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Results: 61 - 75 of 161
View Cheryl Gallant Profile
Mr. Speaker, it is with overwhelming confidence, which was given to me during my recent renomination by the people of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, that I participate in today's debate regarding the deteriorating state of finances in this country.
The 2018 deficit budget gets low marks for fiscal credibility. Deficit budget 2018 is a greed budget, much like deficit budget 2017. Nowhere is there any sign of evidence-based decision-making being used in the deficit budget. There is too much unaccounted-for new spending. Spending on government waste is growing too fast, and there is no real commitment to deficit elimination or the environment.
The budget has no fiscal credibility. The fiscal credibility of a budget can be judged against four basic principles. Fiscal policy must be realistic, responsible, prudent, and transparent.
First, fiscal policy must be realistic. Fiscal policy should be based on sound analysis and a careful, balanced view of economic and fiscal prospects, challenges, and risks.
The sound fiscal policy that was practised by the Conservative government has been replaced with subsidized environmentalism. Subsidized environmentalism in Canada is when one group of taxpayers is forced to pay carbon taxes to clean up actions and pollution by others.
An Ottawa Valley example of this is the creation of an Ottawa River watershed council bureaucracy. Technocrats then look for new ways to tax and regulate private property, while ignoring the fact that every year Ottawa—Gatineau dumps billions of litres of raw sewage into the Ottawa River.
Ontario taxpayers subsidize polluters in wealthy California, thanks to the signature Liberal policy of carbon taxes and the Toronto Liberal carbon credit swap auction. Forget the myth of so-called green jobs. The only green jobs are temporary and have come at a huge taxpayers' expense. Special tax benefits, including the federal government's accelerated capital cost allowance and the Canadian renewable and conservation expenses allowance, prop up the myth of green jobs.
Other subsidies, including the federal government's ecoENERGY for renewable power program, $1.4 billion over five years in deficit budget 2017, and continuing large research and development assistance for industrial wind turbines, explain why the finance minister refuses to provide a realistic date to Canadians when the deficit budget will be balanced.
Take away the taxpayer handouts, and those temporary jobs quickly flee to the next foolish politician willing to pay “greenmail” with other people's money. Environmentalist David Suzuki has stated that only by reducing the standard of living of Canadians will Canada meet the reduction of emissions in the Paris accord. I congratulate someone for actually stating what that international agreement is really all about.
What does reducing economic growth mean? It is the year-to-year decrease in production, distribution, and consumption as expressed by gross domestic product, GDP. In the short term, borrowed money, the huge deficits buried in this deficit budget, hides the impending collapse of the Canadian economy. We can just think of Greece or Cyprus. Without economic growth, there will be no money to pay for the debt that is piling up on the backs of our children and their children. There will be no money to pay for health care, pensions, affordable housing, or cleaning up the environment.
The deficit budget is resulting in Conservatives attracting a new generation of Canadians, who are upset with the bad spending and big deficit budgets of the Liberal Party. I am now seeing more and more individuals who are cluing in to the radical, left-wing agenda of the Liberal Party, a party they might even have supported with a selfie, but not anymore. There is no doubt in the minds of these individuals that the radical, left-wing policies that have turned Ontario into a have-not province are being shoved down the throats of all Canadians by the puppet master, Gerald Butts. The Doctor Evil of Ontario politics, Gerald Butts was behind the Liberal “greed energy act”, which lined the pockets of Liberal Party insiders with their industrial “Wynne” turbines. That is “wind” spelled W-y-n-n-e.
The resulting skyrocketing electricity prices led to seniors and others in Ontario on fixed incomes to suffer from energy poverty.
The carbon tax that Wynne put on electricity has now been carried forward by Butts to Ottawa. The Liberal Party has ordered all the provinces to charge carbon taxes. Thankfully, more and more Canadians have come to the conclusion that carbon taxes are nothing more than a green hustle. Carbon taxes are just that: taxes.
Adopting carbon taxes in Canada raises global carbon emissions by offshoring economic activity from relatively environmentally friendly places, like Canada, to places with lax environmental laws, like China. Data from the World Bank reveals that China, and other developing countries, produce far more carbon per dollar of economic output, at purchasing power parity, than do western nations. China shows no signs of decreasing its emissions any time soon. China is currently building hundreds of new coal-fired power plants, which will ensure its CO2 emissions continue to rise for decades to come.
Taken together, these facts mean that every factory pushed out of Canada due to carbon taxes actually increases global emissions dramatically, and this will continue to be the case for decades to come.
Mismanagement of the Canadian economy has resulted in the largest flight of capital since records started being collected. Domestic capital is being replaced by foreign capital. The problem the finance minister has created with his excessive borrowing is relying too much on foreign money to finance the deficit.
It is no secret that Gerald Butts, from his position in the Prime Minister's Office, has been working behind the scenes to shut down Canada's pipelines. His scheming is starting to fall apart with pipeline company Kinder Morgan calling out the federal government for its behind the scenes manipulations.
What the Liberal Party did not count on is one of Kinder Morgan's largest institutional investors, BlackRock, moving to protect the over 114 million shares it has at stake.
BlackRock is the largest institutional investor in the world, controlling trillions of dollars. BlackRock has been given preferential access to the federal infrastructure bank. A BlackRock executive sits on the finance minister's secretive advisory council on the economy.
BlackRock has basically told the federal government, “If you want us to put our private equity into your infrastructure bank, we expect lots of money. Protect our shares in Kinder Morgan.” BlackRock is also saying that if the government plans to use the infrastructure bank to bail out the pipeline and it is using BlackRock's equity in its bank to do it, either the government guarantees BlackRock's investment or it walks.
How much is this going to cost Canadian taxpayers? Who will be on the hook to pay the interest charges? How much will it cost the municipalities to fight for the scarce dollars to borrow at high interest rates for roads and sewers from the federal infrastructure bank?
Is not the real reason the federal government is even being forced to act is to bail out Kinder Morgan's shareholders and institutional investors like BlackRock? Institutional investors hold over 63% of Kinder Morgan's stock. Keeping foreign institutional investors like BlackRock and Vanguard Group happy will cost Canadians dearly.
Canadians were made very aware through an unfortunate exchange the Minister of Environment had with Evan Solomon that she is not capable of defending her radical views without insulting Canadians. The dismissive attitude of the Prime Minister and his minister to independent viewpoints is encouraging more and more Canadians to see through the hidden agenda of radical environmentalism, carbon taxes, and pipeline regulations that are killing Canadian jobs. There are real environmental problems that are not getting attention because of carbon taxes.
Deficit budget 2018 fails to mention any of these current challenges. It makes no mention of defence. The defence department's deputy chief financial officer told parliamentarians when she appeared before committee that there is no list of projects that are being funded. It is all smoke and mirrors.
No one believes anything the finance minister is saying. Taxes are always just taxes, dollars taken away from people by government.
I conclude my participation in this debate to share the concern about the deteriorating state of the finances of the Canadian government, and what that means to average middle-class Canadian families who bear the brunt of bad spending. Everybody knows that today's budget deficits are tomorrow's tax increases. An election cannot come soon enough for the overburdened taxpayers of our country.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2018-04-16 17:00 [p.18338]
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak after my colleague from the Outaouais region, the hon. member for Gatineau, for whom I have a great deal of respect and esteem, despite his oversights, to put it politely.
Before getting down to the nitty-gritty of this budget, let us establish the facts. What was the state of Canada's economy when the Liberal government was elected nearly two and a half years ago? There is no denying that the Liberals are an extraordinarily lucky bunch. When they came to power, the house was in order. Canada had a budgetary surplus, not a $2.9-billion deficit. We like to compare ourselves to the best. Let us compare ourselves to the G7. Canada had the best debt-to-GDP ratio of all G7 countries. Let us not forget that, when we came to power, we had just come through the worst economic crisis on the planet since the Great Depression of the 1930s. In the most challenging economic times, our government was able to keep Canada afloat, allowing it to emerge from the crisis with one of the strongest economies possible.
Then, unfortunately the Liberals came to power. That is the problem. Let us not forget that they were elected on a promise to run small deficits for three years and to return to a balanced budget in 2019. That was the Liberal Party's solemn promise. That promise then vanished into this air as small deficits grew into deficits three times larger than planned and, worse yet, as achieving zero deficit by 2019 went from hypothetical to unrealistic. These people have absolutely no idea when they will return to a balanced budget. We will be in deficit for the foreseeable future.
The finance department says that, if nothing changes, Canada could, technically, in theory, return to a balanced budget in 2045. Our economy would certainly struggle in the meantime. The Liberals were elected on promises that they have now broken. They promised a small deficit, but ran up a big one. They promised a zero deficit and a balanced budget. They said the deficits would support an infrastructure program to stimulate the economy, but that is not what they delivered. They promised hundreds of billions in infrastructure spending, but the finance department's reports show that very little of the infrastructure funding has actually been handed out. The government is using these chronic deficits for routine spending, not investment.
This is economics 101. It makes perfect sense for the head of a household to borrow money to buy a home and then pay that money back, but anyone borrowing money from the bank to buy groceries has a problem. That is not an appropriate way to manage money. Anyone who tries to do what the Liberal government is doing is headed for a brick wall.
My Liberal colleague from Gatineau talked about how amazing the Canada child benefit is, about how the government is lifting people out of poverty and giving them all kinds of money. They have no trouble handing out money that is not theirs, money they are borrowing from our children. A deficit is just deferred taxation, and that is one thing this government is very good at. It is constantly maxing out its credit card.
That is why we completely disagree with the government's policy. The minister, the member, and our Liberal colleagues seem to have forgotten that in their first iteration of the Canada child benefit, which was to be absolutely extraordinary, they forgot a small detail: they forgot to take inflation into consideration. Any accountant at any firm who forgot to factor in inflation would be dismissed with a swift kick in the backside. The government, however, still crows over its lofty principles, claiming to be doing the right thing and giving more money to children. I can see why this is the party for families, the party for children. By working for children, the government is making them foot the bill down the line.
The government boasts about its lofty principles, but reality is catching up to it. For example, the Liberals are always repeating how they are going after the so-called 1%, the richest Canadians. The top 1% of Canadians with the highest salaries are going to pay. The Liberals forgot to mention that these people already pay 70% of the taxes in Canada. They said that these people would definitely pay more taxes. Is that right? Not exactly. In a report released last fall by the Department of Finance, and not by the Conservative Party, we learned that not only do the so-called 1%, the wealthiest Canadians, not pay more taxes, they pay less. The wealthy paid $1.2 billion less under the current Liberal government even though the Liberals kept repeating that they would make the rich pay more in order to give to the poor. Not only are the rich paying less taxes, but the poor were given money we do not have because the Liberals are running up a deficit. They went into deficit financing.
Clearly, this government says one thing and does the opposite. It was elected on promises it cannot keep. Faced with their greatest economic challenge yet, the Liberals are doing nothing.
Now I want to raise the question of competitiveness with the United States of America, our great ally and partner but also our greatest competitor.
We all recognize that the president is not exactly the same kind of man that we had when we were in office. We can like him or we can dislike him, but we have to deal with him. That is the reality of politics. What we see now in the new administration, the Trump administration, is someone very aggressive, someone very productive, and someone who is first and foremost helping small business in America, and big business too. He is helping the business community of America.
