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Results: 91 - 105 of 161
View Lloyd Longfield Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Lloyd Longfield Profile
2017-10-30 18:38 [p.14711]
Madam Speaker, there is a third rail line, the Guelph Junction line, that also has some shunting yards that move freight between the two major carriers in Canada.
This legislation would open up the opportunity for international investors to see a more efficient network to invest in and attract the capital that we need to pay for the tracks that have to go in to do the dual tracking between some of the major centres in Canada.
Part of the work of this legislation involves attracting attention and investment through the greater efficiencies that it would provide.
View Brian Masse Profile
View Brian Masse Profile
2017-06-16 12:41 [p.12859]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be splitting my time with the member for Elmwood—Transcona.
In a previous Parliament, the member for Elmwood—Transcona was Bill Blaikie, who was a good friend of mine. I had the pleasure of spending some time with him in regard to a number of issues, including transportation.
The Winnipeg area is a gateway to much of the west and the United States. Ironically, my riding of Windsor West is the same. Transportation plays a key part in not only our economy, but also in the social and cultural makeup of civilization. Trade creates relationships, opportunities, entrepreneurship, and some of the hard industries.
When we were fighting for a new border crossing in Windsor, what I really appreciated about Bill was his understanding of the transportation issue.
I can tell members who were not in the House when Bill Blaikie was a member that he was a giant, quite literally. When he was coming to Windsor, I asked people what he was like, and a friend of mine said, “Well, he hasn't met a sandwich he didn't like.” I was to pick him up at the airport, and I pulled up in a two-door Cavalier. This giant of a man was standing there. When he got in the car, the first thing he asked was whether the seat would go back. I replied, “Unfortunately, it is all the way back.” He travelled with me in that car with his knees in his face for a long time.
Bill's first observation in my riding was on the border crossing. Transport trucks were lined up all the way down Church Road, one stacked after the other. He told me that in Winnipeg those things were called trains. Hundreds of transport trucks cross that particular border. As I said, I will be splitting my time with the new member for Elmwood—Transcona, and he has the same pedigree with respect to transportation.
This piece of legislation is important for transportation in many respects. I am going to focus on the airline passenger bill of rights aspect, which is something I personally have been trying to move in Parliament for a number of years.
I am sure that all members know that Canada lags when it comes to this. The European Union and the United States in particular have had a passenger bill of rights for some time. For Canada not to have one is a good example of our lack of consumer protection.
Canada is very unique when it comes to a lack of protection and the influence of those things on our pocketbooks. New Democrats have worked on a variety of issues, with the most recent one getting a lot of attention being the unlocking of cellphones. I worked on this with Rogers at one point in time. Rogers was the first company to unlock cellphones. That would be normal and expected behaviour, and at no cost to the consumer. The CRTC ruled that consumers would have a reasonable expectation of this, because it is normal practice in most countries around the world. For us to be treated differently is a drag on our economy and a drag on our capacity to compete.
An airline bill of rights affects passenger travel, and passenger travel is also business travel. Say, for example, a business traveller has been ripped off or not been treated properly or did not get to a destination, that individual would have something to fall back on. If we are spending so much of our time trying to figure out rules and regulations and fairness, and there is nothing more than a dog's breakfast out there, with people fighting for decency, for anything, from a bit of nourishment to proper compensation, they are wasting their time, energy, and resources. Airline travel then becomes an uncompetitive part of our economy.
Canada needs to think about consumer protection. If we do not have some kind of protection, it is a drag on our capabilities. We will be out of sync with our competitors and our partners, be it the United States or the European Union or whoever else when it comes to these types of things.
This act unfortunately includes several things. The Conservatives were very good at bringing a healthy repertoire of omnibus bills to the House of Commons, and we debated those bills on a regular basis. To some degree, I have to give the Liberals credit. Given that we have had so few bills coming forth, when they do come forward, they are omnibus bills on steroids. They are pumped up with several different aspects that we would not have seen in the past. They have augmented this type of practice.
In this bill, we should be discussing the passenger bill of rights on its own—for the reasons I have noted in the precursor—with respect to the competitiveness of our economy, let alone sincere fairness. If one has ever sat on the tarmac before, one sometimes has to wait three or four hours and cannot even go to the washroom, which is unhealthy to begin with, not to mention the spillovers we have seen in the past. We should be thinking about those small issues when we are talking about other things in this bill.
The Canada Transportation Act is being amended in this bill, as is foreign ownership of airlines. We are talking about an industry that has had quite a colourful past. Its current characterization of ownership has a full cast of characters in unknown quantities, to say the least. That is dependent upon a series of things, and we are shedding some control of ownership, which is worthy of a debate.
What is interesting with respect to the Railway Safety Act is where Canada stands with railway and railway safety. I was a former transportation critic for this party, and we worked on the railway safety review. There were a number of things that were never implemented. However, just because we are built on a railway system and have had some great advances, we should keep this example in mind when we compare ourselves to other countries. While we are still struggling to find high-speed rail, Uzbekistan is beating us on that. I can say that bleeds through the entire process with respect to rail safety in this place, because that is what it looks like.
I am a former municipal city councillor. One of the things I have learned in the House of Commons, and in my previous representation, is that there is city council, the provincial legislature, the federal legislature, then we have the Lord, and then the rail companies. It seems that is essentially the pecking order with respect to being a representative and dealing with the complications of rail safety, which are very significant, not only for workers, but also for the men and women who live around the rail lines and interact with them. For example, with respect to hazardous materials, the transportation between Canada and the U.S. is significant.
We also have the Coasting Trade Act, the Canada Marine Act, and the western grain transportation act that are all affected by this bill.
We have now moved closure on this bill, and instead of seeing this done properly, it will be done altogether. I do not want to be too hard on the previous government, but the reality of omnibus bills is that they do not go through the full vetting process that is necessary. It has not been cast in terms of a political advantage or political commentary for the Liberals or the Conservatives, the reality is that legislative bodies, like our committees, are supposed to go through individual legislation because we can enhance it. Even if we do not agree with the legislation and what it has done, we often find mistakes and other problems. Hence, the previous government ran into several different problems in the court system because bills did not go through the proper channels and the full vetting that is necessary.
The current government seems to have built upon that and pumped up its legislation to include even more. We will see this go to committee, and there will be a cluster of different things that will require testimony. I can tell members that we will have testimony that overshadows many different departments, from many different witnesses, and it will likely come back as a giant muddle and mess. At the end of the day, we will be dealing with this again.
I know that my time is coming to an end here. However, in conclusion, I want to impress upon the members that Canadians have spoken loud and clear about the passenger bill of rights. The EU has some models and targets that it has reached, and we have proposed that they should be part of our legislation. The United States also has that.
Let us not just think about the inconvenience of a passenger being delayed, but let us also think about our economy and capabilities, and the time management we have as individuals, who should have a good contract. When we purchase a ticket, we should at least receive a product that is similar.
View Gord Johns Profile
View Gord Johns Profile
2017-06-16 12:56 [p.12861]
Mr. Speaker, I also want to second the comment from the member for Oshawa, in terms of the member for Windsor West and the great knowledge he shares around consumer rights and protections. He has fought for capping merchant fees, for a gas ombudsman, and wireless competition to lower fees for consumers.
In the bill, it talks about raising the cap on foreign ownership from 25% to 49%, which was a recommendation in the Emerson report that the Liberals are supporting. However, the University of Manitoba research reports submitted in relation to the Emerson report concluded that there is no reliable evidence of a link between raising the foreign ownership cap and boosting competition. Would the member speak about that?
View Brian Masse Profile
View Brian Masse Profile
2017-06-16 12:57 [p.12861]
Mr. Speaker, that is an important question because the expectation is that by going to 49% we would increase competition. However, there should be in the bill, at the very least, measurables for that. There is no corroboration between the two in terms of increasing the foreign ownership. That is a real problem because there are so many anomalies with regard to who owns airlines and what they can have financially.
View Nathan Cullen Profile
View Nathan Cullen Profile
2017-06-15 11:11 [p.12745]
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today.
I just checked the stock market ticker, and there is a run on red Kool-Aid going on right now. The amount being drunk by the other side, believing their own noise, is exceptional. When it comes to fundraising and clearly broken promises to the Canadian people, it is most remarkable that Liberals say this makes it transparent. It makes it more transparent that the Prime Minister is breaking his promise to Canadians and makes it more transparent that people can buy access to the Liberal Party of Canada, directly to the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers.
I have a long list of all the various special access programs and all the various ministers. I hope I have the opportunity to read it.
Of course, it is not only the Prime Minister that people can buy access to—no, no. People can pay to play with virtually any minister on the front bench about an issue that they are engaged in if they have the money to do it.
Here we are with Bill C-50. This is an unusual moment for me, because this may be the most tepid and conditional support for a bill that I have ever given in my parliamentary career. That is because it does so little. In its vagueness and the cloud that it seeks to create, it borders on nothing, and sometimes it is hard to vote against nothing.
There is this bit of noise that says Liberals are going to follow the law. That is basically what the bill says. The law in Canada requires that the names of people who make donations to political parties eventually be made public, along with how much they have donated, so now they are going to follow the law. Wow. It is breathtaking. Oh, are they are going to do it a bit quicker? Congratulations.
It reminds me a bit of asking kids to clean up their rooms, which are total disasters. There are toys and clothes everywhere. They walk in, pick up one sock, put it in the laundry hamper, and say they are done. The Liberals have made an entire mess—of their own creation, by the way—of these cash-for-access events. They were invented, designed, and executed by the Liberal Party once it formed government. Liberals made the mess and then said they were going to fix it.
They even made the great mistake of over-promising and under-delivering, because they leaked this bill to The Globe and Mail before it came out. The Globe and Mail had a breathless headline saying that the Liberals were going to end cash-for-access fundraisers. I thought, “Great. That would be a good thing”, because being able to buy access to the government is not only unseemly but also breaks a bunch of laws if those people happen to have any business with the government, which again, as we will see when I get to the list of all of the cash-for-access fundraisers, is happening with the justice minister, the natural resources minister, the finance minister, and the Prime Minister.
The Liberals were going to end it, said The Globe and Mail, as per a report of a Liberal insider, and then, lo and behold, we get Bill C-50. It is 16 pages that manage to do virtually nothing. Wow.
We are going to go through this exercise today and other days debating this most virtuous act that is all sizzle and no steak, as they say back home, and attempts to do something that I would suggest is quite cynical. As my colleague from Edmonton pointed out earlier, the timing of this bill was most suspicious.
In the wake of breaking yet another promise to Canadians—that 2015 was going to be the last election under first past the post—suddenly the Liberals said they were going to attempt to change the channel over to cash for access, because they did not want us to pay any more attention to the fact that when Liberals campaigned in the last election, they swore hand on heart that 2015 would be the last first-past-the-post election and that they would bring in a more fair and equitable voting system.
They were going to move it over. I thought if they were going to change the channel, they would have to change it to a better station. They decided to change the channel over to cash for access, this practice and culture within the Liberal Party that enables people who have a lot of money to speak directly, personally, intimately to ministers of the crown.
Let us clear up one thing. My friend from Saanich—Gulf Islands attempted to get the Liberals to say something about this. Liberals say that all members of Parliament fundraise. They are trying to say apples are oranges and night is day and there is no distinction between someone paying to go to a fundraiser for a minister of the crown, who is, pen in hand, writing laws as we speak, or to the Prime Minister himself, who under the political system we have has extraordinary powers, and a backbench member of the House of Commons holding a fundraiser. The Liberals are trying to say that the expectation of influence is the same for those who participate in those fundraisers.
What planet do the Liberals occupy? They know full well that the access they are selling is influence. People do not pay $1,500 to sit down with the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Natural Resources, or the Minister of Finance with the expectation that their words will have no effect on the laws, bills, or programs that emanate from the government.
There is a great quote by the Prime Minister from December 13 of last year. He admits that lobbyists are showing up to his fundraisers, which probably breaks another law, but okay. Lobbyists are showing up to the Prime Minister's fundraisers. It is a natural question to ask why a lobbyist would pay $1,500 to see the Prime Minister. I wonder what a lobbyist would want to do.
