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Results: 1 - 15 of 26
View Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2018-11-27 11:52 [p.24008]
Madam Speaker, the good news is that despite this “man cold”, as my wife calls it, my voice seems to be back. I hope it will stick around for the next 15 minutes so that I can speak to budget implementation act, 2018, No. 2. Before getting to what is in the bill or, more to the point, what is not, which might make up the bulk of my comments, I want to talk about the process.
After all, this is an omnibus bill, like the ones we saw so often under the previous government. The current government actually campaigned on a pledge to end the use of omnibus bills. The Liberals not only broke that promise, but they are constantly introducing omnibus bills. They use them not just for budgets, but also for other areas like public safety, transport and justice. We keep getting bills that are harder and harder for parliamentarians to study in any meaningful way.
I may be mistaken about the numbers, which we can check, but the mere fact that we can evoke this type of image says a lot. The Conservatives' first omnibus bill, Bill C-38, which was introduced in 2012 in the last Parliament, showed how abusive this practice had become. The bill was the nadir of this anti-democratic tendency, seeking to undermine the employment insurance program and eliminate the already inadequate environmental assessment process. The bill was hundreds of pages long.
If we were to combine the Conservatives' first omnibus bill from 2012 with the Liberals' first omnibus bill—not the one we are currently debating—we would have a bill the same size as the one before us, which is over 800 pages long.
That is completely ridiculous. I gather some of us are burning the midnight oil in our offices to read the bill. Some members say that they are sick of looking at the four walls of their offices, so they go read it at home. However, let us be honest. The idea that we have the time to consult our constituents, speak to stakeholders on the various files that critics are responsible for, read up on subjects of interest to MPs, and also read Bill C-86, including all the acts it amends, is simply unrealistic.
Some might say that this violates our parliamentary privileges. I am not looking to start a debate on privilege, but I do think it is important to point out how hard this makes it for us to do our jobs.
Even setting aside the size of the bill, the weight of it, and the rule against using props during debate in the House, I would advise my constituents not to print it out. It would be a waste of paper. The thing is massive.
On top of introducing a massive bill, the government has moved time allocation. Not only is it limiting debate in the wider sense by introducing a bill that is extremely difficult to study and therefore to debate, but it is also limiting the time for debate. In 10 or 20 minutes, the normal length of a speech in the House, it is impossible to address every issue. Plus, the government wants to limit the time for debate. This means that we, as the second opposition party, get to put up about eight speakers at most, out of about 40 or so MPs.
Some might say that the budget process, and therefore the budget implementation bill, are among the most important duties of the federal government. The fact that less than one-third of the members of a recognized opposition party get a chance to speak is a real problem.
Let us put the procedural issue aside, since we could talk for ages about this broken promise. I also want to talk about what is missing from this bill and, by extension, from the Liberals' budget. Unfortunately, the Liberals have neglected these elements too often over these past few years, since they came to power.
I would like to focus on a few aspects in particular. First, the government is still not charging web giants sales tax, even though that is a relatively simple matter. It is a matter of fairness and common sense.
When I was in my riding during the last parliamentary recess, I spoke with a constituent who told me that that is today's reality. We now get services via the Internet. That is how we download music, movies and television shows.
We are not asking the government to reinvent the wheel or to go against an existing trend. We are asking it to do two things. First, we are asking it to put all businesses on a level playing field. If Canadians order goods or services online, then they should have to pay sales tax the same way they would in a regular store. That may seem obvious to those watching at home, but the Liberal government has failed to do anything about this for far too long.
The Government of Quebec has led the way, and we hope that the other provinces and territories will follow its lead. However, with all due respect for our National Assembly colleagues, I have to say that it is not enough. The federal government has economic levers that it must use to level the playing field for businesses so that Canadians can benefit from the revenue generated under the law. That is what is lacking right now. However, it is not only the web giants, such as Netflix, Google, and Facebook, that must be required to charge sales tax. All the other digital platforms on which people can purchase goods must be, as well. The government is currently relying on the good faith of some stakeholders who have chosen to proactively charge sales tax.
Second, an agreement needs to be made regarding the future of our culture, specifically with regard to Netflix. I am not as familiar with this topic as my colleague from Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, who I am sure would have a lot to say about music platforms like Spotify and Apple Music. For now, I want focus on Netflix because I do not have much time.
I will not discuss the sales tax for now. I have no doubt the former heritage minister had a rough time in Quebec. Pretty much everyone unanimously agreed that her Netflix deal fell short, not only because of the percentage of francophone and Quebec content, which is nil, but also because the government asked so little of Netflix. The government is counting on the company to operate on the honour system and obey the law proactively.
Madam Speaker, I see your signal that I have just two minutes left. What better proof that it is impossible to study an omnibus bill in the time provided.
France and other countries offer examples of different ways to do this. We can also come up with our own model to acknowledge that this is the new normal without letting Internet giants rake in the profits while crushing our culture. We need to promote our cultural sector so that it can continue to make all of its unique offerings available to us with content that is our very own. This is about quality content and our duty to remember and share.
I will now move on to something else that is missing from the Liberals' budget.
The Minister of National Revenue keeps talking about a $1-billion investment. The only thing that investment did was rub salt in the wound by uncovering the billions of dollars that are lost to tax evasion and tax avoidance. We see that cronyism is alive and well in the Liberal Party. The issue of the Panama papers and the paradise papers has not been resolved. Nothing has been done to recover those billions of dollars. Again, it is a matter of fairness.
In closing, I would say that the omnibus bill does very little to address the problems that the supposedly progressive Liberals promised to fix and this is their third attempt at it. That is three attempts and three failures.
View Anne Minh-Thu Quach Profile
NDP (QC)
View Anne Minh-Thu Quach Profile
2018-11-27 12:54 [p.24017]
Mr. Speaker, today we are talking about the Liberals, who are proposing a hefty 850-page bill. It is an omnibus bill. It is the largest bill ever introduced in the House of Commons. The omnibus bills that the Conservatives used to introduce were 75 pages long. Today we are seeing an 800% or even 900% increase with this 851-page bill. The Liberals were elected on a promise to be more transparent and more accountable.
