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View Todd Doherty Profile
View Todd Doherty Profile
2019-06-04 13:23 [p.28487]
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address some of the failings of the Liberal government over the last four years and reflect upon just how disastrous it has been.
The heckling continues over there. The Liberals never miss an opportunity to get some good heckling in. Our colleagues across the way are chirping loud and doing all they can to throw us off. However, it will not work. I have been chirped at by the best and they definitely are not the best.
I rise today to talk to Bill C-97, the budget implementation act. Essentially, it is an extension of the government's attempt to cover up what could be actually the biggest affront to our democracy in our country's history. It has attempted to cover up potentially the biggest corruption at the highest levels of our government, and that is the SNC-Lavalin case. That is what we are seeing here today. I bring us back to that again because I feel I have to. The gallery is packed. I know Canadians from coast to coast to coast knew this speaker was coming up.
I would be remiss if I did not remind Canadians from all across our country that it was day 10 of the 2015 election when the then member of Papineau committed to Canadians that under his government, he would let the debate reign. He said that he would not resort to parliamentary tricks such as omnibus bills or closure of debate. He also told Canadians around that same time that he would balance the budget in 2019. Those are three giant “oops”, perhaps disingenuous comments. I do not think he has lived up to any of them at this point.
As of today, the government has invoked closure over 70 times. Why? Because the government does not like what it is hearing. If the Liberals do not like what the opposition is saying and they do not want Canadians to hear the truth, they invoke closure. This means we cannot debate really important legislation. They limit the amount of time for debate on that legislation. The BIA, Bill C-97, is just one of them. Does that sound like letting the debate reign? It does not.
It is interesting that whenever things go sideways for the Prime Minister, a couple of things happen. We see him even less in the House or something always happens to change the channel. That is what we have today.
Bill C-97 is really just a cover-up budget. We have talked about that. It just goes in line with more and more of the government's kinds of wacky ways, where it says it will spend money and perhaps it doles it out. However, the money is not really going to things that Canadians need the most.
We see $600 million in an election year being given to the media, a media that is supposed to be impartial. That is a $600 million bailout.
We also know that in the previous budget, approximately $500 million was given to the Asian Infrastructure Bank. That $500 million is not being spent in Canada for one piece of an infrastructure.
I rose to talk about a few things. One of the things that is really disappointing for me is this. When the Liberals came to power in 2015, a lot of promises were made, and this one hits home for us. I have brought this up time and again in the House. The Liberals said that they would put an end to the softwood lumber dispute.
I think it was in 2016 that the Prime Minister stood in the House and told Canadians that he was going to have a deal done within 100 days. He had a new BFF, the Minister of International Trade Diversification said. Both were just giddy. They were going to get this deal done and put an end to the softwood lumber irritant once and for all, yet last week, we found out from the Senate Liberal leader that the Prime Minister had other priorities ahead of softwood lumber.
Over 140 communities and over 140,000 jobs are tied to forestry in my province of British Columbia. Forestry is a cornerstone industry in my province, yet it was not a priority for the Prime Minister in renegotiating his NAFTA deal.
What we are seeing with the Liberal government is that rural Canadians are just not its focus.
Last week I also met with some real estate folks and some Canadian homebuilder folks. They told me that the Liberal government's B-20 stress test and the shared equity program, which is geared toward trying to get Canadians into homes, is actually hurting that industry. The real estate industry is saying that the B-20 stress test, which was geared more for Toronto and Vancouver markets but is all across the country, impacts rural Canadians negatively .
Almost $15 billion has been kept out of that industry, meaning that it is harder for Canadians to get into the home ownership they strive for. It is a step into the middle class. People put money toward something they own rather than putting it into something that someone else owns. The government's failed B-20 policy and the shared equity program is hurting Canadians. It is another example of how Canadians are worse off with the Liberal government.
I will bring us to a couple of years ago. The Prime Minister, the Minister of Veterans Affairs and the Minister of National Defence all have it down pat. They can put their hands on their hearts and say that they really care, yet it is the same Prime Minister who told veterans that they were asking for too much.
Yesterday was a very important day, because we saw the closure of the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls commission and we saw its report. The government knew that this day was coming, but did it put any money in the 2019 budget for that? There is nothing.
The Liberals like to say that Canadians are better off than they were under our previous Conservative administration, but it is actually the opposite. Canadians are worse off since the Liberal government took over. Eighty-one per cent of middle-income Canadians are seeing higher taxes since the Liberal government came to power. The average income increase for middle income families is $840. The government's higher pension plan premiums could eventually cost Canadians up to $2,200 per household. The Liberals cancelled the family tax cut of up to $2,000 per household. They cancelled the arts and fitness tax credit of up to $225 per child. They cancelled the education and textbook tax credits of up to $560 per student. The government's higher employment insurance premiums are up $85 per worker. The Liberal carbon tax could cost up to $1,000 per household and be as high as $5,000 in the future.
The Prime Minister called small businesses tax cheats. The government's intrusive tax measures for small businesses will raise taxes on thousands of family businesses across Canada.
The list goes on and on. Bill C-97 is just the capping of a scandal-ridden administration, and to that, I say, good riddance.
View Michelle Rempel Profile
View Michelle Rempel Profile
2019-06-03 13:34 [p.28398]
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.
The institution of freedom of the press is an underpinning of any democratic nation. It is the principle by which we understand that journalists or those in civil service investigate policy, politicians, and comings and goings, and shed light and perhaps different viewpoints on what is going on in our country. This is in order to ensure that we have the best public policy and work toward equality of economic opportunity. Regardless of political stripe, I hope we all agree that the institution of freedom of the press is very important.
I want to contrast the institution of freedom of the press with something that my colleague just said, which was on the industry of journalism. The institution is different from the industry. The institution of freedom of the press does not imply that somehow someone has to make a profit off of this. What we are talking about today is the state interfering in the industry of the press and whether or not that is appropriate in terms of the ability for the institution in Canada to survive.
In 2013, PwC's report, “Online Global entertainment and media outlook 2013-2017”, predicted that newspaper revenue would drop by 20% by 2017. This was not attributed to a lack of consumer demand for journalism, but was attributed directly to a rise in advertising revenue being shifted from print media to online media. It will be no surprise to anyone in this room, or anyone listening at home, that it is because the way we consume information has changed dramatically in the last several years. Many of us consume information on our phones. We consume information with short video blogs. We consume information from content that it is pushed to our phones.
The industry of journalism in Canada knew, through its own corporate forecasts and reports like this one, that its business model was failing. It begs the question of why the taxpayers of Canada should have to bail out a business model that was failing, which is print journalism. These organizations should have known, as any industry does, that they would have to adapt in order to survive. Anyone who owns a business knows that business models can change. For example, look at taxi companies when Uber came in. When something is disruptive to an industry, one has to adapt or one does not survive.
We are now debating whether the government should be bailing out a failed business model, or a failed industry. Unfortunately, what the government has chosen to do in answer to that question affects the institution of freedom of press. Anyone of any political stripe should be concerned about this. A partisan political actor should not be allocating tax dollars in such a way that it could harm the independence of the institution of free press in Canada.
How does that happen? What the Prime Minister has done is to allocate $600 million, which is a lot of money that could be used for a lot of things, to a select group of industry actors in journalism, based on criteria that the government selects and doles the money out on. If those industry actors are not sympathetic to the government of the time, are they inherently credible in terms of actors in the institution of free press? That is what is at stake here.
Anybody who votes Liberal, Green or NDP should be as comfortable with a Conservative-led government selecting those criteria as they are their own. They would have a very hard time standing here arguing for, let us say, Stephen Harper having control over the Canadian media. If an argument does not work both ways from political strife, then we actually have a big problem. Somebody who votes NDP or Green should have a huge concern.
Let us park, for a second, whether Canadian taxpayers should bail out a failed industry that has failed to transition to digital online. This is really about the credibility of anybody at any journalistic institution who takes money out of this fund and for those who choose not to take funds or who are not eligible to take those funds, whether they will be able to compete with people who now have a partisan interest, and they do have a partisan interest.
The government has appointed Unifor to the panel of people who will select the criteria by which the government doles out the funds. Unifor has a publicly stated, publicly funded campaign against a political party in this place. This weekend on the political talk shows, the leader of Unifor said that he should be on that panel because he had a score to settle. He said that other industry and media had endorsed the Conservatives before and why should he not be able to settle the score.
What we are debating here is which partisan actor is better suited to influence the industry on which the institution of freedom of the press is based in Canada. That is disgusting.
We have had a lot of discussions in this place about foreign influence in our election and fake news. It is the individual responsibility of every Canadian to understand how to critically evaluate information presented as news. There is no way the government can regulate that. Many of the existing actors in Canadian industry have responded to this drop in online content by trying to build their own media platforms and responding with clickbait. We do not have a lot of print journalism that I would constitute as journalism anymore. There is some, but a lot of it is editorialization on both the right and the left. Why would Canadian taxpayers perpetuate a failing industry that has such strong ramifications for Canadian democracy?
I know why the Liberal government is doing this and I know why the NDP supports it. When people control the press, they control people. That is what is happening here. Jerry Dias said that he had a score to settle. People cannot control the press through the state. Let us vigorously debate policy and let us even want to throttle each other over differences in public policy. However, to somehow argue with any sort of a fig leaf that this is anything other than the state controlling the press is shameful.
Columnists who have written about the fact that any journalist who works for an organization that takes money from this fund will have to work ten times harder to be credible are right, and they are brave for saying that.
At the end of the day, this bailout will not save print journalism in Canada. The only way that is saved is if these organizations figure out how to transition to the new digital reality, which many of them have failed to do.
In the strongest possible terms, I oppose any sort of interference in this regard. We need to have a conversation about what the state's role is in funding news writ large in Canada. We need to oppose partisan political actors being involved in the doling out of tax dollars to save an industry on which the institution of freedom of speech in our country is underpinned. I refuse to stand here, partisan hat off, and say as a Conservative that I would be excited about that level of control. No, we should have vigorous debate that challenges dogma, not that perpetuates a monopoly that is controlled by partisan actors. It is wrong and it needs to stop.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2019-06-03 13:44 [p.28399]
Madam Speaker, I listened very closely to the member opposite. I cannot help but think of the word hypocrisy. During the time of Stephen Harper, his government invested tens of millions of dollars annually in print or news magazines.
On the one hand, former Prime Minister Harper and his government recognized that they needed to support news magazines. Now that member has made it very clear that this is a bad idea, a dumb idea. I do not know if she represents the entire Conservative caucus when she says that. Stephen Harper recognized it.
It seems to me that the Conservative Party is even going further to the right, getting closer to the Doug Ford mentality with respect to policy. Is the position of the member opposite the same as the Conservative Party and Doug Ford?
View Michelle Rempel Profile
View Michelle Rempel Profile
2019-06-03 13:45 [p.28400]
Madam Speaker, my colleague opposite has committed two logical fallacies.
One is tu quoque, we are doing it too. He is comparing himself to a Conservative government. The policy he talked about was perpetuated under a Liberal government. Frankly, yes, I disagree with it. I do not think we should be funding failed business models. I do not think we should be bailing these organizations out, and we should stop it.
The other logical fallacy that he committed was a red herring. As opposed to refuting any of my argument with regard to the fact that the government's motive was to control the press and undermine freedom of speech, he tried to divert the argument with crass partisan politics. This topic deserves more than that. It deserves real, intelligent debate. For anyone watching, I offer my condolences for having to watch that debate failure.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Madam Speaker, today we are discussing a proposal by the government that is transparently ridiculous. I think my six-year-old daughter could well understand why it is ridiculous and government members should as well. It is a $600-million government bailout fund for some journalists and media organizations. The distribution of that fund is to be controlled by a committee that includes Jerry Dias and the leadership of Unifor. Unifor's leadership has made it clear that it will use workers' funds for electoral purposes. It will campaign to defeat the Conservatives in the next election and for the re-election of the Liberal government. It calls itself “The resistance” to the Conservatives.
Overtly partisan people are responsible for meting out dollars to journalists; that is for determining who is a journalist and who is not for the purpose of this funding and for determining who gets the money and who does not.
Our contention on this side of the House is that in defence of an independent press, we should not have overtly partisan individuals or entities responsible for meting out funds on the basis, supposedly, of supporting non-partisan journalism. This should be very clear. Having people who are actively involved in campaigning for one particular outcome in the election and also determining who is a journalist for the purposes of receiving funding is outrageous. It is beyond outrageous. I think members across the way would understand this very easily if the shoe were on the other foot.
That is why thus far in this debate members of the government are trying to avoid the real conversation about the real issue by all means necessary. They are making all sorts of other points that do not really address their decision to have partisan mechanisms handing out funding and deciding which journalists get funding.
Government members have talked about the important role that journalists play in our democracy. Of course we strongly agree with that. However, the most important tool that journalists have in their toolbox is a recognition of their credibility. Why do people choose to get their information from credible media organizations as opposed to blogs? Why do people go to nationalpost.com as opposed to liberal.ca to get their media? It is because of credibility. People understand. They hope that when they go to a media organization they trust, they can expect the information to be credible, accurate and non-partisan.
When the government intervenes by determining who gets funding and who does not, it is undermining the perception of credibility in the press by the public. Thus, it makes the job of independent professional journalists that much more difficult. The government is eroding public confidence in the fourth estate and it is doing so for its own interests.
If the government really cares about defending the vital work our independent press does, it should actually listen to what members of the press are saying about the proposal.
Don Martin from CTV says, “The optics of journalism associations and unions deciding who picks the recipients of government aid for journalism are getting very queasy.”
Andrew Coyne says, “It is quite clear now, if it was not already: this is the most serious threat to the independence of the press in this country in decades.”
Jen Gerson from CBC says, “If any of these associations or unions could be trusted to manage this “independent” panel, they would be denouncing it already.”
David Akin says, “I am a Unifor member and had no choice about that when I joined @globalnews. Unifor never consulted its membership prior to this endorsement. Had I been asked, I would have argued it should make no partisan endorsements.” He says “Jerry: I invite you to visit with Unifor members who are also members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery. I’ll set the meeting up. You will learn first-hand how much damage you are doing to the businesses that employ us, to our credibility and how terribly uninformed you are.”
Chris Selley, from the National Post, says, “Liberals' media bailout puts foxes in charge of the chickens.”
Chantal Hébert says, “Among the ranks of the political columnists, many fear it is a poison pill that will eventually do the news industry more harm than good.”
That is quite a list of intelligent, thoughtful journalists who comment on a range of different issues and who are known and have recognized names in Canadian democracy.
If the government says that its goal is to defend independent journalists like Don Martin, Jen Gerson, Andrew Coyne, David Akin and Chantal Hébert, then maybe it should listen to those independent journalists, because they understand that when the government pursues policies that undermine their perceived credibility in the eyes of the public, it makes it more difficult—not easier, but more difficult—for independent journalists.
Members of the government talk about an independent press. They talk about how having Unifor on a panel that doles out government funds and determines which journalists get the money and which do not, how having overtly partisan mechanisms controlling which journalists get funding and which who do not, is somehow in defence of an independent press. That is very Orwellian. War is peace; freedom is slavery; ignorance is strength. It is Orwellian to say that government partisans doling out funding arbitrarily to media organizations of their choice is a way to maintain the independence of the press.
Canadians should be concerned about it because journalists are concerned about it. Not only is it a waste of taxpayers' money and not only is the government trying to intervene to stack the deck in its favour for the next election, but it undermines the independence of the press and it creates greater challenges for the press as they try to do their job. It makes it harder for them to fight back against those who are challenging their credibility.
In response to this, Jerry Dias from Unifor said that he is entitled to his free speech. I agree that all Canadians are entitled to free speech, but he is not entitled to use Canadians' tax dollars to promote those particular views.
Further, we expect certain positions in our democracy to be independent. We expect budgets not to be involved in overtly partisan politics. We expect the Clerk of the Privy Council not to be involved in overtly partisan politics—oops—and we expect some of these people to be outside of speaking about elections and parties. We certainly expect that the people responsible for doling out funding to journalists or deciding which organizations get the money would indeed be independent and would be separate from politics.
This is about preserving the independence of our institutions. We on this side of the House stand for preserving the independence of those institutions. It is not good enough to say it; we have to actually leave those institutions alone and not interfere with them. We should not interfere in the independence of our journalists, our public servants, or the functions of our judicial system, which is another problem. There are so many cases of the Liberals not respecting the independence of our institutions and interfering with them, and they are doing it again with respect to independent media.
The government's argument is that Unifor should be represented because it represents journalists. Here are some important numbers: Unifor is a very large union, representing over 300,000 people. There are about 12,000 journalists in that number; less than 5% of the membership are journalists, so this is not an organization that speaks uniquely and exclusively for journalists. In fact, journalists represent a very small part of the overall membership of the organization, so claiming that Jerry Dias can speak particularly for journalists in the context of public policy and advocacy widely misses the mark, especially since we hear so many journalists speaking out against this situation.