They would probably want to lobby on behalf of their clients, who pay their salaries. Industry, big banks, and pharmaceuticals hire lobbyists. The lobbyists attend the fundraisers, pay the money to the Liberal Party, and then get a little one-on-one time with the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister explains it away this way:
Any time I meet anyone, you know, they will have questions for me or they will take the opportunity to talk to the prime minister about things that are important to them.
I love it when he uses the third person. It so impresses me when someone uses the third person to talk about himself.
He went on:
And I can say that in various Liberal party events, I listen to people as I will in any given situation, but the decisions I take in government are ones based on what is right for Canadians and not on what an individual in a fundraiser might say.
That is weird, because if we talk to these lobbyists about why they attended a certain event, they tell us they were lobbying the government on behalf of their clients, and that it was effective because they got some very good, close, personal time with the Prime Minister or various ministers, and it felt very effective.
Business is in the business of business, of advocating and encouraging the policies that work for it. This is not a charitable exercise for a lobbyist. My friend said earlier, it is “the grandness of democracy”. I got a little wispy there for a moment. When someone who works for an industry drops $1,500 on the table to lobby the Minister of Natural Resources, he or she is participating in the grandness of democracy. “Here is my $1,500, on behalf of the mining companies that I represent, to spend time with the natural resource minister.” The minister had promised the Winnipeg Free Press that he would never attend a cash-for-access event. Where was the Minister of Natural Resources two weeks later? He was at a cash-for-access event with people from the natural resources industry.
These dots are not hard to connect, yet for Liberals it seems that they are, because they just produced a bill that will enshrine the status quo. It will say that cash for access will continue. It even falls short of their promise that these events could not be held in private homes, because the bill allows for that to continue.
They said they were to be held in public spaces. That was in their speaking notes at the press conference, The Liberals said they would ensure that fundraisers would be held in public spaces that the public can attend. First of all, there is that slight little hitch: the public can attend if they happen to have $1,500. When I see a sign for public skating, I know what that means. A public swim at two o'clock would mean it was probably a couple of bucks or $4.00, and I can take my kids swimming or skating. If it says that there is public skating at four o'clock and it is $1,500 to get in, it does not feel so much like a public space anymore. Rather, it feels very much like a private space, a Boulevard Club or Granite Club sort of public space, which is a Liberal interpretation of what a public space is.
The bill also has a convenient loophole that has been deemed the Laurier Club loophole. if someone makes the $1,550 maximum donation at a Liberal convention, this law does not apply. Is that not convenient? Where do many people who attain status at the Laurier Club make their donation? It is at a Liberal convention. In fact, according to Liberal records, a quarter of the Liberal donations came from just 4% of their donors. Twenty-five per cent came from 4%. That is according to Liberal records.
If the Liberals scowl and tut-tut, then it must mean the Liberal Party of Canada is lying, which I would never suggest. That has never happened, even with all that sponsorship scandal. In any case, the Liberal Party has reported that this is where its money comes from.
The list of what the bill does not do is so much longer than what the bill does. It says we are going to report who attends cash for access quicker. We are going to notify the public a few days in advance that the event is happening, and the public is welcome to attend if they have $1,500. There is a special rate for youth, those under 25, because a lot of people I know under 25 have $250 burning a hole in their pockets. I speak with many people in high schools and universities, and I chat with the pages. I am always amazed how they are constantly leaving hundreds of dollars lying around at the coffee shop, the bar, of wherever we are having our chat. It is a funny thing.
Someone just triggered a name, which reminded me that I made an unfortunate comment about a former colleague during question period. Joe Volpe, a former Liberal, served many years in the House. I got a note from his family suggesting that was an unkind comment that caused them some pain. It is only fair for me, certainly because my former colleague is no longer here to defend himself in the way that we do, to apologize for making that comment about Mr. Volpe, and by extension, to his family.
There are two versions of how the Liberals operate. There are the ones who make the promises in the campaign. Sometimes they repeat the promises, even when they form government. Then there is the version of what the Liberals do when they are in government. We need to bring this into some sort of psychological disorder, because Liberals are able to countenance these two alternative realities at the same time.
In November 2015, the Prime Minister said:
There should be no preferential access to government, or appearance of preferential access, accorded to individuals or organizations because they have made financial contributions to politicians and political parties.
That was a promise. He said one does not get access to the Liberal government simply by making a donation, even the appearance of access. That is a very high bar. I thought that was great and I wondered if they could attain it. Then we found out the justice minister, in April 2016, attended a Liberal fundraiser at a Bay Street law firm, Torys LLP, which is registered to lobby the justice minister. There is no problem there, right? We have the justice minister attending a fundraiser by a registered lobbyist with lawyers.
Then the finance minister held a private Liberal Party fundraiser for business executives at the waterfront mansion of a Halifax mining tycoon, and he was pleased to suggest that it was really just a way of holding pre-budget consultations. I have attended pre-budget consultations as part of the finance committee. In my own riding, we held a town hall and welcomed people to come talk to us about what they thought should be in the budget. What did we charge? It was nothing. In fact, I bought the coffee, because I thought that was appropriate. If we want to invite the public to inform how the government should construct the federal budget, which is their money anyway, we should not charge them for the privilege of the conversation.
The finance minister thought that was appropriate. Here is what he said:
I am pleased to say that we have taken on a consultation process for our budget that allows us to listen to all Canadians. ...We have the most open process ever put in place, and we will continue to listen to Canadians as we craft the next budget on their behalf.
He just walked out of a millionaire's mansion, where people paid $1,500 to have that bit of time with him to inform him. That is the “their” he is talking about.
For the middle class, and those struggling to join it, unless people have the $1,500, they do not get to talk to the finance minister the same way.
On October 21, 2016, the finance minister assured us that these events are “open to the public”. Like every member of Parliament, I am actively involved in fundraising activities for my party. Invitations are sent out to hundreds of people, and they are in fact open. Trying to say that access to the finance minister, who is writing the federal budget, is the same as access to any other member of Parliament, muddies the water.
We looked at the email the Liberals sent out inviting people to this event. I do not know a lot about the Internet, but I did learn that when one uses robots.txt that makes the invitation non-searchable.
Why would they send out an invitation that was not searchable? Do they not want people to know about their event? Usually, I do. I would never use a sneaky backdoor way to make sure that nobody could actually find it. Now we find that the government House leader—this is interesting—had a fundraising event held by a pharmaceutical billionaire who has a lawsuit challenging the federal government's ban on importing two of his company's drugs into Canada. He held a fundraiser for the Liberal House leader. She argued that this event is an example of “lawful and ethical fundraising”. That is her quote.
A billionaire pharmaceutical-company owner who is fighting the federal government trying to get his drugs into Canada held an event for the government House leader and she said that it is an example of ethical and lawful fundraising.
A week later, the natural resources minister told his local paper in Winnipeg that he would never attend a cash-for-access event. He called it a pay for play. Later, he attended a fundraiser by a major law firm that actively lobbies on issues relating to permits regulating the mining and gas sector. Why would they want to talk to the natural resources minister? After attending the event, the minister's spokesperson claimed that these fundraisers were entirely correct because the term, “pay to play” implies a connection to government business and party fundraising. My God, how thick do they have to be? Why would a law firm that lobbies on behalf of mining and natural resources want to have a special fundraiser for the Minister of Natural Resources? This wilful blindness continues, and it goes on and on.
The Prime Minister held a secret Liberal fundraiser, which is what the Liberals are trying to improve, with Chinese Canadian billionaires. This fundraiser was in Canada's national interest, for engaging positively with the world to draw in investment. A headline in The Globe and Mail editorial just this week asked why the current government is doing Beijing's work. This is the radical left-wing newspaper, The Globe and Mail, wondering out loud why the Liberal government is doing Beijing's work. Then we find out that there are fundraisers connected to investors in Canada by Chinese Canadians and others.
The list is too long. I am going to run out of time. This is unfortunate. It is unfortunate that the list is so long. The Prime Minister himself set the bar initially, saying that there was going to be no preferential access. He said this loud and clear, in black and white on Liberal.ca, and repeated it a bunch of times and then set the example for his ministers, which they dutifully followed and held their own fundraisers and special access events with people directly connected to their ministries. It is unfortunate that they see no problem in this. What did they not do?
They did not give Elections Canada the investigative powers that Elections Canada has been asking for to go after illegal fundraising. That is weird, is it not? They were going to try to clean up fundraising in Canada and the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada said, “I need this tool over here to do my job properly.” Then when the government introduced its bill to clean up fundraising, they neglected to put it in.
Liberals sit on the ethics committee and recommended proposals to the government. Not a single recommendation from that made its way into Bill C-50. Therefore, we must pull back and look at this smokescreen attempt by the government and ask what pattern the government has when it comes to how it treats Parliament. Chantal Hébert, of all people, wrote a column yesterday wondering out loud again, who this government is because it looks so much like Stephen Harper's approach to Parliament. We see that the Liberals cannot properly name watchdogs of Parliament. When we offer them a solution they say, “We don't like it, change this”, and when we change that one aspect of our proposal, they still vote against us. They have a nominations problem. They have performance anxiety.
When the Prime Minister, eight months ago, promised to clean up nominations and get rid of the backlog, the backlog went up 60% for nominating important positions around this country, including watchdogs of Parliament and judges on the bench. We now have Jordan's law, and cases, maybe thousands of them, are about to be thrown out because the government cannot be competent enough to do its job.
We say to the government with respect to Bill C-50, this is an opportunity to make things better, to give Canadians more confidence not less. This is an opportunity to follow through on the Prime Minister's own promise. Let us not miss this opportunity. We will amend the legislation at committee. We will see where Liberal ethics truly lie.
View Tony Clement Profile
Ind. (ON)
View Tony Clement Profile
2017-06-15 12:19 [p.12754]
Mr. Speaker, I always like to have more of an audience, so thanks to the members of the House.
As I was saying, that is where this came from, and it was transferred holus-bolus in full form to the governing Liberal ethos once it obtained power here in Ottawa. When this came to light, the reaction of the Liberal government was to say that it was going to fix things. However, and the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley said the same thing, what the Liberals have done in their “fix” on this is to actually sanctify the situation where they were shaking down people for money, making sure that stakeholders and lobbyists were contacted, and telling them if they wanted to see the Prime Minister, the Minister of Justice, or the Natural Resources Minister they would have to pay to play.
I want this to be very clear for those who might be listening or watching. Cash-for-access is not going away. The bill somehow creates a hardened resin of legitimacy over what is essentially a rotten process. Now we have amber hardening on this illegitimate process through the bill. That is why we are objecting to the bill.
This is not about us wanting to have more cash-for-access fundraisers. We want the opposite. We want a bill that works. That is why we were so disappointed to see that the solution of the Prime Minister, his cabinet, and the Liberal backbench was to merely say that these cash for access fundraisers would go on, but there are hoops to jump through.
I have been up in the House over the last week talking about the Norsat deal, where, in a mystifying way, absolutely baffling, the Liberal government has refused to do a national security review before accepting and allowing an investment from a Chinese company, Hytera, to take over Norsat, a very specialized IT and tech company involved in our own national defence, with our friends to the south, and the Department of Defense in the U.S.A. and elsewhere. It would be normal practice to have a national security review.
I will tie this together to the bill, I assure you, Mr. Speaker.
We have been asking the government why it is doing this. Why not just have a review and let the security agencies do their jobs, and talk to our allies, not just perfunctorily to say it has made its decision but actually have a dialogue with our allies? When the same company, Hytera, was taking over a British company, the British government added five pages of conditions after a full national security review prior to that takeover taking place. Nothing of this order is happening here.
