oil company or putting backroom pressure on the former attorney general to go easy on SNC, this Liberal government has made it abundantly clear whose side it is on: the rich, the powerful, the well-connected.
The Liberals are not here to make life better or more affordable for average everyday Canadians. The Liberal government gave the CRA $1 billion to tackle tax fraud and avoidance, and this is how it is being spent.
Budget 2019 gives the government one last chance to live up to its own rhetoric. Will the government use this opportunity to finally ensure that the wealthiest in this country pay their fair share, or will it be more of the same, where working-class and middle-class Canadians, including recently settled refugees, are targeted by the CRA to fund more corporate cash giveaways?
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2019-03-18 19:45 [p.26141]
Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to ensuring that Canadians receive the benefits and credits to which they are entitled. This commitment includes seeing that new Canadians have the information they require to understand the benefits and credits for which they may qualify as well as their tax obligations. The CRA is working hard to deliver services that make tax filing accessible and to ensure that the system is fair.
Members can appreciate, I am sure, that for newcomers to Canada, there is a lot to learn as they get settled in a new country. It is with this understanding that the CRA is part of a multi-departmental effort to provide information to refugees on tax filing and benefit entitlements upon their arrival in Canada. The CRA works closely with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to ensure that all benefit-related questions are answered and also aims to quickly resolve any problematic cases that arise. I know that some of the most rewarding work we do in our constituency office is helping those who have been wrongfully denied the benefits they are owed.
The CRA's work does not stop there, though. It is important to ensure that newcomers know about the benefits they may be eligible for, such as the Canada child benefit, the goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax credit, and provincial and territorial programs. However, it is most important that newcomers understand that it is by filing their tax returns, even in cases where they have no income, that they can access credits and benefits for which they may be eligible. This is why the CRA actively promotes the awareness of benefits to newcomers through various information materials and in-person outreach activities.
The community volunteer income tax program is a CRA program that supports community organizations and their volunteers in hosting tax preparation clinics, where modest-income individuals, including newcomers, can have their taxes done for free. Indeed, we offer this service. One of my staff members, Betty MacDonald, in Antigonish, actually does this as part of the CRA volunteer program.
The CRA has produced a number of promotional and information materials for newcomers in various languages that are digital and paper based. Designed for a broad audience, these products include a newcomers fact sheet, a newcomers promotional card, a newcomers poster and an eight-part video series entitled “Newcomers to Canada and the Canadian Tax System”.
Having the materials available is one thing, but making sure that the information reaches the people who need it is another. It is why the CRA works with Canada's vast immigrant services network, including outreach through national, provincial, regional and community organizations, to share products and information.
Budget 2018 provided additional funding to the CRA to increase its outreach activities and the reach of the program I described earlier to help more vulnerable individuals access the benefits and credits designed to support them.
In addition to making sure that people have access to the services they need, the CRA is supportive of Canadians seeking to comply with their tax obligations. It provides newcomers with information, in a multitude of languages, to understand what is required of them and to help them settle into a new life in Canada.
I will note, in particular, that the hon. member raised certain concerns about tax loopholes for wealthy corporations. We have put forward a number of measures, particularly in our last federal budget, to combat this kind of activity to ensure that our tax system is fair, helps those in need and makes sure that those who are eligible for certain benefits receive them in a timely way.
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