This is part of a broader pattern. We see repeatedly by the Liberal government efforts to stack the deck in its favour to undermine the independence of our institutions. We saw this first with the electoral system, when the government wanted to change the electoral system to its advantage and wanted to do it without a referendum. When the consultations came back and were different from what the government wanted, it ordered another round of consultations, again trying to stack the deck. The government tried to change the electoral system to its advantage and it failed. We called the government out on it.
The government also tried to change the Standing Orders of this place. Without the agreement of all parties, it tried to bring in automatic closure, again undermining the role of the opposition in the House of Commons. The government has tried to do this multiple times, but we successfully stood against it.
We called on the government to clamp down on foreign interference in elections; it refused to act on that.
The government has unilaterally acted to control the structure of the leadership debate. It has pushed through other changes to the Canada Elections Act that allow third party groups to massively outspend political parties in the pre-election period. The government did that to stack the deck.
Now again we see, in its efforts to undermine the independence of the media by having overtly partisan people controlling the handouts that are going to media, that the government is again trying to stack the deck in its favour.
The government does not respect the independence of the media. It does not respect the independence of Parliament. It does not respect the independence of the opposition, and that more than anything else is the reason that the Liberal government must be defeated.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2019-06-03 16:46 [p.28431]
Mr. Speaker, what comes to my mind is the fact that when Stephen Harper was prime minister, tens of millions of dollars were given out to newsmagazines every year, and it was the government that decided which magazines and news reporters would receive the money.
What is happening here is far more arm's-length than the principles Stephen Harper used, so I wonder if the very same principles that the member opposite was using would have applied for Stephen Harper.
View Luc Berthold Profile
View Luc Berthold Profile
2019-06-03 16:46 [p.28431]
Mr. Speaker, advertising is open and transparent. Anyone can see where the government places ads. With this process, people will not know how decisions were made, nor will they be able to find out who did not get a media fund contribution. That gives the government way more power to influence the media than it should have. That is the problem.
If there is no list, if we have no way of knowing who applied and who was turned down, it will be very easy for the government to favour the most accommodating media organizations. Who will pay the price? Journalists, unfortunately. Because of this government's bad decisions, journalists will be under pressure. Public trust in journalists will be shaken. People behind closed doors will have made decisions that affect them, decisions they have absolutely no say in.
View Adam Vaughan Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Adam Vaughan Profile
2019-06-03 16:50 [p.28432]
Mr. Speaker, on this particular day, I would like to pay a bit of respect to the commission on missing and murdered indigenous women and the important work it did in reporting out today, particularly in the area of housing and the way in which we move people in Canada and public transportation. This issue is one that I am sure all members of the House are seized with. In my role working on the housing file, I understand the importance of making sure that this part of the recommendations gets fulfilled.
In terms of the missing and murdered indigenous women commission, it is also important to note that one of the reasons we know so much about this issue is the indigenous journalists in this country. If it were not for the voices of independent indigenous journalists screaming at us to pay attention, the voices of victims may never have reached Parliament Hill. For those brave journalists who stood by their sisters, mothers, aunties and cousins, I want to thank them for the role they played. That underscores why supporting independent journalism, community-based journalism, is so profoundly important.
We all live in a media environment where some of the loudest voices in Canada, and the names have been quoted today endlessly, are often heard in debate on the floor of the House of Commons. However, some of the most important journalism in the country is done by some of the smallest and most independent of journalistic voices. In fact, those are the ones most at risk in the current media environment. They are the ones who have come to us and asked for us to deliver the work we are now speaking about.
I emerged from that community of journalists. My first job as a journalist was at the community-based radio station CKLN in Toronto. If it had not been for the ability of that station to give someone who had no training a break, I would not have made my way from there to Citytv, from there to CBC and then back again to Citytv and CP24 as a journalist. I would never have worked for The Star and the Globe. I would never have made it into some of the other broadcast organizations that I have.
The survival of community-based journalism is at the heart of what I am speaking to today. My riding is home to CBC headquarters, CTV News in Toronto, Corus Entertainment and The Toronto Star. The city of Toronto has a GDP of $330 million. To put that in context, Alberta has a GDP of $331 million. In Toronto, digital media is the second-largest employer. In the cultural sector, that is a critical sector of workers who live in my riding, find work in my riding and are attached to those news organizations. I have a responsibility to those workers, not just as former colleagues or members of my own family. My sister is a journalist, and many other members of my family, including my father, were also journalists.
I grew up in the industry and watched it change over the last 30 years. Quite frankly, it scares me. The camera guys I used to work with, their shoulders are breaking down, and their backs as well. When I walk out into a scrum, I can see four or five former colleagues working for different stations on short-term contracts. Those are people whom I shared the birth of their first child with or went through the death of parents with. They are not just the writers whose names are being quoted here.
Journalists and media corporations in this country hire people through the entire workplace, from the receptionist to the people who clean up the coffee cups when the newsroom has gone to bed. It is the editors, and it is the writers. Yes, it is the people whose names get put on the by-lines, but there are hundreds, thousands, in fact tens of thousands of people in this country whose jobs depend on having a strong and independent media. It is not just the large organizations in the large cities.
When a small newspaper is pulled out of a small town, so much disappears when that newspaper goes quiet. So much disappears when a radio station stops producing independent news or putting the voice of new journalists on the air. We have to be smart about this and sensitive to it, because this is not about the profession and the ethics of journalism; it is about the health of media in this country. The health of media in this country has never been more fragile and threatened by more forces, and we have never seen so many journals, radio stations and small TV stations disappear.
The other side referred to them as “fossils” and said to get with it and that technology is changing. So many of these independent newspapers are small family-run businesses. If we replaced media with the family farm, and if we were to establish an advisory panel in the federal government to decide which family farm sectors were to survive or not, and if we did not appoint family farmers to it, the Conservatives would be the first to scream at us, as they should. If we were to make oil policy in this country and not put oil workers on the panel, the Conservatives would be the first ones screaming at us.
Unifor represents 12,000 people, and most of them have ordinary jobs, doing good work for good pay with good benefits because of the union. That is whom Unifor represents, as much as any of the opinion leaders who have been quoted in the debate. Those people deserve a voice in this process, and I will stand here and defend those people, because my career would have disappeared without them.
From the day I started working in the media, my father took me aside and told me that I have to respect every single part of the production chain, because otherwise it will fail. I took that to heart, and I still take it to heart. When I walk through some of those newsrooms, I see faces of fear there, as the layoffs cascade through year after year, month after month.
We have a responsibility to all Canadian workers. A receptionist in a newsroom is no different from a receptionist at an oil company or a feedlot. Every single person deserves the support of the Canadian government to make sure livelihoods and communities are protected.
What have we done? I am listening to this debate as someone who has spent most of his life as a working journalist, and from what I hear, one would think the government is paying for content. That is just nonsense. Canadians need to know that no part of the measures we introduced would mean paying for content.
There are three major parts. First, we would allow small community foundations and news organizations to set themselves up as charities so that Canadians can choose for themselves whom to donate to. These charities could then protect and create a foundation to protect independent journalism. We do not choose which charities get donations. That is for Canadians to decide. All we decide is which news organizations should qualify as charities.
That is important, because now there are fake news organizations parading as if they were news organizations, even though they have not come close to following the ethics of journalism once in their entire lifetime. This would allow the industry to enrol industry members that want to partake in this. If they want to sustain their independence and not partake in the program, that is their business. However, it is good to have a group of independent journalists look at an organization to see whether it is hiring journalists from the profession and has a footprint in the community it claims to represent.
Second, there would be a tax break for hiring. As with any industry that is in trouble, it is normal to provide tax breaks to organizations that are hiring working journalists. It is to ensure that we do not put money in the front door while some hedge fund in New York takes money out the back door. We saw this with the National Post. It came to the Hill and cried poor, laying off a bunch of people, and then all of its senior executives got massive bonuses while Canadians went unemployed.
We need to make sure that if we put money into this industry, we build employment and hard-working Canadians do not lose their jobs as money from the federal government simply gets filtered through to a hedge fund in New York. I think that is critically important.
The final piece is a tax break for subscriptions. Canadians would choose where to put their money, not us. They would be able to write off their subscriptions, especially e-subscriptions, so that the flow of money into the bank accounts of independent journalists is sustained. Again, Canadians would choose which newspapers get their donations and which newspapers they subscribe to. The federal government is simply setting up a mechanism to incentivize that process so that we can provide some stability to the industry.
As for Unifor, there is this notion that a Toronto Sun writer who will be representing Unifor is somehow going to be beholden to this government because that person gets to choose someone who chooses someone who chooses someone. It is so arm's length that it is perhaps an arm and a leg's length. The idea that a Toronto Sun writer could be bought is a joke.
Every journalist I have ever worked with would say that this is a joke. The mere fact that the Conservatives have quoted journalist after journalist saying, “We will not be bought” tells us exactly how protected that principle in the journalistic field is. No one is going to be bought because someone has made a donation to a charitable foundation. That is just ridiculous. In many ways, it casts a view or a perspective on journalists that would only come from a party that thinks, despite getting three-quarters of the recommendations from editorial boards last year, that there is still a Liberal bias in the media. It is absurd.
The reality is that professional journalists are just that: professional journalists. I can assure members that they are skeptical of everybody, equally.
This is about workers and we need to keep that central in everything we talk about here. This is a sector of the economy, a very large sector in my riding and in different communities, that needs to be protected and needs support.
As I said, members should look at their speech, cross out media and put in the family farm and tell me if they would say anything like that about the family farms in their communities. They would not. They have no hesitation with the family farm and agricultural boards. They have no hesitation understanding there needs to be tax credits for the family farm. They have no worry about ensuring the family farm is represented inside trade agreements. We do not tell the family farm whether to raise chickens, or to ranch cattle or to produce eggs. Those choices will be made by the family farms in the same way the media will make its decisions about journalistic integrity. Journalists have integrity. It is bred into the profession.
I will end by telling a story of exactly how I came to experience the true face of the Conservative Party as it relates to journalistic independence.
I covered city hall mostly. I covered Queen's Park quite a bit. I was also sent to Ottawa quite often in the last six years of my being a political journalist, when Mr. Harper was just starting out as the prime minister. I used to cover the issues from the Toronto perspective, the same way I speak from the Toronto perspective as an MP.
I remember covering a nomination announcement in the riding of St. Paul's, at Timothy Eaton Memorial Church. I made reference to the member for Thornhill earlier today when I thanked him for the donation he made to my campaign when I first started to run. He claimed that I went off the rails. I would say I ended up just where I needed to be, but will beg to differ on the outcome of his donation. My residents thank him for his support and clearly have sent me to Ottawa a couple of times now as a result of it.
I was at the nomination battle when that member first entered politics. He decided he would run for the Conservative Party in the riding of St. Paul's. The prime minister at the time, Stephen Harper, showed up to celebrate the acquisition of a star candidate for the Conservative Party. I was not happy that Stephen Harper refused to talk about housing every time he came to Toronto, despite the fact we were in the midst of a housing crisis then. Even then I was demanding the national government have a federal housing policy and even then that issue needed to be pressed much more forcefully in the House of Commons.
I interrupted the scrum that he was holding and asked the question. I was told that was a local matter and not to ask those sorts of questions. Then I tried to scrum him on his way out of the hall and to ask him why the federal Conservative Party did not have a national housing strategy. At that point, somebody grabbed me from behind, by the scruff of my neck, and literally yanked me out of the scrum almost to the floor. I almost turned around and clocked the individual with my microphone, but I did not. Who was it? It was Harper's press secretary. This was quite an event. The cameraman had to hold me back. I was furious. I had never been dealt with physically in a scrum in my life, and I had been in scrums with everybody.
The most interesting thing was what happened the next day. Unbeknownst to the Conservatives, I was sent to Ottawa to cover a minority Parliament that was having trouble staying alive. I walked into the news bureau where I worked and lo and behold there was Harper's press secretary standing in the office in which I had a desk. I was the senior political correspondent with CHUM CityNews at the time. He was barking at my two colleagues, threatening they would never get another question again if a certain reporter in Toronto showed up and asked the leader of the Conservative Party a question. He was screaming that if they did not get rid of that reporter, they would never get a question, Citytv would never get a question and they would be ignored. He said that the party would do everything it could until it got rid of that reporter.
That is the Conservatives' attitude toward independent media. When they do not get an article they like or when they get asked a question they do not like, they do not just sit there and take it like adults. They go after people with everything they have. They threaten lawsuits, and I could talk to the House about Julian Fantino. They threaten one's job, and I could talk to the House about Paul Godfrey and Mel Lastman.
However, what the Conservatives really do not like is an independent journalist sticking up for the local community, asking the questions that members of that community need to have answered by a federal government. When journalists do that, the Conservatives do not just threaten them, they threaten their entire news organization.
That is the attitude of the Conservative Party when the lights are down and in the backrooms of the press gallery in Parliament. The Conservatives will go out of their way to silence the voice of independent journalists time and time again.
The Conservatives pretend to stand here on the Unifor file. What has them worried is that Unifor does not like them. What they do not understand is that Unifor has no more sway with journalists they represent in the editorial rooms and the papers, the television stations and the radio stations. Unifor never walks into those newsrooms or those story rooms and dictates what is going to happen anymore than the teacher's pension fund, which used to own the Toronto Sun, would tell Paul Godfrey, or Sue-Ann Levy, or David Aiken when he worked there, or Brian Lilley when he worked there, or Ezra Levant when he worked there or Faith Goldy when she worked there. None of them was ever dictated to by the teachers' pension fund and they certainly have not been endorsed by Unifor.
Nonetheless, Unifor in participating in this process to ensure that all workers inside the media, not just journalists but everybody employed at all news organizations right across the country from coast to coast to coast, have a fair shake and a fair go of it. The bill is about that. Defending journalism is about that. It is about more than just talking about the writers. It is talking about every person who draws a paycheque, who supports a family and who spends dollars at the corner store, just like we do when we go to our home communities.
The bill is attempting to do that. That is why the bill is so critical. I am very proud to stand with a government that understands journalists cannot be bought, but media can be supported. We will support the media organizations across the country even when they criticize us. Unlike the Conservative Party, we are not afraid of them.
View Tom Kmiec Profile
View Tom Kmiec Profile
2019-06-03 17:31 [p.28439]
Mr. Speaker, I hear the member for Kingston and the Islands chirping away at me. I know he will not like the rest of what I have to say about the government's media bailout. He will not appreciate it, but he can always ask me questions afterward.
This motion started with two former journalists on the Conservative side speaking to it, the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent and the member for Thornhill. They are both exceptional journalists who have had long careers in the media and know what they are talking about. They are veterans of journalism. We always say within our caucus that the member for Thornhill has some of the most interesting life stories we will ever hear. I encourage any member in this House to ask him about the stories of his journalistic exploits and the situations he found himself in when he would follow them wherever they would go.
What we are talking about today is a media bailout the government is pushing through for large media organizations. There are three components to it: the labour tax credit, the digital new subscription tax credit and a qualified donee measure. Those three measures form this media bailout.
The media bailout is embedded within the omnibus budget bill. Other members have mentioned that the government promised not to present omnibus bills, and actually, in the throne speech, the government said it would never do it again. It could have brought this measure as a separate bill in order for it to have a full discussion and then go to the appropriate committees for a review.
I have read the bill. I remember the debate at the finance committee with officials and asking questions to the officials. When the member for Bow River said it would not apply to the weeklies and dailies in a community because they are owner-operated and the editor is heavily involved in the operations, that is exactly right. I asked that question of the officials. They meandered around it and said that for owners, this only applies to two-plus full-time journalists. That is how it works. The criterion is in section 43. It is written right into the law. Therefore, if owner-operators hire some students during the summer months as contractors, they are not eligible for this particular media bailout.
We asked the officials who this would apply to. We quickly found out it would exclude anybody who in previous tax years had applied for the periodical fund. Therefore, Maclean's, Chatelaine and other magazines would be excluded.
Then we asked what would happen to an agricultural newspaper in my area if half of the newspaper was devoted to agriculture. Well, that would not qualify either, because as I found out from the officials at committee, it would have to cover current events. I asked what “current events” means within the law. They pointed me to subsection 248(1) of the act, which states it “must be primarily focused on matters of general interest or reports of current events, including coverage of democratic institutions and processes.” Those are the criteria.
During the debate I heard members across the way say the decision has not been made. However, there are criteria already included, and if a journalistic organization does not qualify, it is excluded from all three measures. That is the way the law is written.
Maybe our Liberal government caucus members do not like that fact, but that is the way the law is written and how it will apply. Unless the publication is basically covering politicians in some way, it will not be eligible for any cash. Therefore, this broad dragnet that the officials initially said would be the case is not the case. It is a very small, select group of people who will be eligible for it.
