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View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
It’s simple: no one is above the law. It’s a fundamental principle in Canada. The obligation to ensure ethical standards for all parliamentarians is the role of this committee. Mr. Dion’s report is clear: Mr. Trudeau broke Canadian law. He set up a plan to undermine the role of the former attorney general of Canada to help his friends at SNC-Lavalin. It’s not acceptable in Canada for the Prime Minister's Office to be an open bar for lobbyists. We have an obligation to abide by the codes and ethics of the Parliament of Canada.
Mr. Chair, it is my understanding that Mr. Dion is ready to speak. Is that correct?
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
He reports to our committee. He's an officer of Parliament and, as an officer of Parliament, his job is to ensure that every parliamentarian meets the highest ethical code. When you are the Prime Minister of this country you are expected to meet the highest ethical code. We have the commissioner ready to speak and to respond to the report, as his normal function is to come to our committee and present that report.
We need to hear from Mr. Dion because to have the Prime Minister of the country found guilty of breaking the law to aid very powerful people by writing a piece of legislation that existed only for that company—it was written for one purpose, to give them a “get out of jail” card—and then by having a campaign involving so many key people in the Liberal government to put pressure on the Attorney General and the independent prosecutor, this is not acceptable.
Either we have the rule of law in this country or we don't. That is the fundamental question. For the Prime Minister to invoke the Mark Zuckerberg defence, which is “Hey, thanks a lot for finding me guilty. I'm just going to blow you off....” Mark Zuckerberg may get away with that because he lives in another jurisdiction and he is a gazillionaire, but Justin Trudeau cannot blow off the Ethics Commissioner of Canada. If he wants to do that, then he needs to come back and bring in a law that says he's no longer bound by any laws. However, right now he is bound by the Conflict of Interest Act and he's been found guilty.
We see there is a pattern of interference by his office and the Privy Council, which prevented nine potential witnesses from giving testimony. We need to know who those nine witnesses were. We need to know how extensive the interference in and the obstruction of the work of the Ethics Commissioner was, because the Ethics Commissioner reports to us. It is our job to go back to Parliament whenever there is a problem with lobbying, with the work of the Privacy Commissioner, the work of the Information Commissioner or the work of the Ethics Commissioner. When their work is being interfered with for political purposes, it is our job to put our partisanship aside and say that we have to have a standard that all parliamentarians meet and the Prime Minister has failed to meet this.
Mr. Chair, you have the power to ask the commissioner to report to us. I'd like to see you exercise that. He has to report to us. This is his job. Any attempt by the Liberals to stop that will be continuing a pattern of interference in and obstruction of the fundamental principles of the parliamentary system.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
Mr. Chair, I have a point of order.
The justice committee shut down their study. If the Liberal members want to have Anne McLellan, they can go back to the justice committee. This is about the ethics committee. To bring in the report of Anne McLellan, a former Liberal, go back to the justice committee that you shut down. This is about the ethics committee and Mr. Dion's report.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.
This is all fine, but we're talking about a specific report. The only job that is referenced as being at risk in the report is where the Prime Minister said he was speaking as the MP for Papineau.
Since Mr. Morneau had no evidence of job losses, I would ask my colleague why he's making up facts now when we're talking about a factual finding of guilt against a Prime Minister who improperly used his position to further the interests of a very powerful corporation. That is the issue before us, not this spin and falsehood about jobs that has been proven to be false by the Ethics Commissioner.
If the member has evidence that wasn't supplied to the Ethics Commissioner—perhaps from one of the nine witnesses who were not allowed to testify, who might know all about these jobs—I'd ask him to put it on the table, or spare us these Liberal talking points that have been proven to be false and that continue the falsehoods of the Prime Minister.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
I have a point of clarification. I have great respect for my honourable colleague. I worked with him for four years. He's very complex. I just need to hear whether he is voting against or voting for having Mr. Dion speak to our committee. I just need to clarify that.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I left home at 5 a.m. yesterday morning to catch my flight here. Ms. May comes from a little farther west than Thunder Bay. I know you come from some place out in the far west.
This has been a fascinating discussion, but it has taken 81 minutes of our meeting. I am here to hear from Mr. Dion and we have good arguments. If Mr. Erskine-Smith puts his arguments, I'd rather they be put to Mr. Dion than to me, and I'd rather that Mr. Poilievre put his questions to Mr. Dion than to the Liberals, so I would ask that we get down to the business at hand and have Mr. Dion speak because we're running out of time.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you.
