Interventions in Committee
 
 
 
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View Bob Zimmer Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you for the clarification.
We do have a speakers list again, and we have Mr. Poilievre.
Go ahead.
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
CPC (ON)
I thank Mr. Erskine-Smith for his intervention.
He claims that the Prime Minister was acting in the public and not the private interest. Of course, the Ethics Commissioner finds exactly the opposite. He finds that the Prime Minister was acting in the private interest of SNC-Lavalin, and improperly so, thus the guilty finding under section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act. Yet Mr. Erskine-Smith goes on repeating what he admits he has no proof to state, which is that this was about jobs.
I reiterate that the top four players on the Prime Minister's team who tried to get a special deal for SNC-Lavalin admit they have no evidence that jobs would be lost. The Prime Minister admitted it during a press conference. His top bureaucrat admitted it before committee. His top adviser, Gerald Butts, admitted it before committee, and his finance minister admitted it right to the Ethics Commissioner's face.
Again, I will read the quote, from paragraph 126:
When asked if he, or his office, had undertaken a study or analysis of the economic impacts of the Director of Public Prosecutions' decision, Mr. Morneau testified that none had been conducted.
We know why. It's because they would not have gotten the answer they were looking for.
SNC-Lavalin's work is rooted in construction, which typically has to be done on site, and therefore the jobs associated with that construction could not simply vanish into thin air. The headquarters is bound to stay here until 2024, and the company just signed a multi-decade lease on that headquarters in the city of Montreal.
As for the excuse that SNC would be banned from federal contracts and therefore all kinds of jobs would be lost, one, obviously those contracts would go to companies that also employ Canadians, but two, that ban on bidding for federal contracts is a cabinet policy. If the Prime Minister simply wanted to preserve SNC's ability to bid on federal work after conviction, he could have allowed them to do so. He could simply have changed that policy to give the company an exemption and allow it to continue to bid on federal work.
Mr. MacKinnon and Mr. Erskine-Smith both admit that they have no evidence whatsoever to substantiate the jobs claim. The jobs claim is Mr. Erskine-Smith's purported public interest, but if there is no evidence to support that this public interest actually existed, then there must have been a private interest at work.
What motivated it? Let me quote a recent story from The Globe and Mail on this subject:
Mario Dion, the federal ethics watchdog, laid bare the all-too-cozy underside of Corporate Canada in finding the Prime Minister and his team violated the Conflict of Interest Act by relentlessly pushing former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to drop a criminal case against SNC-Lavalin. By naming names and detailing exactly what played out behind closed doors last fall, Mr. Dion showed how top executives at one of the country's largest banks came to feature prominently in this political drama.
Mr. Dion's report details the role that Bank of Montreal board chairman Robert Prichard and BMO vice-chair Kevin Lynch played in lobbying the Trudeau Liberals on behalf of SNC-Lavalin, including multiple pitches the pair made to former president of the Treasury Board Scott Brison last October and November.
Here's where things get far too cute: Mr. Brison stepped down as cabinet minister early this year to become vice-chair of the investment banking arm of, you guessed it, Bank of Montreal.
The article continues:
According to Mr. Dion, Mr. Prichard and Mr. Lynch first reached out to Mr. Brison in mid-October “on an unrelated matter,” then used the conversation to persuade the politician to give SNC-Lavalin a “remediation agreement.”
Mr. Brison later told the Ethics Commissioner that “the company's concerns appeared sensible,” and he contacted Ms. Wilson-Raybould the same day “to bring the company's concerns to her attention.”
And Ms. Wilson-Raybould said something to the effect of the lady's not for turning, explaining she could not interfere in the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.
Here we have just one instance. The chairman and the vice-chairman of one of Canada's most powerful banks, who also happen to be linked to SNC-Lavalin, ask the Treasury Board president to help the company get a deal. The same day he called the Attorney General and carried out their request, and what do you know? A few months later, he's all of a sudden a vice-chairman at that same bank.
The members across expect us to believe blindly that the Prime Minister was just waging a war in favour of the public interest when he relentlessly hounded his Attorney General to interrupt the prosecution of the company.