Furthermore, we are debating this unusually large bill under a gag order. This morning, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour was boasting about how she has already given opposition members 15 hours of debate.
According to my calculations, 15 hours of debate divided by 851 pages equals one minute and five seconds per page. Is it responsible to allocate so little time to debate a bill? I use the phrase “debate a bill” loosely, because only eight NDP MPs and five Conservative MPs spoke to this bill before today, if memory serves.
The Liberals say that they are more democratic, more transparent and more accountable, but I have my doubts. I think that everyone has reason to doubt the goodwill and good faith of the Liberals.
As my colleague from Jonquière said, this bill amends seven acts. The Liberals have never been able to tell us how many clauses and subclauses are in this mammoth bill. They themselves do not even know. They do not even know all the things they put in this bill. It is ridiculous to have to debate it under time allocation.
I will focus on just a few points in my speech because, unfortunately, nobody in the House can cover all the measures introduced in the nearly 900-page bill in just 10 minutes.
Women have been waiting 42 years for the Liberals to keep their promises on pay equity. Unions have been fighting Canada Post in court over that for 30 years. The government is yet again telling women they will have to wait. Pay equity legislation will come into force not in a matter of weeks or months, but in four years.
Our party has been a tireless advocate for this important issue. We have even proposed changes in the past. As we heard from my colleague from Jonquière, the NDP proposed 36 amendments. The Conservatives proposed amendments. The other parties proposed amendments. How many amendments did the Liberals accept? Not one single amendment was accepted, despite the fact that they reflected the demands of unions and the demands of various women's groups. Not one amendment was accepted to improve the bill, to give women a stronger voice. The Liberals did not agree to any of our suggestions.
Canada is facing some major challenges that require a bolder approach than the one the Liberals are using. The first initiatives requiring employers to determine how many people must receive more pay are a step in the right direction. However, what could possibly justify how long it will take to implement this? Is it acceptable that women continue to be underpaid for another four years under this government?
In 2018, women earn on average $12,700 less than men. If we multiply that by four, that means nearly $51,000 less for women. The government says it is proud to have introduced pay equity legislation. However, women will still have $51,000 less in their pockets, which is a lot.
If I had to summarize the government's action, I would have to say that it is nothing but half measures. The time it will take to implement pay equity is the biggest problem lurking behind the government's facade of good intentions, but it is not the only one. There is also the fact that budget implementation act, 2018, No. 2 does not require employers to apply pay equity to workers who were already under contract if changes are subsequently made to the contract following a call for tenders. Why? We do not know.
The bill also does not include any of the pay transparency measures that advocates have called for. Salaries cannot be compared when pay equity issues are being addressed. What is wrong with that picture? Will the pay equity commissioner have the resources needed to do his or her work properly? We do not know that either.
Speaking of half measures, why did the government not adopt the recommendations set out in the Bilson report, including the creation of a pay equity hearings tribunal? Lastly, the Liberals are once again professing to support equality while telling a segment of the population that is being treated unfairly to grin and bear it. I would like to remind the government that women represent 51% of the population.
The government made its choice. It chose not to make the investments needed to ensure that women receive equal pay, and chose instead to give big business, the richest people in the world, $14 billion in tax cuts. This measure was introduced last week in the Minister of Finance's fall economic statement. Did the rich and these big corporations really need that $14 billion this fall? I do not think so. They are getting help, yet many of them evade taxes or openly use tax havens to avoid paying taxes.
The same is true for web giants like Netflix, Apple and Facebook, which pay virtually nothing in taxes and then get tax breaks. However, they use our services and are quite happy to hire highly skilled workers from Quebec and Canada. The Liberals claim that our SMEs are important and that they want to support buying local, but they support the web giants that do not need to worry about all of the taxes imposed on our SMEs under Canadian law.
How much of this money will go to rural areas? We have no idea. The government is allocating billions of dollars for businesses to buy new equipment and innovate, but how can we innovate when our rural areas do not even have access to high-speed Internet or a 3G or LTE cellular network?
The Auditor General criticized the government for its lack of judgment in managing public money allocated to the connect to innovate program. Some municipalities in my riding are turned down for this program or CRTC funds for ridiculous reasons, such as the fact that there is already a home with high-speed Internet within a 25-kilometre radius. This is happening in Saint-Louis-de-Gonzague, and all the areas served by Coop CSUR in the Soulanges area are under the same restriction. Do we really want a double standard for our rural and urban areas?
On another subject, how will the poverty reduction strategy be funded? Apparently, it will be made up of existing programs without any additional money. I think the Liberals are just thumbing their noses at us. They have targets, but no plan. That seems to be a theme with this government, because it does not have a plan for the environment either. The Liberals got themselves elected in 2015 by saying, “We have a plan, we have a plan, we have a plan”. Today, there is no plan, there is no plan, there is no plan. I think I will use that in an ad.
Are they going to help the most vulnerable citizens access health care services more easily? No. There is no plan for pharmacare either, even though we know that we could save $3 billion a year according to conservative estimates. We could make a lot of investments in health care with that money.
What other measures does the bill include to drastically reduce our CO2 and methane emissions starting this year? None. Is the government planning to help rural areas go green, develop public transit, make their homes more energy efficient, or use solar and wind power? No.
Is the government going to implement restrictions to help big corporations reduce their greenhouse gas emissions? No, of course there is no plan to do that. Will the federal government finally have a costed plan for reducing its own greenhouse gas emissions? No, it has no plan for that either.
It has been pointed out that many citizen movements have been launched. In Quebec, artists, scientists, economists and citizens have signed A Pact for the Transition. Millennials have been criticized for not being more involved in all kinds of things, but yesterday, young people who realized that the government is not doing anything for the environment took action, and a youth environmental group called ENvironnement JEUnesse brought suit against the federal government for failing to take action on the environment.
I have to stop now because I am out of time, but that shows just how important the environment is to people 35 and under and how absurd it was for the government to spend $4.5 billion of taxpayers' money on a pipeline.
That move was not a plan or investment for keeping our planet healthy for current and future generations. It is shameful.