The motion before the House today is one of the primary worries we have on the Conservative side. The Liberals, by appointing a Unifor representative to the board of this panel, have made it partisan. Unifor has openly said it will campaign against one of Canada's large registered political parties. It posted it on social media accounts. It is happy to do it. It calls itself the “resistance”. There is no way around this.
The government has made everybody's participation on this board a partisan affair, because they are now participating actively in the electoral outcome of October 21. The government cannot say this panel is independent, as the panel is appointed by the government. It cannot say this Parliament is completely non-partisan, because Unifor is on the panel.
That simply cannot continue. We cannot have a situation of a national organization that represents some journalists as well as a great deal of other workers actively working against one of Canada's registered political parties as well as participating in deciding who will get access to these three measures I just talked about that form the media bailout.
We have repeatedly heard members on the Liberal side say things that were maybe partially correct in the best of light. I heard one member say that maybe bloggers could be eligible, and I actually asked the question, but bloggers are not eligible. I asked if The Post Millennial, which is a purely online web news site, would be eligible. They did not know whether it would be eligible.
There is a great Yiddish proverb that says “What you don't see with your eyes, don't say with your tongue.” It is a fanciful way of saying that if it is not the truth that we read, do not say it.
At the finance committee, I asked all of these questions because I wanted to better understand which organizations would actually be eligible for this tax credit. They were very quick to say that they did not have all answers, because some of the criteria are set in law and some of the criteria will be up to the panel to determine.
We now know that this panel would be tainted by the participation of Unifor. It is the perception that matters. It is the perception that journalists could be bent by the ownership or by the eligibility for certain criteria. We would be subsidizing journalists directly, because there is a labour tax credit of up to $55,000 by which a salary could be offset. It works out to about $13,750 at the end of the day for an employee. It is a direct subsidy for an employee.
The panel is going to decide who qualifies as a Canadian journalist. I can think of no worse thing for independent, autonomous journalism in this country than to have the perception that perhaps their reporting will be tainted one way or another on the type of content they choose to report.
I do not have a problem with journalists writing tough stories. I do not have a problem with them misquoting me. I do not have a problem with them not coming to me or not following a lead I think is worth following. I do not have a problem with it. They are independent and autonomous and can do whatever they want. That is up to them. Hopefully they will find a readership who is willing to read what they have to offer. I like to read the National Observer. It is kind of left-leaning, one could say, but it provides a lot of content that I actually like using, and so I am fine with it. However, I do not know if the National Observer would be eligible for this measure. Everything outside of current events would be excluded. If a publication covers too much sport or too much entertainment news, it would be excluded. All of those decisions the panel would get to decide.
This is the only tax credit measure I can find that the CRA does not administer directly. It will be administered indirectly by this panel. I hear all these Liberal government caucus members say that it will be the panel that will decide. As soon as one qualifies, it would be eligible for these other things.
Why not just let the CRA do it? It does the disability tax credit. It decides at the end of the day who is eligible for it. It decides for the child expenses. Why is the CRA not going to be administering the law? There is a lot of leeway provided in the law as well, but I am just wondering why the CRA is not deciding, from A to Z, the whole thing. Would that not be the more transparent, non-partisan, completely opaque, arm's-length but within arm's reach way of doing this, as opposed to having a panel with Unifor on it after Unifor has explicitly said that it is going to be devoted from now until October 21 to the defeat of one of Canada's registered political parties?
For Unifor to participate in the determination of who qualifies as a journalistic organization and qualifies through those three measures I mentioned is ridiculous. There is no way we can claim that this will be a complete non-partisan exercise. We cannot. The government has basically put on the committee an organization that is going to be helping it directly. That is what I heard at the finance committee. Nothing I have heard during the debate today changes my mind on the fact that the government is trying to push the scales again on one side, just as it did with the justice system. It is pushing on the scales here and trying to ensure it gets the best possible coverage, because a lot of the money does not flow out immediately. It is the potential of future cash that would ensure that large media organizations are on side.
Therefore, I will be voting for this motion, because it is very important that every single member stand on this issue and be heard on where they stand on behalf of their constituents for a free press without any direct government involvement. We should not be in the business of subsidizing the business of the press. We want a free press, yes, but not press subsidized with government and taxpayer dollars.
View Gordie Hogg Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Gordie Hogg Profile
2019-06-03 18:01 [p.28443]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Lac-Saint-Jean for sharing his time with me. It has been a delight to sit here this afternoon and listen to the debate and the profound, sometimes heated, disagreements about values and the same heated disagreements about the process. It has been interesting to follow.
As I reflect on the small newspapers in my community, three of them have not survived over the past number of years. The one that has survived has survived with layoffs, with the volume inserts increasing. They are about an inch thick in some cases, with advertisements from places like Walmart and Home Depot and a myriad of others. They still report on local issues, service clubs, community events, local sports, cultural events and fundraisers, and they connect and inform the community in an important way. I think we all agree that they are an important part of our communities. That is something we share throughout the House.
How did we get to the point we are at today? I was interested to find that in the United States, in 1949, they introduced something called the fairness doctrine. It had two basic elements. It required people to devote some of their air time and some of their print time to controversial matters of public interest and to ensure that contrasting views regarding those matters were evident. It required those to be present in each instance.
The main agenda of the doctrine was to ensure that viewers and readers were exposed to a diversity of viewpoints, consistent with the things we talk about in the House and that we talk about in democracies. As John Stuart Mill said, one may understand one's position perfectly well, but unless one understands the opposite position equally well, one is not informed enough to make a decision between the two. That is important to look at with respect to the doctrine. That doctrine was taken out of the U.S. in 2011, but the principles are still looked at by a number of media outlets.
Here we have had a number of reports done. The Public Policy Forum, on January 2017, published “The Shattered Mirror: News, Democracy and Trust in the Digital Age”. It looks at the digital age, the type of change that is taking place and its impact, particularly in small communities across our country. Subsequent to that, the heritage committee, in June 2017, issued a report entitled “Disruption: Change and Churning in Canada's Media Landscape”.
All these reports have obliquely, if not directly, called on government to take action to protect the connection of local communities and to protect the notion of what we need to see. We do not want to see one newspaper for the world. We do not want to see Sirius radio reporting on the whole world. We want the focus on our communities, where we live and where we connect.
Reference has been made to the fact that 41 dailies and 235 weeklies have closed over the past few years. Some 10,000 positions have been lost. That is 31% of jobs in the field.
I was interested to read recently a report by the Canadian Media Concentration Research Project. It found that 95% of newspaper endorsements in the 2011 election were for Harper. That was every daily in Canada that endorsed a party, except the Toronto Star, which endorsed the NDP that year. That was roughly three times Harper's standing in the opinion polls at the time, Carleton University Professor Dwayne Winseck wrote in his report.
In the 2015 election, things were not quite as monolithic, but 71% of all newspaper endorsements still went to Harper, and 17 of 23 newspapers that endorsed a candidate endorsed the Tories.
As we look at the debate today, it almost seems that there is identity-based decision-making taking place. We are in agreement that we want there to be no biases or favouritism and that we want total transparency on the issues coming from government and presented by the media. I agree that it is essential that our democracy rely upon the respect and independence of journalists.
I have no doubt that a proper balance of perspectives would be achieved with the composition of the panel. As I have said, there are biases on both sides and assumptions on both sides. Each of us has our biases and ways of proving that what we believe to be true is true.
The organizations that will appoint the members of the panel are operating at arm's length from government. All three reports I referred to have called upon government to act, and we are doing it in that fashion.
We are talking about professionals. We are talking about their expertise and their knowledge for the benefit of the news industry. The best thing government can do is leave the panel to do its work and report back in due time, and that is what is going to happen.
The motion before us suggests that journalists may be able to be bought. It assumes that workers should not be involved in their own decisions, which is contrary to everything we say in terms of the policy development we are working with in government. I disagree with that. A bankrupt press, which is entirely possible if we do not do this, is not a free press. It is no press at all.
I encourage members of the House to stand up for a free press and for a well functioning democracy and to stand up against the motion we have before us.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2019-04-29 12:06 [p.27080]
That, in the opinion of the House, corporate executives and their lobbyists have had too much access to and influence over the Government of Canada, setting working Canadians and their families back by:
(a) encouraging attempts by the Prime Minister to undermine the independence of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada and the integrity of Canada’s rule of law;
(b) forcing Canadians to pay high prices for prescription drugs by blocking the establishment of a single, public and universal drug insurance plan;
(c) providing huge subsidies to large oil and gas companies, while putting corporate interests over the protection of Canada’s Pacific coastal waters in the Kinder Morgan pipeline approval process;
(d) motivating the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to give a handout of $12 million to a multi-billion-dollar corporation owned by one of Canada's wealthiest families;
(e) giving Canada's most profitable banks the chance to review and revise a report intended to shed light on anti-consumer banking practices; and
(f) leaving intact a host of tax loopholes that allow the richest Canadians to avoid paying their fair share for Canada’s public services like health care, pensions and housing;
and that therefore, as a first step toward addressing these failings, the government should immediately move to recover the $12 million given to Loblaws and reinvest it to the benefit of working Canadians and their families.
He said: Mr. Speaker, there has been a fair bit of outrage across the country lately at examples of major corporations getting special treatment by the Liberal government.
We think, of course, of the many weeks of the SNC-Lavalin saga. Here the government stands accused of having interfered in what should be Canada's independent legal system on behalf of one particular corporation in an attempt to avoid having it face criminal charges for alleged international bribery. That is an example of a big ask by a corporation. It asked the government to pass a whole new body of legislation in order to create an exit ramp out of the criminal charges, and we saw the entire artifice of government jump to the pump to try to get it done. When some people in government stood up to that, said no and said that they thought it was wrong, they were shown the door. That was the case of a very big ask, and we saw just how willing the government was to try to make that happen for a large corporation.
On the other end of the spectrum, we had what appeared to be a relatively small ask, which was $12 million for Loblaws. The thing about Loblaws is that it is one of the biggest and most profitable corporations in the country. One of Canada's billionaires with one of the most profitable companies came cap in hand to the government and asked for $12 million to help upgrade fridges, and the government was all too happy to say yes. It did not say that the $12 million could be better used to leverage new investment from companies that do not already have the capital to green their infrastructure and operations. It did not say that it wanted to make sure public dollars were spent in the most efficient way possible to help those who otherwise would not have any investment at all and who would not otherwise be reducing their emissions at all. Instead, the government was quick to say that it sounded like a great announcement happening at Loblaws and wanted to know what it would cost to get to the podium. The government wanted to know how it could get a piece of that action and be part of a good-news story.
That is not the way to fight climate change. It might be the way to fight an election, but it is not the way to fight climate change. That is an example of just how prepared the Liberals are to accede to demands by corporate Canada, no matter how small. The big asks get the yes and the small asks get the yes, and it seems that everything in between gets a yes too.
What will it take? What is the threshold? What will it take for this government to say that the interests of large corporations are not in line with the interests of everyday working Canadians?
This will not come as an epiphany to anybody listening at home, but it may came as one to some members on the government bench, given their behaviour: Sometimes the interests of large corporations are not in line with the interests of everyday working Canadians. That happens, but we would not know it from looking at the activity of this government. When big companies come with an ask for the government, the answer is yes. Companies know it is going to be a yes, more and more, which is why the asks are getting more and more outrageous, right down a $12-million ask to supplement what Loblaws was already doing in order to upgrade and green its infrastructure.
That is where the sense of outrage comes from. What our motion today is trying to do is name the elephant in Ottawa, which is corporate influence. It is trying to draw what we believe is the very direct line between the influence those big corporations have here in Ottawa with the government and governments of the past and the pocketbooks of Canadians, as well as the effects this kind of friendly relationship between the Canadian government and corporate lobbyists have on the quality of life of everyday Canadians across the country.
To put that sense of outrage in context, it is because these big corporate asks and acquiescences by government are coming at a time when almost half of Canadians are within $200 of not being able to pay their bills and having to declare insolvency.
That is a real hardship. It is of course a hardship for people who have a loss of employment, a serious health issue, or other situations that mean they may not be able to report to work every day and make that extra $200, and therefore they end up in a financial catastrophe and have to declare bankruptcy. It also a real issue for those living with the stress and anxiety of knowing that if something takes a wrong turn or does not go quite right, they could end up there as well. Even if it does not happen to them, it could happen to their neighbour, friends or family, and they have to live with the stress of knowing that it may happen to them.
Therefore, in the NDP we believe that the goal of government activity and government policy should be to try to bring together people who are facing all of these common challenges, such as the common challenge of finding reasonably affordable child care close to home, the challenge of ensuring that everybody who is retiring from work has an adequate pension income to allow them to continue to live with dignity, and the common challenge of getting good access to health care services in their community.
In my community right now, the big battle is making sure that the provincial Conservative government does not close the Concordia emergency room, as it has promised to do and seems hell-bent on doing this June. That would mean that for the entirety of northeast Winnipeg, there would be no 24-7 access to the health care system close to home in their community. For Canadians across the country, there is the issue of the high cost of prescription drugs, because we know that Canadians pay among the highest costs for prescription drugs.
The NDP approach is to bring together people who are facing those common challenges, and the job of government is to implement solutions that bring those costs down and make life easier for Canadians through facing our challenges together. It is not to hobnob with corporate lobbyists at receptions in Ottawa and then change the law for their benefit. It is not to let them off the hook for their big tax bills, which are not measured in the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, but in the tens of millions and hundreds of millions of dollars. When we talk about the tax havens they use to hide their money so that they do not have pay their fair share, we are talking about tens of billions of dollars. It is not the job of government to look out for those guys and their interests, and that is what we are here to say today. That has been going on for far too long, and it is time that Canadians got to see this place act in their interests.
It is in this context that Canadians are rightly angry when they hear these stories, whether it is a big story like the SNC-Lavalin story or the smaller story like the money given to Loblaws to repair its fridges, which is a symbol. It is not just the amount of money; it is a symbol of government just never really being willing to say no when corporate Canada comes asking.
When it comes to Canada's effort to tackle climate change and reduce our carbon footprint, corporate interests once again get in the way, so much so that the government decided to spend over $4 billion of Canadians' money not to buy a new pipeline, not to build a new pipeline, but to buy an existing pipeline, just as a gift to Kinder Morgan for having come and tried but not being able to get it done. “Thanks for trying, so we will give you billions of dollars in taxpayers' money.”
That money could have been invested in other priorities. It could provide job training for workers in the energy sector to help their skills align better with the new energy economy that is already under way and already developing. It could also be used to invest in new infrastructure projects that would create more of those kinds of jobs and more opportunity for on-the-job training in that new sector and new economy.
However, we did not see that and we did not get that.
Instead, what we have seen is a government that was silent and has not done anything for workers like those at Stelco and Sears who, when their companies went bankrupt, lost their pension income. Workers still do not have protection to prevent that from happening again. Not only did the government do nothing for them except remind them that they could apply for EI, but it has not done anything for workers of the future to head off the problems that we know are coming because of the sorry example of Sears and Stelco workers. A long time ago, when we knew these kinds of things would be happening and the NDP was proposing that we protect workers' pensions, the government did not come to their defence and did not put laws on the books to protect them,
The government also turned its back on GM workers in an award-winning plant known for its productivity when GM said that it was closing the doors and moving the plant out of Canada. Once again the Liberals were there to remind them that they too could apply for employment insurance, as if that was something they did not already know or as if that was all they expected from the government.
This is a government that did not require VIA, a publicly owned corporation, to have a Canadian content requirement when sourcing a renewal of its railcar fleet. That should have been a requirement, because when public funds are being used at that level of investment, we should be ensuring that Canadians are getting a piece of the action and that we are creating employment in Canada.
The current government has not only favoured corporate interests over those of ordinary Canadians by doing nothing, and there has been a lot of that, it has gone out of its way to help corporate interests when they conflict with the interests of everyday and working Canadians.
One of the first real acts of the government was to change the law for Air Canada to make it easier for it to outsource its aircraft maintenance work. That was a shame, particularly in light of the Liberals protesting with those same workers before the election, saying that the previous government should apply the law. I suppose the current government is applying the law, because it changed it to make it easy for Air Canada to outsource its work and is now applying the law that does not protect workers.
The Liberals have signed trade deals, which were negotiated and applauded by the Conservatives, that enshrine and give real protection of law to corporate rights, but only pay lip service to the rights of workers and the environment.
When Canada Post, another Crown corporation, was in a conflict with its workers in the fall, instead of changing management or giving it a direction to bargain in good faith, the current government passed back-to-work legislation and rewarded the intransigence of Canada Post's management instead of standing up for those workers.
Subsidies to large oil and gas companies continue, even though we know we have to transition to a green economy. That money could be used to retrain workers from the energy sector. It could be used to invest in projects like what the NDP has announced, which is to retrofit every home in Canada to improve efficiency, to not just reduce our carbon footprint but also the monthly heating costs of Canadians. That money could be used for a fund to help Canadians and their pocketbooks while also reducing our carbon footprint. Instead, it is going to the largest oil and gas producers in the country, whose production continues to go up while royalty revenue goes down and the effects of climate change manifest evermore seriously and urgently.
