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View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
2018-04-19 15:11 [p.18562]
moved the second reading of, and concurrence in, amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-25, an act to amend the Canada Business Corporations Act, the Canada Cooperatives Act, the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act, and the Competition Act.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise and speak to a piece of legislation on an issue for which I have been flooded with correspondence from constituents. This is something that resonates for Canadians.
I want to pick up on something my colleague just said. He said the best thing about the bill is that it has helped him learn how to pronounce the word “statistician”. I agree that this might be the only good thing about the bill. There are many things about the bill that are much worse, and it may be that the parliamentary secretary is finally coming around to the opposition's perspective on this bill. Hopefully, by the end of my remarks we will have sealed the deal in getting the government to realize the problems and, having benefited from the pronunciation exercise associated with the debate, agreeing with us in voting down this legislation.
Before I get into more detail, I want to pick up on the parliamentary secretary's response to my question. One of the provisions of the bill is that it would establish the Canadian statistics advisory council, which would replace the National Statistics Council. One might infer from the names that they are not that different from each other, and one would be correct. One has 13 members and the other 10 members, but when we do away with one council and replace it with another, that is a great opportunity to appoint 10 entirely new people, as if we would not notice in the opposition what is going on in that respect.
To get some clarification, I have to ask my friend across the way what could possibly motivate this legislative change, which effectively allows the government to do away with the existing council and then appoint 10 new good Liberals—I mean, good, qualified appointees—to this panel.
His response is quite revealing in its lack of detail. He tells us participation rates were uneven. Essentially, they did not think people on the council were as good as they could have been, so they have to completely change things so they can appoint a new council. Of course, we will be watching to see the extent to which the government uses this tactic. I really hope that none of the people on this new statistics advisory council were involved in developing the instrument for the government's electoral reform consultation.
There are some real problems with the government's approach to appointments in general and, I would argue, more broadly with its approach to statistics and how it considers science and information on a variety of issues, so I am going to take this opportunity to talk a bit about that as well as to talk about some of the specific provisions in this legislation.
The bill is partly seen by the government as an opportunity to try to push an important political message, which is that it really wants to associate its brand with evidence-based policy. We hear this rhetoric out of the government a lot. I think I speak for the entire official opposition in saying that we believe in evidence-based policy. We believe in data-driven decision making. For us, it is not just a slogan.
The member for Spadina—Fort York is heckling me again. I am sure he is preparing a great question about Ayn Rand again, which he is able to relate to all subjects in this place. I look forward to those comments, based on the member's extensive reading of that author.
If I could get back to my comments, for us as Conservatives, evidence-based decision-making is not just a slogan. It is not just something we want to put in the window. We actually look at the evidence and the details and we apply that information across a range of issues. If we look at the approach the government has taken across a range of files, we will see its total lack of regard for the evidence.
I will cite a few examples, because we have seen and debated examples in the House of the government not being interested in looking at science. The most obvious example of its complete disregard for evidence when it comes to policy-making is its approach to pipeline approval.
On this side of the House we believe that there is an independent process for pipeline review. There is an independent body, the National Energy Board, that collects data, conducts hearings in a reasonable time frame, and provides a report back. By and large, when the government gets a report from an independent consultative body like that, it should be listening. This actually accords with the rhetorical approach of the government.
An independent body is providing advice based on science. What is not to like? However, members of the government actually do not like that very much because, when it comes to pipeline approvals, they want to preserve the ability for the government or the cabinet—and they have clearly shown an intention to use that ability—to reject approvals that are made by independent, impartial, science-based decision-makers at the National Energy Board.
We have seen this anti-science approach when it comes to the northern gateway pipeline, an important pipeline project that would have provided market access for our energy resources, which was approved by the NEB with conditions. It was then approved by the previous government with conditions, and now we have a new government not only rejecting that but bringing in legislation to not allow tanker traffic out of northern B.C.
We know in that context that there is a great deal of tanker traffic off the coast of B.C. coming from Alaska. We have every reason to believe it is going to increase, and yet we have this unscientific—anti-science, in fact—decision by the government members. They are motivated by a political calculus that ignores the actual reality.
When we have the government coming forward with legislation, when the Liberals talk about the importance of science-based decision-making and of statistics, it is important to pose this question. Why are they not listening to the clear evidence when it comes to pipeline approval? Why are they not listening to that evidence?
I can give another example, and this is probably the clearest example of the government's disregard for good statistical methods. That was the Liberals' approach on the issue of changes to the electoral system. There was a process in place whereby a parliamentary committee representing all members of Parliament came back with some good recommendations about how the government could proceed with the implementation of something that was actually an election commitment. That reflected the fact that many Canadians had input into the committee process. Generally speaking, parliamentary committees only hear from experts. I do not think the committee did any sort of explicitly quantitative work, but it did a great deal of qualitative work gathering opinions of Canadians and hearing those perspectives. It came back with a recommendation that a referendum be done with respect to possible different electoral systems.
After that, because the government members did not like the result of what was a good process for engaging and consulting Canadians, they decided to come up with their own process, which was obviously from a statistical perspective highly suspect. It was to have an online consultation that gets people's feelings about things that might have some kind of approximate relationship to questions around electoral systems, but not actually ask the direct obvious questions. We could not ask people if they favour a system that is more proportionate or less proportionate, has certain kinds of possible outcomes, etc. It was generally about feelings and sentiment-based calculations, and through that process, the government decided it would not proceed with it.
This was an attempt, given that the first analysis of public perspectives did not seem to produce the results the Liberals wanted, to reorganize and contort and manipulate the mechanism of consultation to not ask explicit questions but instead to contort the process to try to ensure they had the result they wanted and in the end to justify a political decision, which at that point had probably already been made, which was to back away. This is another case where we see a real disregard for the process of science, of gathering evidence, of consulting with Canadians.