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
View Pierre Nantel Profile
2018-11-27 16:42 [p.24051]
Madam Speaker, I know that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage is not the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance. However, if he is following this file within his own department, he knows full well that failing to require that companies like Netflix or Google collect GST on their services is an injustice to all competitors that are Canadian and hire Canadians.
I am not even talking about corporate taxes, because I know that the Minister of Finance will say that it is complicated. The Liberals do not have much initiative, but I can understand that corporate taxes are complicated. That said, applying a transaction tax on transactions made in Canada is pretty basic.
Are the minister's rose-coloured finance glasses so big that he does not even see a need to collect taxes from service providers? Pathetic. Does my colleague have nothing to say on this? He knows very well that the cultural sector is unanimous on this issue.
Our service providers and creators at least want local broadcasters and over-the-top television services, which are comparable to Netflix, to be on an equal footing with the others.
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
View Pierre Nantel Profile
2018-11-27 17:13 [p.24055]
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech. I do not doubt his sincerity, but I really did not get an answer to the question I asked earlier. It was a very simple question.
My colleague attends many of our committee meetings and he knows very well that the Quebec cultural sector sees as an injustice the fact that regular buyers of their content will be at a disadvantage compared with Netflix, for example, when it comes time to offer content on the web using their on-demand platforms.
He knows full well that the entire cultural sector would at least like to make sure that buyers are not at a disadvantage on the web, since the government is not requiring that Netflix collect GST on acquisitions and services in Canada, just as it does not require that Google collect tax on ad sales.
I am asking the question. I hope that my colleague will not give excuses and that he will answer my question. It is baffling that, despite the fact that Canada is a G7 nation and that it is performing better in certain areas—although it is also less savvy—we are not asking that federal and provincial taxes be collected on these subscriptions.
I hope to get an answer or at least an admission that he does not know.
View Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2018-09-28 12:09 [p.21990]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my almost neighbour from Longueuil—Saint-Hubert for his warm welcome.
Today, we are debating Bill C-82, which does not exactly have the most exciting title in the world but does address an extremely important issue. I am referring to the Act to implement a multilateral convention to implement tax treaty related measures to prevent base erosion and profit shifting. There may be complicated bills that come before the House, but it is rare to have one with a title that takes up a significant amount of the time we have to debate it.
All joking aside, tax avoidance and tax evasion are key issues. The urgency of dealing with these issues is becoming increasingly evident, not just to us as legislators, but also to Canadians. This may seem like a subject that is not necessarily of interest to the average person. When we go door to door in our ridings, when we have an opportunity to speak with constituents at various events held in our ridings, the income tax act and the tax agreements signed with other countries may seem like issues that are not top of mind. Our constituents are focused on daily life, sending their children to school, looking after their health and managing their own budgets.
The thing that stands out to people is the fundamental inequity of this situation. People pay their taxes and the Canada Revenue Agency chooses to relentlessly go after single mothers who may have simply misunderstood a form or whose situation may have changed—maybe they separated from their child's father for example. I personally know individuals who have gone through shameful situations. I am not sure if my colleagues have had the chance to read the letters that the CRA sends those people. Even as members of the Standing Committee on Finance, I wonder if we would be able to understand the pages and pages of text and wording that is so complicated it has no meaning. We should not have to hire an accountant or, in some cases, a lawyer, because of the actions of an agency that is supposed to be a sound manager of taxpayers' money.
This situation is bad enough, but it is even worse when we consider that CEOs, the wealthiest individuals and unfortunately quite often friends of those in power, benefit from all these exemptions, all these poorly drafted laws, all these agreements that do not go far enough. Unlike the single mother, to continue with that example, they are able to take vacations in Barbados. Then they leave their money there while they are at it. It is unacceptable.
As a society, we cannot accept that. Our collective wealth, the social contract in which we are engaged as citizens of a society by paying taxes, and the work we call on the government to do on our behalf with our money, is one of the most fundamental aspects of our society. When we consider that some people do not want to fulfill this contract, do not want to meet this commitment, then we realize that we have failed somehow. Somewhere the government has failed in one of its basic duties.
These policies, these failures, are opening up a deep, dark gap of inequality between the rich and the not-so-rich. It is odd, because the Prime Minister loves talking about the middle class and those working hard to join it. In reality, when I am in my riding, I do not see a middle class and people working hard to join it. What I see is that certain citizens are honest and hard-working, and others do not need to lift a finger because they know full well that they will always enjoy the favour of the people in power. That is what is deplorable.
In my riding, there are some people who are relatively well off. They are the kind of people the Prime Minister loves to go after and brand as cheats. They are business owners running small and medium-sized companies, and to some people, they may appear to belong to a more privileged class. They have earned a good living and worked very hard on their businesses, but they are not the ones who should be targeted.
There are also people in my riding who struggle to put food on the table and can barely scrape together their rent or mortgage payments. In terms of means and lifestyle, these people could not be further apart. However, they have one thing in common, and it is what motivates me as an MP. They are all honest, and they all believe this:
“A rising tide raises all ships.”
The idea is that we live in a society where the wealth we share should benefit us all. They agree on that. The issue is the wealthiest 1%, which sometimes means literally 1% of the population but sometimes means Liberal Party donors who are friends with the Minister of Finance. They are the ones benefiting from a system that is totally broken.
Let us dig into the substance of the bill. Kudos to the member for Sherbrooke, who has been doing excellent work as our national revenue critic. He is doing amazing work on this extremely complex issue. Some people find this hard to believe, but he is Canada's youngest ever federal MP. His hard work got him re-elected, and he is so up on his issues that he can handle this extremely complicated file.
I also want to give a shout-out to the member for New Westminster—Burnaby, who is doing great work as the NDP's finance critic. That is our job, after all.
We moved a motion in the House in this regard and so did our colleague from Joliette. We are calling on the government to do more and to solve the various problems and failures related the system that I just talked about a few moments ago in my speech.
The bill before us seeks to implement multilateral instruments and to address the fact that some of our agreements with other countries are expiring. These instruments are an important step that will enable to make changes to our multilateral and bilateral agreements more easily.