Forgive us on this side of the House for connecting the dots, because of course many of these cash-for-access fundraisers involve individuals who have been connected to the official mainland People's Republic of China government. We know part of the motive here is that the Liberal government is enamoured and has a fetish—if I dare use that term—for a free trade deal with China. Let me put on the record right now that it will not end well if the government pursues and concludes a free trade deal with China. I predict, we will be losing our shirts, and more.
That is why we wanted real reform in political fundraising so that no one is suspect, even if it is not true. I do not know facts. I do not know whether there is a connection between political fundraisers with Chinese nationals and their surrogates who have deep connections with the People's Republic of China's government. I do not know whether there is a connection, but we have to be Caesar's wife in this place, perhaps an old term, maybe not as appropriate now, but the point is that we have to be cleaner than clean. We have to make sure that the public has confidence that public policy decisions are being made for the right reasons, for the reasons built after a public policy debate has taken place by government. Maybe I would disagree with their decision, but the government would be making a decision with full legitimacy and full credibility. That is what we want. I know we are going to disagree, but it is so important to have the legitimacy of decision-making unquestioned.
I would say to members opposite that they are not doing themselves any favours by creating this regime and continuing this regime of cash-for-access because then every decision they make is susceptible to question, to delegitimization, to incredulity, and to cynicism. It is a government that professed to be the answer to cynicism. The hon. members rode in and were going to slay the dragon of skepticism and cynicism in our polity.
However, now they are doing this. They created this system of cash-for-access, imported it from the province of Ontario from the McGuinty-Wynne era, which I state for the record I hope to be drawing to a close but that is up to the voters of Ontario. They imported it, improved upon it, and created a cash-for-access machine and I dare say, while we on this side of the House have every right to question any decision that we think is contrary to the Canadian interests, it pains me that part of that dialogue is always going to be about the underlying motive of the Liberal government decision-making because of this cash-for-access racket, which will continue under the bill.
My friends who have stood up already talked about some of the details. I want to state for the record that this is different from the way the previous government raised money in degree as well as function. We just did not do things this way and we are proud as the Conservative Party that most of our donations are smaller donations, $10, $20, $30, $50, $100, that is what we rely on overwhelmingly and the statistics prove that out.
I would encourage hon. members on the other side to think before they vote on the bill. There is still time to amend and to have a better bill that will actually do what the Liberals promised it would do, but we are a far journey away from seeing that in the bill today.
View Scott Reid Profile
View Scott Reid Profile
2017-06-08 21:16 [p.12367]
Mr. Speaker, this legislation could be understood in three steps. Step number one, the Liberals come up with a fundraising system that is profoundly profitable. Step number two, the public finds out about it and it becomes profoundly unpopular. Step number three, the Liberals attempt to develop a piece of legislation that would provide ethical cover for continuing this unpopular practice because it is so darned profitable.
This legislation is the Liberal Party's attempt to legitimize and normalize the practice that is sometimes referred to as pay to play, and sometimes referred to as cash for access. Either of those two descriptions makes a point. If one wants to play in this game, if one wants to have access to ministers, then pay up, and one can have access to the cabinet minister of choice, in particular, the Prime Minister himself or the finance minister, although every minister is a part of this game.
The goal of Bill C-50 is to legitimize this process. The Liberals are getting attacked. They can say it was the expressed will of Parliament that this practice be continued, because they will publicize some information about these enormously profitable events in which only the Liberal government can participate.
This is an issue here. It was a huge scandal for the Liberal government in Ontario, which has quotas for ministers to seek out great events at which access would be provided only to those who paid up to the Liberal Party of Ontario. This has been a huge issue in British Columbia. It may very well have been the issue that will cause the Liberal government out there to ultimately lose power, but that remains to be seen. There is a hung parliament in British Columbia, but this is a big scandal out there.
I want to give some examples of what the federal Liberals are doing, not the provincial Liberals in B.C., or the Liberals in Ontario. I want to give some examples of how this works and what it is about. I am going to give some examples of actual pay to play or cash for access events over the course of the past year or so.
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 Zhang Bin, who is also a Communist Party apparatchik, attended a May 19, 2016 fundraiser at the Toronto home of Chinese Business Chamber of Canada chairperson Benson Wong according to this report in The Globe and Mail. A few weeks later Mr. Zhang and a business partner donated $200,000 to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, and $50,000 to build a statute of the current Prime Minister's father.
Here is a second example. On November 7, B.C. multimillionaire Miaofei Pan hosted a fundraiser at his West Vancouver mansion, and made the case to the Prime Minister, at this event that he had to pay to get into and that he also hosted, to allow Chinese investment in seniors care and real estate developments, and ease rules for rich immigrants from China. What better way to get preferential access than to have it in your own home? This took place as the federal government had been reviewing a $1 billion bid by China's Anbang Insurance Group to buy one of British Columbia's largest retirement home nursing care chains.
Here is another example. An event scheduled for September 29 was actually cancelled, but was organized by senior business executive Geoff Smith, CEO of the giant construction firm EllisDon, which was involved in a scandal in Ontario over very similar events, and Linda Hasenfratz, CEO of Linamar, Canada's second largest automotive parts company. Both companies could benefit from government decisions concerning infrastructure and automobile policy.
Here is another example of pay to play as exercised by the Liberal government. The finance minister was scheduled to attend a fundraiser that cost $1,500 to get in the door in Calgary on November 2 at the home of Shaw Communications Inc. President Jay Mehr. The telecom firm has directly lobbied the finance department eight times. Is there a conflict there?
Here is an example of an exclusive event. On November 7, the finance minister attended an event in Calgary, and the Prime Minister attended an event in Toronto. This was an exclusive event held at the Toronto condominium of philanthropist Nancy Pencer and funeral home executive, Michael Benjamin. Helping to sell tickets were Barry Sherman, the chairman of generic drug manufacturer Apotex and Joel Reitman, who runs global venture firm Jillcy Capital. Apotex is the company whose executives had civic-minded children, I believe under the age of 10, who decided to make contributions to the leadership campaign of Joe Volpe, when he was running for the Liberal leadership. That is the kind of company the cabinet over there runs with.
Another event is a corporate law firm in Toronto with interests in Ottawa lobbying the federal government, hosting an event where the justice minister was the guest of honour, for goodness' sake. The finance minister was the star attraction at a $1,500 per person Liberal Party fundraiser in the home of a wealthy Halifax developer. Another event was $500 per person. That is a bargain price for the finance minister.
Members get the idea. This is a sample of the kinds of activities the cash for access activities in which the federal cabinet members have all been involved. The Prime Minister, the finance minister, the justice minister, and the whole crew met with people who do business with the federal government, and who now get to speak face-to-face with these ministers, when no one else gets that kind of access.
Pay to play is the backbone of Liberal fundraising. To make this point, I want to say how much the Liberals raise when they have these kinds of events. In this report, they would not actually say, but attendance figures had suggested that the party brings in between $50,000 and $120,000 per event, when either the Prime Minister or the finance minister is the star attraction, and the ticket price is $1,500. That is how much they bring in at an event in an evening. There are paying very special attention, and it has had a big impact on their bottom line. This is the backbone of their financing.
The pay to play process for raising funds started early last year, but it really took off in the final quarter of last year. Liberal Party finances went from $4 million, substantially behind the Conservative Party in the first quarter of 2016, to $5.8 million, well over $1 million ahead of the Conservative Party in the final quarter of 2016.
This was going to be the ace in the hole for the Liberals. This was how they were going to finance the next election. Let us be clear about this. When our party was in government, we did not do this stuff, but even if there were no ethical considerations holding back other parties in this place, only one party can deliver cabinet ministers, people who can, with the stroke of a pen, make someone's company tens of millions or hundreds of millions of dollars richer, at the expense of the Canadian people. Only the government can do that. There is an inbuilt incumbency advantage. This is an inbuilt way of ensuring that the governing party can raise funds in a way that is simply impossible for other parties.
That in itself is an outrage. Any system that is designed to give the incumbent party an ongoing, perpetual systemic advantage is inherently morally wrong. That is leaving aside the fact that giving preferential access to cabinet ministers, when the average Canadian does not get this chance, is absolutely contemptible.
This is not actually illegal right now. It is not unlawful, but it is a violation of the Prime Minister's ethics code, his open and accountable government code, put in place in 2015. Let me read the fine words the Prime Minister put at the front of this code. I do not know if he writes his own stuff, but there is a unique sanctimonious tone to whatever he puts on paper.
Mr. John Brassard: He had his hand over his heart.
Mr. Scott Reid: As my colleague suggested, Mr. Speaker, he probably had his hand over his heart when he put this down. It reads:
To be worthy of Canadians’ trust, we must always act with integrity.
He gets breathless, too.
This is not merely a matter of adopting the right rules, or of ensuring technical compliance with those rules. As Ministers, you and your staff must uphold the highest standards of honesty and impartiality, and both the performance of your official duties and the arrangement of your private affairs should bear the closest public scrutiny. This is an obligation that is not fully discharged by simply acting within the law.
Those Liberals have the highest standards. They stand above anybody else. They are demigods of integrity. Now, specifically, this is the injunction they place on themselves with regard to lobbyists and those who seek out special access to them.
There should be no preferential access to government, or appearance of preferential access, accorded to individuals or organizations because they have made financial contributions to politicians and political parties.
Those are the Prime Minister's words.
Of course, the Liberals have completely violated this, but they have not broken the law. The thing is, though, that they have broken their word--absolutely, completely, and flagrantly broken their word. Their words mean nothing, as we can see. On top of that, they have also violated the norms of acceptable behaviour. Even if the Prime Minister had not put that sanctimonious bumph down on paper, the fact is that they violated what everybody thinks are the norms of acceptable behaviour. There is a crime called influence peddling and while this does not meet the technical description, it is clear that is exactly what is going on. The influence of the Prime Minister, the finance minister, and the justice minister are being peddled like so much soap.
This is why so many people have had the incorrect impression that the law was being violated. John Ivison wrote a piece for the National Post last November condemning the Ethics Commissioner for not having cracked down on the Prime Minister and the other members of cabinet for their outrageous behaviour and the commissioner was forced to write back to explain. I have her response from her website on November 30 of last year, entitled, “Response to a column in the National Post: the Commissioner sets the record straight”.
What she sets straight is that she cannot do anything because, outrageous as this behaviour is, it does not violate the actual rules. She goes through the various sections of the law and says, “It is a strange section. It fails to prohibit all preferential treatment, which should be the rule.” This is section 7 of the conflict of interest legislation. She says it should be the rule, but “Section 7 only prohibits preferential treatment that results from the intervention from a third party.” Liberals found a way around the rules, which is another signature of the government. If there is a way of violating the spirit of a rule but not violating its letter, they are all over that.
To be clear, everybody thinks this is either illegal or is astonished to discover that it is not unlawful, and yet it is not. As The Hill Times summarized it:
So [the] Justice Minister...wasn’t breaking any rule by being the guest of honour at the pricey fundraiser organized by a Bay Street law firm. It just smells really bad and violates the spirit of the government’s own code of conduct.
This also explains why, when Nanos, the polling organization, asked Canadians what they thought—
View Peter Van Loan Profile
View Peter Van Loan Profile
2017-06-08 22:45 [p.12380]
Mr. Speaker, it is time we had an honest discussion of what the bill is actually about. I have heard Liberal speakers talk about chapter and detail of what it is about, and that there was no problem. I just heard from the Liberal ranks saying there was no problem to be solved. If there is no problem to be solved, why are we having a bill? The problem to be solved by the admission of the Liberal Party was a scandal called cash-for-access fundraising. It was hitting the news. It was making stories, and the Liberals promised to deal with the problem. The bill is said to be the response to that problem.
I thought it very telling that the member for St. John's East said there are rules that the parties set for themselves. That was a description of the bill. This is a bill where the Liberals are setting rules for themselves. This is not solving the problem of cash-for-access fundraisers. This is not stopping cash for access fundraisers. This is a bill that formalizes the process of cash-for-access fundraisers. This is a bill that legalizes cash-for-access fundraisers.