I just wanted to get it on the record so we could stop beating around the bush, because we knew with the appearance of our friend, the former head of the Liberal Party, at our committee for the first time in four years, this was going to be a whipped vote, and they were going to let our friend Erskine-Smith off the hook because he's from Beaches and he's a nice guy. They did the math. He had to explain why he was more than willing to shadow box with the Ethics Commissioner. I'm glad that at least we have it clear now.
I'd like to bring my motion forward because there are a lot of witnesses that I think need to be heard.
Do you want me to read out the motion?
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
It reads, first, that the committee invite the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion to present his findings of the “Trudeau II Report”, which I think has been cancelled out by the committee vote.
Therefore, I move:
That the Committee invite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister of Finance Bill Morneau, and senior adviser to the Prime Minister and former Chief of Staff to the Minister of Finance, Ben Chin, on account of their intimate connection to the matters at the heart of the report; And that the Committee invite the Clerk of the Privy Council to appear to explain his decision to not share critical Cabinet confidences with the Commissioner, who felt that his investigation was hampered by the refusal.
Why is this important? It's because we saw throughout this whole scandal the Liberals shut down the justice committee and not hear from other witnesses. They shut down the ethics committee and the Prime Minister stood in the House day after day and stated that they were going to work with and trust the Ethics Commissioner. What we've learned from this report is very disturbing because we actually now know that this plan to tailor-make a law.... Now, Mr. Erskine-Smith is a lawyer and I didn't go to law school, but from watching all of my law shows on TV, can you write your own laws if you're the defendant? Well, apparently if you're really powerful, yes, you can.
Who fixes it for you? According to the evidence Mr. Dion has brought forward, very early on in the new government the Prime Minister met with the CEO of SNC-Lavalin and they discussed writing a law to get them a get-out-of-jail card. It was the Prime Minister who began the direction. That's one of the reasons we need to hear from Prime Minister Trudeau. Why is that important? It is because the Liberal line out there is, “Hey, it hasn't hurt us in the polls, so who cares?” Well, I hear from people all the time about this, people who are appalled that the Prime Minister could break his word so easily to Canadians.
The Prime Minister said he was going to be open and transparent. I think of the promise the Prime Minister made to the people of Grassy Narrows. I've been in Grassy Narrows. I've seen children suffering from Minamata disease and I saw the Prime Minister say that his government would clean that up once and for all—and he did squat. Actually, he did something else. He made fun of Grassy Narrows at a gathering of his rich, elite friends. Now if only Grassy Narrows had lobbyists, they could say, “We want this fixed”. How much would fixing the health centre at Grassy Narrows cost a government that is this powerful? It's chump change, it's peanuts, yet in four years he couldn't move to help children suffering from mercury contamination.
However, after the CEO of SNC-Lavalin said, “Hey, we want a get-out-of-jail card”, the Liberals over there now have the gall to tell us that he only ever cared about the public interest, that he only cared about jobs, that there were 9,000 jobs at stake. When we look at the report, we would think that it was the responsibility of the finance minister of this country, Bill Morneau from the famous Morneau Shepell. If they cared about jobs, they would have cared about Sears workers, but no, the Sears workers are now being looked after by the family company Morneau Shepell.
If it were 9,000 jobs, you would have thought they would have done due diligence. This is what shocked me. With Bill Morneau, I thought, “Okay, the guy wears very expensive suits and surely to God he knows how to run a business if he's really concerned about 9,000 jobs.” They wouldn't pull that number out of thin air, and yet the report shows that they had done nothing to prove this. My Liberal colleagues say it is actually the role of the justice department, that it should have been Jody Wilson-Raybould who undertook an assessment of the impacts.
Again, I didn't go to law school so I ask, when you're the defendant, do you expect the prosecutor to have the responsibility of figuring out what it's going to cost if you get charged and convicted? What's the cost to the economy? Say you're a businessman and you're a corrupt businessman, is it the responsibility of the Attorney General to do a cost analysis? Well, I guess it only is if you're powerful enough to have the law written for you.
Let's just go through some of the questions that were really concerning.
