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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 Pierre Poilievre Profile
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
2019-04-01 13:22 [p.26505]
Madam Speaker, the member across the way mentioned that the islanders, the people who live close to Kingston who live on the islands, are angry when they are not mentioned. For that I apologize. I will herein ever after refer to his riding as Kingston and the Islands, if only he will do one thing, which is promise to end the carbon tax on those islanders who have to fill up their boats with gasoline to transit themselves where they are going. If I would say the full riding name and he would put an end to the carbon tax, the people right across his riding would be happy as clams. I invite him to do that in the spirit of compromise. We reach across the aisle.
In all seriousness, if the member wants to bring an end to my speech, he can do so. There is one thing I am asking to stop this speech: that the Liberal government agree to bring all the participants in the SNC-Lavalin cover-up scandal before a parliamentary inquiry. We can do it at the justice committee or at the ethics committee. We have to do it, because Canadians are demanding that we get to the bottom of this scandal.
I have digressed from the previous argument I was making that if the current Liberal government is re-elected, Canadians will pay massive tax increases. I was finishing up talking about how the government refuses to reveal the true cost of a $50-a-tonne carbon tax. What I was about to progress to from there is that $50 is just the beginning. The government has admitted that in the year 2023, which will happen after the next election, it plans to increase the severity of the carbon tax, which will kick in during the mandate of the next government. However, the current Prime Minister expects Canadians to vote for him in October without knowing how high he will raise the tax. Even if people believe that a $50-a-tonne carbon tax will only translate into a $600 bill for the average Ontario family, and I do not believe that, they have to be suspicious about how much he will increase the tax rate after the next election.
Documents produced for the finance minister suggest that the tax will have to increase in severity at that time. Other documents produced by officials for the environment minister suggest that the tax will rise to as much as $100 a tonne in the short run and $300 a tonne in the long run. That latter price would be 15 times higher than the tax is today. According to the government's own numbers, a $300-a-tonne carbon tax would translate to a cost of $5,000 for a family of two people in Saskatchewan or $3,000 for a family of two people in Ontario.
If people inherit a big family fortune like the Prime Minister has, a trust fund, and have been able to shelter their money from taxes, as he did for so many years while his trust fund was able to grow and multiply without counting against his own income, they might not worry about a $5,000 carbon tax in Saskatchewan or a $3,000 carbon tax in Ontario. However, for everyday Canadians who struggle just to get by, for single mothers, for seniors on fixed incomes, for the small business owner of a pizza shop in Findlay Creek, in my riding, I can say that $3,000 is one heck of a lot of money. The people I am speaking to, as I knock on thousands of doors in my riding of Carleton, tell me that they are just getting by. They are not getting ahead. Yes, they are getting by. They are barely paying their mortgages. They are barely paying their property taxes. They are filing their income tax, regrettably. They are just getting by. They cannot afford a $3,000-a-year carbon tax.
I have to give the Prime Minister some kudos for his Machiavellian scheme, because he, under the guidance of Gerald Butts, came up with a scheme to get the Liberals through the election. It is quite audacious to go into an election right after bringing in a massive new tax on people's energy use.
How are the Liberals going to do it? They are going to give people a few bucks in rebate cheques before the election and then hit them with thousands of dollars in higher taxes after the election. It is very clever. People will think that even though gas and home heating costs are going up by 10% and groceries are getting more expensive, the little cheque they will get for $100, which will arrive just a few months before the election, will get them through until October.
Then, after the election is over, there will be a surprise: The carbon tax will be a lot more expensive than they thought it was. However, it will be too late to do anything about it. It is like buying a product in a store and only finding out the price charged to the credit card after the purchase has been made, and then finding out that there is no return policy and that the purchaser is stuck paying for it for four years.
That is the Prime Minister's scam. It is the carbon tax cover-up. The government gives people some assurance before the election and then raises their taxes after the election, when the Prime Minister no longer needs voters but still needs their money.
This tax increase will cost people a fortune, and the Prime Minister knows something about fortunes, as he inherited one. He inherited a multi-million-dollar fortune from his grandfather, who ironically made his money with an empire of gas stations, the same gas stations where the Prime Minister's tax is taking effect today.
The Prime Minister's grandfather was an example of a great Canadian. He was an entrepreneur. He started, as I understand, from reasonably modest means, but built something great. He passed that fortune down to Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who, as a result of his father's effort, did not have to work a day in his life, and it has passed on to this Prime Minister, who has enjoyed a similar privilege.
The Prime Minister kept that fortune in a trust fund, called a testamentary trust fund, which had a special tax treatment that allowed him to avoid paying the same tax rates on his income that other Canadians would have to pay. He kept it in that trust fund until 2014, when he rose in the House of Commons and voted against a bill by the former Harper government that got rid of the trust fund loophole. Ironically, the Harper government was getting rid of this trust fund loophole, and the Prime Minister, then an opposition MP, stood up and voted based on his personal interest to keep that loophole in place. Why should we be surprised, as he had benefited from it for so long?
I say this because I think it gives us a window into his state of mind. He believes that there is no such thing as scarcity, that we can just get money from someone else and make others pay for our mistakes. People who come from a working-class background grow up with parents who tell them that they can either ski or skate, but they cannot do both, or the family can either go to a cottage or to Disneyland, but definitely cannot do both. That is the basic scarcity that most middle-class kids grow up with.
As a result, when they get a job and have to pay off their student debt, they know there is scarcity. They therefore make responsible decisions in their early 20s to pay down debt so that they can get a mortgage and buy a house. People who have grown up with those kinds of preoccupations have a different outlook from the Prime Minister's, since he has never had to worry about money. He has never had to worry about his own money, so he does not worry about anyone else's either, and that has informed the fiscal policy that he brings to the floor of the House of Commons.
However, in the real world where people have to work for a living and have to live within their means, they understand some basic things. They know they cannot borrow their way out of debt, they cannot tax their way to prosperity and they cannot just make others pay for their mistakes. They understand those basic rules of life that have allowed them and all of us to build an unprecedented level of prosperity in this country and countries like ours. It is the free market system. It is the basic idea that through the voluntary exchange of work for wages, product for payment and interest for investment, people trade what they have for what they want, and because there is a willing and voluntary partner on the other end of the transaction, everyone is always better off when they do. If I have an apple and want an orange and another person has an orange and wants an apple and we trade, we each have something more valuable to us than we had before, even though between us, we still just have an apple and an orange. That is the genius of the voluntary system of free exchange and free enterprise.
The Prime Minister does not believe in free enterprise. He believes in crony corporatism. He believes economic resources should be moved around by government, that economic decisions should be political rather than voluntary, that we should move money by mandatory taxation rather than by voluntary exchange.
We see that in the crony corporatism that he has played out as Prime Minister. He gave a $400-million interest-free loan to his friends at Bombardier. What effect did that have? The company, since getting that money from Canadian taxpayers, has moved the jobs to South Carolina and the intellectual property to Europe. In other words, South Carolina got the jobs, Europe got the intellectual property and Canadian taxpayers got the bill.
What would have motivated the Prime Minister to do something like that? It turns out that the billionaire Bombardier-Beaudoin family owns 53% of the company's shares. Normally when a company like that is short of cash, it sells more shares, but that would dilute the interest of the billionaire family and cause it to become a minority shareholder. In that case, this billionaire family would lose control of the company, so instead of issuing more shares, it asked the government for a handout and had a willing partner in the Prime Minister, who was happy as a clam to provide it. Instead of using the free market system, in which resources are allocated based on the voluntary decisions of investors, consumers and workers, he used the government system, coercing $400 million out of the pockets of taxpayers and giving it to a favoured few.
The difference between these two approaches to economics is this: In the free market, one gets ahead by having the best product; in crony corporatism, one gets ahead by having the best lobbyist. In the free market, business has to obsess about pleasing customers; in the government-run economic system, business gets ahead by pleasing politicians.
I do not know about anyone else, but I think we would all be better off if businesses saw their interests as being intrinsically linked to pleasing customers rather than appeasing politicians.
We hear a lot of talk about inequality from our friends across the way. It is one of their favourite excuses for growing the size and cost of government. Of course, they claim government is this wonderful Robin Hood. It is just so strange, though, that their Robin Hood always steals from the poor and gives to the rich.
They have created something called the Infrastructure Bank. The Infrastructure Bank is designed to give low-interest loan guarantees and investments directly to companies like SNC-Lavalin to protect them against their own bad investments, and here is how it works.
Right now, if a large construction company builds a bridge and that bridge goes way over budget, the company has to pay for the loss. It is called a fixed-price contract. Thank God for that, because when these incompetent CEOs mess up a big construction project, I believe they are the ones who should pay for it, not taxpayers.