What we see in the government is everything but that. Worse than that, it has no plan. The Liberal government has no plan to address the serious issue raised by the new administration in America. There is nothing in the government's budget to help our small business community to face and address the issue of the new competitiveness of America. There is nothing to address the fact that maybe NAFTA will collapse. That would not be good, so we have to be ready for that.
We do not want it to collapse. We were the party that created NAFTA, the first free trade agreement, in 1988, thanks to the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney. We can be proud of this heritage. We also recognize that the other governments pushed that forward, even if at that time they said they were not going to be part of that deal. That was good. Now we have to address the new reality that maybe NAFTA will not be run again.
What can we do? What will the government do? There is nothing in the budget. What is the government doing to help our businesses address the issue of the new help being given by the American administration to their business community? It is doing nothing.
That is also worrisome. The budget needs to address today's realities. However, today's global economic reality is not about the collapse of oil prices as it was in the past. On the contrary, oil prices have risen. It is not about dealing with the worst economic crisis. It is exactly the opposite. We are experiencing an economic boom.
It is not about the collapse of the American economy, like it was in 2008-09. On the contrary, the American economy is booming. However, we are dealing with an aggressive protectionist American President. That is his right. We respect his choice and he makes his own decisions of course. We are dealing with a very aggressive protectionist American President and the government is doing absolutely nothing. The American President strongly supports the private sector and helps entrepreneurs a great deal, unlike Canada, whose government led an unspeakable attack against our entrepreneurs last summer with the reprehensible plan it tabled on July 11, in the middle of the summer, if memory serves. Fortunately, thanks to the extraordinary work of the member for Carleton, Canadian business people across the country united and put a stop to the Liberal government's plan, which sought to punish them for creating jobs and wealth. It is a good thing that we were there.
There is nothing in this budget to help business owners or meet their needs. The government is going on a spending spree, as we have mentioned, and is creating deficits. We are talking about a 20% increase in spending. Twenty percent in three years is a lot. It represents $60 billion. A 2% or 3% increase would be in keeping with inflation. A little is okay, but in this case, we are talking about hyper-inflation, not inflation. A normal increase would have been 6% in three years. However, this government has increased spending by 20% in three years. Such is the hallmark of the Liberal government. We think this is very bad. The spending was supposedly for investments in infrastructure, but there have not been any infrastructure investments. The government is investing just 0.1% of our GDP on creating wealth and jobs in our country. This is not what the government promised during the election campaign. It promised to run small deficits. This is no surprise, given that the Prime Minister may not have studied at the great schools of economics. This is no guarantee, but three years ago, the Prime Minister introduced an unprecedented economic policy, or economic philosophy. I remind members that when the hon. Joe Oliver tabled the final budget of the previous government, the leader of the Liberal Party said that the budget would balance itself.
I was in university when I was young. I studied a lot, and I have never seen the fiscal or economic theory elsewhere, other than from the present Prime Minister, that a budget balances by itself. If there is someone else who has some information about that, I will welcome it. I really want to understand how someone can seriously speak such stupidity, but that is the signature of the present Prime Minister.
The Liberals have attacked businesses in several ways, by raising their taxes and reducing the government assistance they might be eligible for. The best way to help our businesses is to tax them less. However, in the past three years, the government has done something entirely different. First, it imposed a carbon tax, which will come into force across Canada in a few short months. Next, it reduced all the tax credits we had introduced for research, recruitment, and business development. The tax credits we brought in have been abolished by this government. That is the kind of thing that makes businesses owners lose confidence. This is troubling. All the economic indicators of business confidence are negative. Private investment in Canada is down 5% since 2015. Compared with the United States, it is not just a drop of 5%, it is actually another 5% to 9% on top of that. That is a difference of 14%. Canadian business owners feel uncomfortable and are investing less, while American business owners are investing three times more, relatively speaking. That is not a good thing.
Foreign investment in Canada has fallen by 42% over the past year. This means that less wealth is being created, since nothing is better for a nation's economy than foreign investment. It is a real source of wealth creation. When entrepreneurs create jobs and wealth, it is basically because their products are sold abroad, whether in Europe, Asia, or the United States. This is about the Canadian dollars, yen, euros, or even pounds that might be invested in our economy. That is the real source of wealth creation. That is why we are very worried about the fact that foreign investment has fallen by 42%.
As a final point, I want to talk about the debt. I have a bit of an obsession with the debt, because those folks over there were elected on a promise that they would run up small deficits and balance the books again by 2019, but they are not keeping their promises. On top of that, the debt generated by deficits is money that we cannot spend for our children. Quite the opposite, it is our children who will be forced to pay because of today's mismanagement. This government will go down in history for bringing Canada's national debt to $1 trillion. This is not “billions of bilious blue blistering barnacles” for those familiar with Tintin, but rather $1 trillion. This has “Liberal government” written all over it.
All these bad signs have shaken people's trust in their political leaders. A party can be elected on a certain campaign platform and then change direction based on external factors; however, in this case, there are no external factors. It is nothing but bad faith that has led the Liberal government to run up such huge deficits, rather than the small deficits promised and the balanced budget promised by 2019. Instead, it has absolutely no idea when we will return to a balanced budget. This government has just catapulted Canada towards the sad reality of a trillion-dollar debt. That is right, I said $1 trillion.
For all these reasons, we will vote against this budget. We feel it is an irresponsible, wrong-headed budget that will force our children to pay the price. It does nothing to help our economy and our entrepreneurs prepare for the new reality of a powerful neighbour that is both our number-one partner and our number-one competitor, the United States of America.
We hope this government will get public finances under control and take the bull by the horns so that one day, maybe a year and a half from now, we will be fortunate enough to have a realistic and responsible government led by the hon. member for Regina—Qu'Appelle.
View Michelle Rempel Profile
View Michelle Rempel Profile
2018-02-05 15:28 [p.16762]
Mr. Speaker, this is a really interesting bill. It is a really interesting topic.
I am often asked by colleagues around the world what makes the Canadian system different from electoral systems such as the one in the U.S. One of the great things about Canada's electoral system is that we actually do not have the same sort of strain or pressure on us from corporate interests or wealthy donors as we see in the U.S. I certainly would not want to be in the same position as some of our legislative colleagues in the U.S., given that they spend a lot of their time fundraising. I think that is ridiculous. I like to be able to use my time to actually legislate rather than spend all my time figuring out which donor I have to acquiesce to in order to take certain positions on bills or votes, as we see in other legislative systems.
The fact that we have caps on how much people can spend in an election is very important. The individual cap level is a wonderful way to level the playing field to get people to enter politics, such as under-represented groups such as women, as one example. Also, it is important to note that we do not have the corporate influence in the same way we see in other countries.
The Minister of Democratic Institutions, who is new in her role, had the opportunity to table a bill on electoral financing reform. She could have tabled anything she wanted. She could have tabled something that could materially impact Canadian democracy, allow under-represented groups to enter, or further level the playing field, but she completely failed.
The reason I will not support this bill is that it does not address what I think is the biggest concern in political financing in Canada, and that is the major loophole that allows wealthy individuals, corporations, unions, and foreign influences to influence the outcome of our elections. The minister has done nothing to stop that.
This should concern not just my party or the Liberals. Everyone here should be concerned about this loophole the Minister of Democratic Institutions has done nothing to address, which is the loophole that allows corporate interests and foreign groups to register as third parties in Canada. They can essentially take money from anywhere, without any reporting standards, and influence the electoral outcome.
It is very difficult to do research on this, but in preparation for this speech, I did.
For political party electoral district associations, individual donations are capped at approximately $1,500 per year, corporate donations are banned, and there are strict spending limits, and even stricter reporting requirements. The system levels the playing field for traditionally under-represented groups, such as women. I also believe that it gives our electoral system integrity. It also prevents access and influence on the political system from being in the hands of the wealthy, corporate interests, and special interest groups. It is important, because it also limits the scope and ability of special interest groups to directly impact elections through spending. However, there is a significant loophole in this process.
In Canada, an individual corporation or group can register as a third party for election advertising purposes and then make expenses to “promote or oppose the election of one or more candidates”. As opposed to the law for financing political parties or candidates, corporations can spend money on elections via this route. Corporations can therefore influence candidates. Also, there are no limits on the donations a group can receive from an individual. Individuals can, therefore, in effect, exceed their political spending limits and influence the outcome of elections.
Further, a third party has to register with Elections Canada only once an election is called, which makes it difficult to track the activities of a group with regard to its influence on our electoral process. Also, it only has to report donations that come in during the six-month period prior to an election being called, which means that in many cases, the public has no way of knowing where its money came from. In addition, there is no requirement to state which candidate a third party promoted or opposed, making it difficult for the public to know if members of Parliament are compliant with ethics guidelines on conflict of interest.
This is the part that is difficult to research. I manually tabulated all of this. In the 2015 federal election, over $6 million was spent by third parties on election advertising. To put the significance of that amount into perspective, the entire election spending, per Elections Canada, for the Green Party of Canada was approximately $3.9 million. Moreover, for individuals listed as contributors to third-party election advertising spending, many also contributed to federal political parties or local electoral district associations.
I would like to present an example from the riding of Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo. There was an individual in that riding named Michelle Good. If we pull up her donor profile from Elections Canada, this individual donated significantly to the federal Liberal Party. However, she also donated significantly to the New Democratic Party. We can look at that. For example, I am looking at one instance when this individual, on September 6, 2015, donated $400 to the New Democratic Party.
Here is the interesting thing. There is also a third party, registered under a Michelle Frances Good, that spent $2,363.29 to advertise in Kamloops during the election period. This is just me looking at what I can find online. However, I would surmise that it is the same Michelle Good who contributed to the Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo federal NDP riding association and then registered as a third party and spent $2,300 to purchase advertising under this third-party group. How does that happen? I thought we were only supposed to be able to pay $1,500 a person to participate in the federal electoral process.
I bet that I could find people registered as their names and find their donations, and sure enough, there they were. That $2300 is a lot of money. Someone who does not have access to that level of funding does not have the access this person has to influence the outcome of an election. When we start thinking about $2,300, $3,000, or $4,000, while that does not seem like a lot, it actually is a lot in the context of the overall spending in that particular district.
What if I had said that the Koch brothers had registered as a third party. That would get the attention of a lot of people here. The reality is that because trade unions and environmental NGOs have taken care of this loophole, the Minister of Democratic Institutions has completely ignored it.
I will say one thing. Once people realize that this loophole exists, all gloves are off. If the Liberals do not address this problem, what I worry about is that everyone here is going to say that we all have to use PACs to get elected. All of a sudden, that uniquely Canadian “I can focus on my legislation instead of fundraising” goes away.
The minister came in with a fresh, new hope-and-change mandate from the Prime Minister. If the Liberals know that this happens and did not even look at it or touch it, then mark my words: after the next election, this place is going to be looking at this and saying that I had a point.