Some know I have been involved in political parties and campaigns for a few years, 42 to be exact. I know a thing or two about fundraising. I know a thing or two about running campaigns. Make no mistake, the bill is about formalizing and instituting a system of cash-for-access fundraisers. That is what it does. That is what it is all about.
It is not surprising Liberals want to, as the hon. member said, set rules for themselves about fundraising, and that this is what they are doing here. The Liberals have a long history of fundraising problems and scandals. Some of it in very recent history. I recall it was not long ago that the Minister of Justice, keep in mind the justice minister is responsible for appointing every senior judge in this country, held a fundraiser and invited lawyers. They were to be given unprecedented access, and it was even held at a major Toronto law firm.
If an individual is a lawyer and applying to become a judge, and being told to come to a fundraiser, I think the message is loud and clear. That judgeship applicant might want to show up. Not surprisingly, we have seen a raft of appointments recently that happened to coincide with the fact these people were very generous donors to the Liberal Party. Is there any doubt what was going on at that fundraiser by the Minister of Justice targeted to lawyers?
I was part of the Harper government, where as a minister for many years, I was actually, by the ethics rules we thought and by our practice, prohibited from raising money from the stakeholders in my portfolio. Prohibited. The Ethics Commissioner told us those were the rules. We could not do it, and we did not do it. Here, the Liberal Party is making it a formal practice, and having been called out on it, the solution is simple, the Liberals will pass a law, formalize it, and say this is the system. Then, when anyone says there is a problem, tell me if we have heard this in question period, we are following the rules. What rules are we following? These are rules the party is setting for themselves as the hon. member for St. John's East said. These are the rules they are going to follow.
That will be the answer, and when the Ethics Commissioner says she does not like the appearance of undue influence and cash for access, Liberals are going to say they are following the rules. They are setting up a system, and everyone who comes has to show up, be on the list, advertise it publicly, and so on, but having done all that, it is okay for Liberals to raise money from stakeholders, and sell the access of the minister's ear, so that people can whisper their requests. If they are lobbying, the minister is there if they have paid their ticket price to the Liberal Party.
That is what the bill is about, and that is why it is wholly unacceptable. It is unacceptable in a free and democratic society where we pretend that everybody has equal access, because it is not equal access. It is cash for access. Cash for access to the decision-makers who can make a difference in the success or failure of people's ventures, and we have seen that. It was not just the people who want to become judges.
The Prime Minister, we learned, went to a fundraiser or a private home, targeting a particular community. One of those at that fundraiser was somebody named Shenglin Xian. He had an interest, an application to the federal government for a bank. He made the maximum donation to the party, and got a lot of his friends to come to this fundraiser too, to make those maximum donations to the party. They all got to talk to the Prime Minister, got their pictures taken with the Prime Minister, and talked to the Prime Minister about the things in which they had a financial interest, about things from which they would profit by a decision made by the government. What happened? Not long after that fundraiser, Mr. Xian got his approval from the federal government. That is part of the scandal that led to the bill. That is part of the problem that has been solved by the bill.
Let us go back and see what happens. Is there anything in the bill that would stop the exact same thing from happening again? Is there anything that would discourage it, because that maximum donation to the party is publicly disclosed anyhow. No, this is a smoke and mirrors formalization of cash-for-access fundraising, a legalization and a way to say to the public, to the people in the House, to the media and to the Ethics Commissioner, “It is none of your business. We are following the rules.” The rules that parties set for themselves, as the Liberal member said, and that is what this is.
That is why this is so unacceptable. Mr. Xian was not the only one at that cash-for-access fundraiser. Another gentleman gave $1 million to the Trudeau Foundation, after attending an exclusive, in a private home, cash-for-access fundraiser. He did not give money to any other groups. He did not give money to the Manning Centre, no. He went to a fundraiser with the Prime Minister and gave money to the Trudeau Foundation, $1 million. He did not give money to anybody else. He was not having a private cash-for-access fundraiser with anybody else, he was having it with the Prime Minister, and the money flowed to the Trudeau Foundation.
There were other attendees at that event who acknowledged they raised government business with the Prime Minister. They said they lobbied the Prime Minister about things they cared about, interests that they had with the government. The Prime Minister even admitted it. He acknowledged that he had been lobbied at that event, and this will make it all go away because what? Can anybody point me to one provision in the bill that will stop that fundraiser and those discussions from happening? There is none. All it will do is stop the criticism of that inappropriate, unethical, virtually corrupt form of fundraising, and it is something that is happening, not to solve the problem, it is happening to solve the Liberals' fundraising problem.
Let us ask, where did this came from? Why was it that the media was suddenly interested in Liberal fundraising? No one was standing there for a long time. They had not been. It turns out the Ontario Liberals, some of whom have suddenly migrated to Ottawa, the people who used to run the Premier's office, who used to run the Liberal Party in Ontario, are now running the federal Liberal Party. What did they do when they were in Ontario? They had something that was described by Liberal insiders and Liberal cabinet ministers as a system. It was a system of cash-for-access fundraising, and this is how the Liberal Party of Ontario was funded. Each minister was assigned targets. If an individual was the minister of finance, somebody like Charles Sousa, the minister would sign an annual target of half a million dollars.
They were given a list of the stakeholders, the people they would be dealing with, the folks they would be making decisions about. They would be told to forget about themselves and their riding associations. Gerald Butts and Katie Telford were in the premier's office. Now they are in the Prime Minister's Office. They would be told to go out for the Liberal Party of Ontario. If a member wanted to remain a minister, he or she would have to raise half a million dollars from stakeholders and turn it over to the Liberal Party caucus. The job was to hold the fundraisers, give the access, collect the cash. That was the system.
It turns out that Eric Hoskins, the health minister, had the exact same target of half a million dollars a year. He had to hold fundraisers at long-term care homes with the Ontario Long Term Care Association and folks like that, and bring in money.
All the folks on the backbench over there think the way to be a minister is to always follow the party whip. This law is about putting in place a new system for them. That is what the Liberals did in Ontario. It is real simple. They should not worry about the whip. They are given a target and are told to bring in money. If they perform, they will get to be in cabinet. That was the system in Ontario. It became a bit of a scandal, understandably.
I know a lot of people are smiling on the Liberal benches because they think this is funny. However, it is not funny; it is corruption. It is what discredits politics in our country. When people think the worst of politics, it is what they think the country is about. It is the system of the Liberal Party, of Gerald Butts, of Katie Telford, and it is the system they are bringing here. It is the system that this bill will legalize, formalize, put in place, and keep rolling, but with much bigger stakes and much bigger dollars. People should think about that.
One of my friends across the way is heckling about one of two cases in a decade of Conservative government, where there was an issue for cash for access. Oddly, both of them happened in that very Conservative sector, the arts sector. One was with a minister, the other with a parliamentary secretary. In both cases, they attended events that they thought were just meetings with folks in the arts sector. Somebody went around the room and collected cheques. All that money was returned of their own initiative. Why? Because that was the Conservative practice: no cash for access.
Those were the only two examples in that arts sector, which was so cozy with the Conservatives. This undermines the fact that these were unsolicited funds that were returned instantly on the initiative of the Conservatives because it was wrong. The hon. member knows it is wrong and that is why he is raising it. However, he will vote for a bill that makes it legal and formal to do that kind of stuff. The hon. member who is heckling me thinks it is wrong, but will vote for a bill that formalizes it.
Should that not trouble everybody? Did Prime Minister Stephen Harper ever hold any? He avoided it by one simple mechanism: he did not hold fundraisers and did not attend fundraisers. In a decade in office, he attended one fundraiser. It was in Montreal, with over 1,000 people. It was not a cash-for-access intimate event in the kitchen of one of his friends who had an interest; it was one with 1,000 people. Even then he stopped it. Why? There could be no question whatsoever of unethical or corrupt conduct, the kind that would be formalized in this bill.
Let us talk more about the Ontario system.
Energy minister Bob Chiarelli was consistently turning in a quarter to a third of a million dollars a year. That was his target. He held one private dinner with one group of stakeholders in the energy sector. The premier went to it. This little private dinner in a restaurant turned up $100,000 alone. That was the Liberal cash-for-access system.
Dwight Duncan, a former Liberal finance minister of Ontario, has this to say about the system. He was assigned the target of a million dollars. He said, “One of the reasons I quit...I was so sick of it.” That system is what the people on the government side are proposing we support, formalize, and legalize.
John Gerretsen, the attorney general, father of the Liberal member for Kingston and the Islands, said this about the Liberal system of cash for access. He said he was troubled by the conflict of interest aspects, “If a major issue comes up, and you have been funded by lobbyists on behalf of any kind of industry, you’re going to be affected by that...it’s human nature."
It is human nature to be influenced by it. Unfortunately, it is Liberal nature to do it, to always conduct cash-for-access fundraising. Now, they have created a system that legalizes it and formalizes it, and somehow in the whole process are pretending they are doing something virtuous.
Of course there was the exposé of what was being done in Ontario, and I credit those Liberal insiders and former ministers who exposed it, because otherwise we would not know today that they literally had a formal system. They identified stakeholders, raised the money from them, and did it. That is why it became an issue when suddenly those folks from Queen's Park came to Ottawa and the same kind of fundraising began to appear here. It had not been here under the previous government, but suddenly, there it was. The Prime Minister was holding intimate gatherings. People were making maximum donations. They were bringing along 10 or 20 of their friends. In the states they call that bundling. They were bundling to make those maximum contributions. They were discussing government business.
Is there anything in the bill that would stop that? Is there anything in the bill that would prevent lobbying at these exclusive cash-for-access events? No, there is not. We are formalizing and legalizing how it is done. “Come on up, pay your $1,500, and have your say with the minister, and then get your way maybe down the road.” That is what the bill is all about.
The Liberals are back in business. They are back in Ottawa. Some will remember the “Sky Shops” scandal. Some will remember the sponsorship scandal, and I could go on and on through history. It has always been there. It has always been the Liberal way.
We are going to get money based on the principles we stand for, standing for, as Conservatives do, our belief in smaller government. The NDP believes in bigger government. They think that is the solution. People support us for both those reasons. However, for the Liberal Party, there is a challenge. When they do not believe anything, how do they get money? They get money by selling access, by selling favourable decisions, by giving people what they want in exchange for cash. That, simply put, is political corruption. Anywhere I come from, that is what it is.
I am proud to be part of a political party that has avoided those things. I was very proud to be part of a government where it simply did not happen, a government where the money came in small amounts from people all across the country who simply believed in what we cared about. I never attended, held, or saw anything remotely like a cash-for-access fundraiser in my entire time in government as a member of Parliament on the Conservative Party side, but as soon as the government changed, the Ontario system was here.
What did they do to solve it in Ontario? They actually banned cash-for-access fundraisers. The Ontario Liberals acknowledged it was wrong and banned it. It was a little awkward. They went overboard and said MPs, candidates, opposition individual MPs cannot be there. It is a little excessive, but it actually solves the problem and bans it. They did not do that with the federal Liberal approach, which is to formalize it, legalize it, and set up a system.
The Liberals want to continue the practice here in Ottawa. The way they are going to continue the practice is by building bulletproof, iron-clad defences: “We addressed the problem. We passed a law. We are following the law. We are doing exactly what the law says one does if collecting cash for access.”
That is not a solution to the problem. That is an increase in the problem. That is an acceleration of the problem. That is the practice of politics the way Liberals have always done it, and the way it seems they want to do it into the future. That is unacceptable to Conservatives. That is unacceptable to Canadians.
View Blake Richards Profile
View Blake Richards Profile
2017-06-08 23:17 [p.12385]
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise tonight and speak to Bill C-50 or, as I like to refer to it, the “got caught with my hand in the cookie jar so I'm going to blame the cookie jar act”, because that is exactly what the Liberals are trying to do with this legislation. They knew what the rules were. They knew what the rules were all along. Then they just broke them. They continued to break them. Then they got caught. Now they are trying to put up a bit of a cover for that. They did this for months. They went on and on with it. They showed no remorse. They did not seem to have any feelings of guilt. However, when they were caught, they decided that it was the rules' fault and not their fault. That is where we are today.