However, the Infrastructure Bank would give that company a loan guarantee, so that if it messes it up, the taxpayer will come to the rescue and pay for all of its mistakes. In other words, we have another example of these large construction companies and the private equity and investment bankers that back them up being protected against their own incompetence by the taxpayer.
Here again it is the same working-class person who is already paying taxes to pay the interest on our national debt—money that will go to wealthy bondholders—who will now have to pay for the incompetence of executives and shareholders in construction companies that mess up, go over budget, or fail to deliver their projects on time and on budget. That is yet another example of big government coming to the rescue of the rich at the expense of everyone else.
By the way, did I mention that the Infrastructure Bank has only one project so far, and can we guess what company is involved in that project? We have a winner over there. Yes, SNC-Lavalin was one of the companies involved in the only project that the Infrastructure Bank has now approved. I guess we can call it the SNC-Lavalin bank, a big multi-billion-dollar pile of cash to protect wealthy corporate interests that have access to government levers.
Again in this example, the free market has a solution. The free market is absolutely ruthless with incompetent CEOs. It punishes them brutally, because if they do not deliver a product or service on time and on budget to the satisfaction of the customer, they get fired. Then the shareholders vote out that executive and put in someone who can do the job properly.
However, in a system in which governments are always coming to the rescue, incompetent CEOs and executives get to stay around and suck off the system and bleed everyone else dry. That is exactly the system of crony capitalism that the Prime Minister is creating, and it is playing itself out in the corporate corruption charges against SNC-Lavalin that we are discussing today. The Liberals never learn.
It is ironic how they were caught. It points to the circular nature of history. I will tell the story.
It is the story of the sponsorship scandal. The Liberal Party was engaged in what a judge called an “elaborate kickback scheme” to flow millions of dollars through a program that was supposedly designed to help fight separatism. Money went to Liberal-linked ad agencies, which then flowed the money back to the Liberal Party.
It was funny, because a lot of the ad agencies were charged by the RCMP for fraud, but who was never charged? It was the Liberal Party itself, even though the party came forward and admitted that it had stolen at least $1 million.
I guess one could say it was to their credit that they agreed to pay that money back after they were caught, but strangely, even after that admission, no one charged them. We began wondering back in 2005 why they were not charged, since stealing $1 million is a crime, and we came to a conclusion: It was because the Attorney General, a Liberal politician, was in charge of prosecutions and in charge of laying formal allegations under breaches of federal law. Naturally, when a Liberal politician is deciding if the Liberal Party is going to be charged, we run the risk that even when those charges are merited, they will not even happen.
Along came Stephen Harper with the Federal Accountability Act. He took the position of prosecutor out of the office of the Attorney General and made it a stand-alone entity. Madame Roussel is our top prosecutor, and she has the ability to prosecute any federal crime. She does not have to ask a politician for permission when she does so. Here is where the problem started for the Prime Minister.
He was expecting to use his massive powers to reach into the bureaucracy and order that SNC-Lavalin get a special deal for its $130 million of fraud and bribery charges. All of a sudden, he realized he could not do that, that we do not live in a banana republic, that the Prime Minister cannot simply order a prosecutor to call off a trial, so he called his attorney general and told her to do it. He told her to tell the prosecutor to lay off SNC-Lavalin. She said that under the accountability act of Stephen Harper, if she were to do such an outrageous thing, it would have to be put in writing.
That written document would then be published. Any political direction that goes to the top prosecutor in the land must be written down and put before the eyes of every single Canadian, so people can judge for themselves. Because of that change, which I helped pass through the House of Commons in 2006 as the parliamentary secretary to the then Treasury Board minister, this former attorney general was able to prevent this hideous interference in our criminal justice system.
Is it not funny that what tripped up this Liberal scandal was actually the last Liberal scandal? However, the Liberal Party never learns. The Liberals always go back to their own ways. “And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire”, as the old poem says. Of course, here we are again: Liberals burned by scandal and expecting everyone to cry crocodile tears for them. The reality is, for those people who have been caught up in all of the melodrama of this Liberal soap opera, that it is tempting to think it is all triviality, that it is an interpersonal spat between a bunch of Liberal politicians; they are catching lots of media headlines, but really it is not all that important, so let us just ignore it and get back to the $20 billion deficit or the carbon tax or something like that.
As tempting as it is to dismiss it all as a bunch of interpersonal wheeling and dealing and a soap opera, let us remember this. There is nothing unique about the water in this country, other than that we have a lot of it. There is nothing intrinsic about us as a Canadian people that distinguishes us from the other peoples of the world. I love Canadians more than any other people, but we are all one species; we are all the same. However, what makes Canada enjoy a superior standard of living is not that we have something special or magical in our water or in our people; it is that we have freedom under the law. This is a law that has applied to every single human being with a beating heart and breathing lungs ever since the Magna Carta in 1215, when King John was forced to submit himself to his subjects and sign into existence the great charter, Magna Carta. He subjected himself, as a king, to following the law.
In that 800 years that has followed, in which the commoners met first in grain fields, hence the green carpet, we here have passed the law, and an independent and separate judiciary has administered that law. It has been a tradition that the Crown and all of the people of the court are subject to the law just like everyone else. That is why, it might be the greatest and most powerful corporation that ever existed, or one might be the wealthiest man on earth, but in the court of law the mighty are made low and everybody is equal. Whether one is a homeless person charged with stealing a loaf of bread, or a wealthy CEO charged with over $100 million of fraud and bribery, as is the case with SNC-Lavalin, everyone must face the law. As soon as we accept that it is normal for a prime minister to pick people who are not subjected to the rules, as soon as we say that there are two laws, one for the people and one for the powerful, then we will be in a new and ugly era where we will replace the rule of law with the law of rulers.
That is not the foundation of our country, and that is not the way we should ever exist in this country. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister has taken us on a very slippery slope with this unprecedented degree of personal and political interference in a criminal probe of SNC-Lavalin.
I have already gone through a very extensive list of offences that members of this company have already plead guilty to and that the company itself now faces in court. That brings us to the present, where the government is trying to distract from the scandal before it by spraying $41 billion of new spending all across the land in the hopes that Canadians will ignore or miss the scandal that is before them today.
A member across the way screamed out, “What about the budget?”, wanting to know why we cannot move on to talking about all of the deficits and the tax increases instead of about the scandal. The answer is that if he wants to talk about something else, there is a very easy way that we can do that: Tell the truth; just let all of the facts come out.
If the Prime Minister had done that at the outset instead of trying to cover it up, instead of stating repeated falsehoods about the affair, if he had stepped up to the plate and revealed everything he had done to interfere with the former attorney general's role and to block the criminal trial for this Liberal-linked corporation, it would have been politically damaging, but at least we would have been able to move forward.
However, as is so often the case, the cover-up is just as bad as or perhaps worse than the crime itself. Hence, here we are today, having to pull facts out of the Prime Minister, one by one, like a rotten tooth. I have a solution, and that is to bring all of the players who are alleged to have interfered with the former attorney general before the justice committee or the ethics committee and have each and every one of them testify under oath about what they did and what they know.
When that happens, we as Canadians will be able to judge what happened and whether the Prime Minister is culpable for making it happen. If he has absolutely nothing to hide, surely he would say yes to this request. At the very least, if he cares at all about the well-being of members on the other side, he would succeed in making me stop this speech, which I know members on the other side are not enjoying at all.
I am told that on this side there is a different opinion. It would probably give the Prime Minister great pleasure to disappoint this group over here by bringing an end to my speech and agreeing to end the cover-up. If he were to simply allow all of the witnesses to come forward, then that would put an end to all of this right now. I await a member of the government rising to his or her feet on a point of order to interrupt my speech and say that they will relent, that they will end the cover-up, that they will open the committees for a full-scale investigation. In that spirit, we could go forward and find out what really occurred.
If I could reiterate, here are some of the things we would like to know. First, the Prime Minister claimed that the former attorney general never warned him that his interference in the SNC-Lavalin scandal was inappropriate. He claimed that he did not know she was so upset; he did not find out about it until after the story broke in The Globe and Mail.
However, we have documented evidence going back to September showing that the former attorney general told the Prime Minister personally, as well as his senior staff, again and again, from September to December, that she was uncomfortable with their inappropriate interference in her role as Attorney General with respect to the SNC-Lavalin criminal trial.
We want to know why the Prime Minister looked 37 million Canadians in the eyes and told them that he knew nothing about the former attorney general's complaints and that it was all news to him. He said that if anyone, including the former attorney general, had issues with anything they might have experienced in this government or did not feel that the government was living up to the high standards it had set for itself, it was their responsibility to come forward, and no one did.
We now know that statement, which was delivered at a press conference on February 15, was patently false. Why will the Prime Minister not come before a parliamentary committee, put his hand on the good book and testify to explain why he would have made a comment like that to 37 million Canadians when he knew it was not true?