People need to understand that agreements, accords and conventions that Canada has signed with other countries often exacerbate the problem. We are being told that all of these agreements are being signed to prevent double taxation. For example, a business or individual would have to pay taxes in Canada or another country. However, the legislation and other aspects of the legal framework need to be updated because they facilitate tax evasion and tax avoidance, even though ideally they should not.
We will support the bill because we think it contains good measures that are a step in the right direction. However, let us be clear. Our support for this bill at second reading is not a blank cheque. We are far from supporting the Liberal government's approach, which has failed to date. The fact that we are supporting this bill also does not excuse the fact that the government has not taken action on any of the other issues related to tax evasion and tax avoidance that are of concern to us.
Let us look at subsection 95(1) of the Income Tax Act and section 5907 of the Income Tax Regulations. Dividends from a foreign subsidiary are exempt from taxes in Canada. That means that there are companies that are making a lot of money and they are even doing business with Quebec and Canadian consumers. They are making their money here but inflating their profits because they are exempt from paying taxes in Canada.
Closing loopholes is just a matter of common sense. We are not talking here about companies that do 95% of their business in other countries and 5% in Canada. We are talking about companies that do the opposite. We are basically talking about companies that conduct most of their business in Canada or the United States but that have opened a bank account in another country where they do almost no business at all. That is a major shortcoming, and the government has still not updated the legislation, even though it would have been quite easy to do. The bill that we are debating contains elements related to tax evasion and tax avoidance, but it does nothing to address the relevant aspects of the law.
It is funny, because earlier today, I heard a Liberal member say this has been one of the government's priorities since its first day in office. The Liberals have been in power for three years now, and nothing has been done despite pressure from civil society, prominent members of society, and even some former Liberal Party candidates. So many Quebeckers have called for action on this. We and our colleagues from other parties have been proud to speak on their behalf. Échec aux paradis fiscaux and the non-partisan Réseau pour la justice fiscale Québec are just two great examples of groups that are standing up and speaking out.
Just as an aside, not to be mean, but that is what happens when the 41 Liberal members from Quebec remain silent. When so many groups and individuals in Quebec are speaking up, those MPs come off as being not only silent, but also deaf because they are not getting their constituents' message.
I find it deeply troubling that no party that has ever been in power is blameless in this matter. I have only to come back to the example I mentioned earlier in my question to a Conservative MP. In the last Parliament, during debate on the bill on the free trade agreement with Panama, which was negotiated and signed by the Conservatives, I raised an extremely important point demonstrating that the issue of tax evasion and tax avoidance is nothing new. For years we have been talking about it, and for years the federal government has failed to take the necessary steps that Canadians expect.
To come back to the agreement with Panama, that country is known to be complicit in tax evasion and tax avoidance. The United States can hardly be called progressive, especially in light of recent events, but even they realized that when making free trade deals and opening up their markets to countries like Panama, it was vital to include a formal requirement demanding the return of any government or taxpayer money that had been stashed away by individuals who refuse to meet their obligations to our society. Through that agreement and other measures, the United States managed to recover some of the money, although there is still a lot of work to be done.
However, what has Canada done about this? We only raised the issue without even discussing the problems associated with environmental protection or labour conditions in Panama. We ignored these crucial issues. Even if we focus on just this one element, the government did nothing when we raised the issue.
This is very worrisome because the government keeps telling us that its negotiations will be based on progressive values and that it will discuss reconciliation with indigenous peoples, gender equality and environmental protection. Naturally, I agree with that. After all, the NDP are proud to raise these issues every day in the House of Commons.
However, when we have a progressive agenda, we must also promote fairness. We must take action to eliminate the gap between the friends of those in power, the people who can afford to vacation in Barbados and take their wallets with them, and the honest people working hard in our communities, the rich and the not so rich, business people, single mothers and everyone else who is harassed by the Canada Revenue Agency. That has to stop. I am repeating myself, but I have to.
I can only hope that when the government negotiates these agreements, it will recognize that we must continue on this path and demand better conduct from certain rogue international stakeholders. I may be suffering from misplaced optimism because this government has a bad track record on this.
When the Liberals came to power, they boasted that Canada is back, but what is Canada doing? It is allowing Netflix, Facebook, Google, and American multinational corporations to get away with not paying their fair share of taxes. Then it allows Liberal Party billionaire donors and friends of the Minister of Finance to do the same thing and shirk their obligations to our country. Then it allows environmental delinquents to evade their obligations. We do not even respect our own obligations. In addition, Canada keeps exporting arms to countries like Saudi Arabia. On that, we might say that the Liberals are trying to redeem themselves, according to media reports.
All of this is relevant to the debate on Bill C-82 because the bill talks about a multilateral instrument. If Canada really is back, then it should be showing some leadership in helping countries that want to combat tax evasion, tax avoidance and all the other problems I just listed. Instead, Canada is sheltering delinquent players and prolonging a situation that has existed for far too long.
I would like to explain why all of this is so important in a way that the people at home can understand. I do not mean to be condescending—far from it. When I myself get letters from the Canada Revenue Agency, my first reaction is often to wonder what it is all about. When people get these letters, they sometimes ask their friends if they are going to jail, because they cannot understand them. That is how single mothers, sick people and people with disabilities are treated when they try to claim benefits they are entitled to.
The member for Sarnia—Lambton said that this is criminal. She herself rose in the House of Commons to talk about diabetic people being targeted by the Canada Revenue Agency, which is totally unacceptable. However, the Minister of National Revenue keeps bringing up this $1-billion figure. She keeps talking about money, but unless the law and agreements are changed, we are just throwing money out the window. That is a very apt phrase in this case, because, after all, that is what the rich in our society are doing, and it is all the more laughable because this money is landing well outside the federal government's coffers. That is unacceptable.
I would now like to say a few words to all of my constituents. It is all well and good to debate the fiscal code of conduct and the Income Tax Act, but it is important to recognize that the government has consistently failed when it comes to closing the gap between the rich and the poor. To accomplish that, the government must start with simple, practical measures.
By supporting Bill C-82 at second reading today, I am once again imploring the government to take action to put an end to tax evasion and tax avoidance, which it could have done by supporting the NDP's motion. The government needs to put an end to this injustice, which weighs heavily on the minds of honest Canadians who are trying to live their lives and benefit from a community and from an important social contract under which everyone must contribute their fair share.