Why do we need Bill Morneau here? I know I've been sort of picking on Bill, but what really shocks me is that Bill Morneau flies to Davos, Switzerland to meet with the head of SNC-Lavalin—a week after the so-called public consultation period on the SNC deferred prosecution agreement, a specific get out of jail card is given—and Bill Morneau tells the Ethics Commissioner he doesn't remember what they talked about. He doesn't remember that he flew to Davos, Switzerland to see the head of SNC-Lavalin and doesn't remember what they talked about. That's a month before this get out of jail card was slipped into an omnibus piece of legislation, and Bill Morneau doesn't remember that. This is what we're talking about here—the fact that they were able to write a law, a specific law, to help SNC in a specific case to get off its charges.
Now, we learn from this report that once this law was put in, Ms. Wilson-Raybould was very concerned as the Attorney General that this law had been rushed because it was a law for one company for one case. She tried to distance herself from it. Why? She felt it would compromise her. I would love to have heard from Mr. Dion about this, but obviously we're not going to be allowed. The fact is that the Attorney General had raised concerns that a law was being implemented without proper due regard for the fact that a law must represent the interests of all Canadians. It cannot be written tailor-made for the defendant.
Mr. Morneau again appears to interfere in this process when Ben Chin starts calling the Attorney General's office. Ben Chin says that the company's perception is that the process of negotiating a remediation agreement is taking too long. Oh my God, it must be really hard to be so powerful as to be able to write your own laws and then say, hey, how come we're not off the hook yet? So they phone the Attorney General's office to say, speed it up. Jessica Prince responds to Ben Chin that he is really close to being far over the line on the improper interference in the independence of the judiciary. That report is made available to Bill Morneau, and Bill Morneau tells the Ethics Commissioner that he doesn't remember seeing it. I mean, poor Bill. How could you have such a dodgy memory if you have to have so many facts and numbers and jobs? You can't remember that you've been told by your chief of staff that you are improperly interfering in an independent prosecution investigation. You know, when you speak to the Ethics Commissioner, you are under oath.
Is Bill Morneau truthful that he doesn't remember the key meeting in Davos, Switzerland, that he doesn't remember what they talked about, that he doesn't remember receiving that email from his chief of staff that he was improperly advising? I can't believe that Bill Morneau didn't know that this concern had been raised. I would like to ask Bill Morneau why he told the Ethics Commissioner he never read it. It says one of two things: either Mr. Morneau is incompetent, or Mr. Morneau is not telling the truth to the Ethics Commissioner. Each of those is very troubling.
We know the Liberals have told us that they got a report from Anne McLellan and everything would be rosy if we just followed that. Well, everything would be rosy as is, because you don't have to change the rules to stop interference in the independent prosecution; you just have to respect the rules. That's what the Liberals don't understand. Justin Trudeau doesn't believe the law of the land applies to him. We don't need a new report to say anything about the independence of the prosecutorial system in our country. It is established. It is based on a principle, and that principle is that you don't cross that line.
I'm amazed at how many people were involved in this. This is where Ben Chin needs to talk. Why in God's name was Ben Chin calling the Attorney General's office demanding that they start to move more quickly on getting their pals at SNC-Lavalin off the hook? Who gave him that authority? They were discussing this agreement with industry, the Treasury Board, procurement, and not once with the Attorney General's office, so when Ms. Wilson-Raybould read the report, she said she was very surprised at the extent of the interference. There was a whole pattern, of everybody. It was all hands on deck in the Liberal Party. They all knew. They were all involved, and they were all breaking the law of Canada because Justin Trudeau told them to break the law, because Justin Trudeau said, “Hey, I'm the MP for Papineau and there's going to be an election soon.” Bouchard said, “Yeah, laws are great, but we have to get re-elected.”
We have my Liberal colleagues putting the falsehood out that he was concerned about jobs. I think Mr. Erskine-Smith, whom I have great respect for—I don't like his shoes, but everything else I have great respect for—just told us that it was perfectly okay for the MP for Papineau to stand up for his region, just like Mr. Erskine-Smith would stand up for issues in his region and just like I stand up for jobs in my region. The difference is that I am a single member of Parliament, a backbencher. I am not the Prime Minister of this country, so I can stand up and say, hey, I need to help jobs in my riding. That's part of my job. That's part of Mr. Erskine-Smith's job, but the Prime Minister can't say, “I have an election up ahead. I have to get re-elected, and you have to rewrite me a law.”