Next, we want to know about the inconsistencies in this scandal. The Prime Minister has offered varying and confusing explanations about why the former attorney general was moved out of her position to Veterans Affairs. First of all, it was Scott Brison's fault. Does everyone remember that old line? Scott Brison left as Treasury Board president and so the government had to get rid of its Attorney General. It is a whole intricate story of musical chairs that resulted from this one man leaving, even though she was not the one who replaced him in his job.
Then, last week, we heard a funny new story that the reason the Prime Minister moved the former attorney general was because she wanted to appoint a respected judge to the head of the Supreme Court who was just not Liberal enough. If he had been more Liberal, then the Prime Minister would have been more happy with his Attorney General and would have kept her in that position. That is the latest explanation on why she was moved out as Attorney General.
On and on this story goes. We all know what happened was that after a period of relentless lobbying, the former attorney general refused to grant a special deal to SNC-Lavalin. On December 19, she told the top public servant in the Prime Minister's government that she was waiting for “the other shoe to drop.” She compared it to the Saturday night massacre when Richard Nixon fired his whole staff to try to cover up Watergate.
The former attorney general said that she was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Of course, a month later it did drop. She was moved out as Attorney General after this collision she had with the Prime Minister over his intention to give a special deal to SNC-Lavalin with respect to the criminal charges it faced for fraud and bribery. We want to know the real reason that the Prime Minister moved his Attorney General. Is the Scott Brison story still the current one, or are we now moving on to the story about her picking judges who are not Liberal enough?
The former attorney general has a very simple story, and she has stuck to her story. That story is that she was moved out because she refused to grant a special deal to this company. We want to know the truth in that matter. We want to know about why it was that the chief of staff to the finance minister repeatedly hounded and used threatening language in writing, through text messages we have now seen, to senior staff in the former attorney general's office.
We also want to know about this story regarding jobs. The government initially claimed that the reason the Prime Minister was so eager to prevent criminal charges was that SNC-Lavalin would leave Canada if the charges went ahead.
We now know that is not true. The company has a $1.5-billion loan agreement with the Quebec pension plan requiring that it keep its headquarters in Montreal where, incidentally, it just signed a 20-year lease on its building and is making major renovations to accommodate its roughly 2,000 Montreal employees. We also know that the company has 52 billion dollars' worth of contracts, the five biggest construction projects in the country. Construction projects cannot leave the country because the construction has to be done at the construction site. In other words, it is not possible for SNC-Lavalin to get up and ship out tomorrow if it faces charges, and the CEO of the company has confirmed that he made no such threat.
Finally, the government kept claiming that if the charges went ahead the company would lose access to federal contracts, costing the company billions of dollars and many jobs. We also know that is not true because the government, in December 2015, gave an exemption to SNC-Lavalin, allowing it to continue to bid on federal work even though it had previously been banned because of charges of corruption and bribery. In other words, the government has the ability to extend an exemption to SNC-Lavalin again if the company is convicted of corporate corruption.
Therefore, if it is not about protecting jobs or federal contracts, who exactly is the government protecting with its relentless and endless attempts to get this company out of a trial? It is extraordinary. There are thousands of trials and thousands of charges laid in this country every year, and politicians never get involved in them. It is just not done. If someone comes into one of our offices and says that they have been charged with bank robbery or some other offence and asks for our help, we politely show them the door.
However, this company, accused of stealing $130 million from the world's poorest people, knocks on the door of the Prime Minister's Office and asks if the government can help it get off of these charges and the Prime Minister agrees, not once, not twice but 20 times, to badger and hound his Attorney General to get the company off of the charges.
Now that we know that this was not about protecting jobs, we need to know who the powerful players are who are being protected by the Prime Minister's attempt to block this trial—
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 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?
View Amarjeet Sohi Profile
Lib. (AB)
View Amarjeet Sohi Profile
2018-02-12 14:51 [p.17052]
Mr. Speaker, I reject the premise of the question. We put forward a very ambitious infrastructure plan in partnership with the provinces, municipalities, and territories. Provinces, municipalities, and territories are responsible for the selection of projects. We work with them to go through rigorous criteria to approve them.
As far as rural communities are concerned, we are the only government that put forward $2 billion of dedicated funding for rural communities to meet their needs and build the infrastructure they needed.
View François Choquette Profile
View François Choquette Profile
2018-02-02 10:35 [p.16685]
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House in 2018. This year, I will be as optimistic as ever, and I will keep working tirelessly for the people of greater Drummond. Today we are talking about Bill C-50, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act with respect to political financing, which is at report stage.
If this bill becomes law, all political parties will be required to report to Elections Canada the names and addresses of individuals attending a fundraising event within 30 days of the event taking place. The information will be available to the public. This concerns mainly members of cabinet, including the Prime Minister, party leaders, and leadership candidates.
This amendment was introduced in response to all the scandals involving the current Liberal Prime Minister. The people of greater Drummond have talked to me about all the meetings the Prime Minister has held behind the closed doors of wealthy people's homes at which guests paid $1,500 for privileged access to him or almost $1,000 to meet ministers. This creates the appearance of conflict of interest and is known as cash for access.
The current government was thrown into turmoil by the scandal, so it decided to introduce this bill. However, the bill will not make political fundraising by cabinet ministers and party leaders significantly more transparent to the public. Unfortunately, it will not fix the problem of cash for access, so these fundraisers will continue to be held.
This bill comes just one year after the Liberal Prime Minister announced he was breaking his promise to ensure that the 2015 election would be the last one held under the first past the post system. Many voters in Drummond had believed that promise. This reform had been backed by three major political parties, including the NDP, and more than 60% of voters voted for those parties. I myself held consultations in Drummond, and the many residents who attended said they believed this change would be made. Sadly, yesterday was the one-year anniversary of the day this promise was broken, despite 90% of experts and 80% of Canadians unanimously supporting a proportional voting system.
The reform before us today does nothing to fix this problem. On the contrary, the Liberals have swept that reform under the rug, and Canadians have become even more cynical about politics, because this promise had been repeated ad nauseam by politicians. Even the Prime Minister, hand on his heart, had promised this change on multiple occasions. Unbelievably, he backed down from that promise.
What Bill C-50 wants to do is put an end to cash for access, but it does not manage to do that.
Bill C-50 seeks to put an end to cash for access, but unfortunately, it does not. Clearly, there is a lot money floating around the Liberal government right now. To give just one example, the people interested in projects funded through the Infrastructure Bank are millionaires. They want a private infrastructure bank in order to make a profit on the backs of Canadian taxpayers, including the people of Drummond. Frustrations are growing because people do not want increased user fees, the privatization of our assets, and a loss of control.
Greater Drummond has a number of infrastructure projects, and the Liberal government promised to invest in infrastructure. To date, the riding of Drummond has not received a single investment in that area. As a result, several projects have not been able to get off the ground, specifically because of a lack of federal support.
Drummondville has plans for a multi-sport centre that would include a soccer field, an indoor football field, and a running track. We really need this indoor soccer field. We asked the federal government for help. The project could cost up to $15 million. We have yet to receive a response from the government regarding funding for the project.
That is unacceptable, given that this government promised to invest in infrastructure. So far, there has been no such investment in the riding of Drummond.
We have another major project, the Promenade des Voltigeurs. This infrastructure project includes plans for a bike path that would also be an ideal walking path winding along the Saint-François River. The price tag for the project is $6.2 million. We have applied to the federal government for assistance, but have not heard back yet.
When will the federal government invest in infrastructure in Drummond? We are looking to receive investments soon.
Hockey is a big deal in Drummond. Our team, the Voltigeurs, is having a good season. Things are going well for the team this year. We would like to modernize our main arena, the Marcel-Dionne Centre. That project will cost $26 million. What is the federal government promising for that investment? Once again, nothing, unfortunately.
The Liberal government is not living up to its promise to invest in infrastructure. More than two years after it was elected, it has invested nothing.
I could go on. There is the high-frequency rail project in the riding of Drummond. The train would travel from Quebec City to Windsor, passing through Drummondville and Montreal along the way. This is a major project that would enable the greater Drummond area to grow both socially and economically. My riding is a real transportation hub. It is a wonderful area for transportation because it is so well located. Unfortunately, we are still waiting for answers from the federal government on this project, which has been in the works for a long time. The Liberals took office two years ago and they are still doing studies. It is time for them to announce investments. It is time for them to invest in public transit and this wonderful major project. The Liberals have still not made any announcements in this regard.
All of these examples show that this government was elected because it made certain promises. The Liberals made a big promise, and the people of Drummond and other Canadians believed them. They believed the Liberals when they said that the 2015 election would be the last first past the post election. The Prime Minister broke that promise.