I should also mention that we have the government's disregard for the science when it comes to the risks associated with marijuana use, and we have the Liberals' decision to bring forward legislation to legalize marijuana in spite of the clear risks to young people, as I said, choosing an age that does not at all reflect the science.
The Liberals have been criticized by all kinds of experts for setting the age at 18, for example. There is a great deal of evidence that, even if we were going to legalize it, we should recognize that there are substantial risks and scientifically demonstrated associations between early use of marijuana, even relatively occasional use, and mental health challenges later in life.
That evidence exists, yet in spite of good advice from experts on this issue, the government again has shown that it does not take evidence-based policy-making seriously when it comes to pipelines, electoral reform, and now in this case, the issue of marijuana. We have a government that does not look at or listen to the evidence. Instead, it wants to try to twist and contort how it presents statistical information in a way that is based on a predetermined, preset political agenda. This might satisfy the Liberals' political calculus, but it does not accord with the kinds of principles, the kind of lofty objectives they frequently talk about.
By the way, every time we have a debate about science in the House, it is interesting to see the way the Liberals try to politicize the issues. I remember a case during question period where we had a member who has spent decades working as a scientist asking the Minister of Science a question. The minister said that it was good to see the member finally taking an interest in science. In fact, it was the member for Sarnia—Lambton, who has a long history of working and being involved in scientific development. It shows the very political lens through which the government views this.
Therefore, it is with that in mind, with the level of concern about the way the government uses these words and about its actual record when it comes to evidence-based decision-making, that we approach this legislation. It is legislation that contains a number of elements that raise big questions about what is actually going on and what the government is trying to do.
I spoke earlier, and I want to develop this point a little more, about a specific provision in the bill, which is this new council that the Liberals want to set up. The bill would establish a Canadian statistics advisory council, which would replace the National Statistics Council. I am sure what we are going to hear, and maybe members have already said this, is that there will be an open process for applications, anybody can apply, they will be evaluated dispassionately based on fair and neutral criteria, and they will come to the conclusion that in fact reveals that, well, the best people were former Liberal Party donors, cabinet ministers, or something like that.
The government's record with respect to appointments all the way along is very spotty. There are major questions out there about how the government actually comes to its appointment decisions. I think there are a number of examples that we could talk about that are fairly obvious. For instance, we had the government promising an independent process with respect to senators, and yet, strikingly, the senators that the government appointed are very much voting with government. How could that be? It is almost as if there was a political lens applied to those appointments. Just because the Liberals say something does not make it true. If we look at the evidence, the voting records of those appointed suggests certainly that this is not a dispassionate calculus based on some politically neutral criteria at all. They are trying to send that message even though it does not accord with the reality.
Of course, there is the fiasco in this place around the appointment of a new Commissioner of Official Languages. We had different messages given by the Minister of Canadian Heritage and by a witness at committee—I think the Commissioner of Official Languages appointee herself—saying essentially different things about the conversations that took place in the lead-up to the decision around that appointment. We had repeated questions for the Minister of Canadian Heritage about what conversations were had and how those decisions were made. In the end, it was always a deflection rather than a direct response to the question about that appointment.
However, the reality is that we had a provincial Liberal cabinet minister who the government intended to put in the position, which is a very important office and supposed to be an independent officer of Parliament. Obviously, that person took a step back when it was clear this was not something that was going to be accepted. However, it was not inevitable that would happen, and the government's consistent defence of that appointment decision obviously raises real red flags when we look at the fact that the Liberals are bringing forward legislation that would allow them to entirely reappoint this statistics advisory body.
With all these different appointment issues in the mix, this leads up to what is one critical position, the Ethics Commissioner. The Prime Minister has recused himself, supposedly, from being involved in the appointment of the Ethics Commissioner. However, he has given that power over to the government House leader, someone who clearly serves at the pleasure of the Prime Minister. It is hard to imagine that there would not be some kind of a conversation that would take place, wink-wink, nudge-nudge, especially given that there may have been conversations that took place around the Commissioner of Official Languages, and yet we had different things said in different places, by different people who were supposed to be part of that conversation, about what conversations actually did and did not take place.
There is a huge credibility problem with the government when it comes down to who it is putting in place for these appointments. When we look at a bill like this, it is worth asking who is actually going to be involved in the appointments. How can the opposition, as we look at this legislation, have any kind of certainty that, as the government gets rid of one body on the basis of what the parliamentary secretary called “participation rates” being uneven, we will see something quite different, and that we will see a body that will actually, in effect, increase the government's control of it.
The government can talk about independent bodies, groups, and agencies and oversight mechanisms all it wants, but then we have to look at how those are formed, who is putting them in place, and who is appointing those people to those positions. If we do not have confidence that the government is actually looking at merit, if it is clear, based on the past track record of the government, and I think it is, that it is only making these appointments or predominantly making these appointments on the basis of partisan criteria, then we cannot, at all, have confidence in the way in which that decision is going to unfold.
I do want to make an additional point with respect to this legislation, and that is that this legislation does not directly affect whether we have a mandatory long form census. We currently have a mandatory long form census, and that will not be changed either way with respect to this legislation. It is not necessary to pass it in order to achieve what clearly is a stated objective of the government, which is to have that mandatory long form census in place.
Other provisions of this bill are evident but are not really the ones I have chosen to dwell on in my speech, but I do want to draw the attention of members to them nonetheless. The bill involves the appointment of a chief statistician during “good behaviour” for a fixed renewable term of five years. It does mean that once a chief statistician is in place, it is at least much more difficult for the government to remove that individual. It also, of course, brings us back to this question of how we can actually trust the government to make credible appointments, if we consider the track record of the government when it comes to those appointments.