The promises made by the Liberals to eliminate tax loopholes and havens have been ignored. That is all revenue that can go to a just transition to a greener future, lowering the cost of prescription drugs or building more affordable housing. It is not innocent that the money goes away or that it does not have an impact on Canadians. The fact that we do not see it does not mean it is not having an impact when we compare it to what we could be doing if that money were here and people were paying their fair share, as they should. Canadians are seriously losing out.
Internet giants are another example. They are competing with Canadian businesses that are paying their taxes, but they do not have to pay any themselves. That comes at a real cost to Canadians.
All of these things are a continuation of an approach that we saw under the last Conservative government, which was to deregulate, privatize and give major corporate tax cuts, presumably to invest in the economy. The late Jim Flaherty said to corporate Canada at the time that the money was supposed to be invested back into the economy and that it ought to be doing that. That is a nice thing to say, but he did not compel it or raise the corporate tax rate back up, because they were keeping it for themselves, their investors and executives instead. He let them have the money. That money still sits either in bank accounts in Canada or across the world where those executives and investors pay less tax.
When we see the lengths to which the government is willing to go to get SNC-Lavalin off the hook, which was a big ask, and even what it is willing to do with respect to the smaller things, we can start to understand the sense of outrage.
The purpose of our motion today is to shine a light on the corporate influence that pervades Ottawa and draw attention to the very real and concrete effect this has on Canadians who work hard every day, who are worried about the cost of their prescriptions and their housing, and who want to fight climate change.
They see a government that makes promises but refuses to deliver on them when those promises are not in line with the interests of big business. It has failed to take action and will never do anything to enable us to tackle climate change, lower the price of prescription drugs and protect our cultural industries. We need to stand up to large corporations like Netflix and insist that they pay their fair share of taxes to support our cultural industries.
These are the issues. There has been a lot of frustration about the SNC-Lavalin affair. People have talked about it a lot, and although they think something wrong has happened in the case, they are not sure of the way forward. They are concerned about a lot of other issues as well.
How does this all tie together? People should care about that issue, not just because it appears that the rule of law is being undermined in Canada, which has a lot of long-standing consequences, but for the reasons I mentioned.
Canadians who are looking for income security in retirement should be concerned that the government has done nothing to legislate against the kind of pension theft we saw in in the case of Sears workers. The government has not done it. It has talked about it in the budget, but it did not put this in the budget bill in the way that deferred prosecution agreement clauses were put in the budget bill. Let us see the government put the pension theft provisions into the budget bill. Then, we will know that the government is serious. It does not do this, because with regard to workers, it pays lip service. With regard to corporations, it takes real, tangible action. We can see this in the news, in the House and in the behaviour of the government.
The finance minister, who comes from the retirement benefits industry, introduced legislation in the House, Bill C-27, that is an attack on Canadians' pensions. There has been no degree of separation such that the government is responding to corporate lobbying. In that case, the corporate lobbyists are in government, doing the job of that industry from the seat of the finance minister. That is how closely tied the government is to the corporate lobby.
We have not seen any action when it comes to pay equity. We know pay equity will come at a cost to Canadian companies, and rightly so. This is the money that Canadian women have been working to earn for decades. They deserve to be paid. However, the government has dragged its feet. It did not drag its feet with respect to DPAs or when Galen Weston asked for $12 million to replace his fridges. We have watched the government drag its feet for three years on the issue of pay equity. Canadian women deserve to get paid fairly for the work they are doing.
Where is the action on that? Where is time allocation on that? Where is that in the omnibus budget bill? It is not there. In the budget, there is also no money for implementation either. There is a pittance in the budget to begin consultative work on how to implement pay equity. It is about the same amount that Galen Weston got for his fridges this year.
Let us talk about pharmacare. With respect to the importance of reducing the cost of prescription drugs for Canadians, study after study has said that the best way to do this is to have one universal publicly administered plan that covers everyone from coast to coast to coast, no matter where people live or how much money they make. What we hear from the Liberals all the time are hints that the plan they are proposing will not protect Canadians against the high cost of prescription drugs but will protect the pharmaceutical industry's profits and the insurance industry's profits. This is from a policy that would create an expansion of service to Canadians while reducing the overall cost of prescription drugs.
We already spend the money it would cost to create a proper pharmacare plan. In fact, we spend more than that. The NDP proposes that we spend less and cover more people. We know that this is possible.
The call to action in the motion asks the government to get the $12 million back and invest it concretely in some of the ways I have suggested today. This will provide a real benefit to working families. The $12 million amount over the entire federal budget may not sound like a lot, but it is an important symbol of the government finally finding the spine to say no to corporate interests and putting the interests of regular everyday working Canadians first.
We have been waiting for the government to do this. It has not done it yet. This is the smallest possible start to this that the government could make, so let us get started and keep going.
View Chris Bittle Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Chris Bittle Profile
2019-04-29 12:26 [p.27084]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his speech and his passion on these subjects.
It is interesting, in the motion and in his speech, the member leaves out the carbon equivalent of 50,000 cars being removed from the road. However, I will leave that for now.
The member condemns government providing money to corporations. I am wondering if the member could stand in this House today and condemn the NDP Government of British Columbia for the tax credit it is giving to LNG companies to develop their resources. It is the largest polluter in B.C. Is the member going to condemn that, or just what Liberal governments do? Is it that when NDP governments do it, it is okay?
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2019-04-29 12:27 [p.27084]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to answer the member's question. He said that I am opposed to the government working with corporations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but that is not true. There is room for corporate partnership. It is just that the threshold has to be that public funds are leveraging new investment. It cannot be a company like Loblaws, which is investing $36 million of its own dollars, which is appropriate and which it was doing anyway to renovate its fridges.
The impression is not of a government that is looking for real investment opportunities and saying, “How do we further reduce Canada's greenhouse gas emissions? How do we leverage investment from the private sector?” Instead, there is the impression of a government that is looking around and saying, “Who is already doing some of this work? How do we get to the podium? What is the cost of buying our way into announcements that are happening anyway?”
The government is happy to spend the money because it is not government money; it is the money of Canadians. The government is roaming around, buying its place at a podium for things that are happening anyway, rather than leveraging new investment that will create reductions in carbon emissions.
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2019-04-29 12:36 [p.27085]
Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak against the opposition motion on the floor of the House of Commons today.
One of the issues I have with the motion, which purports to discuss the role of corporate Canada in Canadian politics, is that it entirely misconstrues our government's agenda and tries to paint, with one brush, an entire group of parliamentarians who are concerned about the well-being of Canadian families and ensuring the Canadian economy works for everyone and not just the wealthy few.
Before I get into my remarks, I have some real concerns about a democratic deficit we have in the chamber. We like to label one another with names or pretend that other parties may disagree with us with respect to our substantive ideas. However, I think every member in the House and all parties sincerely care about people and want to serve their communities well. However, the political narrative that the NDP are trying to put forward, that somehow the Government of Canada does not carry about families as much as it cares about corporations is bizarre. I hope to cover a bit of this in my remarks.
I do want to focus about the portion of today's motion that concerns itself with one investment we have made, given my role in the environment portfolio. I also want to dig in a little more on the nature of the political conversation we are having versus the one we could be having.
When it comes to the investment at issue that the NDP would like to reverse, I would like to lay out a little for the members where this came from. The starting point for me is that most members in the House would recognize that climate change is real and that we have an opportunity and an obligation to do something about it, not just to do something but to do the most effective things we know how.
Our plan to fight climate change includes things like putting a price on pollution, ensuring it is not free to pollute anywhere in Canada. By 2030, we expect to have 90% of the electricity generated in Canada come from clean sources. We are making the largest investments in the history of public transit in our country to encourage more people to take their cars off the road and take mass transit. We are phasing out coal by 2030, more than 30 years ahead of the previously scheduled date. We are investing in green technology and green infrastructure as well as energy efficiency.
Before I discuss the specific investment that is the subject of today's motion, I want to point out that our investments in energy efficiency are not limited to large organizations. In Nova Scotia, I personally made an announcement of the province's share of part of the low-carbon economy fund that was directed toward energy efficiency initiatives, which benefited home owners who were retrofitting their homes, making it cheaper for them to buy things like smart thermostats, more energy-efficient refrigerators and other equipment or technology that would help reduce their carbon footprint and, importantly, reduce their monthly home heating bill.
We are also setting funds aside to help small businesses with the cost of becoming more efficient. Through the low-carbon economy fund, large organizations were eligible to apply to certain components of that fund. In particular, part of this $2-billion fund had $450 million set aside to identify certain projects that would lead to the greatest amount of emissions reductions at the lowest cost to Canadians. Officials from the Department of Environment and Climate Change assessed the applications that came in and selected the best projects that would make the biggest difference and have our dollar provide the greatest return on investment.
Fifty-four projects were identified as being successful through the fund. These are projects like energy efficiency at McGill University. These are projects in cities like Calgary and, I believe, Regina that will help them do really interesting things with waste diversion and create more environmentally-friendly fuel by the way they deal with their waste. In addition, the $12-million investment, which is the subject of this motion, will go to leverage $36 million to help make refrigeration in one of the largest grocery retail organizations in Canada more efficient. However, it is important to dig into this a little.
One of the things I think people do not appreciate is that hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, found in refrigerants are one of the fastest growing contributors to climate change worldwide. I note in particular that our government entered into the Kigali accord to the Montreal protocol to deal with the proliferation of refrigerants across the world. The measures it found in that document are expected to prevent 0.5° in warming across the planet as a result of the measures that will be implemented.
The investment at issue is not only going to help bring down the emissions across the entire country; it is going to impact 370 communities. The equipment that is being purchased is from a supplier in Mississauga, which is going to create jobs at that company. It is going to create jobs for skilled workers who install the units at 370 different franchises across Canada. The fact is that this was motivated by the finding of the Environment and Climate Change Canada officials that this project was one of 54 that would have the greatest impact on our emissions for the lowest cost.
While we are on the subject of climate change, I have sat on panels with members of the NDP who tell me they support investments in energy efficiency, yet when we actually start making them, they find a reason to oppose them. I would be remiss if I failed to point out that on the Conservative side of the House, it has been a year since the Conservative leader promised he would introduce a plan to combat climate change. Despite many objections to our plan, the Conservatives have yet to put one forward.
The fact is that our plan includes over 50 different measures, and I have laid some of them out: putting a price on pollution, having 90% of our electricity generated from renewable resources, making the largest investment in public transit in our history, phasing out coal, investing in green infrastructure, green technology and in energy efficiency. These are meaningful pillars to an important plan that will see the most aggressive action on climate change the Government of Canada has ever put forward.
However, one of the things that really bothers me is the severe effort the NDP has gone through to ignore the facts around our plan to help Canadians and to build an economy that works for everyone, not just for the wealthiest members of society.
Our record includes investments like the Canada child benefit. It has lifted 300,000 children in our country out of poverty. It is unconscionable to me that in a country as wealthy as Canada there are still kids who do not have enough food to eat or have a roof over their head. This is putting more money in the pockets of nine out of 10 Canadian families. We have stopped sending cheques to millionaires, who, frankly, did not need the money. In the area that I represent, this is sending $48 million into the communities each year. This money is going straight to the pockets of families that could use the money. It is helping over 12,000 kids. This is serious policy that is making a tangible difference for the people who live in Central Nova.
It is not a single policy that is going to shift the economic benefits of the global economy to those who need it. There is a suite of policies that we need to put forward. For seniors, we have rolled back the age of eligibility for the old age security, from 67 to 65. We have beefed up the guaranteed income supplement so the most vulnerable low-income single seniors will have almost $1,000 extra each year. We created a new tax bracket for the wealthiest Canadians, who will pay more, so we could cut taxes for nine million middle-class Canadian families. We are investing $40 billion, along with provinces and communities. It is part of a national housing strategy that will help people who do not have a place to sleep at night or who are potentially underserved in their housing needs.
When I look at some of the investments around health, which are criticized in the motion on the floor today, I can see that in my province not only are we making the largest single transfer of funds to the Province of Nova Scotia to help with care at home, we have set aside $280 million to go to two key strategic areas, in particular mental health and in-home care for seniors. We are moving forward with the creation of the Canadian drug agency, which will help bring the cost of prescription drugs down. We have appointed Dr. Hoskins to lead a committee on the implementation of a national pharmacare in our country, a fact that is conveniently left out of the motion on the floor.
We have made investments in students and universities. We have made investments in communities through infrastructure to create jobs. Does that mean we are beholden to the interests of students or academia or to the interests of communities and job creators? This does not sound like a scandal or some nefarious political narrative; this sounds like good governance to me. This is thoughtful policy that has been developed with the feedback of stakeholders and is making a tangible difference in the lives of the people whom I represent.
The good news is that the investments we are making are working for our economy as well. Not only are people better off; there are more people working today. Since we took office in 2015, the Canadian economy has added over 900,000 jobs. These are having benefits in provinces like Nova Scotia and in fact from coast to coast to coast. Our unemployment rate is at the lowest it has ever been since we started to keep track of those statistics over 40 years ago.
There are more people being lifted out of poverty every day as a result of the measures our government has implemented.
I note that the NDP has criticized us for failing to take action on loopholes that exist for the wealthiest. The fact is that we put forward a number of measures, and the CRA is cracking down on people who are trying to evade those taxes. It is charging, prosecuting and convicting people who are evading taxes in Canada contrary to the principles of law that apply in our land.
I worry about the discourse in this chamber and in Canadian politics. We have motions being tabled that ignore facts to create a political narrative, but facts can be very stubborn. It is important that we engage in debates based on facts, science and evidence, not on what we want people to believe about one another. Every party is guilty to some extent of doing this, and we all have to commit to be better.
In question period, I find that we have an exercise of talking past one another and seeing who can yell loudest to get attention in the media. I find people scrubbing through the video clips from this place to get that perfect clip that makes them look good on Facebook, rather than developing policy that would help people who live in our communities.
It is essential that we try to engage with each other in a thoughtful way, and with respect to the colleagues who are making comments across the way, that we speak when it is our turn so we can listen and understand where others are coming from and respond with thoughtful questions or comments.
I sincerely wish that Canadians could see us when we turn the cameras off. When I have a conversation with the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley about a private member's bill he wants to put forward that came from one of his constituents, I seek to understand what it is and commit to going to officials to see whether they have identified any unintended consequences of the policy. If people at home knew that this is the kind of engagement that takes place when the cameras are not watching us, I think they would be pretty happy with us. It might be boring, but it is effective.
I wish people would show up at committee meetings when the cameras are not on or when a minister is not in the room, when we have thoughtful engagement about whether a particular policy is effective or is going in a different direction than we think is right for Canadians. It might be boring, but it is effective.
The level of civility sometimes disappears here. I know we are all probably guilty to some degree, but I want to communicate that this motion on the floor today is trying to develop a whole narrative about being beholden to the interests of some big, bad corporate executive who sits in the top floor of an office building in a big city. The fact is that our mission from day one has been to create an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthiest Canadians, one that will have a meaningful impact on our environment by reducing our emissions so we can preserve our natural environment for future generations.
I want to communicate that it is essential that we take action on climate change. It is essential that this place include investments in energy efficiency. It is one of the main reasons I am going to oppose the motion. In addition to the component that deals with climate change, it is essential, before we start trying to label one another as being one kind of party or another kind of party, that we realize that everyone here is in it for the right reasons: to try to help people who live in our communities, to make life a little better and to use the platform we have been given to advocate for positive social change.
View Charlie Angus Profile
View Charlie Angus Profile
2019-04-29 12:50 [p.27087]
Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague. I note that when the Liberals get really emotional and touchy it is when we start talking about lobbyists.
The member is worried about civil discourse in the House. Why? It is because we are talking about the power of lobbyists over the government. That is what we should be talking about in the House, because we are seeing policies that are interfered with time and time again. The discussions in the House become irrelevant when they call into the Prime Minister's Office.
We do not have a pharmacare strategy and will not have a pharmacare strategy. Why? It is because big pharma is going to talk to the finance minister. We have nothing to protect pensions in this country, whether it is Stelco, Nortel or Sears. Why? The Liberals said how much they cared about it, but what do they care about more? They care about the family business of the finance minister, which got the contract to wrap up those pensions.
Now the Liberals are talking about climate change. I always love it when they talk about nice things that will happen. We are further from our Paris targets this year than we were last year, which is further than we were the year before. Why? It is because the Liberals are following Stephen Harper's numbers, and that is because they continue to be beholden to the lobbyists.
The member said he was tired of us sending cheques to millionaires who do not deserve it. Does he not think Galen Weston is an example of a millionaire who does not deserve it?
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2019-04-29 12:52 [p.27088]
Mr. Speaker, to begin, one of the problems I described during my remarks was reflected in the hon. member's question. He is actually a great guy and is my sister's representative.