I would hope that my colleagues would all be in agreement and put aside partisanship and say that we do not want PACs in Canada. The example I gave should not happen. Closing this loophole should be in this legislation. Reporting donations for these third parties needs to happen. Reporting the purpose of electoral advertising needs to happen. Prohibiting donations from entities other than individuals needs to happen. We need to prohibit individuals from using third-party registration status to circumvent the cap on individual donations.
Why is that not in this legislation? It is a glaring loophole that will have a huge impact on our democratic system. It already has with that $6 million. We do not even know where it came from or what it was used for. How can we tolerate that? That is the antithesis of democracy, and it is not in the bill.
The bill is a waste of time. It is not going to change the behaviour of the Liberals. What I am talking about would, and I have no idea why it is not in there.
View Wayne Stetski Profile
View Wayne Stetski Profile
2018-02-05 17:34 [p.16779]
Mr. Speaker, I have to admit that when the topic of political financing reform comes up, many Canadians' eyes glaze over. It is not the most exciting subject in front of this Parliament, and yet we have heard about 18 or 19 speakers on this topic pointing out both the strengths and the weaknesses of the bill.
I wish the House rules permitted the same level of debate on some of the very important private members' bills that come before the House. Perhaps we could work together to see that happen in the future.
Bill C-50 is important. We only have to look south of the border to see what happens when there are no controls over who donates to elected representatives or how much they can donate.
During the recent U.S. debate over net neutrality, another exciting subject, companies and groups on both sides of the issue lobbied with their wallets. According to OpenSecrets.org of the 535 members of Congress, 495 received campaign contributions from groups who lobbied the Federal Communications Commission on net neutrality. The telecoms, opposed to net neutrality, donated millions and the Republicans fell in line. The result will be a more limited, more expensive Internet experience for Americans. Thankfully, here in Canada we have largely constrained such obvious vote buying, but that has not always been the case.
In advance of the1872 election, Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald and his colleagues sought out campaign contributions from a Montreal shipping magnate named Hugh Allan. Allan donated what would have been a fortune back in 1872, $350,000, to Macdonald's Conservative government and he was rewarded for that donation. The Canadian Encyclopedia says:
After the election, a railway syndicate organized by Allan was rewarded with the lucrative contract to build the Canadian Pacific Railway — the trans-continental railroad promised to British Columbia when it joined Confederation.
More recently, former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was implicated in a scandal that became known as the Airbus affair.
My own province of British Columbia used to be the case study for what happens when there are insufficient campaign financing laws. In fact, a year ago The New York Times called British Columbia the “wild west” of Canadian political cash, citing the former provincial Liberal government for its many conflicts of interest and describing the “unabashedly cozy relationship between private interests and government officials in the province”. It cited B.C. for having no limits on political donations, and repeated criticisms that under the Christy Clark regime, the provincial government “has been transformed into a lucrative business, dominated by special interests that trade donations for political favours, undermining Canada’s reputation for functional, consensus-driven democracy.”
Thankfully, the new NDP government under Premier John Horgan immediately brought in political finance reforms, including bans on corporate and union donations and limiting individual donations to $1,200 per year. It is good to see civil reforms brought to the wild west.
Meanwhile, with the current federal Liberal government we have seen the cash for access scandal, where lobbyists were sold exclusive access to the Prime Minister by simply buying high-priced tickets to Liberal fundraising events. During the last election, the Liberal Party made a promise to "close political financing loopholes altogether”.
As we look at Bill C-50, the legislation before us today, we see only a timid attempt in that direction. This bill would force some party fundraising events to be advertised five days in advance, and it would ensure that the names of those attending the function are published.
The new rules apply to events attended by cabinet ministers, party leaders, and some leadership candidates. The NDP offered amendments at committee to include parliamentary secretaries and senior political staff but the Liberal members voted down those amendments.
Observers should note that the Liberal government's parliamentary secretaries are subject to the Conflict of Interest Act, but with Bill C-50, they are exempt from the transparency rules aimed at cash for access events. At the end of the day, cash for access events will still go ahead; we will just know a little more about them.
Is the government closing political financing loopholes and meeting its campaign promise? Not at all. What should this bill contain? A 2016 Globe and Mail editorial titled, “Money and politics: How to end the corruption and conflict of interest” said:
Individual donation limits should be low – possibly as low as $100. These rules should apply at all times, including election years and during party leadership campaigns.
While I am not sure about the amount, lowering the limit would absolutely take big money out of the political picture. No longer could wealthier Canadians expect to meet with cabinet ministers or the Prime Minister because only they could afford the steep price tag.
On another issue, a 2017 Senate report titled, “Controlling Foreign Influence in Canadian Elections” found that current law “does not sufficiently protect Canadian elections from being influenced by foreign entities, whether through direct interference or by providing funding to third parties.” Its recommendations, well worth the consideration of this chamber, include a “provision that more clearly states that any attempt made by foreign entities to induce Canadian electors to vote in a particular way is prohibited”, removal of the “six month limitation on the requirement to report contributions made to third parties for the purposes of election advertising”, and “require that Elections Canada perform random audits of third parties’ election advertising expenses and any contributions they have received”. These are provisions I would like to see examined further.
Currently in my riding of Kootenay—Columbia, I am often asked about issues that constituents have learned about through media websites. Unfortunately, in many cases, these news websites turn out to be politically prejudiced, are often racist, and in some cases are heavily influenced by foreign elements. They mislead, scaremonger, and prevent fact-based political discourse.
Finally, I would like to point to Bill C-364, introduced by the member for Terrebonne. His bill would sharply restrict individual donations while bringing back a formula for public subsidies to campaigns. While Bill C-364 has not yet had a rigorous review by this House, it is certainly raising some excellent issues that I would like to have seen considered within Bill C-50.
Too often money equals power, but in this place, money should have no influence. While I will be supporting this bill as at least a first baby step in the right direction, I am disappointed that the Liberal government has missed this opportunity to truly strengthen Canada's political financing laws to truly prevent influence peddling and cash for access.
View Kevin Waugh Profile
View Kevin Waugh Profile
2018-02-05 17:58 [p.16783]
Mr. Speaker, Bill C-50 is another effort by the Liberal government to simply pull the wool over the eyes of Canadians. Bill C-50 brings nothing to the table at all on political financing that was not already laid out.
The Liberals like to use the word “transparency”. In fact, it is included in almost everything they produce, including the famous mandate letters. Let us look at the meaning of the word “transparency” in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, which states it is “the quality of being transparent”, such as “(a) the quality that makes it possible to see through something”, for example, “the transparency of a piece of glass”; and “(b) the quality that makes something obvious or easy to understand”, for example, “the transparency of their motives. He says that there needs to be more transparency in the way the government operates.”
Whoever “he” is, I agree. However, let us go to the next definition, which states, “a piece of thin, clear plastic with pictures or words printed on it that can be viewed on a large screen by shining light through it”.
Therefore, while the rest of Canada has been interpreting the word “transparent” as clear and easy to understand, the Liberals have been putting their own words on a “transparency”, which one will need to shine a light on just to see them. Therefore, let us get the light out and shine it on them.
Let me first, in my own effort to be transparent, say at the outset that I have relied heavily on the remarks of my colleague, the member for Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, that were made in this place on June 8 of last year on Bill C-50. It is hard to improve on his remarks. However, I think they are worth repeating here tonight.
For instance, he noted that on November 7, 2016, B.C. multimillionaire Miaofei Pan hosted a fundraiser right at his West Vancouver mansion, and he made the case to the Prime Minister, at this event that he had to pay to get into and that he had to host, to allow Chinese investment in seniors care and real estate developments and ease the rules for rich immigrants from China. What better way to get preferential access than to have it right in one's own house? This took place as the federal government had been reviewing a $1 billion bid by China's Anbang Insurance Group to buy one of B.C.'s largest retirement home nursing care chains.
An article published in The Globe and Mail on December 2, 2016, states:
The Liberal Party has repeatedly told The Globe and Mail “individuals wishing to discuss government business at party events are immediately redirected to instead make an appointment with the appropriate office.”
The host of this fundraiser, Mr. Pan, told The Globe and Mail in an interview that the Prime Minister was “approachable and friendly” when he raised the issues, including Chinese companies' keen interest to invest in Canadian health care for seniors.
This is a long, convoluted story, which is readily available on the Internet. However, the end result, as reported again in The Globe and Mail of February 21, 2017, is that the Liberal government has green-lighted the sale of one of B.C.'s biggest retirement home chains to a Beijing-based insurance titan with a murky ownership structure in a deal that gives China certainly a big foothold in Canada's health care sector. It states:
On paper, a majority stake in Vancouver-based Retirement Concepts—believed to exceed $1-billion in value—is being sold to a Chinese-owned company called Cedar Tree Investment Canada. That is the deal that federal officials in Ottawa announced they had approved.... However, Cedar Tree is the company that China's Anbang Insurance is using to make the acquisition.
Therefore, shining a light on it becomes that much clearer.
Business people are not going to pay $1,500-plus in return for a glass of wine and a piece of cheese, only to be redirected to make an appointment with the appropriate office. They could do that without forking over $1,500-plus and achieve the same result.
However, the goal of Bill C-50 is to legitimize pay-to-play or cash for access events. The Liberals have a majority of government in the House and the bill will pass, but will it pass the smell test with Canadian taxpayers? The Liberals can say that it was the express will of Parliament that this practice be continued, but let me assure members that it is not the express will of this Conservative member of Parliament here. It is only the will of the Liberal Party, because Liberals are the only ones who have the Prime Minister and cabinet in power. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, stay tuned for the Liberal outcry when this changes and they can no longer benefit from this smoke-and-mirrors bill.
There have been over 100 of these cash for access events in the country in the last year. There soirees are not limited to traditional fundraising either. For example, Chinese billionaires have been attending Liberal fundraisers, even though they are not allowed to donate because they are not Canadian citizens. One of these individuals, by the name of Zhang Bin, is a member of the Communist Party. He attended a fundraiser on May 19, 2016 at the Toronto home of the Chinese Business Chamber of Commerce chairperson, Benson Wong. Again, this is according to The Globe and Mail.
A few weeks later, as we have noted in this discussion throughout the day in the House, Mr. Zhang and a business partner donated $200,000 to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, with $50,000 to build a statue of the current Prime Minister's father. It was a pretty good meeting that he had. I am sure that these donations were made out of the goodness of their hearts, with thanks for the glass of wine and the piece of cheese.
There is another example of pay to play, which was pointed out by my colleague from Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston. The finance minister was scheduled to attend a fundraiser in Calgary on November 2, at a cost of $1,500 to get in the door. It was at the home of Shaw Communications president, Jay Mehr. The telecom firm has directly lobbied the finance department eight times. Is there a conflict here? It appears that making an appointment with the appropriate office was not working. Would hosting a Liberal fundraiser prove to be more profitable for the telecom firm? As they say in the movies, Mr. Speaker, stay tuned.
Let me echo this sentiment. The system that is designed to give the incumbent party an ongoing, perpetual systemic advantage is inherently morally wrong, leaving aside the fact that it is giving preferential access to cabinet ministers when the average Canadian does not get the chance. It is absolutely contemptible.