The legislation also says that the minister will no longer be able to issue directives on methods, procedures, and operations. The minister will still be able to issue directives on sort of a broad scope of statistical programs, but it will no longer be up to him or her to dictate methods, procedures, and operations.
I have to say I do think the government has a very poor track record when it comes to determining statistical methods, if we judge from the way it organized consultations on the issue of changes to the electoral system. I certainly would not want to see the government manipulating those dynamics around statistical methods and operations. Again, we have observed what the likely problems would be if it were trying to essentially do the same thing that it has already done with regard to other statistical issues, and that is shape the way in which those consultations took place in order to achieve a particular outcome. The broad problem is still there, given the remaining authority and given the issue of appointments.
To summarize very quickly, the main problems that I brought attention to in the legislation are this.
First, we have seen the government's clear lack of willingness to take evidence-based decision-making beyond a slogan. It is clearly a slogan it repeats over and over. However, from the way in which it makes decisions, there is no evidence it is something it considers.
There is also the issue of the lack of credibility the government has with respect to appointments and the way in which those always seem to reflect a partisan criteria.
On that basis, we will be opposing the bill.
View Brian Masse Profile
View Brian Masse Profile
2017-06-20 20:12 [p.13039]
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise on Bill C-36 with regard to the census. One thing we can be clear about in the debate on this legislation is it is critically important how we spend taxpayers' money. That is central to the census itself. It is no laughing matter, especially when we look at some of the people involved.
Shame on both the Liberals and Conservatives for their actions in regard to former chief statisticians. It needs to be identified as quite a serious situation. Munir Sheikh resigned under the Conservatives and Wayne Smith resigned under the Liberals. These are key resignations. These are chief statisticians who are respected across the planet. They were seen to have had their integrity compromised by being senior bureaucrats in an administration. They ended up being whistle-blowers. We know not just domestically but across the globe, whistle-blowers often become martyrs. They often become targets. They and their families are often affected for going public with something where they compromised their own personal well-being versus that of the state or the job they do. That is what took place with our chief statisticians.
It is important to remember who they are. Munir Sheikh, for example, was a Canadian immigrant from Pakistan who later on became a doctor of economics and worked in the Department of Finance for many years as a deputy minister, later becoming a chief statistician, and resigning from his position at Stats Canada. That was the first time I had seen a resignation like that in the 15 plus years I have been here. I had never witnessed someone take on the administration like that. That came about because of a number of things related to Stats Canada and how it was treated and valued.
Therefore, it is important to review what is so important about the Statistics Act and why it is so important for Canadians. A chief statistician is responsible for the overall act and the administration of it. The issues they monitor across the country are where, at the end of the day, taxpayers' money is spent. It is about income. It is about the labour market. It is education, housing, transportation, languages, persons with disabilities, citizenship, immigration, aboriginal peoples, and ethnicity. They even determine where to place a fire hall for municipalities. There was discussion today about high-rise buildings. We have seen tragedies with high-rise buildings, most recently in London. However, we have the necessary data accumulation on municipalities to do the proper planning for allocating resources, because Statistics Canada knows where the populations are. If we do not have that information, we not only could knowingly set ourselves up for failure but we could unwittingly do so, because we do not have that information.
It is similar with economic growth. The latest census of 2016 shows 35% of Canada's population now resides in the Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal areas. That is a significant concentration of human population for such a geographic mass as Canada. That also makes it very important for us to attract investment and innovation for other areas. The more vulnerable communities, related to not having proper statistical information, are smaller communities and smaller pockets of population. It is how housing is decided. I mentioned fire halls for municipal service. There is all of that, and even affordable housing and the cost of housing, which actually translates into economic development, where businesses decide where and what type of business they should grow here in Canada.
When I came here, I had previously worked as an employment counsellor for persons with disabilities and youth at risk and I was a city councillor in Windsor West where I represented one of the great parliamentarians for 39 years, the deputy prime minister at the time, the right hon. Herb Gray. As a city councillor, my area that he represented was pegged to be part of what is called the complete count. In Windsor West there were many new immigrants and we had a lot of issues related to language and culture, so our statistical returns related to the census were lower.
That meant that we were missing out on valuable data necessary for Mr. Gray to advocate for housing, language services, a series of things that were necessary for the production, value, and contribution of the citizens of that area because of the challenges. Because we had English as a second language growing as a concern, at around a 50% return rate for our census, we were missing out on those opportunities. We also had people who wanted to participate, wanted to do better things, but they could not.
We were one of four areas across the country, at that time, of the 301 ridings federally that did a door-to-door campaign to help people get enumerated for the census. There is a litany of reasons why that is important, but it affects the funding and the contributions. If we are coming from a community that does not have those things, as identified, it is hard to advocate for that.
It is not just about government services, it is also about businesses. Businesses use this information from labour market surveys not only to identify customer populations, but also to identify concerns about shortages of workers with certain skill sets. The information in the census is used to identify that for investment. One of the number one things we hear to this day is the fact that we are going to be short certain types of workers, whether it be engineers or mechanical workers, and not having the people to staff in those regions and not preparing other populations to either get that skill set, or having to import that labour versus educating Canadians and invest in education to do so. That affects a multitude of things and diminishes our middle class.
We did that in Windsor West. Later on as a representative of Windsor West in this chamber, I understood quite clearly the value of a clean statistical database for advocating for my community and also for this country. I became very intimate with how it works. About 50% of persons with disabilities are not working in Canada. Many have given up and are not in the system. l was part of a group that was able to include more persons with disabilities. I want to note that the good work of the public servants in helping access jobs for persons with disabilities during that time was critical. I am still grateful today because I know some people are still working and can use the job to get something else.