I guess we could look at it the way my colleague, the member for Calgary Rocky Ridge, put it. He told me this legislation was designed to stop the Liberals from doing what they have been doing. Maybe it would just be easier if they just stopped doing it. What is even worse is this legislation would not even stop them from doing it. It is just a cover. When people forget about the cash-for-access scandals, they will just quietly start doing it again. This legislation really would not do anything to stop it.
Let me back up a bit and take us to where we started with all of this, or where they started with all of this. In November 2015, very shortly after the Liberals formed government, the Prime Minister issued some directives. These directives were titled, “Open and Accountable Government.” I suspect if anyone is watching tonight, they are probably chuckling a bit at that, because it does sound amusing to hear that title, given what we have seen from the Liberal government in the year and a half to two years it has been in power. However, I do not want us to get too distracted by that because it is a bit amusing. There is no question about that.
However, under “Annex B” of that directive, “Fundraising and Dealing with Lobbyists: Best Practices for Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries”, the Prime Minister outlines three general principles that he said must be followed. I will read them:
Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries must ensure that political fundraising activities or considerations do not affect, or appear to affect, the exercise of their official duties or the access of individuals or organizations to government.
There should be no preferential access to government, or appearance of preferential access, accorded to individuals or organizations because they have made financial contributions to politicians and political parties.
There should be no singling out, or appearance of singling out, of individuals or organizations as targets of political fundraising because they have official dealings with Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries, or their staff or departments.
When we start thinking about that, they have broken all three of those multiple times.
Of particular note is the second principle that talks about preferential access to government by donors of political parties. Let us look at the Liberal record of upholding that principle as it pertains to the rules laid out in the Conflict of Interest Act.
In April 2016, the Minister of Justice attended a $500-a-ticket fundraiser at Torys LLP offices, in Toronto. Several of the law firm's members were registered to lobby the federal government, including a senior member who was registered to lobby the justice department. How, in any universe, is that not a conflict of interest? The Minister of Justice has a duty, not only to be independent, but also to be perceived as independent, which was very clearly compromised by that fundraiser.
What was discussed at this fundraiser? Did the lawyers who were present lobby the minister to advance their interests? Did the interests of those lawyers go further than the ones who did not contribute to the Liberal Party? At the time this was discovered, the Liberal Party refused to say who was in attendance at the event. That information only became public once it was posted on Elections Canada's website.
It is actually interesting that the Liberals feel the need to change the law to make sure that attendees at ministerial fundraisers remain public, because when given the chance, they refuse to do so themselves. It goes back to the principle that it would be easier to just stop doing what they are doing. They do not have to change the law to stop doing it; they just need to stop doing it. They know it is wrong, so they should not keep doing it.
How about the fundraiser the finance minister attended in Halifax in October, where corporate executives paid $1,500 each to attend? How about when the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Justice, who was the Prime Minister's point person on legalizing marijuana, headlined a private Liberal fundraiser, attended by a marijuana lobbying group, at a law office in Toronto that advises clients in the cannabis business? Seriously, this stuff can not be made up. I know the Liberals eventually returned the donation from the marijuana lobbyist. They acknowledged what was obvious, that it was clearly a conflict of interest, but they only did so when the fundraising event became a media story. In other words, it was when they got caught. Again, they put their hand in the cookie jar, someone caught them, and they were trying to blame the cookie jar.
Because of all of this, we know that Liberal ministers and parliamentary secretaries cannot, or maybe will not, and are not following simple ethical rules when it comes to fundraising.
I am sure the Prime Minister must have been incredibly disappointed when members of his own government not only broke the conflict of interest rules but also the very rules he created himself called “Open and Accountable Government”. Hold on. Was he disappointed? As it turns out, in May of last year, the Prime Minister was a guest star at a $1,500 Liberal Party cash-for-access fundraiser at the mansion of a wealthy Chinese Canadian business executive. One of the guests in attendance was a donor who was seeking approval from the federal government to begin operating a new bank in Canada. Another guest at the event made a sizable donation to the Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation. It was $50,000 to build a statue of the former prime minister himself just weeks after the event. It was just a pure coincidence, I am sure.
It looks like it was not just his cabinet that was breaking his rules. The Prime Minister himself broke his own rules when it came to political fundraising, which is why I do not know how anyone can take this bill seriously. Again, if they want to stop doing it, they just have to stop doing it.
We all know what it really is. It is just a smoke screen they are putting up to make it seem like they are being accountable. They like to talk, but they do not really like to follow through with action. It is all talk and no action. It is just a smoke and mirrors situation, just like everything else they do.
If they really want to be accountable, they do not need a bill to do so. They could just stop selling access to the government for cash. They could voluntarily provide the list of attendees at their fundraising events. They could ensure that the Prime Minister and other members of cabinet were not in a conflict of interest when they attended partisan events. A new law is not going to make their cash-for-access fundraisers ethical. It just will not do that.
If the Prime Minister wanted to end cash for access, all he ever had to do, and all he still has to do, is stop doing these fundraisers. It is that simple. It does not take legislation.
Bending the rules so the Prime Minister can keep charging $1,500 for wealthy individuals to meet with him and discuss government business is still wrong. It will always be wrong. That is clear. What else is clear are the rules. Why do the Liberals not just start following the rules like everyone else?
Here is the answer. It is because they are not open, they are not transparent, and they definitely have no intention of actually being accountable. They like to talk about it, but they certainly do not want to walk the walk. It seems like this is a pattern with these Liberals. It is a pattern with all Liberals, but certainly with these ones. They do not want to be accountable to Canadians.
Remember just a few months ago when the government House leader introduced her quite ironically titled discussion paper on changes to the Standing Orders. It became obvious very soon after that a discussion was actually the last thing the Liberal Party wanted and they tried to ram those changes through the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, with no discussion, no debate, no questions and answers, and without unanimous consent.
Let us try to remember some of the changes they were trying to force through and I am sure they are going to continue to try to force through. They want to take every Friday off. Canadians work five days a week, at least. Why does the Prime Minister and the Liberal government think that they are more entitled than average Canadians? It is a pattern with them again. They seem to think they are entitled.
Really, I think they want to avoid scrutiny from the opposition parties, the media, and therefore Canadians. Why show up and be held accountable five days a week when they can try to get away with just four? They will try to get away with cash for access. Why not try to get away with fewer days to be held accountable?
Furthermore, the Liberals proposed that the Prime Minister only attend question period once a week. I realize the Prime Minister does not actually answer questions when he comes to question period anyway, but that does not mean he should not show up most days. He should be expected to show up so that people can see him not answering the questions. What would that mean? With the schedule of the House of Commons and his showing up and answering questions one time a week, it boils down to his answering questions for as little as 25 hours in an entire year. That is on the weeks he shows up at all, because last week we did not see him once.
Some of the other changes that were being proposed by the Liberals were designed to limit and handcuff the opposition, essentially to not allow them to do their jobs to full capacity. These changes would have diminished Parliament and they largely would have stripped the opposition of the power to hold the Prime Minister and his government to account. There it is again, the lack of wanting to be accountable.
What is worse than the outrageous changes they tried to make, which I am sure will continue, is the fact that they tried to ram these changes through a Liberal dominated committee without the consent of all political parties. This was an unprecedented move that had not been seen before in Canadian democracy. It had been a long-standing tradition in Parliament that any changes to the way the House of Commons operates must have unanimous consent from all the major parties represented in the House.
That entire standing order debacle made it quite clear that the Prime Minister has absolutely no respect for democracy. The Liberals only backed down after Canadians let them know that they would not stand for it. Again, the Liberals get away with it as long as they can and when they are called out on it, they try to find some way to weasel out of it.
During the procedure and House affairs committee, I had the opportunity to read hundreds of emails from Canadians who were upset and very angry that the Liberals were trying to subvert democracy in such a way. An e-petition that was created on March 23, collected over 30,000 signatures pretty much over a weekend.
I am happy and proud that Canadians became so engaged in our parliamentary process, but it should not have had to come to that. The Liberals should have known better, just like they should know better when it comes to cash-for-access fundraisers. I know they do know better. They think they can get away with it and that is just plain wrong.
The Liberal government members should be accountable, should be open, and should be transparent on their own, not only when there is public outcry. It should not take public outcry to make them appear to be accountable, open, and transparent. They should just be doing it, but that is not the LIberal way.
There is another parallel I can draw. We have heard it mentioned a couple of times tonight already, but this bill deals with a problem that the Liberals have created themselves, which they could just stop doing. They do not need a bill to stop doing it. There are all kinds of serious matters that are potential threats to our democracy that they could be dealing with. A great example of this is third-party spending during elections. I will take a moment to talk about that glaring issue.
The commissioner of elections told the Senate committee the following:
We have received a significant number of complaints about the involvement of third parties in connection with the 2015 general election. And I would add we received many more complaints than had been filed with respect to the previous election in 2011.
Common to many of these complaints was the perception that third parties, in some ridings, were so significantly involved in the electoral contest that this resulted in unfair electoral outcomes.
I would suggest that third-party engagement in Canada’s electoral process will likely continue to grow. For that reason, it may be time for Parliament to re-examine the third-party regime....
The previous electoral officer, Marc Mayrand, also testified that a registered third party can accept and use foreign money during a Canadian electoral campaign and that, further, there is no limit to the amount it can spend, except on advertising. The current election law only regulates third-party activities that are directly related to advertising. Therefore, Elections Canada does not define things like surveys, election-related websites, calling services, push polls, and other things to communicate with electors as advertising. Once the funds are mingled in with an organization in Canada or from outside of Canada, it is within their funds and they can use those funds in an unlimited amount, the way it is now.
The commissioner further stated:
In Canada, third parties are only regulated with respect to their election advertising activities. Provided they act independently from a candidate or party, they may incur limitless amounts of expenses when carrying out activities such as polling, voter contact services, promotional events, etc. They can also use whatever sources of funding—including foreign funds—to finance these non-election advertising activities.
The level of third party engagement in Canada's electoral process will likely continue to grow in the years to come. For that reason, Parliament should consider whether there is a need to re-examine the third-party regime, with a view to maintaining a level playing field for all participants.
Does no one on the government side find those statements in any way concerning? They should.
The commissioner of Canada elections is saying that Parliament needs to be looking at changing the third-party regime to ensure the integrity of Canadian elections. Instead, the Liberals are introducing legislation to police themselves because the Prime Minister and the Liberal Party got caught with their hands in the cookie jar. Instead, they could be dealing with something that would ensure the integrity of elections. That is what we should be doing. In fact, on this one, the Minister of Democratic Institutions is turning a blind eye and pretending that this has not even been flagged as an issue. It was said by the commissioner of Canada elections, nonetheless.
During question period in the Senate recently, the minister testified on foreign funding in third-party spending during elections, and stated:
From the experience we have, we have found that this is not something that is currently present and so significant that it would impact the electoral system or the confidence that Canadians have during a writ period or during an election.
She also said, “there's very little evidence to suggest that foreign money is influencing Canadian elections by third parties.” It seems to be quite different from what the commissioner had to say, quite different. I will point out that just because the minister is turning a blind eye does not mean this is not a glaring issue. As the minister's mandate letter famously put it, “Sunshine is the best disinfectant to concerns about our political process.” Why is she not shining a little light on this issue? Is this issue not in need of a little sunshine? Why do we not deal with that? It is not dealt with in Bill C-33 and it is not dealt with in Bill C-50, which we have before us today.
At the end of the day, Liberal members opposite can use all the platitudes they want. They can claim all they want to be open, transparent, and accountable, but Canadians are certainly growing tired of their games. Canadians are seeing the Liberal government for what it really is: the same party that brought us the sponsorship scandal, only with slightly better hair and maybe some really snappy socks.