Correct me if I'm wrong, but when Jim Flaherty was the finance minister, I think I was the one who went after him over the fact that he had written a letter in support of a business while he was finance minister. Mr. Flaherty said he was acting as a local MP and that was his job. They ruled that you cannot do that as a finance minister, because you have so much extra power, a power that Mr. Erskine-Smith or Madame Fortier or I don't have. That's the difference.
That's what the Conflict of Interest Act is based on. The higher up you are in terms of political power, the more responsibilities you have. So when Justin Trudeau says that he is the MP for Papineau and has to defend his patch, he is already breaking the Conflict of Interest Act and furthering someone else's interest.
Having been on this committee for a number of years, I note Mr. Erskine-Smith's belief that you can only claim that financial interest is a personal financial interest—that if someone gives you money, you are advancing their interest. This has been a long-standing debate in terms of the role of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner—what defines interest. Mary Dawson, our previous one, was much more vague about this, and certainly when there were issues of people paying money into a riding association, she was saying, is that direct or indirect?
Mr. Dion has given us a ruling, and that ruling is that the Prime Minister was furthering the financial interest of SNC-Lavalin, not furthering the interest of thousands of jobs and not furthering the interest of the Canadian people. If the Liberals believed he was wrong, they would have let him speak, but they're not letting him speak. They have shut him down. They have shut down our committee. They've obstructed the work of our committee, so we have to go to other witnesses, which is another reason why Mr. Trudeau is very essential to this.
One of the most staggering statements I found in Mr. Dion's report is that we have an SNC lawyer, Mr. Prichard, talking to the former president of the Treasury Board about the case that Ms. Wilson-Raybould was overseeing. Mr. Prichard states:
We are also considering other ways to make it easier for the Minister to engage and reverse the [Director of Public Prosecutions'] decision. In the end, however, it will take a deliberate decision from the center....
That there, my friends, is collusion. That there is conspiracy, and that there is the lawyer for SNC-Lavalin phoning the head of the Treasury Board and saying they are going to corrupt the decision of the Attorney General and “make it easier” for them to overturn this, but it's going to come from the centre. Who is the centre? The centre is the Prime Minister of this country, Justin Trudeau, who in that moment is involved in the collusion and conspiracy to undermine the rule of law in this country. That's why the Liberals voted against Mr. Dion presenting his report, because once that's on the record, all other questions become much less important.
Then out of this is that Ms. Wilson-Raybould seems to have done her job. She was told that it would be extraordinary, unprecedented for her to bring other people in. The idea that Beverley McLachlin should be brought in was cooked up by SNC's lawyer, who is a former Supreme Court justice, who then reached out to another former Supreme Court justice to get an opinion.
In Canada, we trust the independence of the Supreme Court. We believe these people are representing our interests, but when you're SNC-Lavalin, you can hire someone from the Supreme Court and he'll phone one of his buddies on the Supreme Court and they'll get you a tailor-made opinion, and then they'll go to Beverley McLachlin. Did anyone tell Beverley McLachlin, “Listen, Jody Wilson's not playing ball here. We need you to give us something so that we can put pressure on her”? As I said, this lady was not for turning. She did not give into it because, knowing that the law had been written specifically for SNC, she was concerned that if she acted, it would have compromised her role as the Attorney General of this country. That was what she said, which leads me to the other reason we need to hear from Justin Trudeau.
Mr. Dion's report states that when Mr. Trudeau's attempt was thwarted, he set out to professionally discredit the Attorney General of Canada. We know this from seeing how, when this became public, one story after another was leaked by the Liberal war machine painting Ms. Wilson-Raybould as troublesome and as taking orders from her father. What a diminution of the role of a woman attorney general. There was one attack after another. They actually lined up a whole bunch of the Liberal caucus to go out to the cameras and trash Jody Wilson's reputation, to blame her, to say that she was a troublemaker, that she didn't play well with others, that she wasn't good enough because she wouldn't go along.
The Prime Minister has said it's really important to be open and to be feminist, but you have to play ball. She didn't play ball, and it says here in the report that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attempted to discredit her. I think it's staggering that if you're standing up for the rule of law in this country, they will orchestrate a campaign to trash your reputation. That needs accountability.