Ivan Fellegi, a chief statistician at that time, was under pressure to privatize our census. England, for example, had outsourced the collection of data to different third parties and Canada was outsourcing its census to Lockheed Martin. A campaign I was part of looked to protect Canadians' data from Lockheed Martin because many people had ethical concerns about Lockheed Martin collecting our data. It was an arms manufacturer predominantly based in the United States that produced weapons which were banned under Canadian law like cluster munitions and so on. It was collecting our data and not only that, it would store and implement the data. At that time, the U.S. went through the implementation of the Patriot Act. We discovered it was going to assemble this data outsourced from Canada in the United States.
Why that is important is because once the Patriot Act was implemented, the hard reality was that all our census data, personal and private information we thought was protected, was now susceptible to the United States. Under the Patriot Act, the way it worked at that time, and most of which still exists in this format today, is that if a court order was issued for information, the company could not tell the actual proprietor of that information that the information was actually being usurped and used by the American government.
It would have been against the law for Lockheed Martin to disclose to Canada that the information it gathered in Canada would be used. Credit card companies and others have faced some scrutiny since then. The Privacy Commissioner has piped in. From British Columbia, and other areas, there is quite a record on this. We fought quite hard to get that information to stay in Canada, which we were able to do.
Getting past that, we continued to have a fairly stable census, until the Conservatives came into power and created the voluntary national household survey. It was put out there as a cost-cutting measure, in many respects, and also as privacy protection for Canadians. Not having the bully of government telling people they have to disclose information or they were going to kick in doors, make people fill in the census form, or send them off to jail.
I remember the member for Parry Sound—Muskoka getting up a number of times in the chamber, talking about people being intimidated. The jail aspect was certainly the heightened element that received media attention from many facets for many months, more than a year. To this day, it is still one of the more laughable things ever pronounced by a minister in the history of Canada: that people were going to be locked up and have the key thrown away for not completing their census. The essence of it was really a side distraction, which worked.
The national household survey came back with around a 26% response rate. That 26% response rate meant that our statistics, which had been the envy of many industrialized worlds, were now a diminished response. We lost a significant portion of the reliability of that data to make decisions on income, labour market, education, housing, transportation, languages, disabilities, citizenship, immigration, aboriginal people, and ethnicity. All the intel on those things went down to 26%.
The other interesting thing about that is that it cost us an additional $22 million. We received a quarter of the results, paid an additional $22 million, and then it became very worthless in many respects. This is more the technical aspect of it that some people may not care for, but it is important. Think of the centrepiece of our census as a backstop for other labour market surveys, whether it be polling, labour market agriculture, labour market related to industrial development, or labour market for investment. All those different things would be targeted in smaller surveys, but the overall sample of the statistical census would provide some of the best statistical information. Poof, that was gone. All that continuum we had was basically disrupted by that introduction.
That is when Munir Sheikh, and I discussed some of his qualifications as an economist and a deputy at the Department of Finance for many years, resigned. He resigned because he could no longer do his job.
We pressed for changes and then the Liberals and opposition agreed with changes as well. I tabled a member's bill, as did a couple of other members, to restore the independence. This bill would do some of that. It would provide some of those elements, but it would not go far enough.
Wayne Smith, the latest chief statistician in terms of Service Canada, resigned because of that. He resigned because Service Canada has become a large, encompassing agency for intelligence and support services. The problem it has is that much of our census information that is used now has to flow into this information of shared services, creating an independence issue about the data falling in there, then getting data back and the use of it. This created quite a problem, and Wayne Smith has now resigned.
We now have the bill which will make Statistics Canada somewhat independent. I say somewhat independent, because overall it does fulfill the things I described in the first part of my speech relating to information gathering, creating the lineal information necessary for statistical information use, the gathering, and how it restores those elements. That is critically important.
We are very grateful we will have that, but it does not actually go the full nine yards, so right now we still have a situation where the minister can still make political decisions about the questions that are asked in the census. It still takes away from the scientific approach we would like to have, and the independence, because we do pay, and we do actually ask someone to come into this position. It is very much a sought after career position to have. If it is independent, we get some of the best in the world. We will still have the minister's control over that, so I worry about the fact we could have some politicization of it.
It has been mentioned, and there has been banter back and forth between the Conservatives and Liberals about patronage and the appointment process, but it is a serious thing to consider. We are just dealing in my neck of the woods right now, a patronage appointment, the Gordie Howe Bridge, and Dwight Duncan becoming quite controversial, because there is a partisanship past appointment and there are partisanship attacks, including Ontario Progressive Conservatives, the American administration, and so forth. I get the seriousness of that, and what is at stake there, but what I am worried about is, what happens next time? Now that this is enshrined in law, it becomes very difficult for us to get that independence.
The Statistics Canada Department is one of 42 agencies that are supposed to be at arm's length from the government, but unfortunately, with this legislation, it is still within choking distance. Yes, it is at arm's length, but a choking distance away. I am concerned about the fact we will not see that happening. Wayne Smith identified some of those issues and concerns.
We will eliminate the jail time. It will be completely eliminated, so it can no longer be a distraction, and in the future there will be no ability for the minister to say something that would make people run, or think about something different from what the real serious issue is, which is actually the increased cost, or the change of the census, which is important. There will also still be 92 years of census information before it goes public.
In his testimony, Wayne Smith said that Bill C-36 moves the Statistics Act substantially in the right direction, creates no new problems, but fails to fully address independence, the need for full quinquennials, mandatory census of population, or the modernization of the legislation to build a statistical system adapted to the rapidly evolving needs and challenges of the 21st century. He concluded that there is still work to be done. We proposed some amendments given to us in committee by Mr. Smith and others, but they were not taken into consideration.