The member suggested, for example, that the finance minister cares more about the business he used to be part of than about the people he has been elected to serve, which I do not believe to be true. I do not believe that to be true of anyone who sits in this House. We are talking about a finance minister who has introduced measures, despite his immensely privileged position in life, that are going to help those who are most vulnerable. These measures are going to send more money to nine out of 10 Canadian families, and families like his will not receive those benefits anymore. He will pay a higher personal income tax rate as a result of the policies we are introducing so that nine million middle-class families can benefit.
Now, regarding the investment the hon. member finished with during his remarks, we had a competitive process and asked the officials at Environment and Climate Change Canada to specifically identify the projects that would have the greatest impact, in terms of emissions reductions, at the lowest price. These officials indicated that there were 54 projects they thought should be funded. One of them involved the replacement of refrigeration units in 370 stores, which will bring emissions down and create good jobs, and we are okay with that.
View Karine Trudel Profile
View Karine Trudel Profile
2019-04-29 16:46 [p.27131]
Madam Speaker, I am honoured to speak to the motion moved today by my colleague from Elmwood—Transcona. I know he works very hard in his riding and is very close to his constituents.
Every month, I receive dozens of meeting requests from lobbyists from various sectors. I can only imagine how many requests the ministers and the Prime Minister must receive. In the case of the SNC-Lavalin affair, for instance, where attempts were made to help the company avoid a criminal trial, the Prime Minister's Office and various departments had dozens of meetings.
In Ottawa, lobbying has grown out of control since the Liberals took office. Lobbyists with Liberal ties can boast of having greater access to the highest echelons of government. In fact, the number of communications reported by lobbyists with federal government representatives has almost doubled since the Liberals took office. Corporate executives and their lobbyists have too much access to and influence over the Canadian government. In many cases, this sets working Canadians back.
Take Loblaws for example. It posted nearly $800 million in profits in 2018, and it received $12 million to help convert the refrigeration systems in its stores across Canada. The government gives huge gifts to its rich friends while everyone else has to pay even more. That money should be going to small and medium-sized enterprises, average Canadians and workers instead of multi-millionaire companies. The government should claw back those millions of dollars and invest them elsewhere.
Ridings like Jonquière are in desperate need. Unfortunately, the Liberal government keeps subsidizing big oil and gas companies to keep them operating. It puts the interests of businesses ahead of protecting Canada's Pacific coastal waters in the Kinder Morgan pipeline approval process. It also prefers to give $12 million to a multi-billion dollar company, Loblaws, which is owned by one of the richest families in Canada, the Weston family. That money should be going directly to the public. I have a lot of ideas for the government to consider, especially when it comes to investments.
We just went back to our ridings for two weeks. I got to participate in several activities and hold quality meetings with Jonquière residents. It is a big riding, but I am always honoured and happy to meet with my constituents.
During the past two weeks, I heard a lot about the Liberal government's bad decisions, especially the one to give Loblaws $12 million to buy fridges. In several municipalities in my riding, there are small independent grocery stores struggling to stay afloat. These stores are local services that often serve as community hubs, but sadly, some of them have been forced to close down due to a lack of funding.
It would have been a lifeline for these small grocery stores to receive financial assistance to help improve Canadians' quality of life. Quality of life and local services are important for our municipalities. This money would have been put to better use on that, rather than helping a big grocery chain like Loblaws. There are urgent needs in municipalities like mine, and many of them could have benefited from this $12 million, as I just demonstrated with a concrete example.
Furthermore, we have had discussions in the House about problems with the Phoenix pay system. This is another problem that has yet to be fixed and that affects workers who are trying to support their families. This affects 1,000 jobs in Jonquière, which is significant.
Other employment sectors have been affected by this problem. I have spoken to bus drivers at the Bagotville military base who drive cadets back to their camp in the summer. Many of them have not received a dime.
The NDP used one of its opposition days to move a motion calling on the government to compensate those affected and to take the measures required to effectively fix the situation.
I still get constituents coming into my office to tell me that they have not been paid. They are not getting paid for the hours they worked. This has caused many problems, as we have seen. Some workers are going four, five, six or even eight months without receiving the amount they are due, the pay they worked for. Some of them have had problems with their mortgages. This has even broken up families.
Pension theft is another problem. The government could have taken the $12 million and eliminated pension theft. How many times have we asked this government questions in the House?
I met with people from my riding after Sears closed. Last weekend, someone told me that he is not receiving a certain percentage of his pension. This man worked his whole life thinking that he could relax and enjoy his retirement. Now, he is struggling to make ends meet. It is not right for people who worked hard their entire lives and contributed to a pension plan to be told when it comes time to retire that they will be receiving 30% less than they expected.
I would like to remind members that the $12 million was invested in a very successful company. I spoke about buying groceries, and we talk a lot about affordable housing. In my riding of Jonquière, there are two Loge m'entraide projects. The Coopérative d'habitation La Solidarité could very easily be set up in Jonquière. Such a housing project would give many families and people living alone a place to live. The right to housing is an issue that we talk about regularly here in the House, but it seems to be a dialogue of the deaf.
Organizations such as Loge m'entraide do not have the funding necessary to build and run a co-operative. The government is always announcing measures, but I do not understand why Loge m'entraide is still saying in statements and interviews that it has not seen any of that money. Unfortunately, the project has still not been carried out. We are talking about a lot of people who are alone and who have to consistently use food banks to be able to pay for their housing.
I still have a lot to say, but my time is quickly running out.
That said, one thing is for certain: an NDP government would invest in people rather than giving money to millionaire friends, like the Liberals are currently doing. Human welfare is important, and an NDP government would take that into account.
View Robert Aubin Profile
View Robert Aubin Profile
2019-04-29 17:13 [p.27135]
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.
I must say, there is one question I have been dying to ask all day. I will take my chances with my colleague from the Quebec City area.
When we ask about the $12 million given to Loblaws, the response we often get is that it was part of a standardized program. That is not the question. The member is probably in the same situation as me. Regardless of the salary we have earned throughout our lives, we always have more ideas about ways to spend money than actual money to spend on them.
The truly fundamental question is this: If the government really believes this is about fighting greenhouse gases effectively, why, with a limited budget, would it choose to give $12 million to someone who does not need it and who would have found a way to contribute without help from the government?
View Joël Lightbound Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Joël Lightbound Profile
2019-04-29 17:14 [p.27135]
Madam Speaker, in response to my colleague's question, I would say that it is important to note that in the case of this particular company, 75% of the funding comes from private enterprise. This will be like taking 50,000 cars off the road in Canada, which is something very concrete to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is just one initiative among many. It was assessed on its merits through a very rigorous process.
Our government's plan to combat climate change goes beyond this initiative. We have made historic investments in public transit, and these investments are helping to develop a vision for public transit across the country. As members know, this is a good way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Other investments in the environment include programs like the clean water and wastewater fund, or CWWF, which helps municipalities across Quebec and the rest of Canada with their waste water treatment systems. These types of investments do not always make the headlines, but they are helping us protect the environment and do our part in combatting climate change.
Putting a price on pollution is another aspect. Phasing out coal is another. People like Steven Guilbeault and Sidney Ribaux, from Équiterre and who now work for the City of Montreal, say that they have never before seen a federal government so committed to climate action. We have a range of measures for combatting climate change, as I have demonstrated.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2019-04-29 17:53 [p.27141]
Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to add some thoughts to the debate. It has been interesting. I am convinced there is no one better at distorting reality than the collective minds of the New Democrats. The member for Timmins—James Bay tried to contrast some of the things he said to reality. There is a fairly wide gap, so I would like to try to close that gap and take down some of the nonsensical rhetoric that comes almost on a daily basis from my New Democratic friends.
If we listen to the speeches from New Democrats, we would be of the opinion that all Canadians once they are born will be given a house. They never have to worry about the health care system. They will not have to worry about the environment because there will not be economic development that will affect the environment in any fashion whatsoever. It is truly amazing to listen to what they say and how wonderful it would be.
We might go back to the wilderness days, with no concrete, no asphalt or no real living conditions that we see as normal in modern society. When we add up all of the expenses, we would find over and above what we currently spend, not $1 billion or $2 billion of additional expenses, it would be billions and billions getting closer to half a trillion dollars in new expenses. That is what we would be talking about.
Put that in the context of the last federal election. When NDP members were knocking on doors, what did they say? They said that they were going to have a balanced budget. To get a snapshot of it, we should listen to what the member for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski had to say earlier today. She tried to give the impression that the government was doing absolutely nothing in regard to northern Manitoba, nothing with respect to indigenous people. We can look at the hundreds of millions of dollars invested over the last few years under this administration. I would challenge members to find any previous government that has ever invested the type of financial resources this government has in the last three years. That commitment is there, it is real and it is tangible.
The government understands the importance of establishing a healthier relationship with indigenous people. We have made that a top priority. However, we need to listen to what the member for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski is talking about, even though her riding is probably receiving more federal assistance in different areas than any other riding in the country. This government, by working with people on the ground, has been able to accomplish so much, including potentially the saving of Churchill as a community with our investments. The provincial government completely surrendered it.
We have taken many different actions on a wide variety of social policies. The only thing that is consistent with the New Democrats is that they vote against them. They continue to say that we are never doing enough, that we have to spend billions more. However, they have voted against many of the measures we have taken.
We can talk about pharmacare. It was not an issue of great debate when I was sitting in opposition. When the NDP was the official opposition in the House of Commons, how often did it raise the issue of pharmacare? It was not raising this issue in any way. It was not until this government, in particular the Prime Minister, started to talk about pharmacare that the NDP started to panic. It did not want the Liberals to get any sort of credit for such a progressive measure. The New Democrats then started to talk about how important it was, and they have been talking about it considerably ever since the Prime Minister and the Government of Canada, specifically the standing committee, raised the issue.
It should be no surprise. We have a government that continuously tells its members to go into the constituencies, listen to what Canadians have to say and bring it back to Ottawa. It wants the ideas that are coming from our communities, in all regions, brought back to Ottawa.
Hopefully I am not unveiling a caucus secret, but I can tell members that pharmacare is an important issue in all regions of this country, as virtually every Liberal member of Parliament continues to raise that particular issue. This is not a New Democratic Party issue. I would suggest that it is not even a Liberal Party issue. This is an issue that Canadians have been bringing forward to this government, and this government has been responding to it. For the first time in 40 years, four decades, we finally have a government that is responding to what Canadians see as something of great value, a national pharmacare program. In three years, this government has done more toward a national pharmacare program than the previous series of governments in the last 30 years or 40 years.
We understand the importance of a senior living on a fixed income in a community who wants to have the medications required to have a healthier lifestyle. Unfortunately, what happens far too often is that, because of the costs of food and shelter, some of the costs of pharmaceuticals are too prohibitive, so prescribed medications are put at a lower priority and that senior is not taking that medication. That is at a huge cost to society, because quite often many of these individuals end up in our health care system, such as hospitals and other facilities. They visit doctors' offices and are told, “Here is your medication. Take this medication and you will be healthier.” Unfortunately, many of these individuals are not able to take it because of the issue of affordability. Because it is an issue of affordability, it is an issue individuals have brought forward.
It is not just citizens. I have met with labour councils, unions and other stakeholders to talk about the benefits of pharmacare. This is not about one individual or political party. I believe that it is, in good part, because this government has been so good at progressive policy changes that we have finally seen a real opportunity to make a change. That is the reason why we are getting a lot more lobbying today from the pharmaceutical industry. The NDP members are saying that these big pharmaceutical companies and stakeholders are lobbying twice as much today as they were before. Because we are looking at making major changes, of course they are going to be lobbying. There is no surprise there.
This government is reflecting on what it is that Canadians want us to be doing. That is what we have seen in our budgets and in our planning virtually from day one, when we had a standing committee made up of all political parties, and I understand there was a unanimous report moving us forward on this issue. However, if we listen to the New Democrats, we would think that, were it not for them, this would not be debated. Nothing could be further from the truth.
This is being debated because Canadians want it debated. They want to see a government that is going to move on this plan. I believe the government will move forward on this issue, because we have demonstrated that in very tangible ways, whether it is the creation of buying groups, or the creation of a commitment in the last budget that will see billions of dollars being saved on the purchasing of health care, or a final report that will be coming out in a couple of months. Those are the types of things that have been happening.
Let us move on to this distortion of reality. The Conservatives like to pile in on this issue as well. We are talking about the environment. The New Democrats say they care about the environment. What is interesting is that when we talked about the price on pollution today, for the first time I think the poorest answer I have ever received with respect to that was from the leader of the New Democratic Party.
I am beginning to think that the NDP might be somewhat waffling on a price on pollution. I hope that the New Democrats will give more concrete responses as to what their position is on a price on pollution.
Here we have a national program that other institutions and stakeholders decide to participate in. What is the program? The federal government says that we want to reduce emissions. We are putting aside a pot of money, and we are looking for the private sector, non-profits and governments to come forward to have access to a portion of that money, whether it is municipalities, universities or even the private sector, which has a role to play. There were 50-plus applications received, and yes, Loblaws was one of them. Loblaws committed to invest $48 million to make changes in terms of its refrigeration, of which the federal government would contribute 25%.
In exchange for that, I would note two things. One is that once that investment is done, it will be the equivalent of 50,000 vehicles being taken off the road. To me, that is a good thing. I suspect that most environmentalists would agree that this is a good thing, but not the New Democrats, because they would rather twist and turn to try to make it seem as if this is some sort of elitist policy. That is absolute hogwash.
That is just one aspect of it. In Canada, we have some of the most proactive companies on the green file of any companies in the world. A company in Mississauga, for example, is one of the companies that is going to be providing that modernized refrigeration. It is going to have access to that $48 million, and that is going to employ many Canadians as a direct result.
The New Democrats will mock that. Who cares about those jobs? Whether they are union or not, who cares? They want to focus on that $12 million and the so-called fridge. At the end of the day, this $48-million project, which is the equivalent of taking the emissions of 50,000 cars annually off the road through this technology, would in fact have an impact on jobs. More important, it will advance the technology that is so badly needed to improve the conditions of refrigeration into the future. That is what I would suggest is forward thinking, something that has been lacking among New Democrats in recent years.
The New Democrats have caught on to what the Conservatives love doing. They would rather focus their attention on attacking the government. It does not matter what the Government of Canada actually does. It does not matter what kind of policies we bring in. They want to try to personalize it. They want to ramp it up. They want to twist reality.
When he talked about the policy I just enunciated, the member from Timmins—James Bay said that we are going to give $12 million to some rich dude who is living in the United States. That is how he has encapsulated that whole story. I suspect that if I were to have an intelligent discussion with the member from James Bay at a local university here in Ottawa, a vast majority of those students who participated would recognize that this is a smart thing to be doing by providing incentives to companies, governments and non-profit agencies that are going to move us forward on the issue of climate change.
I would have thought the NDP would recognize that and be supportive of it. The Conservatives do not surprise me on the issue. After all, let us remember, I think it has been 365 days and we are still waiting for a Conservative plan.
I think we will find that many Conservatives actually like the Liberal plan, even some of the former policy individuals in the Harper government like the idea of a price on pollution. In fact, I believe the original idea in North America can ultimately be rooted in the Province of Alberta. It had the idea of a price on pollution and then implemented it.
View Pierre-Luc Dusseault Profile
View Pierre-Luc Dusseault Profile
2019-04-10 16:58 [p.26952]
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to add my voice to the debate that just began on Bill C-97, another budget implementation bill from the Liberal government.
I rise for the first time as the finance critic for the New Democratic Party. I thank my leader, the member for Burnaby South, for trusting me and for granting me the privilege of serving in the NDP caucus on issues related to finances and the economy as well as on tax issues, as I already do in my role as critic for national revenue.
I am very pleased to be able to continue the fight for greater social, fiscal and even environmental justice, just as we have been doing for quite some time now. That is extremely important to me.
Unfortunately, I must say, this bill falls quite short of the expectations we had, on this side of the House, as well as the expectations of most Canadians. It falls far short of what we would expect from the Liberal government, which has failed to fulfill the promises it made during the election campaign.
It is all the more disappointing because we are debating the Liberal government's last budget implementation bill. This is the government's last real opportunity to implement its legislative proposals for moving our country forward. I am very disappointed that several of the Liberal government's promised initiatives are not found in this bill. The Liberal government will definitely not keep certain promises. In the next election campaign, the Liberals will have to defend why they are keeping Canadians waiting for beneficial and important measures that would improve the lives of most of our constituents. I am truly disappointed, even though some measures have been implemented.
It is difficult to examine such a huge bill. I will reiterate the comments of my colleague from Vancouver East, who earlier called this an omnibus bill. I, too, consider this to be an omnibus bill because of its nature, the variety of laws affected and the fact that many of these measures are not found in the budget document presented to the House on March 19.