The Liberals got caught breaking the rules, and changing the rules does not make them any less guilty. They still broke the rules, and they continue to break the rules. It is time for that to change.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2017-06-05 16:59 [p.12017]
Mr. Speaker, it is with a heavy heart that I speak to you today because, just 15 minutes ago, the Liberal majority in the House of Commons voted in favour of time allocation on Bill C-44, a major bill to implement the Liberal government's budget. It is, however, much more than that. It is also an omnibus bill that affects a whole range of things. That is why my speech will focus on the omnibus nature of this bill and the problems it causes as well as the fact that the budgetary measures it implements are bad.
First of all, let us talk about the omnibus bill. I remember that the Liberal Party was elected by claiming that it would never present omnibus bills as we had done at other times, it seemed to say, when we formed the government. This again shows that the Liberal Party said one thing during the election campaign and is doing exactly the opposite now that they are in power.
Furthermore, every time the previous administration tabled a bill that might include some distinctive elements, the Liberals would tear their hair out, saying it was the end of the world, that it did not make sense, and that the rights of parliamentarians had been infringed. Well, then, these people are doing exactly the same thing today. This is what makes people cynical, unfortunately.
Let us now look at the fundamental elements that, in our opinion, make this an omnibus bill. First of all, it literally provides for the creation of the Canada infrastructure and investment bank, and even brings major changes to the nature and mandate of the parliamentary budget officer. Let us examine these elements one by one.
The parliamentary budget officer is a fundamental institution of our Parliament. He is the person who ensures that the management of funds is carried out rigorously. However, this government, in the initial version of Bill C-44, is proposing, suggesting and imposing on the parliamentary budget officer a new obligation to report on his game plan for the year, which must be approved by the Speaker of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Commons. This makes no sense, and I would even say that it is a denial of democracy.
Why? First of all, the parliamentary budget officer must draw up his plan for the year, and if a particular event occurs during that year, he will not be able to analyze the plan. This is the first mistake. Worse, however, is that he will become a figurehead who can be manipulated by the Speaker of the Senate, someone who is not elected, but rather appointed by the Prime Minister and the Speaker of the House of Commons, who is appointed by all political parties.
This is exactly the opposite of what should be taking place. The parliamentary budget officer must be absolutely protected from any political intervention. With Bill C-44, the government will hold the parliamentary budget officer hostage, to some extent, to the decisions of the House of Commons. This is not acceptable.
I would now like to talk about Investment Canada. This is another invention of the Liberal government to attract foreign investment to Canada. Has the member for Papineau and new Prime Minister just invented this? Does he think no foreign investments have ever been made in Canada? Does he think that as a result of Investment Canada, the whole planet is going to discover that Canada exists and they can invest here? I would remind him that snow fell before he was born. If he has any doubt, I would remind him that when he was born, his father was the prime minister of Canada. He should know that Canada has favoured foreign investment for more than 150 years. Some might even say that it was the backbone of the creation of our country 150 years ago, since foreign investment was welcomed at that time.
Why, then, create Investment Canada, when our economic development agencies and our embassies have been doing the same job for decades, if not 150 years? We have institutions in Canada that work to attract foreign investment. Why, then, have another Liberal invention, other than to please some pals and create another administrative structure that will make the apparatus of Canadian government more complex? We do not need it; the job is already being done very well.
The same applies to the infrastructure bank, which is by no means a small matter. We are talking about hundreds of billions of potential dollars that are to be managed by that institution, when this kind of tool already exists: PPP Canada allows for investment of foreign capital and private capital to develop our infrastructure.
What does the Liberal government find fault with in PPP Canada? Does it think it is physically not a good thing and it has to oppose it because it was created by the Conservatives? If that is the case, what a poor approach this government is taking. We must admit that this is surely is the case because that party denounces everything we did, although it is doing exactly the same thing as us today.
In the case of the infrastructure bank, it is no small thing. They want to create a bank that will use $35 billion of taxpayers’ money, $15 billion of which will be used immediately to create the operating fund. That means there will immediately be $15 billion less in the economy, at a time when people need it.
Then they are going to set that money aside to attract foreign investment, but on what terms? First, it will involve only projects of $100 million and over. Already, they are leaving out almost three-quarters of the Canadian population, because few cities can afford the luxury of having $100-million infrastructure projects.
Last Friday, I had the extraordinary privilege and honour of representing my leader at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. I addressed an audience of about 1,000 people. There were municipal politicians, councillors, wardens, mayors, and even reeves, the term I learned that is used for the mayors of rural communities in English Canada. I asked those people whether, in their municipalities, they had ever carried out projects worth over $100 million. Only three people raised their hands, in an audience of about 1,000 people.
That is clear proof that this does not affect Canada’s rural communities, or even Canada’s semi-urban communities. They are part of the backbone of the Canadian economy, but this government is snubbing them by allocating only $2 billion out of the $180 billion to investments.
Need I point out that we Conservatives are in favour of investment in infrastructure? Under the leadership of the member for Lac-Saint-Jean, we put in place the most impressive infrastructure budget, the difference being that we did it while balancing the budget and not by creating compulsive gigantic deficits as the present government is doing.
The infrastructure bank will mean that private and foreign investors will only rake in the profits, leaving Canadian taxpayers to assume all the risks. That is why it should not be. Virtually all observers agree that the clauses of the bill relating to the infrastructure bank should be withdrawn so they can be studied properly. This kind of thing is not something to be created by snapping your fingers. It deserves our attention.
This bill also implements this government’s unfortunate budget measures. First, let us talk about the deficit. The Liberals got elected by saying they would run a small, $10-billion deficit, but they are now at $30 billion. They also said there would be a return to balance by 2019 when, in reality, it will not happen before 2055. I am not the one saying it; the information comes from the none other than the finance department.
Let us also not forget that these people are attacking families and the middle class by inventing new taxes on tobacco, on alcohol, Friday night beer or Saturday night wine, and by eliminating the tax credits for sports and arts activities and school textbooks, which helped families directly.
What is even worse is that this budget, in the form of Bill C-44, eliminates the tax credit for public transit that had been instituted by the Conservative government. Of the 200 or 300 tax credits we have, if someone had told me that the Liberals would eliminate the public transit tax credit, I would never have believed it, because they are always going on and on about their fine ecological principles. Here they are, however, doing away with the tax credit for Canadian taxpayers who take the bus to work every day.
For these reasons, we vigorously oppose this bill and we hope that the House of Commons will defeat it.
View Steven Blaney Profile
Madam Speaker, I only wish I had something to be happy about this afternoon, but Bill C-44 is a major disappointment.
We all remember that the Liberals were elected on a promise of modest deficits. That was something everyone in the House could agree on, because both Conservatives and New Democrats had pledged to manage taxpayers' money responsibly. The first disappointment came last year with a budget that went well beyond the so-called modest $10-billion deficit that the Liberals promised all the way to a $23-billion deficit.
We hoped the Liberals would come to their senses this time around. I should point out that they were elected by a minority of Canadians and that one day, it will be time to pay the Liberals' piper.
Unfortunately, the forecast deficit in the budget is $28.5 billion for this year. That is in addition to the previous deficit, so the total deficit for the past two years is over $50 billion. As they say, when it rains it pours, and indeed, the Liberals are determined to remain in this downward spiral of reckless spending, so much so that the parliamentary budget officer says it will be decades before we can even start to talk about balancing the budget again.
I am asking this government and this Minister of Finance why they are being so irresponsible toward future generations.
On this World Environment Day, we are reminded of the fact that sustainable development is a social, economic, and environmental responsibility. Obviously, the Liberals have done nothing on the environment to date, except choose natural resource development projects based on questionable, political criteria.
It is not very clear where the Liberals are going on the social front, and if I may say so, their budget plan is basically a descent into hell with recurring deficits that will place a tremendous burden on future generations. As my grandmother so aptly put it, “He who pays his debts grows rich.”
The problem we have right now is that the government is racking up shameful amounts of debt and, unfortunately, it is spending money on frivolous things. Now, it has introduced an omnibus bill, a Chinese buffet of sorts that has a little bit of everything but that does not balance the budget, far from it. That is another thing that the Liberals promised not to do.
That is the big problem with this budget and that is why I, like my colleagues who also spoke today, am opposed to it. That is why it represents a betrayal by the Prime Minister and the Liberals. It represents more of the government's broken promises to Canadians.
When the Liberals were elected, they promised to run only a small deficit and to balance the budget by 2019. However, that is not what is happening. As I mentioned, the government has already racked up over $50 billion in debt and is heading toward chronic deficits. Why chronic deficits? First, because the government is in a spending frenzy.
On the weekend, I spoke with a contractor in my riding who is doing work in downtown Lévis, near the ferry terminal. He said he was working on a major construction project and that he had asked the mayor where the money was coming from. The mayor said that it was from the gas tax. Therefore, it is not new money from the Liberals; the money that is being invested is coming from measures that our former Conservative government implemented.
Unfortunately, what we now see is that the Liberals talk a good game, but they are not so good when it is time for action. Not a lot of big projects are moving forward. It is quite the contrary: promises are sprinkled here and there, but the money is not flowing. Contractors and municipalities are waiting for that money for infrastructure projects.
Now, not only has the government decided to wake up and make sure that the money flows to the municipalities, but it also intends to take some of that money to put it in a new infrastructure bank scheme that seems to be completely arbitrary.
In Quebec, people are very worried that the Liberal government could infringe upon provincial and municipal jurisdictions. People are also worried about cronyism, because Liberals will be Liberals. We heard about patronage appointments this afternoon during question period. That scheme will certainly be good for the Liberals' friends, but not so much for the municipalities and the communities that need water systems and other infrastructure.
That is one of the measures in the budget plan. A gigantic $30-billion organization will be created and middle-class taxpayers will bear all the risk, while the Liberals' wealthy friends will pocket the profits. That is what this infrastructure bank is all about. The problem is that costs are socialized while profits are privatized, and all taxpayers get is the short end of the stick.
This is the kind of Liberal approach that requires close scrutiny. However, the Liberals are steamrolling the House and insist on passing this budget bill that completely betrays the Liberal government's commitments to Canadians.
My colleagues also talked about the parliamentary budget officer, who will be more or less scrutinized, when he should be accountable to the entire House. The government appears to want to meddle in how the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer operates. Naturally we are opposed to this, since it has to do with the sacred principle that links the legislative and executive powers. This kind of interference undermines the ability of the legislative branch to keep a close eye on this Liberal spending orgy.
I talked about the infrastructure bank, but that is not all of it. The Liberals still want to create a new scheme. This time I am talking about Investment Canada, which aims to attract foreign investors to this country. However, the Liberals seem to be completely neglecting the resources we already have at our disposal. We have consular and embassy services, and the whole economic branch of Global Affairs Canada. The government is making a complete mockery of the commitments made over the past few years by creating another body that will only generate more red tape without necessarily producing any results.
These are some of the measures contained in this bill, which are all being added to the deficit; as we have seen over the past few days, there is a lot of frivolous spending. These are in stark contrast to the budgetary measures we had gotten used to under Minister Flaherty and Minister Joe Oliver. Look at the 180 cuts we made in previous budgets.
Sadly, yet again this Liberal budget includes hidden tax hikes. It is a shame that the government is attacking the average family that it claims to want to protect, including parents whose children take figure skating lessons or piano lessons. The Liberals are taking away the tools we had given to families and taking more money away from them. The same goes for businesses and people who take public transit or use Uber. In fact they are taxing beer and wine and imposing additional charges on SMEs. It is an utter fiasco.
The theme of the budget is innovation. Well, the Liberals have certainly been innovative in their art of misleading the next generation with their syrupy words.
View Dan Albas Profile
Mr. Speaker, I certainly can appreciate that many people probably want to hear the previous speaker more than me. I will try to do her justice as I move forward, and I will appreciate listening to her speech later.
As members know, it is always an honour to rise in this place on behalf of the constituents of Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola. It is a very important debate for me and for all of us for different reasons. I will highlight one of the reasons that is very important to me.
As some members will know, I come from one of Canada's premier wine producing regions. Other members of this place represent regions that are also renowned for producing fine Canadian wine and, increasingly, craft ales, even artisan spirits. A few even have large-scale breweries that are huge employers in their home ridings. I mention these things as Canada's wine, beer, and spirit industry is an important one for many regions of our country.