In closing, I would like to say that Canadians deserve better than a Prime Minister who believes that there is one set of rules for him and another set of rules for everyone else. We all deserve to live with the confidence that we do not have to shine a light on every word uttered by the government of the day to get the true meaning of its remarks. We all deserve better than the current government.
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
View Pierre Nantel Profile
2017-12-12 12:55 [p.16307]
Mr. Speaker, I rather agree with my Conservative colleague that we are once again spending time passing legislation in support of a decision that has already been made. These ministers of state already receive the salary usually paid to ministers. We are now covering up the tracks and amending the law to address a broken promise made during the election campaign and to let the Liberals cloak themselves in righteousness, which is something they do very well.
This state of affairs is summed up by the term “entitlement”. It has resulted in the Liberals coming to power and using this chamber's time to cover up their mistakes.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister indicated that the Liberals would not make Canadian consumers pay more taxes even though companies like Netflix and Amazon do not charge the GST. This mistake will hurt our own businesses. It is hurting people like Peter Simons, who invest millions of dollars, hire hundreds of employees, and than are at a complete disadvantage because of it.
Are you going to amend an act to justify the unjustifiable here, too?
View Robert Kitchen Profile
View Robert Kitchen Profile
2017-12-01 10:28 [p.15853]
Mr. Speaker, my constituents are concerned about the Asian infrastructure bank. As my hon. colleague mentioned earlier, the reality is that the government is going to invest $500 million in an Asian infrastructure bank that is going to create jobs for building pipelines and coal-fired power plants in another part of the world. My constituents are asking why the government cannot create jobs here in Canada.
The Liberals shut down the energy east pipeline, which would have come through my riding and created jobs. Here they are, sending money outside the country instead of putting it toward good-paying middle-class jobs in my riding. They could put money into carbon capture plants, which capture 98% of greenhouse gases and 100% of sulphur and put it into the ground. This is innovation. This is advancement and a great asset for greenhouse gas capture. Why can the government not put money into Canada?
View Joël Lightbound Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Joël Lightbound Profile
2017-12-01 10:29 [p.15853]
Mr. Speaker, I am happy that the member talked about job creation. That is clearly where we have succeeded and where the Conservatives failed for 10 years. In the last two years, we have created 600,000 jobs in this country, most of them full-time. That is something they unfortunately failed to achieve. I am all about Canada's success. I wish they had succeeded in those 10 years. They did not. They had the wrong plan.
When we look at the Asian infrastructure bank, this is part of Canada's re-engagement in the world. Most of the bank's projects are done with the support of the World Bank and other international institutions, such as the Asian Development Bank. Is the member suggesting that we should withdraw from international institutions?
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
2017-12-01 10:29 [p.15853]
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address one allegation sometimes made against the Liberal government and other far left governments around the world that I think is false. Some have accused governments like these of really having it in for the rich, for wanting to get tough on people who have a lot of money, and unfairly so.
Even Winston Churchill once said, “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.” I want to say that in this case, this very rare case, even the great Winston Churchill was wrong. Socialism and big government policies do not equally spread around the miseries to everyone. No, they spread them around in a way that is better described in George Orwell's Animal Farm. They spread them around in a manner that is equal, but equal in a special way, equal in that everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others.
The Liberal government, a government that subscribes to, to put it generously, social democratic policies, socialist policies, does not disparage those who have lots of money. Rather, it has a different view of how money should be distributed. While we on this side believe in the free market, which distributes wealth based on merit, the Liberals believe that wealth should be distributed by government, that people should be allowed to get wealthy as long as they do so through the government.
In a government-directed economy, people get rich by having the best lobbyists. In a free market economy, people get ahead by having the best product or service. We have seen this borne out.
Strategas research, a company out of the United States, did a carefully calculated correlation between the money spent on lobbying in Washington and the amount of government spending in Washington. It found that as government becomes a larger share of the U.S. economy, the number of dollars companies spend on lobbying goes up almost on a one for one basis. Why? It is because business goes where the money is, and if all the money is in the government, it invests in getting that money. It invests in getting a return by purchasing political power. When the government decides who gets what, those with money buy power and then transform that power into yet more money.
What are some of the ways one can do this? One can, for example, hire a lobbyist to get a subsidy. Company X spends $10 million on lobbying and gets a $400-million interest-free loan, a pretty good return on investment. That is how one gets a return on investment in a government-directed economy. One purchases political power and then hopes that this political power results in more money.
In a free market economy, one invests in creating a better product or service that improves other people's lives, which they buy voluntarily with their own money, and then one gets a return by making somebody else's life better. In a free market economy based on voluntary exchange, the only way to get ahead is by offering something to someone that is worth more than it cost.
Let me give some practical examples of where our friends across the way have been extremely generous to the rich, contrary to allegations that they are hard on the rich, allegations that, in fairness and in a spirit of nonpartisanship, I seek to dispel here on the floor of the House of Commons.
First, a $400-million interest-free loan was given to Bombardier, which, if it is ever paid back, will be done so on the most generous terms. Bombardier is controlled by a billionaire family that had 53% of the votes at a shareholder meeting, even though the family has a minority of the shares. They have multiple voting shares. That company could have raised more money by issuing more stock, but what would have happened then? The majority control of the billionaire Bombardier-Beaudoin family would have been diluted, and they would have lost their majority and thus their control of the company.
The Liberals bailed out the billionaires and saved their control of that company so they could continue to make decisions and pay themselves exorbitant salaries, even when they have bad results. In fact, after the government kicked in this money, the executives of the company, some of them billionaires, paid themselves a 50% increase in compensation, all while laying off 14,000 people. We now know that many of the jobs to be created in the future are going to be south of the border, and the control of the intellectual property will be in the hands of Europeans. There was no Canadian public interest in this move, it was all about helping this billionaire family.
Therefore, it is not true, and I reject the allegation against the party opposite that it is tough on the rich. That is unfair, and I reject it, and I will stand up against those who disparage the government in that way.
Then, there is the infrastructure bank. Municipalities across the country have become smart about these construction companies. For years, these companies would come in, place a bid, promise to build a bridge or a road for a certain price, and then, after they got the contract, they would come back and say, “Oops, sorry, it's going to cost a lot more than we thought and you'll have to pay us more.”
Municipalities have said that they are not doing that anymore. From now on, they are paying on a fixed price contract. It must be built for the price agreed upon and, if it goes over, the construction company will have to pay for it. That has bred discipline into the process of procurement. The government wants to take away that discipline, with loans and loan guarantees backed up by taxpayers, which will protect investors when they participate in infrastructure megaprojects. If they build a monstrous bridge, a transit project, or something else, and the project goes over budget or its revenues fall short, then that company will use the loan guarantee provided by this multi-billion dollar taxpayer-backed bank to protect them. Taxpayers get all the risk and investors get all the profit.
This whole scheme was cooked up at the Shangri-La Hotel, one of the swankiest places in Toronto. The heads of investment firms, worth literally hundreds of billions of dollars, met with ministers of this government, in secret, to craft all the terms. They decided how Canadian tax dollars would be spent. There were no consultations on this with taxpayers, the people who have to pay for it. Those who would benefit were at the table writing the policy for the government. That consultation, and the generous way with which the government carried it out, proves once again that the allegation against the government for having it in for the rich and being hard on the wealthy is absolutely false. I again dispel that false allegation.
Now we have the Asian infrastructure bank. This is a half-a-billion dollar contribution from Canadian taxpayers to a foreign bank to build infrastructure in other parts of the world. All of us at times have supported foreign aid for the world's poor, but this is not intended to help the world's poor, it is meant to help the world's rich. Wealthy investors who build pipelines—which would never get approved here in Canada—or other infrastructure in other parts of the world, would have their investments protected by $100 billion of tax money from around the world. Therefore, if those project do not meet their financial expectations, that is fine, because taxpayers from around the world will have to pick up the tab for the incompetent decisions of international investors. That is more welfare for the wealthy. In this case, it is the foreign wealthy, those who are not even in Canada.
We cannot say that this has anything to do with promoting trade links. In fact, the principal government participating in this Asian infrastructure bank, in China, has said that the purpose of the bank is to re-establish the Silk Road, the trading route from China westward, away from Canada. Therefore, the infrastructure that would be built could not possibly facilitate commerce with Canadians, because we are on the wrong side of the world to benefit from any of it. Again, the government has cozied up with the world's wealthy elite in order to provide taxpayer-funded benefits to those who have the most.
To move on to other decisions here at home, the government has decided that it is going to raise taxes. It claims it will only affect the wealthy. However, it seems that it affects everyone but the wealthy. The Fraser Institute calculated that 87% of middle-class taxpayers are paying more in tax since the government took office, on average $800 more.
We found in the first annual financial report from Finance Canada since the government's policies were implemented that the wealthiest Canadians actually paid less in the 2016-17 tax year, because they were able to successfully move their money around and avoid the tax increases that the government imposed on people.
This brings me to the conduct and judgment of the Minister of Finance. We have learned that he was one of the individuals who moved his income in order to avoid paying the taxes that he was imposing on others. He sold his shares in Morneau Shepell on November 30, 2015, which was almost a month before his own tax increases took effect. By selling his shares at that time, he paid capital gains tax under the lower rate, rather than waiting an extra five or six weeks and paying the higher rates that he said were so fair.
Putting aside whether the minister acted ethically in that matter, on principle he should have led by example. If he believed that Canadians should pay higher taxes and that people like him should pay more, why could he not have waited five weeks to make that $10-million sale, realize his capital gains in the 2016 year, and pay the same higher taxes that he applied to everyone else? He was very careful to make sure that those taxes would not apply to him.
On the same point, the Minister of Finance has huffed and puffed and said it is so unfair of us to ask him questions about his shares. However, in any public company, a corporate executive could be asked those kinds of questions at a board meeting or at an annual meeting of shareholders. In fact, corporate executives are required to publicly disclose the shares they buy and sell. If they sell them at a time that is near the release of earnings report, for example, there are lots of red flags raised, and lots of questions that they are accountable for answering.
For the minister to suggest that it is somehow unreasonable for Her Majesty's loyal opposition to demand that he explain the timing of the sale of shares that he made in the immediate lead-up to the tabling of tax documents on the floor of the House of Commons is a little rich, quite literally, coming from him.
Let me talk to both the hypocrisy of his conduct and his judgment. In the corporate world, they have something called “blackouts”. Typically, officers and directors of public companies try to avoid selling shares in the immediate lead-up to the release of earnings results. Even in cases where those results are anticipated accurately, even if the guidance issued by the company at the beginning of the quarter turns out to be accurate at the end of quarter, even if all the analysts correctly predict the earnings per share that will be released at the end of the quarter, and even if there is nothing unexpected that comes out in those earning results, it is not good form for a CEO, or another executive, to sell shares a week before those results are released. It is better form for that executive to wait until three or four business days after the earning results are released, to have no doubt that everyone had exactly the same information when they sold their shares.
The minister admitted on the floor of the House of Commons yesterday that some of the contents of the document he tabled on December 7, 2015 were confidential, that it was kept tight within a small group in Finance Canada, that those materials were sensitive and therefore could not be shared around. If that were the case, then surely he ought not to be trading on the stock market seven or eight days before the public release of that document. He should have had the competence and the judgment to avoid the real, or perhaps just perceptual, problems that go along with that conduct. These are exactly the kinds of questions and criticisms that the opposition is expected to raise, and it would be political malpractice for us not to raise them.