View Gord Johns Profile
NDP (BC)
View Gord Johns Profile
2018-09-18 12:06 [p.21468]
Mr. Speaker, the CPTPP includes investor-state provisions that will allow investors to sue Canada for regulating in the public interest on issues like health and the environment. Why does the member support an agreement with such harmful provisions? Maybe he could elaborate on that.
View Wayne Stetski Profile
NDP (BC)
View Wayne Stetski Profile
2018-02-05 17:34 [p.16779]
Mr. Speaker, I have to admit that when the topic of political financing reform comes up, many Canadians' eyes glaze over. It is not the most exciting subject in front of this Parliament, and yet we have heard about 18 or 19 speakers on this topic pointing out both the strengths and the weaknesses of the bill.
I wish the House rules permitted the same level of debate on some of the very important private members' bills that come before the House. Perhaps we could work together to see that happen in the future.
Bill C-50 is important. We only have to look south of the border to see what happens when there are no controls over who donates to elected representatives or how much they can donate.
During the recent U.S. debate over net neutrality, another exciting subject, companies and groups on both sides of the issue lobbied with their wallets. According to OpenSecrets.org of the 535 members of Congress, 495 received campaign contributions from groups who lobbied the Federal Communications Commission on net neutrality. The telecoms, opposed to net neutrality, donated millions and the Republicans fell in line. The result will be a more limited, more expensive Internet experience for Americans. Thankfully, here in Canada we have largely constrained such obvious vote buying, but that has not always been the case.
In advance of the1872 election, Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald and his colleagues sought out campaign contributions from a Montreal shipping magnate named Hugh Allan. Allan donated what would have been a fortune back in 1872, $350,000, to Macdonald's Conservative government and he was rewarded for that donation. The Canadian Encyclopedia says:
After the election, a railway syndicate organized by Allan was rewarded with the lucrative contract to build the Canadian Pacific Railway — the trans-continental railroad promised to British Columbia when it joined Confederation.
More recently, former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was implicated in a scandal that became known as the Airbus affair.
My own province of British Columbia used to be the case study for what happens when there are insufficient campaign financing laws. In fact, a year ago The New York Times called British Columbia the “wild west” of Canadian political cash, citing the former provincial Liberal government for its many conflicts of interest and describing the “unabashedly cozy relationship between private interests and government officials in the province”. It cited B.C. for having no limits on political donations, and repeated criticisms that under the Christy Clark regime, the provincial government “has been transformed into a lucrative business, dominated by special interests that trade donations for political favours, undermining Canada’s reputation for functional, consensus-driven democracy.”
Thankfully, the new NDP government under Premier John Horgan immediately brought in political finance reforms, including bans on corporate and union donations and limiting individual donations to $1,200 per year. It is good to see civil reforms brought to the wild west.
Meanwhile, with the current federal Liberal government we have seen the cash for access scandal, where lobbyists were sold exclusive access to the Prime Minister by simply buying high-priced tickets to Liberal fundraising events. During the last election, the Liberal Party made a promise to "close political financing loopholes altogether”.
As we look at Bill C-50, the legislation before us today, we see only a timid attempt in that direction. This bill would force some party fundraising events to be advertised five days in advance, and it would ensure that the names of those attending the function are published.
The new rules apply to events attended by cabinet ministers, party leaders, and some leadership candidates. The NDP offered amendments at committee to include parliamentary secretaries and senior political staff but the Liberal members voted down those amendments.
Observers should note that the Liberal government's parliamentary secretaries are subject to the Conflict of Interest Act, but with Bill C-50, they are exempt from the transparency rules aimed at cash for access events. At the end of the day, cash for access events will still go ahead; we will just know a little more about them.
Is the government closing political financing loopholes and meeting its campaign promise? Not at all. What should this bill contain? A 2016 Globe and Mail editorial titled, “Money and politics: How to end the corruption and conflict of interest” said:
Individual donation limits should be low – possibly as low as $100. These rules should apply at all times, including election years and during party leadership campaigns.
While I am not sure about the amount, lowering the limit would absolutely take big money out of the political picture. No longer could wealthier Canadians expect to meet with cabinet ministers or the Prime Minister because only they could afford the steep price tag.
On another issue, a 2017 Senate report titled, “Controlling Foreign Influence in Canadian Elections” found that current law “does not sufficiently protect Canadian elections from being influenced by foreign entities, whether through direct interference or by providing funding to third parties.” Its recommendations, well worth the consideration of this chamber, include a “provision that more clearly states that any attempt made by foreign entities to induce Canadian electors to vote in a particular way is prohibited”, removal of the “six month limitation on the requirement to report contributions made to third parties for the purposes of election advertising”, and “require that Elections Canada perform random audits of third parties’ election advertising expenses and any contributions they have received”. These are provisions I would like to see examined further.
Currently in my riding of Kootenay—Columbia, I am often asked about issues that constituents have learned about through media websites. Unfortunately, in many cases, these news websites turn out to be politically prejudiced, are often racist, and in some cases are heavily influenced by foreign elements. They mislead, scaremonger, and prevent fact-based political discourse.
Finally, I would like to point to Bill C-364, introduced by the member for Terrebonne. His bill would sharply restrict individual donations while bringing back a formula for public subsidies to campaigns. While Bill C-364 has not yet had a rigorous review by this House, it is certainly raising some excellent issues that I would like to have seen considered within Bill C-50.
Too often money equals power, but in this place, money should have no influence. While I will be supporting this bill as at least a first baby step in the right direction, I am disappointed that the Liberal government has missed this opportunity to truly strengthen Canada's political financing laws to truly prevent influence peddling and cash for access.
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
View Pierre Nantel Profile
2017-12-12 12:55 [p.16307]
Mr. Speaker, I rather agree with my Conservative colleague that we are once again spending time passing legislation in support of a decision that has already been made. These ministers of state already receive the salary usually paid to ministers. We are now covering up the tracks and amending the law to address a broken promise made during the election campaign and to let the Liberals cloak themselves in righteousness, which is something they do very well.