There are some very serious concerns from this industry as it will be extremely impacted by some proposed measures in this bill. In short, let us call it what it is: the escalator tax. For the benefit of those watching or who may not be old enough to remember the last time an elevator tax was used, it was by the former Pierre Elliott Trudeau government.
Every year the tax rate on most wine, beer, and spirits sold in Canada will be subject an annual tax increase, linked to inflation, an annual tax increase that will not be linked to a budget that must be passed and debated in this place each year. Rather, unelected bureaucrats will hike the tax based on the consumer price index, locked in, potentially for who knows how long, all from this one budget.
Why is that a concern? Let us start with the obvious.
As parliamentarians, we should always be concerned when, in effect, we see stealth taxation, where a tax will increase every year without debate or scrutiny as it does not have to be signed off by the finance minister in each budget. It just automatically happens whether we, as parliamentarians, whose job is ultimately to scrutinize government spending, especially with taxes, and authorize it. This is a big concern.
Is this truly a precedent that the Liberal government wants to set? Where will the line be drawn? How many more stealth tax increases via an escalator tax will it sneak in?
We all know that the use of escalator taxes was halted in the 1980s by former finance minister Wilson, because it was the wrong thing to do in the economy. We heard from the spirits industry that it devastated many Canadian success stories when the government linked inflation to an annual escalator for taxes.
Now maybe some on the Liberal side of the House think this is a good idea. I do not profess to know how they can defend this escalator tax. When I did a report on this topic to my constituents last week, all were universally opposed. Even those who generally supported Liberals were clear that this would lead to a form of taxation without representation. One individual made a very interesting comment. Canada was once known as a nation of savers. These types of stealth escalator taxes attack those principles.
However there is another consideration, which is the literally hundreds of small, medium, and even large-scale business that collectively produce wine, beer, and spirits. As we know, the Department of Finance estimates this new escalator tax will suck an extra almost $500 million dollars out of the Canadian economy and send that money to Ottawa over the next five years. Of course this is all about that.
The Liberal government knows, fiscally, it is in serious trouble. Every single fiscal promise from the “modest” $10 billion a year annual deficits to a return to a balanced budget in 2019 has been broken. The finance situation is so severe the finance minister actually spiked a report from his own department claiming not until 2056 would Canada possibly return to a balance.
Seriously, try to even get the finance minister to utter the words, “balanced budget”. Not even Liberals on that side of the House, although they can try, can achieve that.
This is a blatant tax grab with absolutely zero consultation whatsoever on how an additional half a billion dollar tax grab on this industry might impact it. To many of my constituents, this is really the offensive part.
The Liberal government is happy to give a $327 million loan to help finance a carbon-burning aircraft to a company that openly stated it did not need the money. Owners of wineries, craft breweries, and distilleries get $500 million in costs downloaded to them and their customers. What impact will this have on the industry? Does the Liberal government even know? Better yet, do the Liberals care?
Many in the industry feel abandoned, and that is the problem when a government decides to pick winners and losers in the private sector. In fact, one winery owner recently commented that if only that winery had bottled a pinot supercluster, maybe it would have fared better treatment from the Liberals.
We also have one other problem. A large segment of our domestic wine, craft, and spirit market is made up of products from outside of our country. This is in large part because we lack the domestic capacity in many cases to serve our own market. The upside of this situation is that we have room to grow and expand for Canadian producers. At least we did have that opportunity until the Liberals decided to tax them out of existence.
The other challenge is that foreign producers, for a variety of reasons, could have a case now to present a trade challenge. The finance committee actually received a letter from the European Commission outlining that it had grave concerns about it and planned to challenge it in an upcoming trade challenge as some products were becoming more expensive now and, in some circumstances, in a manner that 100% Canadian-produced wine did not.
Let me be clear. Right now, the policy is that if producers make Canadian wine using 100% Canadian grown produce, which helps our farmers, they are exempt from excise. However, those who use products from outside of the country or who import from places like Chile, Spain, Italy, Germany, and the United States also have to pay excise, so they will also be on this automatic escalator, every year their prices being higher. As we know, a trade challenge can be very harmful on an industry, much as we are seeing now with softwood lumber.
That is why it is so deeply concerning to see the Liberal government implement these draconian charges with zero consultation and no thought as to how it may adversely impact an import industry that then may cause us trade grief.
I would like to make it clear that I am not trying to fearmonger. These are real concerns that can be factually verified. As the elected representative for a region that may be adversely impacted by these changes, it is my responsibility to illustrate these serious concerns here. It is my intention that all members ponder them and ask serious questions of the Liberal government.
Before I close, I would like to point out today that seven out of 10 bottled wines sold in Canada are made outside of Canada. We know we are entering some of the most unprecedented new trade opportunities. However, if the cost of doing business in Canada continues to increase through new escalator taxation, higher payroll costs, increased CPP, and more, we very well could see examples of where companies like Procter & Gamble move production into lower cost regions outside of Canadian borders. With Procter & Gamble, 500 well-paying, middle-class jobs were lost. Not even the Liberal government, using borrowed money, can afford handouts to all of them.
This is the reason business investment has declined in Canada every quarter since the Liberal government was elected. I will submit it will continue to decline if costs of doing business in Canada do not remain competitive. An escalator tax means that every year we become less competitive. We cannot afford this. That is why I remain opposed to these measures and will be supporting the amendments proposed by the member of Parliament for Louis-Saint-Laurent, with whom I have had the great pleasure of serving as his deputy finance critic.
I stand opposed for the people, not just those in Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola but for the many people who contribute to our economies right across our great country. The escalator tax will not serve the purpose. The government will see less revenue, fewer jobs, and trade challenges that will harm and decimate our industry if they are successful.
View Ben Lobb Profile
View Ben Lobb Profile
2017-06-05 20:51 [p.12050]
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be here tonight to debate Bill C-44, the budget implementation act. I thought I would start my speech by laying out a little context, at least from my perspective, about how the finance minister and the industry minister have it wrong, and how some other members I have heard speak here tonight have it wrong. They talked about economic growth. They talked about their last two budgets, their plan for the economy and how it is working so well, and that they have this terrific economic growth.
One thing we would agree on is that the economy is growing. What we would disagree on is why that economy is growing. In a $2 trillion economy, the budget they have put forward and so heavily back loaded has not moved the dial at all. What has moved the dial for the Canadian economy is a strong U.S. economy, a low Canadian dollar, and strong consumer spending, basically around the housing industry, which is by and large completely financed by debt.
If we read any economic publication about economic growth, we would see no mention of the Prime Minister nor the finance minister's plan, and definitely nothing about the Liberal Party of Canada. Those are the facts. We are lucky. We all root for a good economy, but we have to be realistic about why we have strong economic growth.
The other points where I would like to lay out some context is that in spite of that strong economic growth, the numbers have been revised from where they were before. They were pegged around an annualized rate at 4.1%, which is way up from a couple of years ago, and certainly since last year, but they have been revised down to 3.7% annualized.
Other possibly troubling pieces in these economic numbers are inventories being back loaded, which they are currently, and that exports to the United States have slipped mildly. The annualized rate now, which everyone is projecting realistically to be 2.2%, not surprisingly, is behind the United States in economic growth.
Everyone in this room should know that when the U.S. economy goes well, we do well. When the U.S. economy goes bad, we do not do so well. There are 75% of our exports going to the United States, so it is no surprise. Exports to the United States were up 5.4% in April, and we will see where it goes for the rest of the year.
Another troubling fact that all parliamentarians should have, and Canadians in a broader sense should have, is that if we compare the deficits that we experienced in 2009, 2010, and 2011, for example, it was in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the great depression. With the deficits that we have and the debt we are going to be accumulating over the next four years, for sure to 2019, but if the Liberals somehow manage to get re-elected in 2019, which is looking more doubtful every day, we are trending towards 2055 for deficit and debt repayment.
My point is that the deficits we are adding today are at a time of economic growth, at a time where the economy is actually moving well in the U.S. and here. It is a little less well with the other G7 countries, but it is not too bad. If we compare that to the times of 2009, 2010, and 2011, those were terrible times. It is never a good idea to accumulate debt while times are good. It is never a good idea to accumulate debt at any time.
I am from Ontario, and we have another big problem. Her first name is Kathleen. We have some problems. We have a lot of instability with some of the policies she has put forward. Her cousin Dalton caused us a lot of trouble too. We have had 13 years of provincial Liberal government in the province of Ontario. They have accumulated more debt than all the other provincial governments combined. They might get out of deficit at some point, but they have sold the furniture to pay off the short-term financial issues. We have electricity rates that are absolutely ridiculous, that businesses cannot afford, seniors on fixed income cannot afford, and low-income Ontarians cannot afford.
The province that I live in has the same leadership, with Gerald Butts and Katie Telford guiding the Prime Minister's ship in the same direction that the Province of Ontario has been going for the last 13 years. The only thing that is saving us at this point in time is the U.S. economy. We are thankful for its strength and we are thankful that it continues to buy our products. We are also thankful that our dollar is low relative to the U.S. dollar.
The minister of industry talks at great length about his superclusters and all the other stuff he is doing, but it has not moved the needle. The three western provinces are going to show the best growth and the best strength for our Canadian economy, and that is basically led by the oil and gas sector. As much as the Liberal government considers the words “oil” and “gas” as two dirty words that they do not like to use, the reality is that our economy is still successful with the sector, and as we heard from many of our colleagues, it is the most ethically produced oil and gas in the world.
Other members have talked about companies like Procter & Gamble that have announced it is going to be leaving Ontario. That is 500 good-paying jobs in a small city of 30,000. That is a devastating blow at a time when the U.S. is going to reduce taxes, is cutting regulations, and has a number of infrastructure announcements coming out this week that will lay the foundation for its growth.
Contrast that to what we are doing here in Canada where we are adding taxes. We heard about the excise tax. The government is adding other levies and fees. We are revisiting the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. We heard the Minister of Transport talking today about the navigable waters act. These are all things that will slow our progress, slow our growth. If the Liberals are in government long enough, we will once again be doing environmental assessments on cedar benches in national parks, which is what we were doing before we made those changes.
This has been brought up already, but if I heard it once in the last election, I must have heard it 500 times. I am talking about how the Liberals said they would never do omnibus bills. They said, “Not us, if we ever get in.” Bill C-44 that we are looking at tonight is as prolific as any omnibus bill before it. I am sure that if a student in political science anywhere across this country wanted to have a good look at what an omnibus bill is, that student need look no further than this piece of legislation.
The government House leader has said that everything in this legislation is about money. I guess at the end of the day, everything is about money, but that is not what the Liberals were talking about in the last election.
Another topic we have heard a lot about in the House of Commons, and which is a continuation of the anti-rural policies that the Liberals have, is the investment bank. The overall arching sweep of infrastructure money is $181 billion over the next 11 years. The slap in the face to rural Canadians, which I am one of, is that only $2 billion over 11 years is specifically allocated to rural Canada. It is pretty much a given that not $1 in the $35-billion infrastructure bank will go to rural Canadian towns and municipalities.
Canadians should also be concerned about the wording with respect to the infrastructure bank. I apologize if someone else has brought this up today, but it is that the investments may be made in Canada or “partly in Canada”. This basically means that our Canadian tax dollars, which should be going into building infrastructure in this country, can go toward building infrastructure in China, India, and many other places. That is not what Canadians view as an infrastructure bank when they are talking about it.
In addition, other parts in the briefing that was presented are with regard to a significant portion of the risk. The bank could take on debt that allows other debtors to be paid first in order to provide a loss buffer. Those are not words that Canadian taxpayers want to hear, and they are not words we want to hear, especially when Liberal cabinet members are the ones who will be picking the projects.
I have many more pages to go over here, so hopefully the Liberals will ask questions that pertain to what I have in the rest of my speech.