What did the Prime Minister do? He set up a system of cash for access, which has caused numerous scandals. He held meetings at private residences and charged $1,500 a plate. That is why this government, in the wake of those scandals, introduced a bill, which, when it comes right down to it, will not even solve that basic problem.
I am calling on the Liberal government to go back to the drawing board and redo its homework because this bill does not resolve the problem of cash for access fundraisers.
View Dianne L. Watts Profile
View Dianne L. Watts Profile
2017-06-05 14:50 [p.12003]
Mr. Speaker, “Are you negotiating with the bank or with cabinet?” It was the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan board that said that to the Senate banking committee on May 18.
How can Canadians have any confidence or trust in the government when even the investors who the Liberals claim will benefit from this bank are questioning its integrity?
View Amarjeet Sohi Profile
Lib. (AB)
View Amarjeet Sohi Profile
2017-06-05 14:50 [p.12003]
Mr. Speaker, I am puzzled by the hon. member's question. On the one hand she accuses us of being too close with the private sector, with banks, and on the other hand she is telling us that government will have too much power in decision-making.
We have created the right balance. We will allow the bank to be an arm's-length organization and make decisions on its own, but it will still be accountable to Parliament. We want to make sure that we undertake projects that are in the public interest, that help grow the economy and create opportunities for the middle class, and also help—
View Dianne L. Watts Profile
View Dianne L. Watts Profile
2017-06-05 21:06 [p.12052]
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-44, budget implementation act, 2017, No. 1.
We have heard from many members in this House about the numerous issues with the bill. When we have a bill that is over 300 pages long and amends 30 pieces of legislation, we really need to have a substantial amount of debate on these issues.
Unfortunately, the Liberals have been intent on ramming through this legislation without proper consultation and the discussion it deserves. There have been only four days of debate on Bill C-44 at second reading. There have been only six meetings of the finance committee on this legislation and just under two hours of consideration at the Standing Committee on Transport and Infrastructure. Now here we are at report stage, one of the final stages of the bill that amends 30 pieces of legislation, and the Liberals have moved time allocation again. This is simply not enough time to do our due diligence when it comes to making sure that we are passing the best piece of legislation we can.
I want to speak to one part of Bill C-44 in particular that really highlights the need for discussion and debate, and that is division 18, which creates the infrastructure bank of Canada act.
As the official opposition critic for infrastructure and communities, I have been following the Liberal process of creating their infrastructure bank since November 2015. I have raised concerns about the design of the bank, the need for the bank, the functions of the bank, and who will be benefiting from the bank. While Bill C-44 offers new details about the structure and the financing of the bank, it also introduces a multitude of new questions. I was looking forward to really beginning to drill down into this piece of legislation to make sure that the $35 billion of taxpayers' money spent to finance this bank would be spent in a way that would ensure that Canadians and communities were getting the critical pieces of infrastructure they need.
Unfortunately, the Liberals allowed only two hours of study of this legislation at the Standing Committee on Transport and Infrastructure. I know that when they were questioned by the media as to why there was so little time given to members to study such an important piece of legislation, the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities told the media that the committee could hold more meetings if it chose to and that the minister and the PMO were not involved in telling the committee what to do.
A motion was put forward at the transport committee to add two more meetings on this legislation and to bring in more expert witnesses who could speak to the development of the legislation and its impact on the future of Canadian infrastructure and communities. The Liberal MPs voted that motion down and blocked any further study of this legislation. The committee discussed a $35-billion bank in under two hours. That is 3.42 minutes per billion dollars. We called for this section of Bill C-44 to be separated from the rest of the bill to allow the House more time to debate it, and of course, the Liberals voted that down as well.
The Senate is now considering separating the legislation from the rest of the bill, because it too recognizes that this bank will have a significant impact on Canadians and has serious issues that really do need to be addressed. As Bill C-44 comes before the Senate, I really hope that the upper chamber will do what this House refuses to do, and that is to separate the legislation for the infrastructure bank so we can give it the proper study and discussion it deserves.
I also want to highlight some of the issues surrounding the bank. The Liberal infrastructure bank will use $35 billion of taxpayers' money to underwrite loans and provide loan guarantees to private and foreign investors.
These investors are looking for significant returns. J.P. Morgan put out a list, and depending on the project, it ranges anywhere from a 7% to 20% return on the investment. That means that investment will only occur for large, lucrative projects. Few municipalities in Canada will have their projects built through this bank.
Another troubling aspect of this legislation is that executives from BlackRock, the world's largest investment firm, were invited to be directly involved in the development of the legislation and to preview the minister's speech before the bank was pitched to their clients. That is a blatant conflict of interest.
This legislation gives the Liberals the power to provide loan guarantees to investors. We already have PPP Canada, which has been in operation since 2009. This crown corporation was specifically designed to leverage private sector dollars to build infrastructure. From the initial investment of $1.3 billion, it has leveraged over $6 billion in infrastructure in an open, transparent, ethical, and effective way.
If the Liberals had actually put the $35 billion into PPP Canada and expanded its mandate, PPP Canada could have leveraged $170 billion in infrastructure. In fact, in the KPMG report, which was commissioned by the Liberals, it advised them on setting up the infrastructure bank. It stated that putting the bank under an existing agency, like PPP Canada, would have been cheaper, more efficient, and less bureaucratic than setting up a whole new crown corporation. However, the Liberals ignored that expert advice and decided to set up a new institution that has significant conflict of interest issues surrounding it.
Furthermore, pension plan investors, the very same ones the Liberals claim are supportive of this bank and will benefit from this bank, are also raising concerns. The Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan board told the Senate banking committee last month, on May 18, that their biggest concern with this bank is that they do not know who they should be negotiating with. Are they negotiating with the bank or are they negotiating with cabinet?
The minister and cabinet underwrite the loans, appoint the board of directors, and approve the CEO. They can fire these people without cause, and according to the Minister of Finance, will have the final say over which projects get built and which do not.
We simply need to have more time to debate these issues. Canadians have questions for this Liberal government about this bank and its relevance, about how the legislation was written and by whom, and about who will truly benefit. It is obvious that the Liberals do not want these questions to be answered, because they have rammed this legislation through the House and committee with minimal debate, and today they have just moved time allocation to shut down third reading debate as well.
This legislation has not been passed yet, and the Liberals are already advertising job postings for the CEO and board members. I truly urge my colleagues to stop and think, because we need to be putting Canadians first and making sure that our communities are getting the infrastructure they need, not focusing on making sure that private investors are getting their 20% returns at the expense of Canadian taxpayers.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
View Andrew Scheer Profile
2017-05-30 14:22 [p.11655]
Mr. Speaker, Canadians are very worried that this $35-billion infrastructure bank is just a way for the Prime Minister to line the pockets of his friends. It would not be the first time Liberals have tried this. François Beaudoin says that this scheme is ripe for political interference, and he would know. The Liberals pressured him to dole out special favours to their friends when he ran another government bank, under the Chrétien government.
Will the Prime Minister admit that Canadians are catching on to his scheme and quit putting their tax dollars at risk to benefit Liberal friends?
View Amarjeet Sohi Profile
Lib. (AB)
View Amarjeet Sohi Profile
2017-05-30 14:22 [p.11655]
Mr. Speaker, I can assure the hon. member and this House that the bank will be accountable to Parliament. The bank will table its corporate plan in Parliament as well as the annual reports. It will report to the Auditor General. It will be open to audit by the Auditor General.
We want to make sure that we are creating the right balance to mobilize private capital but still make sure that we are protecting the public interest and building infrastructure that is needed by the Canadian community, infrastructure the previous government failed to build.
View K. Kellie Leitch Profile
View K. Kellie Leitch Profile
2017-05-30 14:29 [p.11657]
Mr. Speaker, the Liberals continue to plow ahead with Gomery 2.0. The Liberal infrastructure bank boondoggle has the potential to be the biggest scandal yet for the Liberal Party, and that is saying something.
Smaller municipalities are scared they will be left behind. The bank has no focus, no clear mandate and, most importantly, as has already been said, is wide open to political interference.
Why is the government so focused on making sure its Liberal elite friends get a giant slush fund as opposed to taking care of Canadians?
View Amarjeet Sohi Profile
Lib. (AB)
View Amarjeet Sohi Profile
2017-05-30 14:30 [p.11657]
Mr. Speaker, it is the first time in the history of our country that we have put forward $2 billion in dedicated funding for rural northern communities so we can focus on building infrastructure that those communities need. This is on top of the other funding available to our communities.
We want to ensure we build the necessary infrastructure for everyone to enjoy the quality of life they deserve, regardless in which city or community they live. Our plan will help build infrastructure from coast to coast to coast for every community of all sizes.