I would have preferred to ask Mr. Dion about this directly, because Mr. Dion is not making these statements out of thin air. He's making them on the evidence he found, and we don't have access to him to hear him speak because the Liberals are obstructing this, just as they obstructed everything else. That is what got them into trouble, but we could ask Mr. Trudeau.
Finally, Mr. Chair, I just want to end on the issue of obstruction, which we've seen today and which has been the pattern, as everybody in the media has been saying would happen because you can see the pattern of obstruction. What's very shocking is that nine witnesses were blocked from giving testimony, nine witnesses were denied having access to speak to the Ethics Commissioner. The Ethics Commissioner should have been allowed to come to our committee because it is our job to be the oversight committee for the Ethics Commissioner, and if someone is interfering with the work of an ethics investigation, that needs to be reported to Parliament. The problem is that it's the Prime Minister of the country who is being investigated. As I said earlier, the principle of the Conflict of Interest Act and the code and the lobbying code is that the more powerful you are, the higher your standard of ethical accountability must be.
You can be a newbie MP and make a mistake and you can get into trouble, but there's a difference when you're the Prime Minister of this country. Why did they interfere? They claim cabinet confidence. Well, obviously cabinet confidence didn't mean all that much when Jody Wilson-Raybould was meeting Gerry Butts and SNC was pretty much sitting under the table and listening in. They didn't seem to think cabinet confidence meant diddly-squat then. They silenced Ms. Wilson-Raybould. They silenced Jane Philpott's ability to speak. They've attempted to use cabinet confidence to interfere with the work of the Ethics Commissioner. If this stands, then what the Prime Minister's Office is saying is that he is above the law of the land because the only law that applies to the Prime Minister is the Conflict of Interest Act. If you're going to use the power of the Prime Minister's Office to forbid the Ethics Commissioner from gathering evidence, then he can't do his job.
We need to find out. I would like to ask Justin Trudeau what he meant when he said, well, we don't want to create any “troublesome” precedents. Well, yeah, I bet. When you're under investigation, it's troublesome. It's the same when you're the defendant—and my colleague Mr. Erskine-Smith can correct me if I'm wrong because I did not go to law school—because my understanding is that generally the defendant doesn't get to write the law. The defendant doesn't get to call the prosecutor's office and say, “Hey, speed it up and get me off the hook. I'm important”. That's not how it works.
SNC, as the defendant, should not be allowed to write its own laws. And the Prime Minister, as the person under investigation, does not and should not have the right to obstruct the investigation because he finds it troublesome.
Since they're so concerned about Mr. Dion being able to testify about what he found, I would say that if we are not allowed to hear from the commissioner who reports to our committee and we're being obstructed on this, then the reasonable thing would be to have Mr. Chin come, because he got promoted, didn't he? For all his interference with the independence of the prosecution, he got promoted.
Gerry Butts is back on the campaign bus, so obviously they're all laughing and slapping each other on the back, because breaking laws is what Liberals are doing and they're getting away with it.
The Prime Minister needs to come because he's the one who said, “Yes, thanks for the report finding me guilty, but whatever, I'm carrying on”, as should Bill Morneau, the man with the amazing disappearing memory. On that, I do remember that Bill Morneau forgot he owned a villa in the south of France, so I guess it's possible. Who among us has not forgotten that we own a villa in the south of France?
Frank, I know, a couple of times you just dropped it and never even mentioned it, and then it was like, “Oh yes, geez, I can't remember where I put my keys.” So maybe he flew to Davos to meet with the head of SNC-Lavalin just prior to this omnibus legislation and maybe he forgot. But maybe he didn't, and that's why Mr. Morneau needs to testify before our committee.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
On a point of clarification, he just attacked me. Tell him to stop.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you.
I want to address a few things. First, I want to remind my colleague Mr. Erskine-Smith that actually we are an investigative body here. We have subpoenaed evidence, we've issued summonses, and we've seized documents. We have been more than willing at this committee to use the force we have, but the fundamental job we have is to have the officers of Parliament report to us, and today the Liberals voted not to allow the Ethics Commissioner to present his report.