We will be supporting this. It is a good step forward, but it is a missed opportunity. We get to hit a double instead of a home run out of this one, so we will take it. We advance the case, and most important, Canadians and the use of our money will be better off served with data that is reliable than not.
View John Barlow Profile
View John Barlow Profile
2016-11-03 12:21 [p.6528]
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and speak to this. I would like to invite the finance minister, the trade minister, the minister of innovation, and the Minister of Natural Resources to come on down and play The Price Is Right, because it seems as if they will sell their integrity and whatever it takes to get ahead as long as the price is right. That seems to be the game that the Liberal Party is playing with this. Who knows what the showcase showdown will be at the end of this show? I am sure that those who are spending $1,500 to attend these exclusive events will be the ones who will enjoy the benefits of the showcase showdown. However, the message I would like to leave for those who have paid the $1,500 to get these exclusive opportunities to shake hands with and wag the ear of the ministers is that they have overbid. A smarter bid of one dollar would have been a better investment, also of their time.
I want to go back to what the Prime Minister said after he was elected a year ago. I quote from annex B, which states:
Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries must avoid conflict of interest, the appearance of conflict of interest and situations that have the potential to involve conflicts of interest.
The Prime Minister himself clearly stated to the ministers and parliamentary secretaries that 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 or political parties.
A lot of the questions we are getting from across the floor are asking whether any laws were broken. The election laws were not broken, but what was broken was a very profound promise by the Prime Minister to do things differently.
He states in that quote, “must avoid conflict of interest” or “the appearance of conflict of interest”.
It is quite obvious that these statements are not worth the paper they are written on. We are back to the age-old Liberal mantra that they are entitled to their entitlements no matter what the cost. Again, if the price is right, they will be there to try to grant whatever it is those people are asking for. I would like to talk about some of those who have done so already, and we are barely just over a year into their mandate.
The Minister of Natural Resources attended an event on August 29 in Edmonton at the offices of MacPherson Leslie and Tyerman. This is the minister for natural resources, mining, oil and gas, forestry, and nuclear energy. The expertise of this law firm with which he had a private meeting just happens to be mining and resource permits and regulations. Not only was this a meeting with this law firm, but it was a private party, and the only people who were allowed to attend were people who paid the $1,500 fee to join the Liberal Laurier Club, which is an exclusive fundraising arm of the Liberal Party. Therefore, to say that this was an open consultation with the energy sector or stakeholders in the mining or oil and gas sector, I think, is quite disingenuous. This was an event exclusively for members of the Liberal Laurier fundraising club, who have paid a $1,500 membership fee, to get an opportunity to speak with the Minister of Natural Resources.
I could tell members right now that, of the 100,000 Albertan energy workers who are out of work, not one has had the opportunity to speak to the Minister of Natural Resources. They are the ones who need that $1,500 to pay their mortgage because they are out of work, and yet a very exclusive, elite group of lawyers in downtown Edmonton has the opportunity to meet with the Minister of Natural Resources. I am certain that mining and resource development permits were a hot topic at that meeting. I am sure there are thousands of Alberta energy workers right now who would love to have an opportunity to sit down with the minister of natural resources and talk about some of the things that they on the ground feel the minister would be able to implement, such as policies and regulations that would help them get back to work, rather than spending his time meeting with lawyers in downtown Edmonton. However, the unemployed energy workers simply do not have the $1,500 or probably the connections to have that opportunity to meet personally with the Minister of Natural Resources.
He is obviously not alone. On April 7, the Minister of Justice attended a Liberal fundraiser hosted by a prominent Bay Street law firm at $500 a ticket. Why would the Minister of Justice be meeting exclusively with a law firm in downtown Toronto?
Let us keep going.
The Minister of Justice attended another event, this time for only $1,000 a ticket—she had a discount—on April 28. This was a meeting in Vancouver and included Gordon and Catherine McCauley. Gordon just happens to be CEO of Viable Healthworks and director of Centre for Drug Research and Development. I am sure they were talking about anything other than marijuana laws or decriminalizing marijuana. I am sure those were not topics at that event.
The Minister of International Trade will be attending a Liberal Party of Canada event that advertises a wonderful evening with the Minister of International Trade, in Toronto. When I go to that website and click on it to get a password to attend, I cannot get that password. This is supposed to be open. If I want an opportunity to talk to the Minister of International Trade about what happened with CETA or what is going on with the trans-Pacific partnership, which farmers and ranchers in southern Alberta are very eager to see proceed, unfortunately, I do not have access to what is supposed to be an open and transparent process to meet with government members of Parliament, ministers.
The finance minister recently had an event in Halifax, on October 13. The ticket price for that event was $1,500. Again, that was pretty exclusive company. Fifteen business executives, including land developers, bankers, and mortgage brokers, each paid $1,500 to have an opportunity to meet with the finance minister. I am sure they were not talking about downtown Halifax developments or the Halifax Port Authority. I am sure it was just to get some consultation on the upcoming budget, which will be much better than we heard in the update, hopefully.
Again, I would love to carry on.
I am going to add the innovation minister. He was the top guest at a Vancouver event, where the ticket price was $1,500. He also must have had a tough time, as he is taking a discount. His next one is at a private residence where the tickets are only $400.
The Prime Minister himself is not free from these either. He has attended 17 of these, some of them with a ticket price as high as $1,525.
The Liberals have 89 of these events planned over the next few months. Despite the rhetoric we are hearing in question period or here today about not breaking any laws and trying to be open and transparent, despite the reaction they are getting from Canadian taxpayers that this is wrong, they do not care. They are plugging right along with continuing to host these things. It is an absolute affront to this House and to Canadian taxpayers, a slap in the face, saying they don't care what people think about the optics of these types of fundraisers, and they are going to go right ahead and do them anyway.