View Marc Garneau Profile
Lib. (QC)
moved that Bill C-49, an act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and other Acts respecting transportation and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Madam Speaker, there are special moments in a politician's life when we get to do something truly transformative.
May 16, 2017 was one of those moments for me. I had the great pleasure of introducing Bill C-49, the transportation modernization act, which will help bring our government’s vision of a state-of-the-art national transportation system to fruition.
This legislation breathes life into transportation 2030, a strategic plan for the future of transportation in Canada, to promote our government’s agenda for economic growth and job creation.
It fulfills our promise to review the Canada Transportation Act and related legislation. We want to ensure our laws and regulations position Canada to capitalize on global opportunities, thrive in a high-performing economy, and better meet the needs and service expectations of Canadians.
This bill represents a first legislative step to deliver on early transportation 2030 measures. It consolidates into a single bill some of the essential components required to advance a strategic and integrated plan for our country’s transportation system.
Bill C-49 proposes a range of improvements to better meet the service requirements and overall experience of the Canadian traveller. It aims to create a safe, innovative transportation system that takes advantage of international best practices, opportunities for international investment and contributes to a highly productive Canadian economy.
Bill C-49 focuses on our immediate priorities in the air, rail and marine sectors. It addresses the needs of air passengers for fairer and more transparent rights, the needs of the Canadian air industry for greater investment, the needs of shippers for safer and more efficient rail transportation, and the needs of railways for strengthened trade corridors to global markets.
Specifically, the bill proposes to strengthen air passenger rights; liberalize international ownership restrictions for Canadian air carriers; develop a clear and predictable process for approval of airline joint ventures; improve access, transparency, efficiency, and sustainable long-term investment in the freight rail sector; and, increase the safety of transportation in Canada by requiring railways to install voice and video recorders in locomotives.
Before I explain each of these in greater detail, let me first make clear that action in these areas reflects the priorities identified by Canadians.
We undertook extensive consultations over the past year following the release of Canada Transportation Act review report. We heard from more than 300 Canadian transportation and trade stakeholders, including indigenous groups and the provinces and territories, about how to ensure that the national transportation system continues to support Canada's international competitiveness, trade, and prosperity.
We also heard from individual Canadians in communities, large and small, all across the country regarding their concerns about our transportation system. Canadians have expressed their disappointment with their air travel experiences. I am committed to improving those experiences.
The concerns of Canadians have been highlighted in recent weeks with much-publicized cases of the unacceptable treatment of air travellers both in this country and south of the border. Stories of passengers forcibly removed from flights and other unacceptable industry practices that have significant impact on consumers have made the news headlines.
The bill, if passed, would provide assurance to Canadians that if they choose to travel by air, they would be aware of their rights, and should they feel that their rights have been violated, they would have a clear, simple, and timely mechanism for resolution.
Bill C-49 proposes to mandate the Canadian Transportation Agency to develop, in partnership with Transport Canada, new regulations to enhance Canada's air passenger rights. These new rules would ensure air passenger rights are clear, consistent, and fair for both travellers and air carriers.
I believe that when passengers purchase an airline ticket, they expect and deserve the airline to fulfill its part of the transaction. When that agreement is not fulfilled, passengers deserve clear, transparent, and enforceable standards of treatment and compensation. Under this proposed legislation, Canadians would benefit from a uniform, predictable, and reasonable approach. The details of the new approach would be elaborated through the regulatory process, which would include consultation with Canadians and air stakeholders.
My objective is to ensure that Canadians have a clear understanding of their rights as air travellers without negatively impacting on access to air services and costs of air travel for Canadians. Bill C-49 specifies that the regulations would include provisions regarding the following: first, providing passengers with plain language information about carriers' obligations and how to seek compensation or file complaints; second, setting standards for the treatment of passengers in the case of overbooking, delays, and cancellations, including compensation; third, standardizing compensation levels for lost or damaged baggage; fourth, establishing standards for the treatment of passengers in the case of tarmac delays over a certain period of time; fifth, seating children close to a parent or guardian at no extra charge; and sixth, requiring air carriers to develop standards for transporting musical instruments.
I have been clear that I also intend that the regulations would include provisions ensuring that no Canadian is involuntarily removed from an aircraft due to overbooking. I have issued a challenge to Canada's air carriers on this matter, and that of seating arrangements for minors, that they move to strengthen their practices even before new air passenger rights are finalized.
The bill also proposes that data would be required from all parties in the air sector flow to be able to monitor the air traveller experience, including compliance with the proposed passenger rights approach.
The legislation also proposes to liberalize international ownership restrictions from 25% to 49% for Canadian air carriers, with associated safeguards. For example, a single international investor would not be able to hold more than 25% of the voting interests of the Canadian air carrier, and no combination of international air carriers could own more than 25% of a Canadian air carrier.
I should point out that the policy change would not apply to Canadian specialty air services, such as heli-logging, aerial photography, or firefighting, which would retain international ownership levels of 25%.
Liberalizing international ownership restrictions means that Canadian air carriers, which include all passenger and cargo providers, would have access to more investment capital, which they can use for innovation. This would bring more competition into the Canadian air sector, providing more choice for Canadians and generating benefits for airports and suppliers, including new jobs.
In fact, in the fall of 2016, I exempted from the ownership restrictions of 25% two companies that wanted to enter the Canadian market supported by increased foreign investment. This decision is now permitting Enerjet and Jetlines to pursue their intention to create low-cost carrier services for Canadians. Liberalizing the foreign investment provisions will give Canadians more frequent access to air travel within Canada, and from Canada to transborder and international locations.
Another improvement in the bill is that it proposes a new, transparent, and predictable process for the authorization of joint ventures between air carriers, taking into account competition and wider public interest considerations.
Joint ventures are a common practice in the global air transport sector. They enable two or more air carriers to coordinate functions on specific routes, including scheduling, pricing, revenue management, marketing, and sales.
In Canada, air carrier joint ventures are currently examined from the perspective of possible harm to competition by the Competition Bureau.
Unlike many other countries, notably the United States, Canada's current approach does not allow for the consideration of the wider public interest benefits other than competition and economic impacts. Furthermore, the bureau's review is not subject to specific timelines.
The bill that is before this House proposes amendments that would allow me to consider and approve air carrier joint ventures, where it is in the public interest, taking into account competition considerations. On this latter concern, I would work in close consultation with the Commissioner of Competition to ensure that I am properly informed regarding any concerns that he or she may have with regard to competition. Air carriers that would choose to have their proposed joint ventures assessed through the new process would be given clear timelines for an expected decision.
I am also convinced that providing Canada's air carriers with such a tool would also benefit the air traveller. By joining up networks, air carriers could allow seamless travel to a wider range of destinations and reduce the duplication of functions. For Canadians, this could mean more seamless access to key global markets, easier in-bound travel in support of tourism and business, as well as increasing transiting traffic through our airports, thus increasing flight options.
Globally, airports are making investments in passenger screening to facilitate passenger travel and gain global economic advantages. Canada's largest airports have expressed an interest in making investments in passenger screening, either through additional workforce or technology innovation, and smaller airports have shown interest in obtaining access to screening services to promote local economic development. In the last two years alone, 10 small airports across Canada have requested screening services.
The proposed amendments in the bill would create a more flexible framework for the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, known as CATSA, to provide new or additional screening services on a cost recovery basis. This would enable industry stakeholders to enter into agreements with CATSA to increase access to screening services at small, low-risk airports.
In turn, this would support our efforts to maintain an aviation system that is both secure and cost effective. It would also strengthen Canadian communities' competitiveness as they attract new commercial routes.
Bill C-49 proposes significant enhancements to increase the safety of the rail sector, too. Once in place, this legislation would build a safer, more secure rail transportation system that Canadians trust.
As a top priority, the legislation would amend the Railway Safety Act to require that railway locomotives be fitted with voice and video recorders. Mandating the installation of the recorders would strengthen rail safety by providing objective data about crew actions leading up to, and during, a rail accident. Beyond that, the requirement would also increase opportunities to mitigate risks and prevent accidents from occurring.
The updated act would not only require companies to install the recorders. It would limit how the recorded data could be used, within strict criteria. For instance, while the Transportation Safety Board would have access to recorded data for post-accident investigations, Transport Canada and railway companies would also have access to the data for proactive safety management, and for following-up on incidents and accidents not investigated by the Transportation Safety Board.
The specific limits on the use of the data are designed to maximize the safety value of this technology while limiting its potential to infringe on employees’ privacy rights.
Canada's freight rail system is a cornerstone of our economy. Bill C-49 would strengthen the freight rail policy framework to foster greater transparency, balance, and efficiency in the Canadian rail system. The proposed improvements would provide fair access through stronger remedies for shippers on service and rates, promote increased efficiency of the rail transportation system, encourage long-term investments in the railway network, and deliver improved data on rates and service.
As I committed last fall, fair access measures would allow for reciprocal financial penalties in service-level agreements to ensure that railways are held accountable for service failures. They would improve access to and end the timelines of the Canadian Transportation Agency processes to settle service and rate disputes. The new measures would ensure the agency offers informal dispute resolution options and guidance to shippers. The legislation would also broaden eligibility for rate remedies, benefiting small and medium-sized shippers, and allow an arbitrator's decision to apply for two years instead of only one.
We would also create a new mechanism called long-haul interswitching. This would be available to all captive shippers in all regions of the country and all sectors. It would introduce competitive alternatives for their traffic and better position them in negotiations for service options and rates. Other measures would modernize the methodology to calculate the maximum revenue entitlement in order to promote long-term investments in the rail system. Among other things, these improvements would better recognize railway investments, including in hopper cars.
The bill would also make it easier for the agency to update regular interswitching rates so that they adequately compensate railways for interswitching costs. As well, Canadian National's single shareholder restrictions would be relaxed from 15% to 25%.
To enhance transparency and level the playing field, the amendments would require large railways to report some performance, service, and rate data relevant to their Canadian operations. Transport Canada would have the authority to publicly report rate trends.
In the context of these advancements for the freight rail system, the short-term measures in the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act would be allowed to sunset as scheduled. With Bill C-49 we are taking important steps to ensure that the right conditions are in place for a successful winter season in the grain handling and transportation system this year and for years to come.
These are not the only ways we propose to improve trade and global markets. Bill C-49 would also amend the Coasting Trade Act to enhance marine transportation as well.
The proposed amendments would allow vessel owners to reposition their owned or leased empty containers between locations in Canada using vessels of any registry. This is something the Shipping Federation of Canada began asking for as far back as 2009. Extending the repositioning of empty containers to all ship owners would support industry's request for greater logistical flexibility and also would help address the ongoing shortage of empty containers for export purposes.
Equally important is Bill C-49's focus on marine-related infrastructure. The legislation proposes amendments to the Canada Marine Act that would allow Canadian port authorities and their wholly owned subsidiaries to access Canada infrastructure bank loans and loan guarantees. As members are aware, the bank would be responsible for investing in key infrastructure projects. Enabling port authorities to access the bank would support investments in key trade-enabling infrastructure, creating the conditions for companies and communities to build, expand, and thrive.
I am proud to table Bill C-49, the first legislative step toward making Transportation 2030 a reality. I trust I can count on the support of all parliamentarians to seize its immense potential, and to pass these measures as soon as possible.
View Robert Aubin Profile
View Robert Aubin Profile
2017-06-05 22:48 [p.12067]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech.
I want to say what a pleasure it is to work with her on the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. We agree more often than not on both the form and content of the bills that come before us.
I would like to ask her opinion on something very specific. This bill lacks substance, as I said earlier. It is airy-fairy. Many of the measures in it are so vague that we cannot tell whether they will be relevant or effective. I want to share just one example. The minister is increasing the foreign ownership limit for Canadian air carriers from 25% to 49%. He says this will make the market more competitive and result in cost savings for consumers.
That increase from 25% to 49% is from the Emerson report and was stuck into the bill with no explanation. There is even a University of Manitoba study showing that there is no connection between increasing foreign ownership and lower fares for consumers.
Is the government just making stuff up?
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