Mr. Speaker, I hope that you will consider the points my colleague raised to show that this is an omnibus bill that meets the criteria set out in the new rules of the House of Commons.
I hope that parliamentarians will be able to have their say through separate votes, at the very least. This would allow us to make decisions as parliamentarians and do our jobs properly. It is very difficult for a member of Parliament to vote on a wide range of measures. We may agree with some and not others, but at the end of the day we have to make a choice.
We have to choose between measures that may be good but are connected to bad budget measures or bad legislative measures, which means that we are forced to oppose the entire document. I hope that the Chair will decide to divide this bill so that there will be several votes, which would allow us to better represent our constituents on such important issues. I am confident that we will be able to make good decisions.
Moving on from the form of this bill, I would like to talk about the content. This budget misses the mark and is in keeping with the trend we have seen in recent years and more obviously in recent months and days: putting the wealthy and Liberal Party cronies above all else. Lobbyists have direct access to the Prime Minister's Office, and the second they knock at the door or make a call, they get what they want. The office does everything it can to make them happy.
This budget is a continuation of the Liberals' policy to benefit the party's friends, insiders and donors, like SNC-Lavalin and Loblaws, which have joined the list of companies in the Liberal government's good graces. I could also mention KPMG and big pharma, which still have considerable influence in the Prime Minister's Office. Lastly, we cannot forget Kinder Morgan, the big, Houston-based oil company that pocketed $4.5 billion of Canadian taxpayers' money.
These kinds of actions give us a glimpse of a party's and a government's true values. This budget is essentially the continuation of a policy to benefit wealthy insiders. It obviously does not benefit the ordinary Canadians who truly need help. These people are struggling every day, every week and every month to make ends meet.
Pharmacare is one important element that is nowhere to be found in this bill even though it is an obvious and easy solution that people have been talking about for years. The Liberals have been promising pharmacare for over 20 years, but today, the parliamentary secretary talked about doing things the right way, studying the matter before taking action, laying the groundwork to create ideal conditions and setting up an advisory council before creating a universal pharmacare program. They have been promising that for 20 years. No more excuses. This is long overdue, but the government keeps saying that it is too soon to take action on this file because the conditions are not ideal yet.
People in Sherbrooke have talked to me about being unable to get some of their prescription drugs. One of my constituents has to take three drugs prescribed by his doctor, but because he cannot afford all three, he had to ask his pharmacist which one was the most important. That is an everyday reality for people in Sherbrooke and elsewhere in Canada. In this budget implementation bill, the government is telling people they will have to keep waiting even though everyone who has studied the problem agrees on the solutions. The government is still asking people to choose between medication and food or medication and rent.
Sadly, the government lacks the courage of its convictions. It refuses to stand up to the big pharmaceutical and insurance companies that object to this idea. These are the actions that show us where the Liberal government stands, namely on the side of the companies. These companies are resisting efforts to create a pharmacare program, because they see it as a threat to their bottom line. Everyone knows that drug and insurance companies are immensely profitable, and they are afraid of losing some of their market share, which would hurt their profits.
Once again, the Liberals are siding with big business over Canadians, who just want access to quality medication so they can heal and participate fully and actively in the economy. A healthy population means lower costs for the provincial health care systems, which are straining at the seams.
This is another example of the Liberal government's wait-and-see approach and its habit of putting off important decisions. Powerful lobbies are influencing the Prime Minister's Office and shutting down any good ideas that could hurt their bottom line.
Another thing the bill fails to mention is the environment. I brought this up earlier. The environment is the single most important issue for our generation and our society, especially now in 2019. It was already very important, but it is even more critical today. The environment is virtually a non-factor in the bill. As I was saying earlier, this bill is the Liberals' last chance to take a stand before the election, to propose meaningful and hopefully bold legislation. However, with respect to the environment, they are proposing a few paltry measures here and there. They are proposing measures for purchases of electric vehicles and renovation projects. Given the scale of the problem, these measures are grossly insufficient.
This clearly demonstrates that the Liberals are siding with large corporations on this issue. The major oil companies are still getting subsidies, and just recently they benefited from a $4.5-billion cheque. A single company got that big of a cheque from Canadian taxpayers, from the government. Once again, the government is saying that we need to put off any changes to oil subsidies. The Liberals have put that off until later, probably until after the election, if they are lucky enough to get re-elected and if we do not take their place. That is the reality of a wait-and-see government.
The government wants to put off these changes until later. Major lobby groups have been putting pressure on the government. Billionaire oil companies are getting cheques from the government and keeping their subsidies. Bill C-97 would have been a good opportunity to put an end to shameful oil subsidies that are being condemned around the world. Other countries have taken action to end oil subsidies. This is yet another example of a government putting the interests of large corporations above those of ordinary Canadians. Canadians deserve as much attention as the large corporations are getting from the Liberal government.
The most recent example of this is the famous $12-million subsidy. That is a lot of money. We tend to forget sometimes how much money we are really talking about. A significant amount of money, $12 million, was given to a highly profitable company, Loblaws. That is how the government chooses to fight climate change. It invests in companies that have all the money in the world. If there is a grocery store that has the means to buy itself some fridges, it is certainly Loblaws. In every one of our ridings there are grocery stores that are struggling to make ends meet every month. They want to pay their employees well and provide good working conditions. They see the government caving to pressure from multinationals like Loblaws and giving them the money they need to replace their refrigerators. It is so frustrating for taxpayers, businesses, small grocers, or any business that wants to become greener and invest in improving their energy efficiency, to see that corporations are the ones getting the subsidies to upgrade their refrigerators. It is the right thing to do, but the government chose the wrong target.
I also want to mention some of the proposed measures in the budget that are just half-measures. In some cases, it might be a step in the right direction. However, in other cases, the government again hits the wrong target.
There is the home buyers plan, which allows home buyers to withdraw some money from their RRSPs to invest in buying a house. The government told us that this measure will help millennials access home ownership. We recognize the importance of encouraging access to home ownership. In fact, we also proposed something to that effect in the past few weeks.
The national housing crisis must be addressed. It is clearly an important and serious issue for our country. The Liberals' solution involves expanding the home buyers' plan, allowing people to withdraw $10,000 more from their RRSPs to use as a down payment, raising the limit from $25,000 to $35,000.
Maybe some of my colleagues had young people in their ridings come and knock on their doors to say that $25,000 from their RRSPs was not enough and they needed more, $35,000, in order to buy a house. That makes no sense.
Perhaps some members will tell me that happened to them, but most young people who come to see me are not telling me they need more money from their RRSPs. They are telling me that they simply do not have any money to put towards a down payment, that they simply cannot afford to buy a house. It is not about their RRSPs or how much they can withdraw. I do not know how the Liberals came up with that solution. On top of that, they claim to be targeting millennials.
This may benefit some people who want to buy their first property, but it is certainly not something that will help millennials, given that statistics show that only 35% of them have RRSPs. It makes no sense to target this measure at millennials.
The bill also amends the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act. This clearly does not meet the expectations of many unions and stakeholders involved in this important file, who want pensions to be protected from unscrupulous executives who will do anything to get their hands on as much money as possible before declaring bankruptcy.
What the government failed to do in this bill was change the creditors' priority ranking. It was the government's last chance to change creditors' order of priority in a budget implementation bill. It was an opportunity to put employees, their pensions, their salaries and their benefits first in the priority ranking. However, the government again chose to side with big business and lobbyists, who argued that it would not be good for the economy. They told the government not to give priority to employees because it would stifle investment. The government always gives in to these types of arguments by lobbyists who knock at the Prime Minister's door. Sears executives would like us to believe that they acted in good faith. That was another missed opportunity.
Another missed opportunity here has to do with student debt. The government says it will postpone collecting interest on student debt. That is how the government plans to help students drowning in debt once they complete their studies.
The government could support those students and help them become homeowners, as mentioned earlier, but no, students will continue to pay interest on their student loans, on what they owe the federal government. The government had one last opportunity to do something but missed it.
The Liberals are squandering their last chance. They are going to tell Canadians to wait a bit longer, but I think the last four years have proven to Canadians that whatever the Liberals say during a campaign is not worth much at all. The Liberals have had four years to make these changes and deliver on their promises, but they have clearly failed to do so. They have helped the rich at the expense of ordinary Canadians who really need help. It is a great shame those ordinary Canadians must suffer the consequences. The government is telling them to keep holding their breath.
That is unfortunate and is the reason why Canadians will have to choose another economic vision, another vision for our country, a vision for an energy transition, a true vision for the environment, a true vision for pharmacare, a true vision for housing, a true vision for helping people who are really in need. Canadians are going to have to choose people who will stand up to the big oil and economic interests of multinationals, which try to get everything they want from the Prime Minister's Office. Canadians will have people who stand with them.
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
At the time, members of the finance committee were astonished to find such a measure contained in a budget bill. It is extremely unusual for budget legislation to amend the Criminal Code. In fact, it may even be unprecedented.
The Liberal member for Hull—Aylmer said that he did not think it was right. The chairman of the committee, an ardent, partisan and committed Liberal, said that the measure did not belong in a budget bill. The Liberal member for Hull—Aylmer made further comment based on his reading of the Criminal Code amendment that the finance minister had put in the budget bill. He said, “if I steal $10, I'm in trouble, but if I steal $10 million, I can work this out.”
What struck us in that moment was this question. Who was asking for this? I remember looking over at the member from the Okanagan, a Conservative who has been listening carefully today. He raised the concern that this should not be included in a budget bill. He believed it should be separate legislation that carefully studied the widely known consequences before it became law.
However, the government was determined to push ahead, with as little scrutiny as humanly possible. We all went home late that night with the mystery of who was driving this agenda.
When we go out to our communities, all of us talk to people about their concerns. We hear people say that they are worried about the cost of living, or health care wait times for their families and or safety in their streets. No matter the topic, we hear about it.
However, none of us heard that there was a need to amend the Criminal Code so that corporate criminals could get let off without conviction. That has never come up at any of the events I have attended, the hundreds if not thousands of them, since I was elected almost a decade and a half ago.
Somebody had to be driving this agenda, somebody powerful and influential enough to convince both the Prime Minister and the finance minister that such a Criminal Code amendment was needed.
A nagging part of me wondered whether the former attorney general did not like this Criminal Code amendment, as she would have normally been the person to introduce it. At the time, she was also the justice minister. While she was bound by cabinet solidarity and was thereby required to publicly support initiatives that the cabinet had decided upon, it was extremely unusual for her not to be the sponsoring minister for legislation changing the Criminal Code, a statute for which the justice minister has the carriage.
However, the bill passed and it became law. It would not be until February of this year that we would find out who was driving the train on the bill. An explosive headline on the front page, above the fold, in The Global and Mail, said that the Prime Minister and his team had pressured the former attorney general, by then moved out of her position, to grant SNC-Lavalin a settlement to avoid criminal prosecution.
Then it all made sense. The late-night session, the massive, 500-page bill, the tiny Criminal Code amendment tucked away at the very end, rushed through with no time to discuss. We now knew where it all came from. SNC-Lavalin, a powerful, Liberal-linked corporation had given over $100,000 in illegal donations to the Liberal Party, funnelled through the production of false invoices, phoney bonuses and deceptive receipts through employees into the Liberal Party coffers. That same SNC-Lavalin had successfully convinced the government to change the law allowing for a settlement so that companies accused of serious white-collar crime could evade prosecution altogether.
There is a problem with the plan though. It started with a very accomplished director of public prosecutions. The bill requires that the top prosecutor agree that a company is entitled to that special deal in order for it to go ahead. She read the act, even as the Liberals had written it when they introduced it, and concluded that the company was not eligible. It did not qualify. Why? Because the crimes were too serious, because it did not report its own crimes, because the participants were at the highest level of the executive management of the company and because the company had done absolutely nothing to compensate the victims of the alleged $130 million of theft.
These victims are among the poorest people in the world. The company is alleged to have stolen their money. It is a pretty miserable way to make a living, stealing from they poor. Fortunately, it is also an illegal way to make a living, at least we thought so. However, the Prime Minister attempted to apply political pressure, The Globe and Mail reported, to let this company off without prosecution despite that fact.
What happened? The Prime Minister denied it all. He said that the story was false, full stop, end of story. Therefore, Bob Fife and Steve Chase, the reporters who wrote it, got it all wrong and must have made it all up. That was the Prime Minister's story, and on we were to move. However, it turned out it was not false.
The Prime Minister would go out days later and say that the proof that the story was false was the continued presence of the former attorney general in his cabinet, then as veterans affairs minister. He said that her presence spoke for itself. Well, she could not stomach that anymore, so she resigned, and her resignation spoke for itself.
The Prime Minister then began to make up a new story that, yes, he had pressured the former attorney general but that it was okay. There was nothing wrong with a little pressure.
However, because of relentless public pressure, the Prime Minister was forced to allow the former attorney general to testify before the justice committee where she laid out a spectacular chronology of political interference at the highest level, including the personal interference of the Prime Minister himself. He denied, denied, denied.
Then the evidence arrived, demonstrating that in fact he and his top members had participated in pressuring and interfering with the former attorney general. She provided text messages, written journal entries and finally an audio recording in order to demonstrate that everything she had said was true. Therefore, the Prime Minister's story had to change again. He went out into the world and said that the former attorney general, according to the Prime Minister's minions, was just angry because she lost her dream job.
That is supposedly the reason why she not want to continue working with the Prime Minister, the reason why she made all of this up, and the only reason why she came forward about the political interference in the system. She was angry about having lost her dream job.
Supposedly it was bitterness, not principles or facts, that motivated her to come forward about the Prime Minister's political interference.
We heard the Liberals' personal attacks. For example, former deputy prime minister Sheila Copps talked about the former attorney general's indigenous roots. Others accused her of being a difficult woman. Yes, she was difficult. We are happy that she was difficult. When a prime minister tries to interfere with the justice system, I hope that the attorney general would be difficult. It is a good idea to be difficult when a prime minister is trying to corrupt the justice system.
The Prime Minister therefore had to change his story again. He rose to say that this was about jobs. He interfered in the justice system but it was to save jobs and the company's headquarters. It was easy enough to learn via the Internet that the company had no plans to move its headquarters. In fact, the company has an agreement with the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, the major pension fund, that requires the company to keep its headquarters in Montreal for another six years in exchange for a $1.5-billion loan. It is therefore impossible for the company to move its headquarters, contrary to what the Prime Minister and his team claimed.
Furthermore, the company had just signed a 20-year lease for its building in Montreal. Companies do not sign 20-year leases if they are thinking of moving. The company had just announced plans to renovate to accommodate its employees. It would not have taken on that kind of expense if it were planning to move. That means suggesting the head office was going to be moved was a lie. The Prime Minister also said that 9,000 jobs would have disappeared if he had not interfered in the justice system.
His best friend and former principal secretary said that the Prime Minister was very emotional and that he felt he had to interfere in the system to save those 9,000 jobs. The Green Party leader asked Gerald Butts if he had any proof at all that 9,000 jobs would disappear if the trial went ahead. He said he had no specific proof. All that interference took place over a period of four months. There was a campaign that included at least 20 attempts to make contact to save those 9,000 jobs, yet the Prime Minister's principal secretary and best friend said he had no specific proof those 9,000 jobs were at risk. The Clerk of the Privy Council was asked if he had any reports showing that 9,000 jobs were going to disappear. The answer was no. At a press conference, the Prime Minister was asked if he had any proof that 9,000 jobs would disappear if the trial went ahead. The answer was no.
The company's CEO stated that he never threatened to move the headquarters or to eliminate 9,000 jobs. In any case, this never made sense. Construction projects must go ahead in their respective locations. For example, SNC-Lavalin was awarded a rail project here in Ottawa. You cannot build 14 kilometres of rail in China or London and then have a helicopter drop it in place in Canada's capital. It was therefore impossible that these jobs would be moved. SNC-Lavalin has $52 billion in construction projects in Canada and they have to be carried out here.
Thus, for contractual and practical reasons, these jobs cannot be moved. This lie was repeated over and over by the most senior members of the Prime Minister's Office. It is one thing to interfere in the judicial system to prevent a case from going to trial, but it is even more serious to lie about it. In my view, lying to an attorney general in order to prevent a criminal trial is a Criminal Code violation. Section 139 clearly states that anyone who attempts to obstruct or defeat the course of justice is guilty of an indictable offence. Today, the Prime Minister no longer talks about jobs because this excuse has been discredited. Everyone knows that it is a fabrication. His story has changed again.
Lastly, the Prime Minister told us that the former attorney general should have let him know that his interference in SNC-Lavalin's criminal case was a problem for her, but she never did. However, in her testimony before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, she said that she had looked him in the eye and asked him if he was politically interfering with her role as the attorney general, and that she had told him she would strongly advise against it.
Yesterday in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister admitted that she had told him that. In doing so, he contradicted himself in front of all Canadians, because he had previously claimed the attorney general never raised any problems with his interference. His story changed yet again. When two people contradict each other and it is not clear which one to believe, the person who is telling the truth is often the one who does not change their story.