Furthermore, there are places around the world where such questions are not asked of the leaders, where leaders can say, “That's out of bounds. You can't ask me that. It's none of your business.” There are places like that. They are the most miserable places to live on planet earth. I am so proud to live in a country where we have the ability to ask these kinds of questions. It is our job on this side of the House of Commons to ensure that the government is always acting in the public interest, and not in the private interest of any individual.
Going back to the point of hypocrisy, the Prime Minister and the finance minister have been crying a lot of crocodile tears about the questions they face over their own financial decisions, the amount of tax they have paid, and the way they have protected their own family fortunes.
These are the questions that they invited when, over the last three years, they have engaged in a bloody-minded campaign of class warfare. They went out and started attacking people, including in their own words, “wealthy doctors” and others, who use “fancy accounting scheme”, “a privileged few” who were avoiding “paying their fair share”. They implied that there was a group of people who were getting ahead and not paying enough, and they disparaged those people. Now the Prime Minister and the finance minister expect everyone to have sympathy for them because people are asking questions about their finances.
When they single out a group of honest, hard-working, law-abiding Canadians, and attack them for following the rules and working hard and succeeding, then people are going to ask questions as to whether they live up to their own standards. That is exactly what we have been doing.
To conclude, the government has no problem supporting the wealthy and the privileged. In fact, the government has been very, very generous to that group of people. However, we on this side of the House of Commons will continue to stand on the side of merit, free enterprise, and an economy that allows anyone who is prepared to work hard, to be smart and industrious, to get ahead while making the lives of other people better at the same time.
View Matthew Dubé Profile
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2017-12-01 12:15 [p.15874]
Mr. Speaker, here we are once again with a budget implementation bill that fails to honour the Liberals' commitment to refrain from using omnibus bills inappropriately. In fact, the Chair decided to allow separate votes on some aspects of the bill.
Furthermore, there is the matter of time allocation. Once again, here we are at third reading of the bill, and we will only have two and a half hours to debate it. This is completely unacceptable, since the budget is one of the most important duties of government and parliamentarians. The government's frequent, or even constant, use of time-allocation and closure motions is completely unacceptable, in light of the promises it made during the election campaign. It is disappointing to see that the government is yet again proceeding in this fashion.
Let us come back to the substance of the bill. Often, when it comes to a budget and the budget implementation bill, you could say the devil is in the details. It is important to take a good look at what is in the budget and what is not in the budget, or what the government did not do. On that point, I will focus on something extremely important. I already raised it in a question that I asked the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Finance, and that is the issue of tax credits that keeps coming up.
Hon. members will recall one of the first promises the NDP made before the election campaign even began. It was when we quietly started talking about the measures that we were going to propose during the campaign. We mentioned this infamous loophole that allows CEOs to benefit from a tax credit on the purchase of shares in their own company. That is an extremely problematic loophole. Obviously those who benefit from it are very well off. This situation is all the more infuriating when we consider that the government eliminated other tax credits.
I realize that some of the previous government's tax credits fall under what is called boutique tax credits. Those are tax credits that truly target very specific areas or specific people and are not always very effective.
However, gone is the public transit tax credit, which benefited families, students, and those middle-class Canadians that the government says it wants to stand up for and design its policies around. The fact that the CEO loophole stays intact while the public transit tax credit gets axed shows that there is a gap between what the government says it wants to do and what actually happens in real life.
One of the most problematic aspects of this bill is the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. This is related to another major file we looked at with the first budget implementation bill, namely the Canada infrastructure bank. We have heard very little about it since then.
There have been many debates on this subject in the House of Commons. Our biggest concern is that it is really a bank designed to privatize public infrastructure. It invests public money and then asks the private sector to invest. However, these investments come with conditions, and those conditions are extremely dangerous.
The public will be paying for infrastructure that the private sector will be asked to invest in. The public will then have to pay again, through tolls, for example, and will have to bear the entire financial burden of maintaining this infrastructure.
This is very worrisome. The Liberals support this approach. We know that these contracts will not benefit small or even medium-sized communities, which need infrastructure badly, as do municipalities. Instead, they will of course benefit the Liberals' Bay Street friends and representatives of investment companies like BlackRock, who attend closed-door meetings with the government about the development of this infrastructure bank.
We now see that approach continuing with this bill, which allows the Minister of Finance to invest $480 million of Canadian taxpayers' money in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
This is very troubling because there are risks to the sovereignty of our infrastructure. It also lets them claim that the more than $200 million allocated by the government has doubled. That amount will now be $480 million. This is a very troubling situation.
We can also see what is missing from all of this. I would like to take this opportunity to talk about local issues, issues back home, issues that affect the riding of Beloeil—Chambly.
In the last election campaign, one of the most important issues was whether we were going to get a commitment from the government. In fact, I made a commitment that if the NDP were to form government, we would change the law to resolve disputes between the federal government and many municipalities. Let me explain. This has to do with certain sites that are federal government property, such as Fort Chambly and the Chambly Canal in my riding.
The Supreme Court ruled on this a few years ago in Halifax (Regional Municipality) v. Canada (Public Works and Government Services). In that case, the City of Halifax and other municipalities involved in the matter argued that the federal government was not paying its fair share in lieu of taxes. Indeed, the federal government does not pay municipal taxes on land that it owns.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court agreed that the government was not paying its fair share. At the time, the federal government offered to create an advisory panel to help the decision-making process, in order to obtain an accurate assessment of the value of the sites and to ensure that the payments meet the municipalities' expectations.
The problem is that the advisory panel was made up of bureaucrats, and what it said was basically that if a municipality like Chambly did not agree with the federal government's decision with respect to the assessment of a site it owns, such as the fort and the canal, the government would just lob the ball to other bureaucrats, who would essentially make the same decision.
The bill I introduced in the last Parliament, which I reintroduced at the beginning of this one, would set up an independent assessment process to get it out of the hands of the governments involved in these disputes. We need independent assessment. As we saw in Chambly, the city commissioned an independent assessment to determine the fair value of the property.
This is something that really worries me. Why? During the last election campaign and during the debate that took place in Chambly, we got all of the other candidates to sign on to that commitment. That was at my insistence. If any other candidate, including the Liberal candidate, had won, he or she would have done the same thing.
Right now, we have a Liberal government that has not taken any action on this despite our repeated requests or the bill I introduced. We are talking about $500,000 a year for Chambly. For a city with a population of about 30,000, $500,000 is a big deal.
Not only is this a way for the federal government to pay its fair share, but it is also a way to make more resources available for cities so that they can offer services for residents, such as public transit, which is a free service in Chambly.
I am raising this issue because I think that introducing a budget implementation bill like this one that changes all sorts of provisions constitutes an opportunity to change the law so that Public Works and Government Services Canada is required to conduct an independent assessment when there is a conflict between a municipality and a city like Chambly.
Speaking of Chambly, there is another aspect of this bill that I find very worrisome and it has to do with infrastructure. The government and the minister responsible made announcements in Montreal and the greater Montreal area about the REM light rail project, which is extremely important for the city's suburbs, particularly the second tier of suburbs, which includes my riding.
However, there is a caveat. We realize that certain aspects of the file need to be discussed in order to ensure that the project is completed while fully respecting the people and the municipalities. A very important request was made by the mayors of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Chambly, and here I appeal to my colleague, the Liberal member for Saint-Jean. They would like the rail network to be extended so it can properly serve the residents of the Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu region and the Chambly basin.
In its current form, the project will create horrific traffic jams on highways 30 and 10. It is also important to consider urban spread and population growth in areas like mine. Naturally, we are happy that people want to move to our area and start a family. That is important, because the trend is towards population aging, and we are seeing more and more young families in our neighbourhoods.
In 2011, Marieville, one of the municipalities in my riding, was one of the top three municipalities in Quebec for population growth. In 2012, two municipalities in my riding, one of which is no longer part of my riding, ranked among the five Quebec municipalities with the highest birth rates. Furthermore, in the last Parliament, my riding was the third most populous federal riding in Quebec, thanks to its relatively young population, which ran counter to the trend.
At a meeting with members of the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec, or FECQ, I learned that the only CEGEPs in Quebec that will not see a drop in student numbers are those that serve the greater Montérégie area and Montreal, particularly the Saint-Hyacinthe and Édouard-Montpetit CEGEPs.
Given that more and more people are living and working in my riding, but sometimes also work in Montreal, it is extremely important to have a good public transit system. When it comes to the REM, one of the biggest projects ever proposed, the government must show some respect for communities and municipalities like Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Chambly. These municipalities are making a very specific request. Not only do they want their residents to be well served, but they also want to ensure that traffic will not increase on the roads used by the people I represent. That is extremely important.
I can say today in the House that we are going to continue to call upon the ministers responsible to ensure that they are listening. I am talking about this during the debate on the budget implementation bill because, although the government says that it is providing funding, funding is not enough. Respect and project implementation are also important. Of course, that will require full and effective co-operation with the Government of Quebec and municipalities like Chambly and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu.
There is good news, too, but not thanks to the government. I am very pleased to say that the good news stems from the hard work of our team, my counterparts in the National Assembly, and municipal elected officials. I am talking about the Beloeil pool. Enough people signed the registry to hold a referendum about building a pool, and the outcome was positive.
The subject also came up during two election campaigns in Beloeil, including the one that just ended. It even came up during the federal and Quebec elections in 2015, because people wanted to be sure the money would be available for this infrastructure project, which is very important to the community and to the young families I mentioned earlier.
I sat down with the mayor of Beloeil, Diane Lavoie, and my National Assembly counterpart, Simon Jolin-Barrette, and we came up with a joint game plan to make sure we got the money. We got the Government of Quebec and the federal government to commit to paying equal shares amounting to $9 million to build the new aquatics centre.
Given the parliamentary budget officer's findings and other things we have heard, and given that the government has had difficulty allocating money and spending it on infrastructure, it should not be congratulating itself for this type of bill. The local stakeholders are the ones who should be congratulated. It takes a tremendous amount of work jumping through endless bureaucratic hoops to get the money we are owed. A city such as Beloeil has a robust public sector. However, we can only imagine what it must be like for smaller municipalities, which have part-time staff, for example, and even part-time elected officials. This is not a criticism; their reality is a function of their population, demographics, and resources.
In this context, we can imagine the challenges they face when it is so difficult for the federal government to negotiate bilateral agreements and, on top of that, to spend the money. That is why I give credit to local stakeholders. I am proud to have worked with them to make this project a reality, because it will be a great asset to our community.
As I only have a few minutes left, I would like to conclude with the following remarks.
The government is patting itself on the back and saying that its plan is working, highlighting the numbers that came out on employment. However, the fact remains that social and economic inequalities are as present as ever in our society. We must address them. Simply sitting back and saying that the unemployment rate is at such and such a level is not enough, because that rate does not accurately reflect the government's record. The government's record is better reflected in the quality of jobs, as well as the level of inequality in our society. In that regard, the government still has a lot of work to do.