View Alain Rayes Profile
View Alain Rayes Profile
2017-05-30 14:31 [p.11657]
Mr. Speaker, the former president of the BDC fears that there is political interference in the infrastructure bank.
The proposed structure gives the minister and the Prime Minister full authority to select the CEO, as well as full authority to fire him if he does not respect the wishes of this Liberal government; so we take $35 billion from taxpayers, create a new bank to please the Prime Minister, and then give him full authority. We are headed straight for a new sponsorship scandal.
Is there anyone on the other side of this room who understands that?
View Amarjeet Sohi Profile
Lib. (AB)
View Amarjeet Sohi Profile
2017-05-30 14:31 [p.11657]
Mr. Speaker, as I assured members earlier, the bank will be accountable to Parliament in a number of ways. It will be required to submit an annual corporate plan and annual report. Further to that, it will have the highest standard of having its books audited by the Auditor General of Canada, as well as private sector auditors.
We want to build infrastructure. Our focus is to go grow the economy and create jobs. The Conservatives may have something against the private sector; we do not. We believe we can mobilize private capital to build more infrastructure.
View Alexandre Boulerice Profile
Mr. Speaker, we learn something new every day about the infrastructure privatization bank.
We already knew that Canadians would to have to pay user fees, but now we have also learned that the bank will not be free from political interference. Who is saying so? François Beaudoin, the former president of the Business Development Bank of Canada. He would know, since he was the victim of Shawinigate, under the former Liberal prime minister.
On top of fleecing taxpayers, is this bank meant to be a cash cow for friends of the Liberals?
View Amarjeet Sohi Profile
Lib. (AB)
View Amarjeet Sohi Profile
2017-05-29 14:25 [p.11533]
Mr. Speaker, for the last couple of weeks, the member of the opposition and his party have been criticizing us that the bank is too close to private capital. Today, he is saying that it will be too close to government. We have struck the right balance. We believe that the bank will be at arm's length but accountable to Parliament. It will be able to make a decision on its own, ensuring at the same time that the projects it puts forward are in the public interest and are best for Canadians.
View K. Kellie Leitch Profile
View K. Kellie Leitch Profile
2017-05-29 14:31 [p.11534]
Mr. Speaker, the Liberals' latest boondoggle, the $35-billion infrastructure bank, is under attack again, this time by someone who knows the backrooms of the Liberals really well. François Beaudoin, the former head of the BDC, who testified at the Gomery inquiry about Liberal corruption, has said that the bank is easily open to political interference. What a surprise. Considering the track record of the Liberal Party and its elite friends, this is a scandal waiting to happen.
When will the Liberals focus on what we need to do for Canadians instead of their backroom elite friends?
View Amarjeet Sohi Profile
Lib. (AB)
View Amarjeet Sohi Profile
2017-05-29 14:31 [p.11534]
Mr. Speaker, last week was a very good week for Canadian municipalities. We announced 750 projects, more projects in one week than the previous government did in four years combined. That is delivering for Canadians. We put forward a very ambitious agenda to build and rebuild Canadian communities. That is exactly what we are doing.
We are investing billions of dollars in community infrastructure, to grow our economy and enable our municipalities to deliver on the expected—
View K. Kellie Leitch Profile
View K. Kellie Leitch Profile
2017-05-29 14:32 [p.11534]
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Beaudoin testified at the Gomery inquiry that he was pressured to hire a Liberal staffer who wanted to have “dry cleaning” methods for hiding expenses. Now he says that the $35-billion infrastructure bank is wide open to political interference. This is Gomery 2.0.
Why will the Liberals not protect Canadian taxpayers? Why are they not looking out for the money of Canadians as opposed to their friends, the Liberal elites?
View Amarjeet Sohi Profile
Lib. (AB)
View Amarjeet Sohi Profile
2017-05-29 14:32 [p.11534]
Mr. Speaker, I can assure the hon. member and the House that we are structuring the Canada infrastructure bank to function in a way that it will be accountable to Parliament. It will report to Parliament on an annual basis, at the same time making sure it is a crown corporation, arm's length from the day-to-day intervention of the government, making decisions that are in the best interest of Canadians, and building infrastructure that Canadian communities need, the infrastructure that has been denied by the previous government's underinvestment for a decade.
View Robert Aubin Profile
View Robert Aubin Profile
2017-05-11 16:00 [p.11098]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to start off by saying that, given the importance of the issue at hand and what little time we have to tackle it, I will be sharing my time with the member for Elmwood—Transcona.
Since I know that 10 minutes will not be enough for me to make my case, I looked for ways to sum up my speech in a single sentence, which then reminded me of that old saying that you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, or, in this case, cover up your big mistakes in assessing a project.
I was also prompted to raise a very basic question: what is “public infrastructure”, anyway? I am clear on the “infrastructure” part; we are talking bridges, roads, water systems, arenas and cultural centres. Everyone knows what infrastructure is. There is not much to say about the word “public”, either. Not only does it mean something is public, but also that it belongs to everyone. Something that is public is paid for with our tax dollars for the benefit of all, and no one expects it to turn a profit once it has been paid for.
In light of all this, I would like to speak out in the strongest possible terms against the Liberals' absolutely outrageous misinformation campaign around the infrastructure bank.
I would like to back up a little. I am not a tax expert, and neither are most of my constituents. However, we all manage a budget and we understand the basic principles. In 2015, during the election campaign, the Liberals explained a relatively simple principle to everyone: if one must borrow, best to do it when rates are low rather than high. We all understood that. I have to admit that it made sense at the time. The Liberals also said that in light of the very low interest rates at the time, they would take advantage and run up a small deficit. I think that Canadians bought into that. The proof is that the Liberals are in government. Let us take advantage and invest in the infrastructure needs of voters while interest rates are at their lowest because it will cost less for all Canadians. The principle is easily understood.
Now, they are introducing an infrastructure bank that does the exact opposite. Instead of taking advantage of low interest rates, the Liberals are going to hand it over to the private sector, which only has one objective. This is not a criticism. The objective of any private corporation is to make the highest possible profit for its shareholders.
Now that this has been established, I would like someone to explain to me why, instead of investing at 2%, the approximate rate the government gets right now for borrowing, Canadians would all agree to pay 7% to 10% returns to shareholders who would be investing instead of us. I am finding this hard to follow.
As if that was not bad enough, the government is saying that we need to do our part to get this bank off the ground and attract private capital. The government is therefore going to inject $35 billion into this bank to show that we are serious and invite the private sector to join us.
I am going to repeat the same question I asked earlier, since I did not get an answer. Where is that $35 billion going to come from? There are not 50,000 possible options. There are three. The first option is that the government could increase the deficit by $35 billion. The second, and this may be a wiser solution, is that it could take $35 billion of the money that it promised for infrastructure over 10 years—since no one has seen any of it yet anyway—and add it to the bank, thereby depriving all those communities of that money. The third option is even more interesting. The government could sell shares. It could sell the infrastructure that Canadians already collectively built and paid for to the private sector.
For one, our airports will be up for sale. The billions of dollars in proceeds from their sale will go into the fund. Our airports have already been paid for by all taxpayers, who are now expected to hand them over to the private sector so it can turn a profit. In exchange, instead of getting free Internet access when I go to the airport, I will probably have to pay a fee. Every time I have to drive over a small segment of a new highway to get to that airport, I will have to pay up, either in the form of a fare or a toll. I will certainly have fees to pay, because private enterprise requires that investments made in infrastructure be profitable. Forget about breaking even; private investment will require a return of 7% to 10%. As anyone looking to invest will know, projects with a 7% to 10% return on investment are quite rare.
This debate is not really on plans for an infrastructure bank. It is about legislation hidden deep within an omnibus bill. The Liberals themselves are not convinced of its merits, which is why they are refusing to allow for a proper study by the appropriate committee, in this case, the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. They would rather try to sneak them into their budget and keep telling themselves it is solid and that it will go through.
The fact that they are unable to defend this idea already sets off alarm bells in my head. As we are still debating this, people are already applying for positions at the bank. Oddly enough, of all the positions offered, none of them will represent the public's interest. All the positions at the bank will be filled by private investors, for infrastructure that is now private. I am even beginning to think that we are dealing with a private government and not a public government.
In its reflection on whether to privatize airports, the government is asking for advice from Credit Suisse, which, among other things, invests in purchasing airports. That is rather odd. Then the government will be surprised when the report concludes that it might be a good idea to privatize our airports. Come on.
The Canada infrastructure bank called upon BlackRock, another totally objective source that can provide a neutral perspective on a decision we have to make for our collective future. It is laughable. There is no other word for it.
One way parliamentarians get the clearest possible picture of the country's finances is through the parliamentary budget officer. By setting up a private infrastructure bank outside of government, the Liberals are arranging things so the parliamentary budget officer cannot ask any questions or conduct any studies or investigations to do with the infrastructure bank because that will not be part of the mandate. That is strange and incomprehensible.