This is just one example of where there were clearly private interests at stake, clearly cozy relationships between extremely powerful people, and reciprocal back-scratching. We want to know, given that this whole jobs excuse has been debunked and the government, including Mr. MacKinnon, admits there is no evidence for it, what was the real motivation here? Why did the Prime Minister go to such lengths to protect this company? If there are more stories like this one where top bankers go to a cabinet minister who then jumps as soon as they ask him to and then gets a job at that bank four or five months later, then this government has a lot more to answer for, and if it's not afraid of the truth, all the members on the other side will vote to let us see that truth.
View Bob Zimmer Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you again, Mr. Poilievre.
Next up is Mr. Angus.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I left home at 5 a.m. yesterday morning to catch my flight here. Ms. May comes from a little farther west than Thunder Bay. I know you come from some place out in the far west.
This has been a fascinating discussion, but it has taken 81 minutes of our meeting. I am here to hear from Mr. Dion and we have good arguments. If Mr. Erskine-Smith puts his arguments, I'd rather they be put to Mr. Dion than to me, and I'd rather that Mr. Poilievre put his questions to Mr. Dion than to the Liberals, so I would ask that we get down to the business at hand and have Mr. Dion speak because we're running out of time.
View Bob Zimmer Profile
CPC (BC)
Okay, Mr. Angus.
We have two more speakers. We have Mr. Kent and then Ms. Raitt.
View Peter Kent Profile
CPC (ON)
View Peter Kent Profile
2019-08-21 14:19
Thank you, Chair.
I agree fully with my colleague Mr. Angus, and I thank all of the guests here today, with the exception of Mr. MacKinnon, who comes to us as a stranger to this committee, unaware of the practices and precedents of this committee and the fact that officers of Parliament report to this committee and have regularly reported to committee after filing their reports.
I appreciate Mr. Erskine-Smith's defiance of the direction, I'm sure, from the PMO asking for lockstep support for Mr. MacKinnon, and the principled point that he has made several times this year. Mr. Erskine-Smith has said, for example, that the real question is the nature of the intervention made with the former attorney general. Mr. Erskine-Smith said on the record that this is impossible to answer without giving the former attorney general an opportunity to speak. She has asked for that opportunity, and it should be provided to her without limitation.
That has been denied. That is a key part of the Ethics Commissioner's report, and I would suggest to the other three regular members of this committee that they ignore the direction Mr. MacKinnon is trying to lead them in, or to at least speak to this committee and tell us how you could possibly support his defiance of the precedent of hearing from the commissioner, as we did following the equally unacceptable report regarding the Prime Minister's acceptance of the illegal vacation last January 10.
View Bob Zimmer Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Kent.
I have just been signalled that the other speaker who was going to speak will not, so we can go to the vote on the motion.
View Peter Kent Profile
CPC (ON)
View Peter Kent Profile
2019-08-21 14:21
I'd like a recorded vote, please.
View Bob Zimmer Profile
CPC (BC)
It will be a recorded vote. The motion is as follows:
That, given the unprecedented nature of the Trudeau II Report, the Committee invite the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner to brief the Committee on his report, and that the Committee invite any further witnesses as required based on the testimony of the commissioner.
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
CPC (ON)
On a point of order, Mr. Chair, can you just indicate who has the right to vote in this particular proceeding? I know there are a lot of members here—
View Bob Zimmer Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you for bringing that up, Mr. Poilievre.
We'll list the names here. Go ahead, Mr. Clerk, if you want to list them for Mr. Poilievre's question just for clarity's sake.
Michael MacPherson
View Michael MacPherson Profile
Michael MacPherson
2019-08-21 14:22
We have Ms. Raitt, Mr. Kent, Mr. Angus, Mr. Baylis, Ms. McCrimmon, Ms. Vandenbeld, Madame Fortier, Mr. MacKinnon, Mr. Erskine-Smith....
View Bob Zimmer Profile
CPC (BC)
We are good to proceed with the vote.
(Motion negatived: nays 5, yeas 4)
The Chair: Mr. Kent's motion is defeated.
That said, we have a motion from Mr. Angus still to discuss.
Go ahead, Mr. Angus.
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