The finance minister talked quite a bit that this was going to be consultation, that this was a chance to speak to Canadians about the budget process, but the federal lobbying commissioner, Karen Shepherd, is now investigating these pay for access fundraisers; the Ethics Commissioner has called these fundraisers unsavoury; and even former Liberal minister Sheila Copps has asked the Prime Minister to ban these elite fundraisers, saying that during the Chrétien years, when she was minister, “You go and you get an envelope, ‘I need this, I want this, I want this’”.
It is quite clear that this has nothing to do with consultations. This is about what they can do for people and how much it is going to cost.
If he talked about consulting with Canadians, there are other ways to do it. We have a break week next week. I am going to be in my riding of Foothills. I have four round tables planned during that week, throughout the riding. I am going to be consulting with hundreds of Foothills residents about what they think is important as we go through the budget process, and certainly they are going to be focusing on Alberta jobs.
I am renting rooms at the Legion, at a local hotel, and at a local restaurant. Do members know how much I am charging people to attend? I am charging zero, absolutely zero. That is how consultation with Canadians should be done. It should not be done at $1,500 a head.
They are talking to the wealthy, the entitled, the elite. They are not talking to average hard-working Canadians, the ones they should really be paying attention to because those are the ones who really matter, with what is going on and the decisions that the Liberal government is making.
In conclusion, I am certainly hearing from my constituents, in disbelief, that this is utterly the kind of attitude of entitlement to their entitlements. It is the same old Liberal Party.
View David de Burgh Graham Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, the member for Oshawa referred to the lack of an industry minister for the first time in a long time. I would like to point out that the industry minister still exists and is now called the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. He has the same department and a broader mandate to look to the future. Therefore, I am wondering if the member objects to innovation, science, or economic development.
View Colin Carrie Profile
View Colin Carrie Profile
2016-11-01 13:43 [p.6407]
Mr. Speaker, I absolutely do not object. I think innovation is the way to move forward. What I was talking about is the message the Liberal government is sending industry. I talked about the language, the ideology, and how the Liberals have changed even the way Canadians talk. I said that 20,000 manufacturing jobs are gone, and it is 39,000 in the oil, gas, and mining sector, an industry that creates jobs. A record number are now gone within a year.
I get upset when I hear colleagues talk about innovation. There will be nothing left to innovate if we do not start concentrating on Canada's strengths. It was our strength in our manufacturing and natural resources sectors that brought our country to the forefront in the world, yet the current government seems determined to shut it all down. In other words, there will be no industry left if the Liberals continue forward with the way they are addressing this issue.
View Michael Cooper Profile
View Michael Cooper Profile
2016-09-22 11:04 [p.4953]
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support of the motion to call upon the Prime Minister and the government to appoint an Atlantic Canadian to fill the vacancy caused by Justice Cromwell.
Since the Supreme Court was established in 1875, every government has respected Atlantic-Canadian representation on the court, every government until the current government.
The fact that the government has opened the door to shutting out Atlantic Canada from the Supreme Court is objectionable, on multiple grounds. It demonstrates a total disrespect for Atlantic Canada and Atlantic Canadians, not to mention the dozens of high-calibre jurists and lawyers who are eminently qualified to fill the vacancy of Justice Cromwell.
It also shows a total disrespect for regional representation, which has been a staple of the institutional development of the Supreme Court, and, indeed, which has been a staple, more broadly, of the institutional development of Canada. It totally disregards a constitutional convention guaranteeing Atlantic-Canadian representation on the Supreme Court as well.
It was not more than two years ago that the Supreme Court, in the Nadon decision, held that Parliament did not have the unilateral authority to change the composition of a court.
Today, it is not Parliament that is seeking to unilaterally change the composition of a court; it is the executive branch. It is the government that seeks to unilaterally overturn the composition of this court by shutting out Atlantic Canada.
A little more than a month ago, the Minister of Justice appeared before the justice committee. I asked her, in the face of the Nadon decision, exactly what authority, exactly what jurisdiction did the government have to unilaterally change the composition of a court. With the greatest of respect to the Minister of Justice, I did not receive a clear answer, and since that time I have yet to hear a clear answer from the her, or from anyone on that side of the House, on that important question. I suspect the reason I have not heard a clear answer is that there is a strong legal argument to be made that the government does not have the authority to unilaterally overturn the composition and change the composition of a court by shutting out Atlantic Canada.
What would the implications be if the Prime Minister decided that he would appoint someone other than an Atlantic-Canadian to fill the seat of Justice Cromwell? Obviously, Atlantic Canada would be shut out of the Supreme Court for the first time in 141 years. What is more, Atlantic Canada would be singled out as a region. It would be singled out because it would be the only region on the Supreme Court without representation. In light of the constitutional convention, there would be serious legal questions that would immediately arise, calling into question the constitutionality of such an appointment.
It is therefore no wonder that the Liberal appointment process has been widely critiqued by lawyers and academics right across Canada, from the Canadian Bar Association, from the Atlantic Provinces Trial Lawyers Association, and on and on.
However, who has not raised any objection and been collectively silent on the issue of Atlantic Canadian representation on the Supreme Court? They are the 32 Liberal MPs from Atlantic Canada. There has been not a word, not a peep, from the 32 Liberal MPs from Atlantic Canada; not a word, not a peep from the Minister of Fisheries; not a word, not a peep from the minister responsible for ACOA, the minister for Atlantic Canada. Where is he from? The minister responsible for Atlantic Canada is from Mississauga. I guess the memo never got to the Prime Minister that Mississauga is in Ontario and not in Atlantic Canada. Nonetheless the minister for Atlantic Canada from Mississauga, Ontario has said not a word in support of Atlantic Canadian representation on the Supreme Court.