This state of affairs is summed up by the term “entitlement”. It has resulted in the Liberals coming to power and using this chamber's time to cover up their mistakes.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister indicated that the Liberals would not make Canadian consumers pay more taxes even though companies like Netflix and Amazon do not charge the GST. This mistake will hurt our own businesses. It is hurting people like Peter Simons, who invest millions of dollars, hire hundreds of employees, and than are at a complete disadvantage because of it.
Are you going to amend an act to justify the unjustifiable here, too?
View Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2017-12-01 12:15 [p.15874]
Mr. Speaker, here we are once again with a budget implementation bill that fails to honour the Liberals' commitment to refrain from using omnibus bills inappropriately. In fact, the Chair decided to allow separate votes on some aspects of the bill.
Furthermore, there is the matter of time allocation. Once again, here we are at third reading of the bill, and we will only have two and a half hours to debate it. This is completely unacceptable, since the budget is one of the most important duties of government and parliamentarians. The government's frequent, or even constant, use of time-allocation and closure motions is completely unacceptable, in light of the promises it made during the election campaign. It is disappointing to see that the government is yet again proceeding in this fashion.
Let us come back to the substance of the bill. Often, when it comes to a budget and the budget implementation bill, you could say the devil is in the details. It is important to take a good look at what is in the budget and what is not in the budget, or what the government did not do. On that point, I will focus on something extremely important. I already raised it in a question that I asked the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Finance, and that is the issue of tax credits that keeps coming up.
Hon. members will recall one of the first promises the NDP made before the election campaign even began. It was when we quietly started talking about the measures that we were going to propose during the campaign. We mentioned this infamous loophole that allows CEOs to benefit from a tax credit on the purchase of shares in their own company. That is an extremely problematic loophole. Obviously those who benefit from it are very well off. This situation is all the more infuriating when we consider that the government eliminated other tax credits.
I realize that some of the previous government's tax credits fall under what is called boutique tax credits. Those are tax credits that truly target very specific areas or specific people and are not always very effective.
However, gone is the public transit tax credit, which benefited families, students, and those middle-class Canadians that the government says it wants to stand up for and design its policies around. The fact that the CEO loophole stays intact while the public transit tax credit gets axed shows that there is a gap between what the government says it wants to do and what actually happens in real life.
One of the most problematic aspects of this bill is the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. This is related to another major file we looked at with the first budget implementation bill, namely the Canada infrastructure bank. We have heard very little about it since then.
There have been many debates on this subject in the House of Commons. Our biggest concern is that it is really a bank designed to privatize public infrastructure. It invests public money and then asks the private sector to invest. However, these investments come with conditions, and those conditions are extremely dangerous.
The public will be paying for infrastructure that the private sector will be asked to invest in. The public will then have to pay again, through tolls, for example, and will have to bear the entire financial burden of maintaining this infrastructure.
This is very worrisome. The Liberals support this approach. We know that these contracts will not benefit small or even medium-sized communities, which need infrastructure badly, as do municipalities. Instead, they will of course benefit the Liberals' Bay Street friends and representatives of investment companies like BlackRock, who attend closed-door meetings with the government about the development of this infrastructure bank.
We now see that approach continuing with this bill, which allows the Minister of Finance to invest $480 million of Canadian taxpayers' money in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
This is very troubling because there are risks to the sovereignty of our infrastructure. It also lets them claim that the more than $200 million allocated by the government has doubled. That amount will now be $480 million. This is a very troubling situation.
We can also see what is missing from all of this. I would like to take this opportunity to talk about local issues, issues back home, issues that affect the riding of Beloeil—Chambly.
In the last election campaign, one of the most important issues was whether we were going to get a commitment from the government. In fact, I made a commitment that if the NDP were to form government, we would change the law to resolve disputes between the federal government and many municipalities. Let me explain. This has to do with certain sites that are federal government property, such as Fort Chambly and the Chambly Canal in my riding.
The Supreme Court ruled on this a few years ago in Halifax (Regional Municipality) v. Canada (Public Works and Government Services). In that case, the City of Halifax and other municipalities involved in the matter argued that the federal government was not paying its fair share in lieu of taxes. Indeed, the federal government does not pay municipal taxes on land that it owns.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court agreed that the government was not paying its fair share. At the time, the federal government offered to create an advisory panel to help the decision-making process, in order to obtain an accurate assessment of the value of the sites and to ensure that the payments meet the municipalities' expectations.
The problem is that the advisory panel was made up of bureaucrats, and what it said was basically that if a municipality like Chambly did not agree with the federal government's decision with respect to the assessment of a site it owns, such as the fort and the canal, the government would just lob the ball to other bureaucrats, who would essentially make the same decision.
The bill I introduced in the last Parliament, which I reintroduced at the beginning of this one, would set up an independent assessment process to get it out of the hands of the governments involved in these disputes. We need independent assessment. As we saw in Chambly, the city commissioned an independent assessment to determine the fair value of the property.
This is something that really worries me. Why? During the last election campaign and during the debate that took place in Chambly, we got all of the other candidates to sign on to that commitment. That was at my insistence. If any other candidate, including the Liberal candidate, had won, he or she would have done the same thing.
Right now, we have a Liberal government that has not taken any action on this despite our repeated requests or the bill I introduced. We are talking about $500,000 a year for Chambly. For a city with a population of about 30,000, $500,000 is a big deal.
Not only is this a way for the federal government to pay its fair share, but it is also a way to make more resources available for cities so that they can offer services for residents, such as public transit, which is a free service in Chambly.
I am raising this issue because I think that introducing a budget implementation bill like this one that changes all sorts of provisions constitutes an opportunity to change the law so that Public Works and Government Services Canada is required to conduct an independent assessment when there is a conflict between a municipality and a city like Chambly.
Speaking of Chambly, there is another aspect of this bill that I find very worrisome and it has to do with infrastructure. The government and the minister responsible made announcements in Montreal and the greater Montreal area about the REM light rail project, which is extremely important for the city's suburbs, particularly the second tier of suburbs, which includes my riding.