This will create a two-tier system or even a three-tier system. For one thing, only projects worth over $100 million, which we all know is out of reach for most Canadian cities, will qualify for infrastructure bank support, and for another, the private sector will be in a position to create demand itself and back what it thinks will be profitable infrastructure projects that people need.
Which projects will the bank support—those that people really need or those that will give investors the best returns? The answer is self-evident.
I will stop there because my time is up and I have to move on to questions. I still have a lot of points I would like to make. I hope that members who speak after me will be able to further explain the downsides of creating this private infrastructure bank.
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
2017-05-11 16:32 [p.11102]
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent.
Whenever the government creates an expensive new program, the burden of proof for its necessity falls on that government. In other words, it is not the responsibility of the opposition to prove that the program is unnecessary; it is the duty of the government to prove that it is necessary.
What arguments has it made today to exhibit the necessity of this $35-billion bank? Most recently, the parliamentary secretary across the way has said that this bank is necessary to help pension funds earn a return. He points to the Canada pension plan, teachers' pension plans, and other pension plans that invest in infrastructure to produce returns for future retirees. He is right. They do, and they have, all around the world and right here at home. In fact, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec is a large shareholder, currently, in the Canada Line, which is the largest infrastructure project in British Columbian history. It is a large rapid transit train project funded one-third by private investors who formed a consortium that included Quebec pensioners.
There is Pensionfund Realty, which built a public transit station in Coquitlam with the money of its future pensioners because they wanted to bring more traffic to their shopping centre. They said, “We'll build the station in our own shopping centre; then the people getting off the train and walking around will buy stuff from our tenants, and we'll make more money.”
The Canada pension plan was at one time, and may still well be, the largest shareholder in the privately owned Highway 407 in the greater Toronto area, an investment that produced for it very large dividends that support the retirement of Canadian pensioners.
The member is right. Pension funds do buy, own, and even manage infrastructure, and do so well. They have been doing it across Canada for many years, which raises a question: why do we need an infrastructure bank to have them do it? They are already doing it. That cannot be the reason for the bank.
Second, the Liberals suggest in their budget document that there is $2 trillion of potential worldwide investment looking for projects. “Global capitalists have money for projects,” they say, “and Canada has projects that need money, so let's connect the dots.”
Wait a second here. If the dilemma is that there is too much money in the world looking for infrastructure projects, how could the solution to that dilemma be another $35 billion of money? I thought the premise of the program was that there is already a lot of money out there and that we would not need taxpayers' money to build infrastructure, because these global investors would build it for us with their money. That cannot be the reason either.
What is the reason? One needs to look at division 18 of the budget implementation act to find out, because the overwhelming preponderance of money in the infrastructure bank will be delivered in the form of something called loan guarantees.
What are loan guarantees? I can tell members that they are a fantastic instrument for the person being guaranteed. They mean that a person can make risky investments that could produce profits for him or her, but that if money is lost, the investor is guaranteed against those losses.
Be careful. That does not take the risk out of the project. It takes the risk out of the hands of the person who invested in it.
Where does it go? It does not vanish. It has to be somewhere. If a global investor builds a bridge and goes over budget or has a revenue shortfall, that risk is materialized in serious losses. Someone has to pay for it. Who is holding the bag? The answer is right there in the budget, division 18, clause 23: $35 billion Canadian tax dollars would backstop the losses of these international investors. Therein lies the real function of this bank: to backstop the profits of investors in large and sometimes risky infrastructure projects.
That does violence to the basic free market principle that risk and reward go together. When we sever those two things, we have something called moral hazard. Moral hazard is when someone is encouraged to take risky behaviour because they can transfer that risk to someone else. That is exactly what the bank does. It is a gigantic insurance fund to backstop the profits of the wealthiest people on earth.
If anyone has any doubt about this, the Prime Minister got the idea for the establishment of the bank at Davos, a congress of billionaires, from the head of the biggest asset managing firm in the world, BlackRock, which controls over a trillion dollars of wealth. He then met again with the same billionaire firm in New York. He then allowed that firm to organize an entire planning session for the establishment of the bank at the swanky Shangri-La Hotel in Toronto, at which his own minister's remarks were vetted by these millionaire pension fund and investment fund managers.
After two years of consulting the billionaires on how they could use $35 billion in tax dollars, he is allowing a parliamentary committee two hours to represent taxpayers. That is right. The billionaires, who have everything to gain, get two years of consultation. The taxpayers, who have everything to lose, get two hours of consultation.
This is a growing phenomenon, whereby powerful financial interests are increasingly looking for ways to put the risk of their investments onto the shoulders of taxpayers.
There is something called “rocking chair money”. It is money that comes to people as they sit back in their rocking chairs. It used to be that institutional investors would get it by buying government bonds. It was risk-free money. However, bonds only pay 2.5% now. They are too low, so these investors are looking for higher rates of risk-free returns. They persuaded the Liberal government in Ontario to pay thousands of percentage points of markup in price on electricity for so-called wind and solar power electricity, which has bankrupted families and driven 60,000 people to food banks across the province. It gave Ontario the highest poverty rate of any of the 10 provinces in the country in order to backstop the profits of wealthy so-called green energy entrepreneurs.
We see it with Bombardier, where, instead of issuing new shares to raise money to pay for their cash shortfalls, the billionaire Bombardier Beaudoin family protected its feudal privileges to control a majority of the company with a minority of the shares by getting money from Canadian taxpayers, handed to them by Liberal governments in Quebec and here in Ottawa.
We see this phenomenon of crony capitalism spreading far and wide, seeking to put the burden of risk on the shoulders of the hard-working middle class through government backstops while giving all the profit to the wealthy elite who can afford the lobbyists, the donations, and the influence to control the levers of government.
The greatest concentration of wealth there, of course, is government, and those with the most power to influence government always attempt to unlock that vault to their own benefit.
Therefore, today we stand in opposition to this naked attempt to undermine Canadian taxpayers by taking $35 billion from their hands and using it to backstop the profits of the wealthiest elite, and we reaffirm our commitment to true free enterprise on the side of those who work hard, pay their taxes, and play by the rules.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2017-05-11 16:47 [p.11104]
As always, Mr. Speaker, I am happy to take the floor today, even despite the fact that we would much rather not have had to debate this issue here, in the House of Commons.
Indeed, from our perspective, the current government is making a big mistake with this infrastructure investment bank, which we do not even need since we already have at our disposal a similar mechanism that is better regulated, more appropriate and efficient. I am talking about PPP Canada.
The truth is this new scheme concocted by the Liberals will come with all sorts of roadblocks and red tape. Since its very inception, the infrastructure investment bank has shown potential as the future theme of Gomery 2.0, as the hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska so skilfully put it during question period.
Any way you cut it, this infrastructure investment bank is a terrible idea. Let us not forget that a parliamentary committee is currently studying Bill C-44. This is the bill to implement the budget, but it is an omnibus bill that also contains non-budgetary measures. It bears all the hallmarks of an omnibus bill designed to conceal certain measures not included in the budget.
Do I need to remind my friends across the way that, nearly two years ago now, alas, they were elected on certain promises? On page 30 of their platform, they said, “We will not resort to legislative tricks to avoid scrutiny.”
However, that is exactly what they are resorting to with this infrastructure investment bank. They are attempting to avoid the issue being debated in Parliament by steamrolling it through, even though we believe that this scheme is fundamentally wrongheaded and should be shut down. If they want to go ahead with their plans, more power to them, but they will have to submit to Parliament's thorough scrutiny, just as they had committed to do. This is just another of the government's many broken promises.
That is unacceptable because it is in an omnibus bill, which means that this important part of Bill C-44 will get barely two hours of debate in committee. This is a big deal. This is $35 billion of taxpayers' money, and the government is talking about attracting foreign investment. The fact is that parliamentarians, who represent the people who are going to pay for all this, will be rushing this thing through. Two hours, wrap it up, thank you, good night.
We know that the Prime Minister, as usual, is holding quick little secret meetings with people in the private sector who are interested in this idea and maybe with foreign investors too. Once again, instead of doing things out in the open and having an honest debate with the people who represent Canadian taxpayers, the Prime Minister is meeting these investors in hotel rooms behind closed doors. Nobody knows what is going on, and everything is worked out in secret, thank you, good night.
That is not the right approach. Perhaps that is the Liberal approach, but it smacks of what led to the Gomery commission. We are warning the Liberals. They are on a path towards having another huge problem on their hands. If they do this, unfortunately, it will be Canadians who pay for this bad decision once again.