One of the other officers of Parliament who report to us is the lobbying commissioner. We've had very little relationship with Madame Bélanger, the new commissioner, but the previous commissioner, Karen Shepherd, was an extraordinary force for accountability, and I'm hoping Madame Bélanger will do the same thing. I have written to her because I am very concerned.
Something we've raised numerous times as the New Democratic Party is the problem with the difference between the conflict of interest obligations and the Lobbying Act. How is it possible that the Prime Minister can be found to be privately furthering the interests of a corporation, yet that corporation is not found to have been improperly lobbying or vice versa? We've had situations where the Lobbying Act has been ruled against individual lobbyists but not against the public office holder.
I really think it's important for Madame Bélanger to investigate, given that we have not been able to get answers from Mr. Dion because the Liberals have obstructed his speaking. However, the pattern of intense lobbying that involved writing an actual law while they were the defendant is very concerning. The Lobbying Act is clear. You cannot put a public office holder in a conflict of interest or in a compromised position, and that's what was being done, right down to the statement that they needed the power “from the center” to put that pressure on to force Ms. Wilson-Raybould to change her mind. The issue of lobbying is something that we really need to deal with.
I want to go to Ms. May's point about the international implications. I think this is very important, and I'm really glad that she framed it in this manner. The idea that this was about Canadian jobs and Canadian pensions is ridiculous when we see the pattern of corruption and bribery charges that have been brought against SNC-Lavalin in jurisdiction after jurisdiction. To be barred by the World Bank, you have to be pretty bad. We're dealing with a lot of jurisdictions where the rule of law is very tepid, to say the least. The allegations that have come out of Libya are shocking, and Canada has to have international credibility that we believe in the rule of law. To that end, we now know that the OECD anti-bribery unit is putting the Trudeau government on watch because they've seen how this government has attempted to shut down the SNC-Lavalin investigation.
I agree with Ms. May that what we're looking at here is not about the jobs of individual Canadians, because the construction work has to be done. They are bidding on projects that many companies are bidding on in Canada. This is certainly going to be about some very powerful people, going back 20 years at least, who are very tied to both the Liberals and the previous Conservative government.
Do I mention Arthur Porter here? Here was a man who ended his days in a Panamanian jail. He was given a position by former prime minister Harper to oversee CSIS. That's the power of these people. In terms of Arthur Porter's involvement with the McGill hospital scandal, those court cases still have to come, but the international implications of Canada's shutting down an investigation into one of their own companies, which has been found to be involved in corruption and bribery internationally, make Canada a country that is not credible on the international rule of law. That is what the OECD anti-bribery unit has announced. It's why they are investigating.
What we are witnessing today is the obstruction of a committee, forbidding an officer of Parliament from doing his job, which is to report to a committee on a finding of guilt against a prime minister of Canada for furthering the interests of a corporation facing corruption and bribery charges. This is a company that has been barred around the world because of its repeated violations. This is very serious, and we can see the power they have.
It is the corrosive power of the one per cent to be able to call the Prime Minister's Office to say, “We want you to write us a law.” It is the corrosive power of the one per cent to get a former Supreme Court justice as their lawyer, and then to have him call another Supreme Court justice to say, “We need your help. Give us legal advice.” They were undermining the Attorney General of this country.
I don't know if I need to point it out, but Mr. Iacobucci, of whom I think Mr. Wernick said that he was no shrinking violet.... They wanted to please him. They wanted to keep him happy, yet he is representing a defendant against the Government of Canada and he has also been chosen by the Liberal government to be the key point person on the Trans Mountain consultations.
How can you be so incestuous with the powerful and the rich that you could have someone who is fighting Canada in court also calling the Prime Minister's Office saying, “Hey, I want you to change the law so I don't have to go to court, and by the way, I will be your voice in negotiations with one of the most important factors”, which is the first nation consultations on the pipeline expansion.
Clearly, if this goes to court, a lot of very politically powerful people are implicated. That's what the Prime Minister was concerned about, because if the Prime Minister was concerned about people's jobs, he would have done something for the Sears workers. He did nothing. He would have done something for the auto workers in Oshawa. He did nothing. However, when it came to the rich and powerful who were connected to SNC, who have been found in many jurisdictions to be involved in some reprehensible behaviour.... Building torture prisons for Gadhafi and making money out of that is not acceptable. There are international implications.