The person who keeps changing their story is usually the one who is not telling the truth. What I have shown in my hours and hours of speaking during this debate is that the Prime Minister has constantly changed his story. He changed his story more often than he changes his flashy socks. Meanwhile, the former attorney general did not change her story. The former attorney general said one thing about each fact. She let all Canadians see text messages and excerpts from her personal diary, and she let them hear a recording of a conversation from December. All of the facts set out in those documents bolster the testimony she gave before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
This matter is not behind us. What lies ahead?
First, people who are still in the Prime Minister's Office interfered to help the company. These people were meeting with SNC-Lavalin for months. We should know what they did and why.
Second, we need to figure out whether the Prime Minister lied to Canadians about this matter.
Third, we need to know what the Prime Minister and his current Attorney General will do in the future. There is a lot of evidence showing that they are both open to or even set on giving SNC-Lavalin an agreement. This agreement could help the company avoid a criminal trial. If this is going to happen, we should know, especially before the election. We may not get an answer, and the trial could continue after the election.
If the Prime Minister is re-elected, I predict that a special deal will be signed before Christmas. This would allow SNC-Lavalin to skirt justice on the fraud reported by law enforcement. Before they go to the polls, Canadians should know whether this agreement will happen if the Prime Minister is re-elected.
All these questions could be answered if members of the Liberal Party attend the meeting of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics next Tuesday. That is when we will decide whether to move forward with an investigation.
As I just said, I will sit down as soon as a Liberal member tells me that the Liberals will vote in favour of an investigation. There is no reason for the Prime Minister to refuse such an investigation. If he has nothing to hide, it will be easy and there will be no problem. Canadians will see that he is just as perfect as he claims to be. However, if there are secrets, then I have some advice for him. He should let those secrets out now instead of trying to save them for later. Secrets are a heavy burden.
Every day that he tries to hide his secrets, the burden gets heavier.
Canadians have the right to know what happened. They also have the right to know what the Prime Minister and his Attorney General are going to do in the future.
The choice is simple. The current Conservative leader said that he will not interfere in the judicial system if elected. A Conservative government will not reverse a prosecutor's decision on how a trial should proceed.
I know we are captivated by this scandal and the cover-up budget that has attempted to distract us from it. The two are not entirely unrelated. In fact, they are related for two specific reasons.
First, the government thought it could distract from this scandal by simply spraying around an extra $41 billion in government spending, almost all of it paid for by deficits in the short run. This is what I call the Liberal three-step: step one, massive scandal; step two, massive deficit spending to distract from the scandal; step three, massive tax increases to pay for it all after the election.
In that sense, these two issues are linked. The scandal is what convinced the government it needed to blow billions of dollars out the door, right before the election, and get everyone thinking and talking about something else.
However, there is a second reason they are linked. The reason companies increasingly think they can get ahead through their connections to this government is that the Prime Minister's philosophy is one of state economic control. He believes in an ever-growing government.
We were told that whenever politicians on the far left decide to grow government, it is to replace greed with some government-directed altruism. We on all sides of the spectrum agree there is a human desire to improve one's lot, to have more and better tomorrow than we have today. In its benign form, we call it ambition; in excess, we call it greed. Whatever word we use, it is part of human nature.
In a recent speech, socialist Senator Elizabeth Warren described it this way: “In reality, billionaire investors and wealthy shareholders in powerful companies often have exactly three goals: maximize profits, maximize profits, maximize profits.”
Egalitarian socialism proposes to abolish this impulse from human nature altogether so that all the money goes to the government. In this way, everyone equally owns the government and everyone is equally rich or poor and no one really moves backward or forward relative to the pack—or so we are told.
Ironically, both socialists and Conservatives have accepted that this is what happens when government gets big enough. The former celebrate equal outcomes, the latter decry the lack of incentive to work and produce industry, which will be the result from government trying to eliminate any form of competition between people.
Famously, Churchill once said, “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.” However, is that what happens? Can socialism really expand government to control all the wealth so that it is shared equally by everyone? Can it grow so big that it can replace human nature itself? If so, we must accept the belief that the state can literally banish personal ambition and avarice from human DNA.
Can government grow so large that it not only replaces the private sector but replaces human nature altogether? If so, are we the only species whose very nature governments can alter, or can the state change other creatures as well, so that flies no longer feast on honey, nor ravens on the carrion of dead gazelles, nor fish such as pike on floating garbage, nor the greedy client from the lords of the state? We need to answer “yes” to believe that socialism is capable of changing self-seeking human desires.
The alternative explanation, the alternative theory, comes from the great Nobel Prize-winning economist James Buchanan. He developed something called “public choice theory”, which he called “politics without the romance”. To quote The Wall Street Journal, “Buchanan described it as the application of the profit motive to government: 'It presupposes that if there is value to be gained through politics, persons will invest resources in efforts to capture this value.'
In the market, profit-seekers invest in commercial enterprises to gain wealth, but in government-controlled economics, the profit-seeker invests in political influence to gain wealth.
Buchanan wrote:
However, when the governmental machinery directly uses almost one-third of the national product, when special interest groups clearly recognize the “profits” to be made through political action, and when a substantial proportion of all legislation exerts measurably differential effects on the separate groups of the population, an economic theory can be of great help in pointing toward some means through which these conflicting interests may be ultimately reconciled.
People act rationally in a market economy, investing in order to get a return. Dr. Buchanan found that government-controlled economies have exactly the same type of calculated trade-offs. People invest in politics in order to get rich. In fact, the only thing that changes is the way one gets rich.
The way one gets rich in a government economy is by winning the favour of the political decision-makers who allocate the resources. Instead of selling things that people agree to buy, one buys the politicians who control the money. If all the money is in the great vault of the state, profiteers work at buying or renting the keys to that vault. They donate to politicians who give them subsidies. They offer luxurious vacations to prime ministers in exchange for grants to their foundations. They hire lobbyists to convince governments to shut down their competitors with more regulation and tariffs.
Buchanan wrote:
The individual who seeks short-run pleasures through his consumption of modern “luxury” items sold in the market is precisely the same individual who will seek partisan advantage through political action.
In the book Welfare for the Well-to-Do, economist Gordon Tullock put it this way: “Today the individual who works hard and thinks carefully in order to make money in the market will also work hard and think carefully in order to use the government to increase his wealth. Thus, we should anticipate that effort and ingenuity would be put into using the government for gain, and if we look at the real world, we do indeed see such activities.”
Therefore, the larger the government becomes, the more we can expect profit-seekers to turn their money into power and to turn that power back into yet more money.
We see this here in Canada. In 2017, there were 23,000 lobbying interactions with designated public office holders in the federal government, a 79% increase in just three years, which just happened to coincide with a 20% increase in government spending.
Guess what? The two fastest-growing sectors in the economy now are government and lobbying, which are two sectors that grow hand in hand.
South of the border is no different. The American company called Strategas Research Partners produced a fascinating graph showing the correlation between the amount of money American business spends on lobbyists and the share of the U.S. federal government as a part of the GDP. It showed that as the U.S. government in Washington gets bigger, so does the amount of money U.S. companies spend on lobbying that government. In 2000, federal spending in the U.S. was about 19% of GDP and there was about two billion dollars' worth of lobbying. By 2009, a decade later, government spending had grown to 25% of GDP, almost a third bigger, and real lobbying had nearly doubled in inflation-adjusted terms to $4 billion. With more money in the government in Washington, there is more money spent on lobbyists to get that money from Washington.
It looks like Elizabeth Warren was right: Corporations seek profit, profit, profit. What she did not tell us is that they are just as capable of seeking that profit from big government.
It makes sense. When government decides who gets what, business buys a bigger share of government. Who wins when that happens? Of course it is those with money. They can hire the best lobbyists, promise future jobs to politicians, make donations and schmooze the officials.
The working class, by contrast, can afford none of these things. They are too busy trying to keep their heads above water and raise their kids and take them to hockey and soccer. They do not have the financial means to hire lobbyists and accumulate and leverage political influence.
Let me give an example of the payoff.
Bombardier invested in lobbyists and got a $400-million interest-free loan from the current Liberal government. This is how it worked: The government gave Bombardier the $400-million interest-free loan so the company did not have to raise the money in equity markets. That was so important, because the billionaire Bombardier-Beaudoin family wanted to remain the majority controllers of the company. The family owned 53%. If it had sold more shares, it would have diluted its interest below a majority control and would no longer have been in charge of the family business. Less than 50% meant that it would no longer choose management and would not get to pass the business as a family heirloom from one person to another.
What did Canadian taxpayers get for this corporate welfare? It was not very much. It turns out the company moved its jobs to South Carolina and sold the IP to Europe, but left the bill with Canadian taxpayers. The only winners were the billionaires.
Yes, the lady bagging groceries at the corner store had to pay higher taxes to fund a bailout to a billionaire feudal family that was in charge of this company only because of their political connections to this government.
We can look elsewhere. Private equity funds and investment bankers have invested in lobbyists, and guess what they got? They got a $15-billion infrastructure bank to protect their investments in infrastructure and megaprojects. If a banker asked us for a thousand bucks, we would say, “What for?” The Liberal government is asking for basically $1,000 from every Canadian family in order to set up this infrastructure bank.
What is it for? Let us go through the possible explanations of what it could possibly be for.
The first is that it would fund infrastructure, but private banks, capital markets, pension funds and private equity enterprises already bankroll billions of dollars of infrastructure projects, and they will invest $2 trillion more worldwide, if we believe the estimates in the government's own fall economic update. With so much private money already invested in infrastructure, the last thing we should need is another government bank to provide more. That cannot be the reason.
Perhaps we need the new bank to bridge those private dollars into public projects such as mass transit, yet here again the government's own fall economic update indicates that those investments are already happening without the bank and cited the $2-billion Canada Line. This was the biggest public transit project in Canadian history, and it daily moves 120,000 passengers from Vancouver's downtown, suburbs and airport. It exists through investments from large private sector and commercial interests. As an example, Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec invests in that Vancouver project. Quebec pensioners help build mass transit for British Columbians, whose transit fares in turn help pay Quebec pensioners.
All that happened without an infrastructure bank, just as the privatization of Highway 407 happened without an infrastructure bank and just as the privatization of the Canadian National Railway happened without a government-owned infrastructure bank.
What is this bank for? I keep knocking down the possible explanations, but we do have one. The Canadian Electricity Association made a submission at the House of Commons transport committee on how the bank should work, and this is what it said: “Also important is the inclusion of de-risking mechanisms such as loan guarantees....”
Bingo. There is the reason. In one sentence the power companies explained the real purpose of the bank: taxpayer-funded guarantees to protect investors from losses.
The government bill that creates the infrastructure bank uses the term “loan guarantee” 14 times. The power companies are on to something. Their submission uses the terms “de-risking”, “de-risk” or “reduce risk” about five times. The prefix “de-” implies that the bank can delete the risk, just like a magician can make a grenade disappear. If one has a grenade, there is a chance it could explode, but this de-risking magic can make it just vanish into thin air.
Wrong. It does not disappear. It just takes the grenade from the company and puts it in the lap of Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer. It does not de-risk; it relocates the risk. Now we know why the government needs an infrastructure bank.
Years ago, institutional investors could get taxpayer-funded returns from sleepy government bonds, but interest rates have been so low for so long that the only way to make real money is to invest in riskier ventures—such as building power plants, for example.
As a J.P. Morgan Asset Management report indicated, merchant power generation pays 14% to 20% returns, but here is the problem: Its risk category is high. Cost overruns, revenue shortfalls, construction delays and labour disputes can cause major losses unless...unless there is a new government bank that agrees to take all that risk off the government's back.
Currently, governments force builders to cover cost overruns on construction projects through fixed-price contracts, and they force those companies to buy bankruptcy insurance to keep projects on budget if the contractor goes under. I know this personally, because we had an essential piece of infrastructure under construction, a bridge connecting east and west Ottawa deep in the south end of the city, and the builder went broke. The good news was all the risk was on the company's back and the company had to hire a bonding company to take over the project if the major proponent went under. In other words, the taxpayer did not pay for cost overruns, and while there was a delay, the people who pay their bills every day, the taxpayers of Canada, did not pay the price. The company did and the bonding company did.
But that is not the case with the new infrastructure bank. Testifying before the House of Commons transport committee, the top public servant responsible for the bank described the tool as existing for “underwriting sophisticated, highly complex projects”.
The word “underwriting” comes from 17th century London insurers, who would literally write their names under a list of cargo on board a shipping vessel. If the ship sank, so did the underwriter's money.
Taxpayers could sink billions of dollars by underwriting infrastructure projects with this new bank.
Guess who is involved in the Infrastructure Bank. It is a three-letter word: SNC. The bank, though it has a well-paid CEO and fancy offices in Toronto, which, by the way, do not comply with the Official Languages Act, has only one project to its name, and of course, SNC-Lavalin is right in the middle of it. There is no surprise there.
Now, it is easy to imagine why SNC-Lavalin and other wealthy investment bankers and private equity fund managers would want this arrangement, but what is not clear is why a government, elected by taxpayers, would agree. At closed-door meetings in Davos, New York and Toronto, and in direct talks with officials, the most powerful financial interests on Earth have directed the Liberal government on how the bank should work. It is the golden rule of the Liberal government: Those who have the gold make the rules. Their rules are simple. They get the rewards; taxpayers get the risk.
Now that we know what and who the bank is for, those who will pay the price must fight to stop it.
It is not just the Infrastructure Bank. Some technology companies have invested in lobbyists, and they have been able to secure brand new billion-dollar corporate welfare funds called “superclusters”.
Here in Ontario, at the provincial level, we saw the worst kinds of these self-licking ice-cream cones, where a commercial interest pays a lobbyists, which influences a politician to pay the commercial interest, and the commercial interest uses some of that money to pay the lobbyist to influence the politician, and on and on it goes. It is a self-licking ice-cream cone, and it has never been so big and so sumptuous as it is under the Liberal government.
Actually, that is not fair. There was the Ontario government under Kathleen Wynne and Dalton McGuinty.
Wait a second. Someone yelled, “What about the Harper government?”
I want to point something out. There was something like 70% less lobbying around this place, according to the registry, when Harper was in charge and the size of government was shrinking. The one place that went out of business was Hy's Steakhouse. Do members think that is a coincidence?
God bless the good people who worked there. They were wonderful people. However, it was a hangout for lobbyists and power brokers. Is it not fascinating that it was right in the middle of the Harper tenure that the place became so tired and so sleepy and so uninhabited that it no longer could afford to pay its bills. These kinds of places are popping up all over Ottawa now, because the good times for the lobbyists and the insiders are rolling like they have not in years.
We know where the Liberal government gets its lessons. In Ontario, we learned that the largest corporate donor to the Ontario Liberal Party gave the party $480,000, in exchange for which it got $160 million in government handouts. What a return on investment, my friends. John Pierpont Morgan, the Rockefellers, and Warren Buffett could not dream of getting that kind of return on investment. It was $480,000 turned into $160 million in corporate welfare.
Then there is the Green Energy Act, a deliberate government decision to pay 80¢ cents for a kilowatt hour of solar electricity that is worth 3¢. The province has already forced consumers to overpay by $37 billion to buy unneeded, unreliable and overpriced electricity from well-connected power companies. That is why hydro prices have risen by 100% in just over a decade.
Who wins and who loses? Remember that when government gets big, it is supposed to be really tough on the rich and good for the poor, we are told. Who won in this? The rich power companies made off with massive profits, because the government forced people to overpay them for their unneeded power. Who lost? The poorest people lost. Electricity is a larger share of their household budgets than it is for the rich. The Ontario Association of Food Banks called it “energy poverty”. In one year, 60,000 people had their power cut for failure to pay.
When the Ontario attorney general looked at it, she predicted another $133 billion in overpayments between now and 2032 because of the Liberal government's Green Energy Act. That is a total of $170 billion the government is forcing Ontario consumers to overpay above market prices throughout a 25-year period, making it literally the single biggest wealth transfer from the working poor to the super-rich in the history of Canada. Never has any government, in my lifetime, taken so much from so many to give to so few. All this followed countless donations and third-party advertising from the very companies that got all the electricity contracts.
We see examples of big socialist governments using the power of the state to take from the poor and the working class and give to the rich and powerful all the time. Now we have something called the clean fuel standard. It sounds very similar to the Green Energy Act. What would it do? It would actually have nothing to do with clean fuel, unlike the name. All it would do is require those who sell gasoline to pay credits to well-connected people who would be able to sell those credits for supposedly green things that are happening in some other places in the world. Of course, there would be all kinds of greasy middlemen who would grab one piece after another of that action as it went flying by.
What the Wynne Liberals did to electricity bills, the Liberal government will do to gas bills. Gasoline is a much bigger share of a family budget for a poor family than for a rich family, so it would be yet another disgusting wealth transfer from the poor to the rich.