It is important to understand that everything must be done properly. While the ambition to create an investment bank is being hidden in a cowardly and hypocritical way as part of an omnibus bill—and I say it is cowardly and hypocritical because they are the ones who said they would not do what they are doing—and despite the fact that this bill has not even passed the House of Commons, people are already acting as though it is a done deal. They are deciding on the location, they are appointing organizers, they are appointing officials, they are appointing managers, and they are appointing executives. Enough already.
Could they at least have the decency to respect the work of parliamentarians? No, they are already proud to announce that it will be located in Toronto, which has raised the ire of many in Quebec.
I want to clarify something here. For us, it was never about whether it was located in Toronto or Montreal. We oppose the investment bank altogether. Whether they have it Montreal or anywhere else, we think it is just a bad idea. That is why the Conservative members from Quebec are not up in arms, saying that it makes no sense for it to be located in Toronto. The whole thing makes no sense, period. There should be no infrastructure bank to begin with.
This is bad form. The government introduced an omnibus bill, there was no debate in Parliament, the Prime Minister had secret meetings with people he barely mentioned in the House, and the government made its decision when the bill has not even passed yet.
Let us talk about the substance. The government crows about fine principles and says that this will help fund infrastructure. The Liberals say that they are being nice and are investing heavily in infrastructure. Need I remind hon. members that when we were in power, under the leadership of the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Jean, we put in place the largest infrastructure program in Canada's history, an investment of $80 billion over 10 years? Only, unlike the current government, we did this and still managed to balance the budget.
It is easy to hand out billions of dollars left and right when you run annual deficits of $30 billion and cannot even say when we will return to a balanced budget. It is not right to increase the debt and run big deficits after getting elected on a promise to run small deficits. Life is grand. There is a limit to taking people for idiots.
Unlike the current government, we introduced our infrastructure program as part of a balanced budget. It goes without saying that we support investments in infrastructure, but we believe they must be made within our means, in other words, in the context of a balanced budget.
Furthermore, we already have a mechanism similar to the one the government is promoting to further the Liberal Party's crass commercial interests; it is totally legal and above board, and notably, it does not rely on foreign investment or require billions of taxpayer dollars to be frozen. I am talking, of course, about P3 Canada, public-private partnership. This tool, introduced by our government in 2009, allows interested private investors to invest in infrastructure programs. The member mentioned some successful projects, just as the member for South Surrey—White Rock did. The tool works as intended, I am happy to say.
To illustrate my point, with a core budget of $1.3 billion, when our government set it up in 2009, P3 Canada managed to attract investments worth $6 billion. Has anyone heard of it being involved any scandals? Did it lose money? Did it do a bad job of serving Canadians? No. The Conservative government established this crown corporation in 2009, and it is working fine.
We do not have to move forward with the Liberals' new scheme, the investment bank. We are all for private investment when it is done right and goes through PPP Canada. We also do not object to foreign investment as long as it benefits Canadians and does not just line investors' pockets.
Just a few minutes ago, my colleague clearly illustrated in a pertinent, clear, and obvious way that all the risks associated with the government's investment bank will be assumed by Canadian taxpayers and any problems will be paid for by taxpayers and not the foreign investors. This is not a reasonable approach for those who have the taxpayers' interests at heart.
The government continues to repeat that it is investing in many infrastructure projects. Need I remind members that 94% of these projects have not gotten off the ground? The Liberals can talk all they want.
Unfortunately, we cannot rewrite history. However, had Canadians once more placed their trust in us 18 months ago, billions of dollars could have been invested in our infrastructure program established under the guidance of the member for Lac-Saint-Jean. All we are doing right now is listening to the Liberals talk. Need I remind members that 94% of their projects have not materialized?
I would remind members that in order to create this bank, the Liberals are going to hold on to $15 billion in taxpayers' money, plus another $20 billion, for five years. These billions of dollars will not be available to immediately respond to the needs and requests of small municipalities.
Another thing that does not make sense is that this bank will only fund major investments of more than $100 million. This morning, the member for Richmond—Arthabaska said that Canadian infrastructure projects cost $6.6 million on average.
What cities do we think of when that $100-million figure comes up? Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto, of course. I have nothing against them, but what of every other Canadian municipality?
The government proposes to take $15 billion that should go directly to Canada's cities and towns and put it in a bank so it can cater to foreign investors, who will certainly not want to take any risks; taxpayers are the ones who will have to take the risk. It is not right.
That is why, in its current proposed form, the bank should not see the light of day. As KPMG, the firm originally commissioned by the government to assess the project, so scathingly put it, this is a disaster waiting to happen. The government must not go forward with its hare-brained, ill-conceived scheme.
View Kelly McCauley Profile
View Kelly McCauley Profile
2017-02-08 20:24 [p.8672]
Mr. Chair, normally I start my speeches with how pleased I am to rise to address an issue, but I am not pleased with the circumstances that have me speaking today, which is the jobs crisis in Alberta. Our communities are suffering. Families are barely getting by. An entire generation of young people have no career prospects.
I am very fortunate in my riding to be invited to speak at schools. We play a mock parliament. I play the speaker and we divide the classes in half. Recently, I was at a school and asked the principal what we should debate and talk about. At this school, it was not Trump, marijuana, or Pokémon Go. The number one issue on the kids' minds was stress. It was the stress of not knowing if their parents were going to have a job the next day, where their moms' and dads' cars were, why they are not going on vacation, and why their families are breaking up. How old were these kids? They were in grade 7, and the number one issue on their minds was stress, caused by the economy.
It is disgraceful that nothing is getting done about this. In November 2016, the Minister of Public Services and Procurement bragged about all the federal money that is being poured into her home province of Newfoundland and Labrador. She said “We don't just want our fair share. We want more than our fair share.”
In last year's budget, on infrastructure transit spending, Alberta was underfunded per capita by 14%. I have to ask, where is the fair share for Alberta? Why is the infrastructure minister not standing up, like the Minister of Public Services and Procurement, demanding an extra fair share for our province?
The very fact that we have to demand a take-note debate on this issue is proof enough there is a lack of leadership and a lack of concern for Canadians who live in a province that is not as friendly to Liberals as other provinces.
It leads me to ask where are the statements from ministers from Alberta pledging to stand up for their constituents? Where are the statements from the four Alberta Liberal MPs pledging that they will stand up for their constituents? They are nowhere. Where is the acknowledgement that there is even a crisis? Albertans have been shunned by the government, and the Liberal members' silence is deafening.
When the Prime Minister stated he wanted to phase out the oil sands, he was rightly and roundly criticized for such a blatantly inane remark, although I note the Alberta MPs did not join in the condemnation of this ridiculous statement.
Kevin Libin, writing for the National Post, noted the habits of the government to make decisions biased solely against Alberta. Libin asked, correctly, why Alberta's economy was the only one the Prime Minister was plotting to phase out. He continued by wondering when the phasing out of Ontario's vehicle manufacturing industry will begin. He stated:
While the Liberal government is clear it eventually wants Alberta out of the oil business, it says nothing about plans to shut down the other provinces' carbon-intensive industries, whether it is Ontario's auto and steel factories, Quebec's airplane makers—
—who we know just got a big bailout yesterday—
—or Saskatchewan's farmers....
He continued:
Alberta’s been put on notice that its primary industry — one that catapulted the province out of the agrarian era and is now responsible for at least one-fifth of its economy and supports hundreds of thousands of jobs — is being planned out of existence.
The Prime Minister likes to pretend he does not play the politics of division in the country, but it is easy for struggling Albertans to be a little skeptical of the Prime Minister's intentions, and be cynical of his sincerity when he says he is here to help. Trust me, Albertans can do without this kind of help.
The people in my riding of Edmonton West are not faceless statistics. They are real people who have reached out to me with stories, and I would like to share a couple with the House today.
Kathy wrote to me, “My husband works for a large firm. They have and are continuing to lay off thousands. It is very scary living this way, thinking you may be the next to go. What a terrible way for a veteran and their family to have to live, wondering if they'll have a job at the end of the day.” This constituent has served our country, and the government cannot even bother to give him and his family a sense of hope for the future.
Ewan wrote to me to just say, “Fix it.”
I received a letter from a gentleman named Mohammed, who said, “We need to encourage business, not destroy it. We need to get pipelines built, not just approved.”
These are Canadians just like us. They want to work, support their families, and pay their bills. They are husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters. These are constituents who have been searching for a job for six months, 10 months, a year. They are unemployed and underemployed. They are losing hope, and the government refuses to act.
What can we do? The Liberals can stop demonizing our oil industry because they do not like it. They can start by stopping the assault on pocketbooks and commit to no new taxes. They can ensure that the transit infrastructure funding is fairly applied across the country, not just to those areas rich in Liberal votes. They can start standing up for all out-of-work Canadians, and not just the ones that vote their way.