This is why I want the Prime Minister to come to explain why he was so apprised, from the get-go, of passing this law. It is not just something that's going to get shut down in the short term because the Liberals have to get to an election. This is going to be a stench that hangs over Canada's international reputation if SNC is allowed to have that much power to interfere in the independence of the prosecution system of this country.
We have to have the rule of law. We have to be able to show it because we are a country that is involved around the world and we cannot be seen, in any manner, to be favouring our own corporations over the rule of law and their obligations to meet the highest standards of ethics and legality around the world, whether it's in Montreal at the McGill hospital, in Bangladesh or in Libya. All corporations must have respect for the rule of law, and the Prime Minister must have respect for the rule of law.
What we've seen here, and what we are seeing today, is that they don't have respect for the rule of law. To them, it's about helping the rich and powerful. That is the corrosive power of the one per cent, and that's what has to be called out.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair. You've been an excellent chair these past four years. I want to thank you for being non-partisan and keeping everybody on the straight and narrow. I have enormous respect for your work.
I have enormous respect for Ms. Raitt, but I have to vote against this in the strongest terms.
We cannot use our power as parliamentarians to target journalists. We cannot demand that journalists turn over evidence. We cannot demand that journalists testify before us. That is not the role of our committee. The role of our committee is to hold parliamentarians to account, not journalists. Sometimes they don't write the nicest things about me. I can't bring them forward and ask them why; that's their role. There has to be a strong separation between the role of journalism and the role of parliamentarians, and that's our committee's role.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I was talking to my friend at Apple about how I bought my first Mac Plus in 1984 with a little 350k floppy disk, and I saw it as a revolutionary tool that was going to change the world for the better. I still think it has changed the world for the better, but we are seeing some really negative impacts.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
Now that I'm aging myself, back in the eighties, imagine if Bell Telephone listened in on my phone. They would be charged. What if they said, “Hey, we're just listening in on your phone because we want to offer you some really nifty ideas, and we'll have a better way to serve you if we know what you're doing”? What if the post office read my mail before I got it, not because they were doing anything illegal but because there might be some really cool things that I might want to know and they would be able to help me? They would be charged.
Yet in the digital realm, we're now dealing with companies that are giving us all these nifty options. This was where my colleague Mr. Erskine-Smith was trying to get some straight answers.
I think that as legislators, we're really moving beyond this talk about consent. Consent has become meaningless if we are being spied on, if we're being watched and if our phone is tracking us. Consent is becoming a bogus term, because it's about claiming space in our lives that we have not given. If we had old school rules, you would not be able to listen in on our phones and not be able to track us without our rights, yet suddenly it's okay in the digital realm.
Mr. Davidson, I'm really interested in the work that Mozilla does.
Is it possible, do you think, for legislators to put some principled ground rules down about the privacy rights of citizens that will not completely destroy Silicon Valley and they will not all be going on welfare and the business model will still be able to succeed. Is it possible for us to put simple rules down?
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
I love it when someone agrees with me.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you.
Some of the concerns we've been looking at are in trying to get our heads around AI. This is the weaponization of digital media. AI could have a very positive role, or it could have a very negative role.
Mr. Ryland, certainly Amazon has really moved heavily in terms of AI. However, Amazon has also been noted as a company with 21st century innovation and 19th century labour practices.
With regard to the allegations that workers were being monitored right down to the level of being fired by AI tracking, is that the policy of Amazon?
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
It was a pretty famous article about Amazon. It said that right down to the seconds, the workers were being monitored by AI, and those who were too slow were being fired.
I may be old school, but I would think that this would be illegal under the labour laws in our country. That is apparently how AI is being used in the fulfillment centres. That, to me, is a very problematic misuse of AI. Are you not aware of that?
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
It was a pretty damning article, and it was covered in many international papers.
Would you be able to get back to our committee and get us a response?
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
I don't want to put you on the spot here, but I'd rather get a response on this. I think we would certainly want to get a sense of Amazon's perspective on how it uses AI in terms of the monitoring of the workers within the fulfillment centres. If you could get that to our committee, it would be very helpful.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
I'm sorry, Chair, but can I just make a point of order?