Macaulay, the great poet, warned of this. He wrote, in one of his great poems:
Where as you shed the honey, the buzzing flies will crowd; Where as you fling the carrion, the raven's croak is loud; Where as down Tiber garbage floats, the greedy pike you see;And where so ever such lord is found, such client still will be
It is funny that he chose flies on honey as his example, because flies do not make honey. They consume honey, the same way the parasitical interests that profit from big government do not make any of the wealth they consume, but they sure are fantastic at consuming it.
It is bees that make honey, and it is interesting that bees make honey in a process that is very similar to transactions in a free market economy. Bees do this in a mutually beneficial exchange between plant and insect. The plant provides the nectar, which the bee transforms into honey, and the bee pollinates the plant so that it can reproduce. That is the very nature of the free market transaction, where both participants always win. We know they win, because they are voluntarily participating in it.
These are the fundamental truths of the two different approaches to an economic transaction. Every transaction, every single one in the free market, is voluntary. Every transaction done by the government is done by force. Even when the government spends on worthy causes that we all support, such as the military, for example, it does so through the forceful collection of taxes. As government expands, force expands. As free markets expand, free choice expands.
We understand that this is the only distinction between the two systems. We realize that almost everything we have been taught to the contrary is wrong. Therefore, when Elizabeth Warren and socialists like that warn us that “those powerful companies search out new prey, moving up and down their own food chain”, she is making allusions to the law of the jungle.
It is in the government-run economy, based on force and the power of the state, that the strong can use their money and power to prey on the weak. By contrast, in a system where every exchange is voluntary, based on the consent of both participants, such as in a free market, it is impossible for anyone to prey on anyone else. No business in a free market can force the poor person to work for it or buy its products. That person only does so when he or she voluntarily agrees.
Let me use the example of the Apple store. Apple has been said to be the most powerful company on planet Earth, with a market capitalization of almost a trillion dollars, depending on the fluctuations of the stock market. If a boy whose net worth is $1,000 from mowing lawns throughout the summer walks into an Apple store, some of our socialist friends would ask how this could possibly be a fair transaction. On the one hand, we have a company worth a trillion dollars, and on the other, a young boy worth just $1,000. In other words, one is literally a billion times bigger than the other. How could they possibly exchange in a free negotiation?
The answer is that when he walks into that store, he is literally just as powerful as the company, because it cannot get his $1,000 unless it offers him something that is more valuable to him than the money he has to pay to get it. In that sense, it has to obsess over making his life better. It is the only system where one must make someone else better off to be better off itself.
Let us presume that Apple took a different approach and decided to try to get rich from a government subsidy. Would that boy be equal to the company? Would the two then be on a level playing field? Of course not. The company could hire lobbyists, make donations, cozy up to politicians, have articles placed in newspapers or run advertising to get a government subsidy at the expense of that young taxpayer whose net worth is only $1,000. In that sense, the company would be far more powerful than that young person. That is the law of the jungle, not the free market.
Any relationship based on force favours the strong over the weak. We know this from the most simple and elemental facts of life. If I have an apple and want an orange, and someone has an orange and wants an apple, we trade, and we are both better off, because each has something more valuable than we had before, even though between us, we just have an apple and an orange. That is the miraculous power of the free market economy. It is a voluntary exchange of work for wages, product for payment and investment for interest. These voluntary exchanges happen literally trillions of times every day in the free market parts of the world, and every time they do, both participants are made better off.
If members think this is just theory, they can look at the facts. Dr. M.G. Quibria, a Princeton-trained economist, compared the poverty rate to the size of the government in 40 different developing countries. For each increase in the size of government as a share of GDP, the percentage of people living on less than $1.90 a day increased by an average of 41%.
In other words, bigger governments, even in the developing parts of the world, lead to more poverty. This is in spite of the fact we are constantly told that some countries are poor because the state is not big enough, is not doing enough and is not spending enough. The data shows precisely the opposite.
What is true in the developing world is also true in the developed world. Dr. Tanzi, a Harvard-trained former IMF policy director, conducted similar research on developed countries. He found that countries where government is less than 40% of GDP have significantly better outcomes on the UN development index than countries where the government represents more than 50% of GDP.
The two best-ranked Asian countries on the human development index are Singapore and Hong Kong, countries with no natural resources. They actually have to import their own water. They live on land masses that are a fraction the size of the city of Ottawa, with multiple times the number of people. Despite this, they have the highest standard of living compared to any country in the Asian world.
Our critics will point out quickly that these countries have housing crises. Our critics forget, of course, that this is because they are the most densely populated places in the world. However, I will point out that while housing in these countries is extremely expensive, it is basically the only thing the government controls. Inside those countries, we can see the difference between the immense power of the free market to improve people's lives and the constraints that heavy-handed, excessive government imposes.
Apart from that exception, those countries demonstrate that even though they have governments representing less than 20% of GDP, they have incomes that are equal to or superior to those in countries around the world that have had far longer to develop and far more natural resources with which to do it.
The reality is that the free market system has generated more wealth than any other system ever contemplated. However, unfortunately it has had one failing. Those of us who advocate for this system have allowed the other side, those who believe in expanding the force and control of the state, to steal key words.
I am here today to take them back. Let us start with the word “empathy”. The free enterprise not only allows empathy but requires it. The only way to make a profit in this system is to offer something that is more valuable to people than what they have to pay to get it.
There is no one more empathetic than the entrepreneur to his customer, because he knows that when that customer comes into his shop, he needs to do everything in his power to make that customer happy. That is not something any politician across the way can claim, because at the end of the day they make their living and grow their operation by the forceful collection of taxes.
The reason businesses and entrepreneurs in the free market system have to be so empathetic to their customers is that they have to sell their customers things through a voluntary transaction. Empathy means seeing through another person's eyes. There is a trick to sales: If you want to sell what John Smith buys, you have to see through John Smith's eyes. That is the oldest expression in sales.
Let us take back another word. Another word that those on the socialist side have expropriated is “diversity”. Liberals believe in anything but diversity. They want government control to snuff out diversity. They just kicked two women members out of their caucus because they were speaking up and their voices brought too much diversity for the government to handle.
The greatest thing about the free market is that it is in a constant state of mutation to accommodate every diverse and particular need. I flew from Ottawa to Toronto recently with a constituent whose 80-person company has made a business of helping companies do billing and marketing in Braille and large print, with no government subsidy, all because businesses want access to the visually impaired market.
Compare that to the inflexible and lumbering government school system under the previous Liberal governments and most governments, which cannot provide basic IBI treatment for autistic children despite billions of dollars of money spent.
Let us take another example. Let us take back the other word, “tolerance”. Tolerance exists in a place and in a system called the free market, which ruthlessly punishes the bigoted employer. No system more ruthlessly punishes bigotry in an employer than one that makes that employer pay a price for turning down the best employee because of irrelevant characteristics such as race, gender and sexual orientation. The free market ensures that there is always a built-in incentive, an imperfect one, but an incentive nonetheless, to promote and hire based on merit and to treat every customer in the best possible way.
Yes, we need strong civil rights protections in law, but at the same time we also need to recognize that the greatest protector of all of our services is when we have entrepreneurial free enterprise competition that requires entrepreneurs to reach out and serve both workers and customers.
Here is the ultimate difference between the two systems. We can have a free market where businesses get ahead by having the best product, not a government economy where they get ahead by having the best lobbyists. We can have a market where entrepreneurs make money by pleasing customers, not a government economic system where they get by on pleasing politicians or government officials. We can have a market where the underdog gets the same chance as the fat cat and the challenger the same opportunity as the incumbent. We can all advance based on meritocracy, not aristocracy.
I would conclude today that if the Prime Minister had not decided that government had to be at the centre of every economic decision, maybe SNC-Lavalin and others like it would not think the way to get ahead is by relentlessly lobbying for special breaks and deals.
We on this side of the House of Commons will replace this centralized, government-controlled system of crony capitalism and corporatism with a new free market agenda that will allow everyone to get ahead on their own merit, a system where everybody can get ahead and move forward, a system that puts people before government.
I move:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:
“the House reject the budget since it is an attempt to bury the SNC-Lavalin scandal under tens of billions of dollars of brand new spending, for which Canadians will pay through higher taxes if the government is re-elected.”
View Peter Kent Profile
View Peter Kent Profile
2019-01-29 11:53 [p.24948]
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to support the motion before the House. I will be sharing my time with the member for St. Albert—Edmonton.
Members may recall that in the last election campaign in 2015, the then leader of the third party promised modest deficits, if elected, leading to a balanced budget by the end of that Liberal term. He said that the promised balanced budget in 2019 was “very” cast in stone. It is not very grammatical, but that is what he said.
The Conservatives warned the brash new leader that in times of modest growth, responsible governments did not run the country into deficits. I am sure members will recall that in 2015 Canada was in modest growth mode. After guiding the country through the 2008-09 recession, Canada was hailed by economists around the world for being the last country to go into recession and the first to emerge, and emerge strongly.
After guiding the country through the 2008-09 recession, our Conservative government raised infrastructure spending by three times and we did it while balancing budgets and lowering taxes on Canadians. In short, our previous government's building Canada plan was the largest long-term infrastructure plan in Canadian history that was itself structured to keep the country out of a structural deficit.
We know that Canadians, for a variety of reasons, made a fateful choice at the ballot box. Almost immediately, buyer's remorse began setting in as the new Liberal government began breaking promises. It broke promises across the policy spectrum. There is not time to list all of those broken promises again today, but the biggest, the most damaging broken promise was the “very cast in stone” promise to run three modest deficits of $10 billion a year, returning to balance in the final year of the mandate, this year, 2019.
Instead, and despite a $20 billion windfall of a booming world economy, the Liberal government blew it all, and has run huge budget deficits, leading to today when the Parliamentary Budget Office tells us that the deficit is more than $21 billion this year alone. According to Finance Canada, the budget will not be balanced until at least 2040. By then, Canada will be looking at an additional $271 billion in debt.
It is abundantly clear that as the Liberal government and the misguided Liberal Prime Minister runs now chronic deficits, he is borrowing money not only from our children but from our grandchildren, in fact, from our great grandchildren. Today's deficits are tomorrow's taxes. As much as taxes have been raised by the Liberal government and continue to be raised based on its past, current and future spending plans, the worst is yet to come.
As the leader of the official opposition, the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, warned Canadians on the weekend, if the Prime Minister is re-elected, our taxes will go up. Taxes will go up in many areas and for a variety of reasons. My colleagues have spoken, and will speak, about the results of misguided policy mistakes and ineffective spending. However, I would like to discuss another example of irresponsible deficit spending with regard to the almost $650 million committed to the ill-considered commitment to bail out the Canadian news industry, widely seen as a cynical election year attempt to co-opt, to buy-off, media owners and publishers.
Members will recall that $50 million was allotted in the 2018 budget and another $595 million promised in the 2018 fall economic statement. There is a stark disagreement between the owners and shareholders and those who actually generate news content on the worthiness and acceptability of the bailout, and I will address that in a moment.
I grew up and was blessed to develop a career in the golden age of 20th century conventional media after arriving in Canada from England near the end of the Second World War. I was born in a Canadian army hospital in Sussex to Albertans serving in the army and army medical core. My father went to work for the Southam newspaper chain in Canada: the Ottawa Citizen, the Medicine Hat News, the Calgary Herald and so forth.
I enjoyed many happy days with my dad at the various papers, captivated by the smell of hot lead, clanking Linotype machines and the wonderful roar of the presses. That led me to a wonderful career in journalism, more than four decades in radio, television and newspapers, working for CTV, Global, CBC, NBC and Monitor Television. I was honoured to host CBC's The National for a couple of years in the mid-70s, before being assigned, or actually exiled, abroad for successfully challenging Trudeau government interference in CBC editorial decision-making during the time of the Parti Québécois government in Quebec.
I participated in the ultimately ill-fated attempt to converge the Global Television Network with the former Southam newspapers to adapt to the rapidly changing media changes at the turn of the century.
I saw far too many colleagues deal with the harsh downsizing of newsrooms, as fragmented advertising budgets and audiences took a destructive toll on the gathering and generation of Canadian news content: local, national and international.
Back now to the stark disagreement over the almost three-quarter-billion dollar news industry bailout I mentioned earlier between boardroom and newsroom. News organization CEOs and publishers, who draw multi-million dollar salaries and equally outsized bonuses as their newsrooms are depleted, are delighted. Then Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey enthusiastically welcomed the finance minister's fall economic statement announcement. Mr. Godfrey recommended that “Everyone in journalism should be doing a victory lap around their building right now.”
However, I agree passionately with a host of Canada's most respected journalists who immediately rejected the Liberals' bailout as an unacceptable intervention that will compromise the independence of their craft. I share their opposition to the Liberal proposal of a panel of news experts who would distribute the election-year beneficence by deciding which newsrooms are credible and worthy and which newsrooms are not.
The Canadian news industry is not disappearing. It is being transformed from conventional print and broadcast forms to digital platforms. To my mind, struggling conventional organizations will survive only with public policy adjustments that will reset and level the playing field for private sector newsrooms.
The finance minister cannot justify the Liberals' $600-million-plus election year bailout, because he has absolutely no idea what will happen after his subsidized transition period. That is unacceptable. Intervention should have a goal beyond short-term survival and dependence.
I will save discussion of the public policy remedies the government should be considering for another day. I offer the misguided attempt to bail out the Canadian news industry as just another example of the out-of-control deficit spending by the Liberals.
I will conclude by returning to the ask of today's worthy motion:
That....the House call on the Prime Minister to table a plan in Budget 2019 to eliminate the deficit quickly with a written commitment that he will never raise taxes of any kind.
View Peter Kent Profile
View Peter Kent Profile
2018-11-28 14:39 [p.24091]
Mr. Speaker, it has been a week since the Liberals announced their undefined, mis-targeted, temporary patch of a $600-million plus election year bailout for Canada's struggling new industry. Owners and publishers who get million dollar cheques and bonuses and partisan big union bosses, not surprisingly, praise the bailout, but dozens of this country's most respected journalists have denounced it because it casts a dark shadow over the independence of their craft.
Does the Prime Minister now understand how unacceptable this bailout is an election year?
View Justin Trudeau Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Justin Trudeau Profile
2018-11-28 14:40 [p.24092]
Mr. Speaker, a free and independent press is the cornerstone of any democracy. We understand that. We also understand that the transformation of the news industry and the digital challenges it is facing require new models to support strong, independent journalism. That is why our government is choosing to step up to defend the independence and the strength and the capacity of journalists to do their job in this country.
We know that attacking journalists, as the members opposite like to do, is not the way to strengthen our democracy. We will support the capacity of journalists to do their job independently.
View Peter Kent Profile
View Peter Kent Profile
2018-11-28 14:41 [p.24092]
Mr. Speaker, it is clear from that answer that the Prime Minister does not understand the economic and technological realities that have created this crisis for our free and independent Canadian news industry. This bailout is not a long-term remedy. It is a temporary patch that ignores, for example, suggestions from the Public Policy Forum, like ending tax writeoffs for advertisers on foreign digital platforms or resizing the mandate of Canada's semi-private public broadcaster.
Why will the Prime Minister not listen to Canada's independent journalists?
View Justin Trudeau Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Justin Trudeau Profile
2018-11-28 14:41 [p.24092]
Mr. Speaker, the conspiracy theory being peddled by Conservatives is insulting to the intelligence of Canadians and to the professionalism of journalists. The Conservatives think Canadian journalists can be bought. We do not. We know that their work is essential to our democracy. France, Sweden, German, the U.K. and many others took action to support journalism without compromising its independence.
Newspapers are going through a crisis. That is why we are taking action right now to help them get through this crisis and continue to stay strong and defend our democracy the way they always do.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
2018-11-23 11:20 [p.23776]
Mr. Speaker, the fall economic update is designed exclusively to work for the Liberal Party. While the deficit is running out of control, they managed to find $600 million in order to buy themselves endless praise in the Canadian media. They believe that the job of the media is to praise the Liberal Party and help them with their re-election in an election year.
If the goal is really an independent media, why are the Liberals trying to make the media dependent on their government?
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
2018-11-23 11:21 [p.23777]
Mr. Speaker, this is really insulting, not to me, not to the government, but to the professional journalists. In our society, professional journalists play a key role. It is one of the pillars of our democracy. After attacking professional journalism, which other pillar of our democracy are the Conservatives going to attack?
View Brigitte Sansoucy Profile
View Brigitte Sansoucy Profile
2018-02-12 14:50 [p.17052]
Mr. Speaker, an analysis by The Globe and Mail identified a very troubling trend under the Liberals when it comes to awarding infrastructure grants. We saw the same trend under the Conservatives. The grants are being awarded to Liberal ridings and Liberal ministers. Rural ridings are once again getting the short end of the stick, and no, public transit does not explain everything.
Will this government assure us that its phase 2 selection grid will be based on need and not on the political affiliation of the riding?
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