I talked about some extremely important local files, not to mention all the other files that need to be addressed, including tax evasion. The government merely identified billions of dollars that is missing from its coffers, rather than actually going after and recuperating it. It refuses to change the tax laws and treaties that mean that taxpayers who pay their fair share are essentially being cheated by the wealthy and by large corporations that are guilty of tax evasion and tax avoidance.
Despite what the minister says, this is not a priority. When it is time to table a budget, these are the types of priorities a government must have if it truly wants to address inequality and have the necessary resources to tackle the big projects that I mentioned in my speech. The government has a lot of work to do.
Speaking of inequalities, I want to use my last remaining minute to mention another group that I have had the pleasure of working with in my capacity as public safety critic. They are known as the no-fly list kids. They did not get any money in the spring budget and were hoping to get money this time around.
All the legislative measures in the world will not get us a proper redress system without the necessary money. When we see the problems with Shared Services Canada and the Phoenix pay system, we are not very confident that a computer system can be implemented without adequate funding. However, I am an eternal optimist, and I hope to see something different this spring.
As hon. members can see, there is a lot to say. I look forward to hearing my colleagues' questions, but also to seeing the next budget. I hope that the government will do the right thing and actually have something tangible to boast about, instead of just half measures.
View Dean Allison Profile
View Dean Allison Profile
2017-11-08 16:13 [p.15150]
Mr. Speaker, with regard the budget implementation act, I would like to talk about the climate around investment these days.
It is important to understand that while the government can create jobs, programs, and a number of different things, it is ultimately entrepreneurs who create the work, the employment, and the wealth in our country. I say that because one of the things the government fails to understand, or one of the challenges it has had over the last little while, is the uncertainty that small businesses face.
There is a number of issues and a number of things the Liberals are trying to do in stimulating the country, such as universal child benefit and other that obviously will make families better off. We do not have a problem with that. The challenge we have is the instability of what entrepreneurs face. Let me give an example.
While we were in government, we did a number of things to try to encourage entrepreneurs to start businesses. I used the acronym called “TIRE” because it was a multi-pronged approach. We lowered corporate taxes to one of the lowest in the G7, down to 25%. We can say okay, it was great that we lowered corporate taxes, but what did that do? That was just one thing in a number of things we did, but it was important to create certainty for entrepreneurs to flourish.
Let me talk about the acronym of TIRE and what it stands for. The “T” stands for taxes and trade. One of the things we did was lowered taxes for corporations because we wanted to increase investment in Canada and we wanted to create a favourable environment to encourage other crown corporations and individuals to invest here.
The second thing we did was trade. We worked on the CETA deal, which we pretty much got to the finish line. It was nice to see the Liberals complete it. However, we were there. We negotiated it over the four years we were in government.
The second one was TPP, another agreement we worked on and had actually signed it but were waiting for ratification on it. This is important because Canada has about 35 million people and they cannot possibly sell all their goods to each other. We are definitely a trading nation. These are important things. We count very heavily on the U.S. That number used to be 85% to 90%. I realize now it is down to 75%. However, we need to create other opportunities. This was one of the reasons why we worked on trade along with taxes.
The “I” in TIRE, is infrastructure, investments, and immigration reform. We worked on these things. We spent major amounts of money in infrastructure across the country, and we got it out in record time. The Liberal government has also promised infrastructure money, but we have not seen a whole lot in the first two years. There is always some concern with a half billion dollars going to the Asia Infrastructure Bank, but the budget officer has said that almost $2 billion have been unspent at this point in time.
The “R” stands for research and development, and red tape reduction. If we look at the R and D, the government continues to spend money on it and continues to commit money to it. These are good things, but sometimes it misses the mark. We have talked about superclusters being important. My challenge is that as a small business person, it is very hard to access those things. Most businesses in the country are small businesses. While there is probably nothing wrong with the concept of superclusters, the challenge is that money needs to go to entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Entrepreneurs tell us all the time that it is always difficult to raise capital. If we look at some of these things, this always seems to be the number one issue. When we look at places like San Francisco, silicon valley, Boston, Israel, and a number of other places around the world, there is great entrepreneurship. A lot of times Canadian companies have to go south of the border to raise money for second rounds, third rounds, VC rounds, and those kinds of things. These are some of the things with which we are challenged. When we look at R and D, absolutely important is the number of programs. The government has programs such as SR&ED a few others that are effective and helpful.
I sat on the red tape reduction committee. We travelled the country, and red tape was another thing that frustrated entrepreneurs to no end. We have to find ways to continue. One of the things we implemented was the one for one rule. When a new regulation was introduced, we would reduce a regulation.
One of the challenges is this. The federal government regulates a number of areas. However, then there are provincial and municipal jurisdictions and each of these add a layer and make it difficult for entrepreneurs to get started.
The last thing, the “E” in TIRE, is entrepreneurship and the economy. One of the things I always tell people when I talk to them about business is that there is a whole suite of things that we need to do in order to encourage entrepreneurship in this country. Right now, there are obviously a number of incubators and accelerators. Members are obviously familiar with Communitech in Waterloo, which does an amazing job. There are a number of other incubators and accelerators across this country. I always wonder if it would not make sense, as we move forward, to encourage colleges and universities to look at making that part of their mandate. I realize that is not always possible, but I think if we are going to teach entrepreneurship, if we are going to talk to people about starting businesses, then we also have to give them a place to actually help hone their craft.
Some of the things that are helpful for incubators are, obviously, that there is access to capital and money, that there are mentors, and that there is an environment where there is a chance to work and feed off what is going on with other individuals. As I visited a number of incubators in Silicon Valley, one of the things that was amazing was this whole issue of like-mindedness. People could come together, share their ideas, have access to capital, and all those other things.
However, one of the things we struggle with in this country is that we do not have a culture of entrepreneurship. I talk to students taking business programs all the time and ask them what they think they are going to do. They tell me that once they get their MBA, they want to work for a big company. Now, there is nothing wrong with working for a big company, but one of the challenges we have in this country is that we do not have enough people willing to start businesses and be entrepreneurial.
As I look at these things that we worked on as a government, I use TIRE, where the “T” is for taxes and trade; the “I” is for infrastructure, investments, and immigration reform, which is trying to help businesses bring in the people they need; the “R” is for R and D, and red tape reduction; and, of course, the “E” is for entrepreneurship and economy.
One of the things that has been a challenge with the latest implementation, or the thought process of taxes and taxation, has been the uncertainty for small businesses. I have literally had all kinds of phone calls coming into my office. People were saying that they were not happy and were not sure what they were going to do.
I co-hosted a round table here on Parliament Hill as the co-chair of the entrepreneur caucus with my colleagues. We had the CFIB and a number of individuals. We had a high-net-worth accountant, who represents a lot of money. He said that since this has happened, over $1 billion has gone south of the border. Now, we are never going to see a press release sent out on who was going to invest in Canada but will not now. Money is fluid, and it can move in different directions. Quite frankly, when there is uncertainty, it makes it a challenge.
I also want to talk about the unintended consequences of some of the proposed tax changes. Remember, in previous years, it took the Carter commission four years to look at tax changes and another six years to implement them, which is over a decade. However, this was done in less than 75 days in the middle of the summer.
Doctors are a segment of people who were singled out as not paying their fair share of taxes. I have an individual in my office who lives in my riding but has a practice in Welland. She is a dermatologist, and her husband is an orthopaedic surgeon. She feels totally vilified with what is going on here. She and her husband have over $400,000 in debt, with another $100,000 for her to set up her practice in Welland. She said that if things do not change that, in two years when her lease runs out, she will be moving south of the border. I am not saying that every doctor is leaving, but there are certainly individuals out there who do not feel like the hard work and time they put in is going to be rewarded.
As I look at some of the budget implementation act, I see large deficits, which are for a time when the economy is not doing that well. Right now, the economy has been doing relatively well. What happens if we continue to spend all of this money that is for a rainy day? Our growth is better than average, and maybe better than expected, but I believe that on the horizon we will see less than 2% growth, or 1% and change, over the next couple of years.
If we stack up some of things that are going on here, such as the uncertainty with the tax proposals, the fact remains that it is still hard for entrepreneurs to access money. When we look at taxing passive income, it makes it very discouraging for people trying to grow the economy, create jobs, and, quite frankly, trying to help Canada grow as a nation.
I would encourage my friends on the other side of the House to reconsider what they are looking at, where they are going with these tax changes, and the deficit, because there will be lasting and long-term results.
View Ed Fast Profile
View Ed Fast Profile
2017-11-07 13:34 [p.15077]
Madam Speaker, the fact that Canada is experiencing growth and job creation today is because of a Conservative government that invested heavily and responsibly in infrastructure before 2015. It kept taxes low on Canadians, moved infrastructure projects forward, and was supportive of the resource sector.
Today, we know there are lots of red flags in our economy. We know that foreign investment is fleeing Canada. It is avoiding Canada because we do not have regulatory certainty anymore. When a company from abroad wants to invest in Canada, it asks how long it will take to get its project approved, and it is told that it could be many years, or maybe never. Therefore, it is not going to be investing in Canada.
That is the sad part of this Liberal government. It has overturned all of the goods things our previous Conservative government did to lay the basis for a sound economy.
View Nathan Cullen Profile
View Nathan Cullen Profile
2017-11-02 16:51 [p.14906]
Mr. Speaker, maybe the Prime Minister's plan is the opposite, which is to make Canada a province of China. If we look at the way the Liberals have gone through reviews of state-controlled companies from China buying up technology and aerospace firms, and firms that work alongside the military, we see it has been the Americans who have been raising far more concerns, even in the pick-up of a concrete and construction company that China is looking to buy right now. When I say China is looking to buy, I mean the Government of China. However, it is the Americans who are saying that, if we allow that sale to go ahead, they have concerns with the company and it will not be allowed to operate in the United States anymore, but go ahead and let the purchase go forward.
As for the finance minister, he has been fined. The Liberals stand up day after day and say that the finance minister has done everything right, and in fact, he has gone beyond. Why did he go beyond? It is because he got caught. What type of integrity is that when one does the right thing after being caught?
I have seven-year-old kids, and we talk about this kind of stuff. We try to guide them along the way to do the right thing out of the gate, so then they will not have to pay a fine, admit all these things, and start to suddenly make new-found charitable donations after realizing there is an investigation into their ethical behaviour.
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2017-10-31 10:42 [p.14729]
Mr. Speaker, at the outset, I want to start by thanking all the members of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities for convening a week early, before Parliament was scheduled to resume, to allow for intensive study of Bill C-49, the transportation modernization act.
I would also like to thank all the witnesses who appeared before committee, along with the many other stakeholders who have shared their views. This includes the feedback provided by Canadians, industry stakeholders, provinces and territories, and indigenous groups, as part of the government's extensive consultation process undertaken last year leading up of the announcement of transportation 2030, our strategic plan for the future of transportation in Canada.
While there were some differences of opinion during the committee's proceedings, we also heard on a number of occasions how important this bill, as a whole, is for Canadians, the transportation system, and the economic prosperity of our country.