What do we have? We have 32 Liberal MPs from Atlantic Canada who have been MIA, missing in action, when it comes to standing up against a constitutionally questionable appointment process. They are missing in action when it comes to standing up for 141 years of Atlantic Canadian representation on the Supreme Court. They are missing in action when it comes to standing up for the eminently qualified jurists and lawyers who hail from Atlantic Canada. Above all else, they are missing in action when it comes to fulfilling the core responsibility that they were entrusted by the people of Canada to do in this place, and that is to stand up for Atlantic Canada.
Over the nearly one year that I have been here, I have had the opportunity to become acquainted with a number of members from Atlantic Canada. I genuinely believe they are here to do what is right and to do their very best to represent their constituents and their region. That is why it is so sad and so disappointing that on this critical issue they have been missing in action.
However, this opposition motion provides those 32 Liberal members an opportunity to join us in the Conservative Party to stand up for Atlantic Canada. They have a choice. They can stand up for Atlantic Canadian representation or they can stand behind the Prime Minister's constitutionally questionable, objectionable appointment process to shut out Atlantic Canada. The choice is clear. It will be interesting to see which choice they make.
View Mark Strahl Profile
View Mark Strahl Profile
2016-09-22 12:12 [p.4961]
Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise in the House to speak on behalf of the people of Chilliwack—Hope and to engage in this debate today, especially when we talk about the need for the government to respect Atlantic Canada and the tradition and the convention that has been in place for over 140 years, which ensures that one of the Supreme Court justices is from the Atlantic Canada region.
I not only want to talk today about the issue of the Supreme Court and its representative from Atlantic Canada, but I also want to talk about the shocking tendency that we have seen already in just under one year for the Liberal government to take Atlantic Canada for granted.
I will be splitting my time with the member for Durham, Mr. Speaker.
Atlantic Canadians are very passionate about this issue. They have spoken loudly and clearly. They expect that the convention will be respected, that they will continue to have a voice on the Supreme Court when Justice Cromwell retires.
I am from British Columbia and we are speaking about this. However, the people of Atlantic Canada are speaking about it loudly and clearly. The Atlantic Provinces Trial Lawyers Association says that it is taking the extraordinary measure of seeking a court order in Nova Scotia Supreme Court that would require the federal government to amend the Constitution if it wants to drop regional representation as constitutional convention. The Minister of Justice's musings in the summer and the refusal to confirm that the next justice would be from Atlantic Canada could provoke a constitutional crisis. The Atlantic Provinces Trial Lawyers Association has gone down that road.
The Cape Breton Post in an editorial entitled, “We don’t lack diversity”, takes great offence to the idea that no one can be found in Atlantic Canada who can meet the other targets that the government has set. It said:
[The Prime Minister] has said he wants to ensure the top court reflects the diversity of the country. And that’s fine. We know it’s 2016. But we argue that he would have no trouble finding diversity in Atlantic Canada’s population and that there are surely multiple candidates from many different backgrounds in our region worth considering for an appointment. One can’t help but wonder whether or not the Prime Minister, seeing every seat in the Atlantic provinces go Liberal in the last election, is taking the allegiance of the region for granted.
That is exactly what we have seen from the Liberal members of Parliament from Atlantic Canada. They are taking that region for granted. The Prime Minister is taking that region for granted. There are several examples of that, not only with this Supreme Court issue. How about having a minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency from Mississauga? There are 32 Liberal members, some of them in cabinet, none of them responsible for economic development in the Atlantic region. They were not good enough to do the job and instead someone from Toronto had to do it. What did we hear from the 32 Liberal MPs from Atlantic Canada when that happened? We heard nothing.
View Sean Casey Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Sean Casey Profile
2016-09-22 12:22 [p.4963]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the Conservative Party for bringing forward this motion, which we support. It talks about the custom of regional representation. It is indeed one that is very important, one that we support, and one that we are upholding through the new process.
I do take exception, however, to the attempt by my friend opposite to try to drive a wedge within the caucus and the allegations that Atlantic Canadian members of Parliament are not standing up for their region.
He spoke fondly about the work of Gail Shea, but his distance between Prince Edward Island and British Columbia may have missed the fact that one of Gail Shea's legacies is pitting Prince Edward Islanders against one another with the EI zones.
He took a shot at the Minister of Innovation, the minister for ACOA. Atlantic Canada has done significantly better under this minister than we ever saw under the Conservatives: $237 million in the Halifax regional municipality alone; agreements with provincial governments of more than $176 million on 51 infrastructure projects. I have been pretty busy with funding announcements in Prince Edward Island as well.
The question I have for the member is this. The process that we have announced will allow for Atlantic Canadian lawyers and judges to compete in a national competition. Does the member want to repeat and perpetuate the myth of a culture of defeat or does he think Atlantic Canadian lawyers and judges are up to the job of competing against everyone in Canada for this seat on the Supreme Court?
View Mark Strahl Profile
View Mark Strahl Profile
2016-09-22 12:24 [p.4963]
Mr. Speaker, I am glad to hear that the member for Charlottetown is celebrating the fact that the ACOA minister is from Mississauga. If he is proud of that, I guess he can sell that at home. However, we certainly think the ACOA minister should be from Atlantic Canada.
As far as Gail Shea goes, she never allowed the P.E.I. lobster carapace size to be changed to the detriment of P.E.I. fishers. I was told by the fishermen I met with that the member for Cardigan, now the Minister of Agriculture, used to thump on the desk and say the he would never let it happen as long as he was there, or question how the Conservatives even consider it. Of course it never happened. Now that the Liberals have changed it to the disadvantage of P.E.I. lobster fishermen, there is not a word from anyone on Prince Edward Island.