I want us to be really clear. When you're speaking before a committee, that's like speaking before a court. It's not about your consent to be recorded or that you think you may be recorded. This is a legal parliamentary process, so of course you're being recorded. To suggest that it's the same as Alexa selling you a thing in Barbados is ridiculous, and it undermines our Parliament.
I would just remind the witnesses that we are here to document for the international legislative community, and this will be on an official record.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you very much.
Diapers.com was an online business selling diapers in this competitive market that Amazon says is out there. Jeff Bezos wanted to buy it. They refused, so Amazon went to predatory pricing. Amazon was losing $100 million on diapers every three months to put a competitor out of business or to force them to sell. They finally agreed, because they were afraid Amazon would drop prices even lower.
We talk about antitrust because of the “kill zone” of innovation that The Economist is talking about, but with Amazon, it's the kill zone of competition—the power that you have through all of your platforms to drive down prices and actually put people out of business. Shaoul Sussman says that the predatory pricing practices of Amazon are antitrust in nature and need legislation.
What do you say?
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
Yes, so you've got all the people to use your cloud services and then you can drive down prices against mom and pop. Lena Kahn, from Open Markets, says that because you are controlling so much market dominance in so many various areas, you can use your profits from the cloud to run predatory pricing and to run down competition. She says that your “structure and conduct pose anticompetitive concerns—yet it has escaped antitrust scrutiny”.
This is an issue that I think legislators need to think about. We see that in Canada one of the great advantages you have is that you're not paying taxes the way our poorest businesses have to. In the U.K., you made 3.35 billion pounds and paid only only 1.8 million pounds in taxable income. I mean, you're like our biggest welfare case on the planet if you're getting that.
In the U.S., it's even better. You made $11 billion in profits and you got a $129-million rebate. You were actually paying a negative 1% tax rate. That seems to me to be an extraordinary advantage. I don't know of any company that wouldn't want to get a rebate rather than pay taxes—or any citizen.
How is it that we have a marketplace where you can undercut any competitor and you can undercut any book publisher and you're not even properly paying taxes? Don't you think that it's at least our job to rein you guys in and make sure that we have some fair rules in the marketplace?
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
Yes, that's unfortunate. I mean, this is why our chair asked that we get people who would be able to answer questions, because these are the questions that as legislators we need to have answered. We're dealing in this new age, and your colleagues at Facebook have put us in this situation. If Facebook had better corporate practices, we might not even be paying attention, but we're having to pay attention. If Amazon was not engaged in such anti-competitive practices, we might think that the free market was great, but it's not great right now, and you can't answer those questions for us.
It puts us in a bind, because as legislators we're asking for answers. What's a fair taxation rate? How do we ensure competition in the marketplace? How do we ensure that we don't have predatory pricing that is deliberately driving down prices and putting businesses—our businesses— out of business because you have such market dominance and you can't answer the question? It leaves us very confused. Should we call Alexa or Siri? Would they help?
Voices: Oh, oh!
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you to our two excellent chairs. Thank you to our witnesses.
I think we have seen something extraordinary. I've been very proud of the Canadian Parliament and our willingness to be part of this process.
There's been some extraordinary testimony in terms of the quality of questions, and I've been very proud to be part of it. Two extraordinary facts are that we have never in my 15 years ever worked across party lines on pretty much anything, and yet we came together. Also, we have never, ever worked across international lines. We can thank a Canadian whistle-blower, Christopher Wylie, who opened the door to the digital Chernobyl that was happening around us.
As politicians, we stay away from complex technical things. They frighten us. We don't have the expertise, so we tend to avoid them, which I think was a great advantage for Silicon Valley for many years.
These things are not all that technical. I think what we've done these last two days with our international colleagues—and what we will continue to do internationally—is to make it as simple and clear as possible to restore the primacy of the person in the realm of big data. Privacy is a fundamental human right that will be protected. Legislators have an obligation and a duty to protect the democratic principles of our country, such as free expression and the right to participate in the digital realm without growing extremism. These are fundamental principles on which our core democracies have been founded. It's no different in the age of the phone than it was in the age of handwritten letters.
I want to thank my colleagues for being part of this. I think we came out of this a lot stronger than we went in, and we will come out even further. We want to work with the tech companies to ensure that the digital realm is a democratic realm in the 21st century.
Thank you all.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
Being the only New Democrat, as The Clash would say, should I stay or should I go?
Voices: Oh, oh!
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