It is important for this bill to strike the right balance, which is why the committee adopted some important amendments in response to concerns that were raised during its in-depth study of the bill. This balance is a reflection of the collaboration that was achieved during the committee’s study.
The minister, and I also, was happy with the progress and the review of this bill and the extent of collaboration, which demonstrates the importance accorded by committee members to this bill.
Bill C-49 promotes transparency, system efficiency, and fairness. It is an important legislative step towards delivering on concrete measures in support of transportation 2030, our government's vision for the long-term future of Canada's transportation system.
Canada is a vast country with a very complex transportation network. It is therefore critical to ensure that our laws and regulations position our country to thrive as a high-performing economy that can respond to changing conditions and to Canadians' expectations when they travel.
This proposed legislation aims to provide a better experience for travellers and a transparent, fair, efficient, and safer freight rail system to facilitate trade and economic growth. In particular, the bill would strengthen air passenger rights; liberalize international ownership restrictions for Canadian air carriers to provide travellers with more choice and encourage greater competition; develop a transparent and predictable process for authorization of joint ventures between air carriers; improve access, transparency, efficiency, and sustainable long-term investment in the freight rail sector; and enhance the safety of transportation in Canada by requiring railways to install voice and video recorders in locomotives.
Together, these proposed initiatives advance a strategic and integrated plan for the future of our country’s transportation system.
Our government's focus on inclusive growth for the middle-class and greater safety and security for Canadians led to the introduction of some key amendments to the Canada Transportation Act in Bill C-49 specific to the air traveller.
What does this mean for Canadians?
Bill C-49 would mandate the Canadian Transportation Agency to develop, in collaboration with Transport Canada, a set of clear regulations to strengthen air passenger rights that would apply consistently to all carriers. The regulatory process would allow broad consultation with Canadians and industry stakeholders to develop world-leading regulations, which is what Canadians expect and deserve.
Canadians and passengers travelling to, within, or from Canada would be provided with rights that address current irritants faced by air passengers. These rights would be easy to understand and uniform across all airlines and all flights, domestic and international.
Canadians understand that in certain circumstances airlines do not have full control over events, such as weather, emergency, and security incidents, or even medical emergencies, but even then Canadians have a right to a certain level of protection when they travel. In other circumstances, when the carrier makes commercial decisions that may have an impact on the passenger, Canadians expect fair compensation for any inconvenience they experience.
Should Bill C-49 receive royal assent, the minister has received assurances from the agency that they are committed to establishing the regulations on air passenger rights as soon as possible.
Bill C-49 specifies that the regulations would include provisions addressing passengers' most frequently experienced irritants: providing passengers with plain language information about carriers' obligations and how to seek compensation or file complaints; setting standards for the treatment of passengers in the case of denied boarding due to overbooking, delays, and cancellations, including compensation; standardizing compensation levels for lost or damaged baggage; establishing standards for the treatment of passengers in the case of tarmac delays over a certain period of time; seating children close to a parent or guardian at no extra charge; and requiring air carriers to develop standards for transporting musical instruments.
The minister has been clear that the regulations would include provisions ensuring that no Canadian is involuntarily removed from an aircraft due to overbooking after they have boarded the aircraft. He has also been clear that airlines will be expected to fulfill their obligations to the passenger and, in cases where a passenger cannot fly as a result of overbooking, the air carrier would be obligated to fulfill its contract with that passenger.
We intend to monitor the air passenger experience. This bill proposes requiring data from all parties in the air sector. This data would not only allow for monitoring of compliance with the proposed air passengers' bill of rights framework, but also inform any future policy or regulatory actions to ensure that the air travel experience to, within, and out of Canada is efficient and effective.
Bill C-49 also proposes to increase the foreign investment limit from 25% to 49% in Canadian air carriers, with associated safeguards. No single international investor would be able to hold more than 25% of the voting shares of a Canadian air carrier, and no combination of international air carriers could own more than 25% of a Canadian carrier. The ownership restrictions at 25% would remain for specialty air services, such as heli-logging, aerial photography, or firefighting.
Liberalizing the international ownership restrictions would allow Canadian air carriers, including all passenger and cargo providers, access to more investment capital, which they could use for innovation. We expect this to bring more competition into the Canadian air sector, providing more choice for Canadians, and generating benefits for airports and suppliers, including new jobs.
By allowing higher levels of foreign investment, Canadians would have access to better connectivity, and more frequent access to air travel.
Another improvement proposed in the bill is that it would allow the Minister of Transport, in consultation with the commissioner of competition, to consider applications for joint ventures between two or more air carriers. As it now stands, joint ventures are only subject to review as collaborations between competitors under the Competition Act.
Joint ventures are an increasingly common practice in the global air transportation sector. They enable air carriers to coordinate functions, including scheduling, pricing, revenue management, marketing, and sales. This would benefit Canadian passengers, giving them access to more destinations without needing to book separate tickets with different carriers.
This bill would open a process in Canada to both competitive and public interest considerations. This transparent and predictable assessment process would take into account the characteristics of the air transportation sector, as well as the wider public interest and competitive factors. It is expected that this approach would lead to better connectivity, less process, and a better overall passenger experience.
In Canada and around the world, airports are investing large sums of money and resources to simplify and improve the air travel experience for their passengers. Municipalities and businesses are also seeking new or additional passenger screening services as part of their economic development plans.
The proposed amendments to the act of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, CATSA, would create a more flexible framework whereby industry stakeholders could enter into agreements with CATSA on a cost-recovery basis. This flexibility would allow airports to increase screening services at their facilities, strengthen their competitiveness, and attract new commercial routes, which would enhance the traveller's experience without compromising aviation security.
Bill C-49 also proposes significant measures to strengthen the safety of Canada's rail sector. Proposed amendments to the Railway Safety Act mandating the installation of voice and video recorders in locomotives across Canada's railway industry would provide a clear safety benefit and improve rail safety overall. Locomotive voice and video recorders would provide essential information to better understand the causes and contributing factors leading up to an incident or an accident relating to human factors, which are often impossible to obtain by other means. The proposed regime does raise complex issues regarding the rights of employees to privacy. This is why the proposed framework carefully balances the safety benefits derived from locomotive voice and video recorders with the privacy rights of employees. This approach builds on 10 years of careful studies of the technical and privacy-related implications, and would address the Transportation Safety Board of Canada's recommendation in this regard.
Bill C-49 advances historic measures to promote transparency, fair access, efficiency and investment in the rail sector.
First, major new data requirements on the railways' service and performance would come into force more quickly. Railways would begin reporting specific service and performance metrics 180 days after royal assent, rather than one year. As well, the amendments would require that this data be reported more quickly. Railways would be required to report their service and performance metrics five days after each reporting period, rather than the 14 days originally recommended.
Finally, the Canadian Transportation Agency would have to publicly post that data within two days of receiving it, rather than the original seven days. Together, these measures would ensure that shippers have access to more timely data. Bill C-49 already provides the agency with the power to require even more data if needed, underscoring our commitment to a more transparent rail system.
Second, captive shippers in British Columbia, Northern Alberta, and Northern Quebec, in sectors such as forestry and mining, would have better access to the proposed new long-haul interswitching remedy. These changes reflect the spirit and intent of this new remedy.
The committee’s amendments would still maintain a critical balance by minimizing congestion in the Quebec-Windsor and Vancouver-Kamloops corridors. Extensive congestion could ultimately slow down the rail system to everyone’s detriment.
Third, another amendment at committee reinforces the point that a railway's removal of an interchange for interswitching would not affect its service obligation toward a shipper. Railways would also be required to notify the agency of their intent to remove an interchange and provide more advance notice to shippers, namely 120 days rather than 60 days. These amendments speak to a concern we heard that interchanges could be closed without any recourse for shippers.
Finally a technical amendment made by the committee would allow the new majority shareholder ownership limit for Canadian National Railway to become effective upon royal assent. This amendment would simplify the process for Canadian National and help ensure investment in a network that is critical to Canada's economic performance.
Bill C-49 would establish the right conditions for our rail network for years to come. The amendments the committee proposed would help advance our goal of a transparent, efficient, and safe Canadian freight rail system that meets the long-term needs of users and facilitates trade and economic growth.
Bill C-49 also addresses marine-related infrastructure. The legislation proposes amendments to the Canada Marine Act that would allow Canada port authorities and their wholly-owned subsidiaries access to loans and loan guarantees from the newly created Canada infrastructure bank.
The bank will invest $5 billion for trade and transportation related priorities. Allowing port authorities to access the bank would support investments in Canada's trade corridors and the infrastructure needed for our long-term economic growth and the creation of good, well-paying jobs for the middle class.
Bill C-49 would change the Coasting Trade Act by allowing all shipowners to reposition their owned or leased containers between locations in Canada without a coasting trade licence. Removing the licensing requirement for foreign vessels to reposition empty containers is expected to help improve the competitiveness of Canada's supply chain in support of Canada's exports, and enhance the attractiveness of Canadian ports as gateways to the North American market.
A strong and modern transportation system is fundamental to Canada's continued economic prosperity. All Canadians benefit from a competitive, reliable, and efficient transportation system.
The committee has proposed important amendments to ensure the bill achieves a fair balance. Collaboration helped in finding solutions that will contribute to modernizing our laws and regulations in order to increase investment in Canada and promote the long-term growth of our transportation system.
The proposals included in Bill C-49 are designed to achieve tangible improvements to our national transportation system that will serve and benefit Canadians for decades to come.
I would like to again thank the members of the committee for working together to ensure that Bill C-49 achieves a fair and balanced approach in fostering a more efficient and safer transportation system.
View Tom Kmiec Profile
View Tom Kmiec Profile
2017-10-31 11:12 [p.14733]
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to join this debate at the last stage of the bill, affording my last opportunity to mention a few things.
I did not get a chance to stand once more to make another comment for the parliamentary secretary. She used the word “historic” in her speech. It would be incumbent upon me to point out that today is a historic day. It is 500 years since the great reformation when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses in the Wittenberg Cathedral. That is a true historic day.
The bill is interesting, and it is an omnibus bill. However, before I go into the nature of omnibus bills, I want to mention a unique part of my riding of Calgary Shepard, and I am very honoured to represent the residents there.
The community of Ogden is on the north side of my riding. It is where my constituency office is located. The head office of one of Canada's major railways is also located there. It is called the Ogden stockyards for a reason. CP moved its headquarters to Ogden, a community that was historically set up and named after CP's vice president at the time, Mr. I.G. Ogden. There is a deep relationship between the railroad, Calgary Shepard, and the area in which the riding finds itself. It hosts a spectacular Legion Remembrance Day celebration, commemorating all those who were employees of the railroad and their family members who served in Word War I and World War II. It serves a lunch to the community afterwards. It is a fantastic thing. It started after it moved to the area, with which it historically has a relationship. CP used to have its headquarters in downtown Calgary at the Gulf Towers, but moved it in 2012.
Another interesting part is that because CP cares so much about its history and has such a deep relationship with the community, early in June it moved the 91-tonne Locomotive 29 from downtown. If people have been to the Calgary Stampede, they would see this locomotive on TV, as the parade route passes by it. It is a 130-year-old locomotive, and was moved to commemorate CP's history.