As for the idea of a defeatist culture, it is defeatist to think that there are not enough judges and lawyers in Atlantic Canada to fill the entire selection list for the Supreme Court position. This has been a convention for 141 years, and the Liberals are now saying to let Atlantic Canadians compete for a position on the court. We are saying that they should be guaranteed that position. That has been a convention. No prime minister before has ever considered backing away from Atlantic Canada in the way the current Prime Minister has. Once again, we are hearing nothing from Liberal MPs in the region because they are taking the support of Atlantic Canadians for granted. If they will not stand up for them, we will.
View Luc Berthold Profile
View Luc Berthold Profile
2016-06-14 19:00 [p.4513]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be sharing my time with the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.
The budget debate will come to a close this evening. In summary, contrary to its promise to create a small deficit of only $10 billion, the government will saddle Canadians with a budget deficit that could reach $29.4 billion this year alone. Canadians did not vote for that.
Just six months after it was elected, the Liberal government seems to be suffering already from an incurable Liberal disease: acute spendicitis. That is what I will try to show in my speech this evening.
By analyzing the expenses incurred to set up offices for the ministers in this cabinet after they were appointed, we realize, fortunately, that not all the ministers have caught the disease.
Let us take a look at the race to set up the beautiful offices for ministers. In last place, we find the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, who spent only $500 on setting up her office. I would like to congratulate her. That is to her credit. For once, coming in last is quite honourable. The first shall be last and the last shall be first in this case.
There is stiff competition among the other ministers. Even the Minister of Finance, who spent $12,000 on a superluxurious flight to New York, spent only $1,400 to set up his office.
At the back of the pack, ministers spent between $1,000 and $7,000 to set up their offices. Then there are the ones who wanted to spend a little more money. Four ministers spent between $12,000 and $19,000 on their new offices. Then you have those at the head of the pack. Here are the ministers who spent the most money on setting up their offices.
In third place is the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who spent $40,000 to refit his office. In second place is the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, who spent $57,000 on his office. In first place, the big winner is the Minister of Infrastructure, who spent $835,000 on his new office.
When I wrote my speech, the results were not yet official since the other ministers had lodged a protest, claiming that the minister was on spending steroids. They thought that he had cheated and padded the numbers. How is it possible to spend $835,000 on a single office?
Unfortunately, I have the official results here, which come from officials in the minister's department. A total of $835,000 was indeed spent to set up an office. According to what we learned today in question period, it might have been two, three, four, or even 32 offices.
We questioned the Minister of Infrastructure a number of times about how much was spent to set up his office. He said several times again this evening, with his hand on his heart, that the reason why he spent $835,000 was that there was no infrastructure minister in the previous government and therefore no office.
First of all, there was a minister responsible for infrastructure and that minister also had an office. The minister should also know that previously, there were at least eight additional ministers and so there were eight office spaces with furnishings for the staff of eight ministers' offices. That is a lot of ministers' offices that became available after the last election.
Why did the Minister of Infrastructure not take advantage of the eight completely furnished offices that were available and ready to receive staff? Was it because of vanity? Was it because those offices were not good enough for the minister? If there are at least 10 employees per minister's office, that means that in terms of office equipment alone, there were 80 desks, 80 computers and monitors, 80 chairs, and 80 telephones available to the new Minister of Infrastructure.
I do not understand the minister's decision given that his new department has not even announced a single construction site for this summer. There is nothing to stimulate the economy. There is nothing this summer for cities that are still waiting to find out when they can invest the money that was promised during the election campaign. The only thing that was announced was this big project to set up a new office for 32 people at a cost of $26,000 per employee.
Unfortunately, that is not all. When the associate deputy minister of Infrastructure Canada appeared before the Standing Committee on Transport, she told us that setting up her offices and hiring staff for this “new” department would cost taxpayers an additional $10.2 million. How many employees for that $10 million? The deputy minister said 20. Twenty employees for an extra $10.2 million. Some quick math says that is $500,000 per employee.
The deputy minister did not want to leave us with that impression. She quickly added that the money would be used primarily for computer systems and other expenses. I asked for a breakdown of those expenses at committee, but I still have not received anything. We still do not know how much of that $10.2 million will be used to further refurbish the offices of the minister and deputy minister, at $835,000 a pop. We need to get these answers. That is why we oppose this part of the budget.
In closing, I have a suggestion as to how the minister can quickly and effectively treat this acute case of spendicitis: have a look at the Government of Canada's auction website, Here is some of the furniture I found that could be used to furnish the minister's office: 16 full work stations with 33 office chairs for $550; five filing cabinets for $20; 58 cabinets for $100; two bookshelves for $20; a shredder for $100; 28 conference tables for $100, since they are so fond of meetings and consultation; an executive desk with a cabinet for the minister for $50; an executive suite with desk for $100; 12 bookshelves for $115; six briefcases for $10; 80 telephones, in case they are busy, for just $750; 13 tables, two printers, and a photocopier for $95, after some quick math.
There were no computers, so I checked Kijiji and found 10 computers for $2,000. If they need three times more, that would be $6,000 for computers. It was a little harder to find 10 monitors. I had to check another site. I will not advertise for that site, but I found monitors for just $100. That adds up to just $33,000. To furnish the minister's office and meet all of his needs with respect to meetings and consultations in the coming years, that adds up to $10,960 for an office that can accommodate 32 people, not the $835,000 the minister put in for.
Rather than worry about the colour of the walls, the minister should hurry up and find a way to put Canadians to work by announcing projects for the summer as his party promised during the election campaign. That is why we will oppose the budgets allocated for the minister's new offices.
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