However, there is a caveat. We realize that certain aspects of the file need to be discussed in order to ensure that the project is completed while fully respecting the people and the municipalities. A very important request was made by the mayors of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Chambly, and here I appeal to my colleague, the Liberal member for Saint-Jean. They would like the rail network to be extended so it can properly serve the residents of the Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu region and the Chambly basin.
In its current form, the project will create horrific traffic jams on highways 30 and 10. It is also important to consider urban spread and population growth in areas like mine. Naturally, we are happy that people want to move to our area and start a family. That is important, because the trend is towards population aging, and we are seeing more and more young families in our neighbourhoods.
In 2011, Marieville, one of the municipalities in my riding, was one of the top three municipalities in Quebec for population growth. In 2012, two municipalities in my riding, one of which is no longer part of my riding, ranked among the five Quebec municipalities with the highest birth rates. Furthermore, in the last Parliament, my riding was the third most populous federal riding in Quebec, thanks to its relatively young population, which ran counter to the trend.
At a meeting with members of the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec, or FECQ, I learned that the only CEGEPs in Quebec that will not see a drop in student numbers are those that serve the greater Montérégie area and Montreal, particularly the Saint-Hyacinthe and Édouard-Montpetit CEGEPs.
Given that more and more people are living and working in my riding, but sometimes also work in Montreal, it is extremely important to have a good public transit system. When it comes to the REM, one of the biggest projects ever proposed, the government must show some respect for communities and municipalities like Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Chambly. These municipalities are making a very specific request. Not only do they want their residents to be well served, but they also want to ensure that traffic will not increase on the roads used by the people I represent. That is extremely important.
I can say today in the House that we are going to continue to call upon the ministers responsible to ensure that they are listening. I am talking about this during the debate on the budget implementation bill because, although the government says that it is providing funding, funding is not enough. Respect and project implementation are also important. Of course, that will require full and effective co-operation with the Government of Quebec and municipalities like Chambly and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu.
There is good news, too, but not thanks to the government. I am very pleased to say that the good news stems from the hard work of our team, my counterparts in the National Assembly, and municipal elected officials. I am talking about the Beloeil pool. Enough people signed the registry to hold a referendum about building a pool, and the outcome was positive.
The subject also came up during two election campaigns in Beloeil, including the one that just ended. It even came up during the federal and Quebec elections in 2015, because people wanted to be sure the money would be available for this infrastructure project, which is very important to the community and to the young families I mentioned earlier.
I sat down with the mayor of Beloeil, Diane Lavoie, and my National Assembly counterpart, Simon Jolin-Barrette, and we came up with a joint game plan to make sure we got the money. We got the Government of Quebec and the federal government to commit to paying equal shares amounting to $9 million to build the new aquatics centre.
Given the parliamentary budget officer's findings and other things we have heard, and given that the government has had difficulty allocating money and spending it on infrastructure, it should not be congratulating itself for this type of bill. The local stakeholders are the ones who should be congratulated. It takes a tremendous amount of work jumping through endless bureaucratic hoops to get the money we are owed. A city such as Beloeil has a robust public sector. However, we can only imagine what it must be like for smaller municipalities, which have part-time staff, for example, and even part-time elected officials. This is not a criticism; their reality is a function of their population, demographics, and resources.
In this context, we can imagine the challenges they face when it is so difficult for the federal government to negotiate bilateral agreements and, on top of that, to spend the money. That is why I give credit to local stakeholders. I am proud to have worked with them to make this project a reality, because it will be a great asset to our community.
As I only have a few minutes left, I would like to conclude with the following remarks.
The government is patting itself on the back and saying that its plan is working, highlighting the numbers that came out on employment. However, the fact remains that social and economic inequalities are as present as ever in our society. We must address them. Simply sitting back and saying that the unemployment rate is at such and such a level is not enough, because that rate does not accurately reflect the government's record. The government's record is better reflected in the quality of jobs, as well as the level of inequality in our society. In that regard, the government still has a lot of work to do.
I talked about some extremely important local files, not to mention all the other files that need to be addressed, including tax evasion. The government merely identified billions of dollars that is missing from its coffers, rather than actually going after and recuperating it. It refuses to change the tax laws and treaties that mean that taxpayers who pay their fair share are essentially being cheated by the wealthy and by large corporations that are guilty of tax evasion and tax avoidance.
Despite what the minister says, this is not a priority. When it is time to table a budget, these are the types of priorities a government must have if it truly wants to address inequality and have the necessary resources to tackle the big projects that I mentioned in my speech. The government has a lot of work to do.
Speaking of inequalities, I want to use my last remaining minute to mention another group that I have had the pleasure of working with in my capacity as public safety critic. They are known as the no-fly list kids. They did not get any money in the spring budget and were hoping to get money this time around.
All the legislative measures in the world will not get us a proper redress system without the necessary money. When we see the problems with Shared Services Canada and the Phoenix pay system, we are not very confident that a computer system can be implemented without adequate funding. However, I am an eternal optimist, and I hope to see something different this spring.
As hon. members can see, there is a lot to say. I look forward to hearing my colleagues' questions, but also to seeing the next budget. I hope that the government will do the right thing and actually have something tangible to boast about, instead of just half measures.
View Nathan Cullen Profile
NDP (BC)
View Nathan Cullen Profile
2017-11-02 16:51 [p.14906]
Mr. Speaker, maybe the Prime Minister's plan is the opposite, which is to make Canada a province of China. If we look at the way the Liberals have gone through reviews of state-controlled companies from China buying up technology and aerospace firms, and firms that work alongside the military, we see it has been the Americans who have been raising far more concerns, even in the pick-up of a concrete and construction company that China is looking to buy right now. When I say China is looking to buy, I mean the Government of China. However, it is the Americans who are saying that, if we allow that sale to go ahead, they have concerns with the company and it will not be allowed to operate in the United States anymore, but go ahead and let the purchase go forward.
As for the finance minister, he has been fined. The Liberals stand up day after day and say that the finance minister has done everything right, and in fact, he has gone beyond. Why did he go beyond? It is because he got caught. What type of integrity is that when one does the right thing after being caught?