The bill, because it deals with railroads, airlines, and transportation, is omnibus legislation. The minister said yesterday that 90% of the bill dealt with one facet. However, it would go on to amend so many other pieces of legislation, some of which really do not deal so much with safety as with competition and the relationship between a consumer and producer of a good or service provider. Therefore, when the minister says this, then it is an omnibus bill. It is kind of like introducing an infrastructure bank in a budget implementation bill. That makes the budget implementation bill an omnibus bill. Therefore, the Liberals cannot deny that this is another broken Liberal promise.
Yesterday I called it a trick or treat bill. It is offering something that supposedly will resolve an issue or problem in the marketplace, a user-experience problem, but it is not so much the treat but the trick. It would not resolve the issues the Liberals believe it would.
The general opinion I have heard on the bill, from editorialists and critics on passenger rights and the service provided by different railroads, is that the proposed legislation will not meet the goals set out by the government. It might be a step in the right direction sometimes, but it is one step forward and two steps back.
As I had mentioned in my commentary for the parliamentary secretary, all the reasonable amendments put forward by Conservative members were voted down. The three that were not were subamended by Liberal members. I had put forward very similar ideas. The Liberals had heard a very similar concept from witnesses. They are actually changing it from seven to two days and one year to 180 days. These are highly technical date and number amendments done at committee. It is not the type of work I have seen with other pieces of legislation, such as the Senate private member's bill that dealt with the Magnitsky Act. There was far more back and forth and substantive amendments were made.
I know many members expect this, so I have a Yiddish proverb. “To every answer you can find a new question.” I will lead off the rest of my intervention on this proverb.
The more I hear answers from the government and various members on all sides, the more questions I have about the goals of the bill and where it will go. With every answer, I have even more questions. Therefore, I have some rhetorical questions that I will share with the House.
I read a May Globe and Mail editorial called the bill “a strange beast”. Yesterday, I called it the “demogorgon” from Stranger Things, a show I highly recommend for all members of the House, although not for young children.
The bill works at cross-purposes. Editorialists mentioned that the costs might be reduced on one end but would go up on the other end. Hopefully, competition will increase, which is a goal of this legislation. I do not think it will achieve that. The government hopes more people will be enticed to use airline services and choose to fly instead of drive.
Security fees will go up, which is a disincentive for air passengers. However, cost is only one issue for passengers. There is also the user's experience and accessibility. Access, in general, is a point we should always remember.
The bill talks about a higher max amount for foreign ownership being changed for Canadian airlines. Although it is a step in the right direction, it is only one step.
Higher equity stakes by themselves do not lead to more competition, and that is important to remember. Allowing international investors to own a bigger portion of current companies will not lead necessarily to more competition. It is a goal. What we need is a level playing field to allow an opportunity for new airlines and joint ventures.
I have much more to say about joint ventures because the bill gets that balance wrong. It puts the onus on the wrong person. More government involvement in the private sector in business is not the correct way to structure the economy in general.
As well, new entrants will look at taxation and a solid, stable business environment. That is something the fall economic statement does not envision for the future of Canada. GDP is going down every year. There is a gap between the first budget the Liberals tabled in the House and the following budgets, such that GDP growth goes up one year and the next year it goes down drastically. Today is Halloween, so I find these GDP growth numbers spooky.
A few provisions in the bill directly affect how joint ventures will be agreed to. It gives the minister of transport a role in approving applications for airline joint ventures, where two independent companies arrive at a negotiated agreement to provide a service to customers in Canada. Injecting the Minister of Transport into such a process is the wrong way to go. We already have the Competition Bureau to ensure there will be an increase in competition. We should not be involving more ministers of the crown in business decisions. There should be less government involvement in the business sector and the private economy.
The Government of Canada's answer has been that this will be good for business. This brings back the Yiddish proverb that it begs more questions. If the solution is that more government involvement will create more competition and thus be good for customers, then why politicize the process by putting a minister of the crown in the position where he or she has to decide whether a joint venture goes forward? Why inject the minister into a business decision?
The exact reverse is being done in the energy infrastructure approval process where everything is being delegated down to the National Energy Board. We can see the results of this. There is a complete paralysis in companies going ahead with the approval and construction of new projects. A lot of companies are concerned about going forward with new projects being considered in their shops and offices. They have not yet gone to the regulator to propose them. They are concerned that they will be unable to meet the new rules the NEB keeps creating, or that the costs of meeting them will be high.
This does not improve the business environment. Rather, it is worsen it. It would be much better to level the field, reduce political involvement, and ensure business certainty is provided. I do not think injecting the minister into joint venture provisions and allowing him or her to have a say over whether a joint venture can go ahead is the right way.
Most of the amendments were put forward after the committee had heard from witnesses, but I really want to dispel the notion that this bill, as it stands, is a product of bipartisanship or collaboration between the parties. Although I am sure there is collaboration at committee in terms of the discussions back and forth and that everything is cordial and collegial, there still have to be substantive differences between the opposition and the government, and there were on this issue. The opposition parties provided substantive amendments that could have been considered more seriously by the government caucus members for approval. Then we could say the bill was truly due to a collegial bipartisan effort and that the product is good.
What do passengers care about? That is the goal of the bill. Members were asking themselves what passengers and producers care about when dealing with railroads, but especially asked this question with respect to air passengers, because more and more Canadians are travelling by air. Cost, access, and user experience I think are the three most important things. Cost comes down to the dollar amount. There is opportunity to shop on different websites and I think everyone considers how many points they will get. We know that Canadians love their points, whether from Mastercard, Visa, Aeroplan, or Air Miles. Whatever they are, people in this country like to collect points, and it goes into the total cost.
Access comprises the ease of the travel, the convenience, and the airport services. Who can travel and how are other considerations. I choose an airline based on my ability to sit with my kids. I have three young kids and I want to make sure that I do not have to rush to the airport early to get them assigned seats. I want to make sure that they will all be sitting with me, so other passengers and I have an easier time travelling. I actually pick an airline based on the one that will give me the easiest time dealing with my three kids to make sure they can get through their experience.
As for the total user experience, Bill C-49 focuses only on user experience. This is not just my point. Massimo Bergamini, president of the National Airlines Council of Canada, says that the bill focuses too much on air carriers and fails to recognize that the air traveller experience, as I mentioned, does not just start at the check-in phase and then end at baggage pickup. It is the total experience one has. That is far more difficult to get right in one piece of legislation and the bill before the House does not quite achieve that point, because it does not consider the end costs or the access component of it.
We should not sacrifice customer expectations. That point was raised by others, and I agree with it. We are always purchasing difference services and products, and critics of the bill have said that the passenger bill of rights is a band-aid solution. To the point of the Yiddish proverb, the government caucus says this will resolve customer expectation and service-delivery issues, but it begs the question of why we are doing this if critics are saying this is only a band-aid solution. What then is the best remedy? The best remedy is always more competition in the free market, which leads to more consumer choice. The solution is not more government, yet this bill would create more government. By setting out expectations, the government would be able to deliver on more fairness and would be able to police the airlines more effectively. On the railway side, the government would also be more involved in setting prices and telling the railroads how to deal with their customers.
The passenger bill of rights has a section called “Ministerial Directions”, and says, “The Minister may issue directions to the Agency to make a regulation under paragraph (1)(g) respecting any of the carrier’s other obligations towards passengers.” This is after listing a whole series of obligations. In the bill, “obligations” is a very general term. It says, “The Agency shall comply with these directions.” If, in the future, the minister decides that airlines have a new obligation they need to meet, whatever it could be, whether providing a certain type of meal, a certain type of seat, or a certain type of service beyond those enumerated, then the minister can give that direction.
Again, in a free market, we can shop around. That would be the best way to go forward. We have already seen this is in the tech sector. There are apps on our iPads and phones and when an app does not deliver what we expect, we delete it. We get rid of it and move on. Whatever costs we have sunk into it, we ignore them. Hopefully, it was free, though it is not always free, and then we move on.
The same thing applies to smart phones. There is broad competition phones between all of the different smart phone providers and software types offered. People pick and choose which ones they want based on the services offered, the functionality, cost, and ease of use of the phones, and sometimes the ease of transferring to another device when it comes time for an upgrade.
The same concept should apply to airlines and the services they provide, particularly if people are not satisfied with them. It is not necessarily just a matter of choosing between airlines, but also about choosing other modes of transportation. Depending which part of the country someone lives in, people will have different modes of transportation to choose from. If someone lives in the Windsor, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa corridor, they will have more choices. I have taken advantage of that and taken Via Rail in the past. As a westerner, it is quite an experience because we do not have those types of service levels. The distances are far greater. I could have flown but chose not to. I wanted to experience Canada, as well as the travel time it would take using passenger rail.
I have travelled throughout Europe using passenger rail as well. It is very convenient. Again, their governments are sometimes involved in setting prices, but mostly in dealing with disputes. There is far more competition in Europe. Encouraging competition and new entrants is more than just about the equity stakes allowed. It is a matter of the regulatory environment, fees, and taxes that new entrants will face. At the end of the day, it is about the ease of doing business.
I remember my time working at the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, where people would not come to us complaining about taxes or to verify a specific regulation, although that would happen, but more about the total package. For example, there was the issue of how complicated it was for them as business owners to comply with regulations. That applies to the owners of small-, medium-, and large-sized businesses. If the large businesses are publicly traded companies, the owners will be looking at the quarterly bottom line, and their executive team will be looking at how easy it is to comply with different rules and whether they have the people to do it. Can they meet the expectations of both their customers and the government, and can they deal with their competitors?
I know that the equity stake issue has been used. Vancouver's Jetlines have said they want a higher equity amount in their specific case to capitalize their company. This is because airlines face cash flow crunches and need large volumes of passengers to make ends meet, and profitable routes are quite limited. To have a new entrant come in, companies need to be well capitalized to be able to compete. Therefore, in their particular case, it would be beneficial to them.
As I mentioned before, I think about this Yiddish proverb, and every answer we hear from the government caucus and members leads to more questions. More generally, why do we continue to worry about foreign ownership in airlines? I want to draw a parallel. We are not as worried about the devices we use that are not manufactured in Canada, with operating systems not made in Canada, or that sometimes have data that is not even stored in Canada. I do not hear vast amounts of complaining about that, because people generally like the services they receive from their smart phone providers and the different software they use on the phones, whether it be operating or business software, or other recreational features they use. We are not as concerned about where those components come from, where they are ultimately made, but at the end of the day we care about the user experience and the cost. Foreign ownership in that respect is not as important.
However, with airlines, we could achieve far more if we provided much looser foreign ownership rules. In the legislation itself, the government goes into a lot of detail trying to change it. It has been said that airlines are not at the commanding heights of the economy. I know the government changed some of the definitions of what being Canadian means.
I have been signalled to wrap it up, so I have one last point. The problem thus far is that the answers I get from government caucus members lead me to have more and more questions. The bill is incomplete. Its goals for air passengers will not be met. Amendments offered by my colleagues at committee would have vastly improved this proposed piece of legislation.
I will continue to oppose this bill. I hope that every answer I give during questions and comments leads to even more questions, just as I used the Yiddish proverb to illustrate.
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