I have seven-year-old kids, and we talk about this kind of stuff. We try to guide them along the way to do the right thing out of the gate, so then they will not have to pay a fine, admit all these things, and start to suddenly make new-found charitable donations after realizing there is an investigation into their ethical behaviour.
View Rachel Blaney Profile
NDP (BC)
View Rachel Blaney Profile
2017-10-30 15:31 [p.14686]
Mr. Speaker, today I rise to speak at the report stage of Bill C-49. This bill covers a range of amendments on the transportation sectors.
During my campaign, I heard loud and clear from many of my constituents that people were tired of omnibus bills from the previous government. There was an increased desire for accountability and transparency, yet here we are again discussing an omnibus bill that is moving through this House, with amendments to 13 acts, without giving parliamentarians adequate time for debate.
Because of the broad range of topics in this bill, I will keep my comments to air transportation, CATSA, and will quickly touch on marine transportation.
As many do in this House, I fly often. Over the last several months, we have seen stories of people being dragged off planes, stalled on the tarmac, and having to call emergency services. Too often, settlements are swept under the rug, and the industry continues with business as usual. I think Canadians are fed up. They are tired of waiting on the tarmac endlessly and are tired of overbooking.
The NDP introduced a bill that clearly set out the steps needed to establish a passenger bill of rights. The transport minister supported our bill and could have followed our example by introducing concrete measures to protect airline passengers. For example, when a flight is cancelled, the airline would have to offer passengers a choice between a full refund and re-routing under comparable conditions. Air carriers that failed to comply with this rule would have to pay $1,000 in compensation to every passenger, in addition to the refund. If an aircraft was held on the ground for more than one hour, the airline would have to provide passengers with adequate food, drinking water, and other refreshments. For each additional hour during which the airline failed to comply with that rule, it would have to pay each passenger $100 in compensation.
We also asked the government to implement protection measures immediately instead of delaying them until 2018. However, the minister chose not to propose concrete measures. Instead, he included provisions in the bill. The government sold it to the media and to Canadians as a passenger bill of rights, but that is simply misleading. The minister is delaying what needs to be done by handing over the responsibility for regulations to the Canadian Transportation Agency. When the CTA enacts inadequate regulations, it will give the minister a way out. That is not the political leadership Canadians expect.
What is disappointing is that the Liberals rejected our amendments without studying them, folding under pressure from the airlines.
The facts are clear that flights subject to the European regulations have a cancellation rate of 0.4%, which is four times lower than flights subject to the current Canadian regulations.
We have seen this government continuously abdicate its responsibility for airports. While the federal government does not manage them directly, it is up to the government to ensure a strategic vision, especially in a country as large as Canada. This vision must include every single size of airport, from Pearson to the local airports in my riding.
The communities of Campbell River, Comox, Port Hardy, and Powell River have expressed serious concerns about this continued pursuit of the for-profit privatization of our airports. These airports are essential elements of the social and economic infrastructure in our region. Representing many medium-sized and rural communities, air transportation provides a vital link that connects families and communities and promotes economic growth.
As a representative of the third largest riding in British Columbia, I have landed and taken off from several airports in my region, going to or returning from Ottawa. This is how I get to community events across the riding when travelling to and from this place.
These communities need these services, and as the government continues this privatization creep, they are connecting with me about their concerns. Campbell River recently shared with me that these privatization plans delay much-needed effective action on other issues, such as the burden of federal rents and fees on airlines and air travellers. These stand in the way of more competitive and economical air transportation in Canada.
There is still worse news in this bill regarding remote and rural airports. I think members can understand why I will not be supporting this bill as it stands. Bill C-49 would amend the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority Act. Instead of supporting the growth of regional airports, the government would use Bill C-49 to pass the buck for security screening to regional airports or the municipalities that own them. This policy would hurt rural economies, as the cost of security screening is so high that almost no small airport would be competitive if it had to pay the bill. The government is clearly stepping back from funding and developing regional airports.
Currently, the commissioner of competition has the power to determine whether a joint venture arrangement between airlines is anti-competitive and can subsequently apply to the Competition Tribunal to prohibit the joint venture. However, Bill C-49 would strip this power from the commissioner of competition. If Bill C-49 is adopted, the Minister of Transport would have the final word on proposed joint ventures between airlines. Once an arrangement was approved, the Competition Tribunal would no longer be able to prohibit it.
If Air Canada proposed an arrangement to merge its operations with those of an American company, even if the commissioner found that the agreement would lessen competition among airlines and increase ticket prices for passengers, the minister could approve the arrangement if the minister was satisfied that it was within the public interest. This is why the NDP proposed deleting clause 14 of Bill C-49, as it would expose consumers to unfair increases in airline ticket prices.
A decision by the minister to ignore the commissioner's advice could be influenced by political considerations to favour an airline at the expense of consumers. In addition, the bill does not spell out what is meant by the “public interest” as a basis for a decision by the minister to approve a merger of two airline operations. The concept of public interest is so broad that the minister could consider factors that are not in the interest of Canadians but rather in the interest of the shareholders of major airlines.
Bill C-49 would impact two elements in the marine industry. First, the bill would allow foreign-registered vessels to compete unfairly with Canadian shipowners. We are requesting that Canadian-registered vessels continue to have preferential access to government contracts, carriage of goods by container, and repositioning of empty containers. In addition, the government did not consult with stakeholders who would be affected by this measure.
Second, the Canada infrastructure bank would be permitted to provide loans to port authorities. Instead of assuming responsibility for directly funding the development of port facilities, the federal government would transfer that responsibility to private investors. Investors would charge high rates of interest on their loans, and once again, the consumer would foot the bill. The cost of the required return on investment could affect consumers, since many goods transit through ports.
If private investors such as Morgan Stanley acquire port facilities, Canadians would lose control of their port infrastructure. In fact, the government has asked Morgan Stanley to study a port privatization scenario, even though a subsidiary of Morgan Stanley is earning millions by buying and reselling parts of Canadian ports.
The concerns I have raised today were also brought up by our transport critic in committee and in the House. The bill is simply not good for Canadians, and for that reason, I cannot support it.
View Brian Masse Profile
NDP (ON)
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
NDP (BC)
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
NDP (ON)
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
NDP (BC)
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.
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