View Alexandre Boulerice Profile
Mr. Speaker, I am going to share my time with my dear colleague, the member of Parliament for Elmwood—Transcona, a beautiful riding. I want to congratulate him for all the work he is doing on the ethics committee. It is really impressive, especially for someone coming from a family that has nothing to do with federal politics. It looks like he knows quite a bit.
I think everyone remembers the Prime Minister saying with great pride that Canada is back. In fact, what he was actually saying is that the Liberal Party of Canada is back, and with it are the old stories of scandals and friends. They try to hide their natural instincts, but guess what? They are back with cash for access to ministers, even though they are pretending to do otherwise.
What we see in the behaviour of those ministers of cabinet is that two things are certain in life. We are all going to die and a Liberal is a Liberal is a Liberal. It is like a time machine going back to the old days, giving access to big businessmen, to the elites of this country, to Bay Street, again and again.
This shows how disappointing the Liberal cabinet’s behaviour is in light of the expectations it created. The Liberals said they were going to combat cynicism and do politics differently. They said that after the years of darkness, it would be sunny ways. They said they were going to rebuild Canadians’ trust in political institutions as well as integrity in our institutions and in Parliament. However, at the first opportunity, the Liberals flout the laws and principles they took such pride in putting forward. It is extremely disappointing.
Before going on, I have to say I am a great admirer of Georges Brassens. I listen to him as often as I can. During the previous Parliament, the song that came to mind most often was Le temps ne fait rien à l'affaire, or time does not change anything. In the current Parliament, my favourite Georges Brassens song is certainly Les copains d’abord , or friends first, because everything works for the government’s friends thanks to the government’s friends. That is certainly not what Canadians and Quebeckers voted for last year.
Today's motion is interesting because it calls on the Liberals to face up to their own contradictions, to have a look in the mirror and tell us whether promoting something and then hiding behind the existing law is good enough for them. Is that the kind of hope they put into the hearts and minds of people during the last federal election campaign? I do not think so.
The document entitled “Open and Accountable Government” is fairly clear cut, and it is posted on the Prime Minister's website, which is significant. The document lists a number of principles that ministers must follow. That document, which is talked up by the Prime Minister and says that things are going to be done differently, prohibits all “preferential access to government, or appearance of preferential access, accorded to individuals or organizations because they have made financial contributions to politicians and political parties.”
How can it be that, according to The Globe and Mail, there have now been about 20 such events where people paid $400, $500, or $1,500 to attend an evening with the justice minister, the heritage minister, or the finance minister? They have some nerve. In fact, they have a whole lot of nerve because they get double the payoff: $1,500 for access to the finance minister just days before the economic update and a few months before the tabling of a budget that will see billions of dollars in infrastructure funding flow to our communities.
Still, they would have us believe that a $1,500 dinner at a house in Halifax, an event organized by the Laurier Club, is not privileged access.
I do not know many people in Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie who can write a $1,500 cheque to dine with the Minister of Finance. That kind of thing is not about fighting for the middle class or representing ordinary people. It is old-school politics with old-school elites, real estate developers, big-time business people, and people who are on the boards of institutions and corporations under federal jurisdiction, such as the Halifax Port Authority.
The Minister of Finance put himself in an extremely delicate position that is entirely inconsistent with the Liberals' own rules and principles. What a bad example for the public. Imagine if this is how we talked to our children; tell them not to do this or that because it is against the rules, and then turn around and do it ourselves and say that it is not that bad. That is what the Liberals are doing.
They brag about doing politics differently. They apply new standards. They set high standards. Then, they turn tail and hide, saying that the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner has no jurisdiction over the document presented by the Prime Minister. In fact, why are we not legislating this? Why not take this principle and make it law? That way, the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner would have jurisdiction over the document. What are the Liberals afraid of? It is rather odd.
The cherry on top is that their own document also says that their attitude and behaviour should be held to a higher standard than what the law requires. By trying to put a square peg in a round hole, they end up chasing their own tails.
Chapter 4.1 of the Prime Minister's document states:
Moreover, they have an obligation to perform their official duties...in a manner that will bear the closest public scrutiny. This obligation is not fully discharged merely by acting within the law.
Need we say anything more?
What people also need to know is that these events are not open to the public. With respect to the October 13 event in Halifax, a Google search using the words “Halifax”, “Minister of Finance”, and “Liberal Party” does not return any results. It is all very hush-hush. Private invitations are sent out in secret. It is a meeting of friends, hand-picked from the inner circle, who are going to influence public policy. I do not believe that someone is going to pay $500 or $1,500 and not expect to have some influence on the Minister of Canadian Heritage or the Minister of Finance when tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure money is on its way.
Investing in infrastructure is a good thing. However, why do people have preferential access to the Minister of Finance when they have a monetary, financial and economic interest in influencing the Liberal government's decision?
It is extremely disappointing, and we expected better of the Liberal government. I hope that it will support the motion and that it will live up to its promises.
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2016-09-22 13:41 [p.4974]
Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to point out that I do plan to share my time with the hon. member for Long Range Mountains who is sitting just to my right.
It is always an honour to rise to speak in the House on any issue that has the importance to get to the floor, but today I am particularly excited because I have the opportunity to speak to an issue with which I am not only familiar but that I care about. It inspired me to get involved in politics in the first place and it impacts a region that I care about more than any other place on planet earth, and that is Atlantic Canada.
Today we are debating a motion in the House involving the appointment of Supreme Court justices, namely the custom to appoint a Supreme Court judge to fill a vacancy that was left after the retirement of a judge from that same region.
This whole debate arises out of the new process that the Liberal government introduced to introduce an open and transparent process that is independent from the executive and non-partisan in that it has a former Progressive Conservative prime minister, and that is different, chairing the committee that is overseeing this whole operation. This is the kind of process that the International Commission of Jurists implored the previous government to introduce when it came to the appointment of Supreme Court justices.
If we set aside just for the moment, but I will come back to it, the importance of regional diversity on the court, this process would be stellar. There would be no questions, and I expect it would not even be controversial enough to make it to the House because it would get universal support. However, on the issue of regional diversity, it is important, and I am supporting the motion for this reason. It is about federalism.
Federalism is part of the constitutional fabric that makes Canada the country that it is. As discussed by the Supreme Court of Canada, an institution I deeply respect, they described it as a political tool that promotes diversity within our country and enhances national unity at the same time.
In the Nadon reference, which I will come back to again in a moment, the Supreme Court flagged that it is not just sections 5 and 6 of the Supreme Court Act that make regional representation in government important, it is also about the understanding of legal traditions and social norms. We could supplant Nova Scotia's name or Quebec's and the argument would remain the same. I do support regional diversity on the court, and I hope Atlantic Canada is represented on the court. This idea that 32 Atlantic Canada MPs are silent while we are actively speaking out like this in the House of Commons is laughable and false.
What I really have to get to here, and this is the grand take-away from my remarks, is that given the messenger, it is hard to take this criticism seriously when we had 10 years of a Conservative government that sought to undermine the integrity of the Supreme Court of Canada, the justice system in Canada, and indeed to diminish Atlantic Canada as a region in our federation.
I mentioned the Nadon reference previously. That case revolved around the attempted unconstitutional appointment of a Supreme Court justice. In that case, what made it worse was that on the back end of the decision, the Conservative executive, the Prime Minister's Office, was involved in a spat with the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. She is a tremendous jurist who we are lucky to have in this institution. Instead of abiding by a decision that they disagreed with, which would have been the mature thing to do, the Conservatives launched an adolescent spat to try to undermine the integrity of the most pre-eminent legal institution in our country. They should be ashamed of themselves.
In addition to the Conservatives' disrespect for the Supreme Court of Canada, their attitude toward justice in Canada boggles my mind. What they sought to do was spend millions of Canadian taxpayers' dollars to defend charter violations time and time again, which makes it hard to take criticism legitimately from the opposite side on how we are dealing with the Supreme Court of Canada.
When it came to assisted dying legislation, the Conservatives sought to ensure that the legislation the Supreme Court required would not get passed. When it came to protecting vulnerable people such as drug addicts and sex workers, they sought to introduce criminal legislation that would make these people less safe. The Supreme Court of Canada said no, they were not allowed to do that. When it came to their attempts at Senate reform, the Supreme Court said they were doing it wrong again.
When it came to trying to deny full access to aboriginal title to our indigenous population in western Canada, the Tsilhqot’in case, the Supreme Court said no. When it came to a ban on medicinal marijuana, on the basis that marijuana cannot be a medicine that patients use, the Supreme Court said no. When it came to introducing mandatory minimum sentences, the opposition, when they were in government, took the attitude that they were better positioned as legislators in Ottawa than a jurist sitting on the ground with the accused before them and access to a full body of evidence. I cannot understand it, and again the Supreme Court said no, that is not allowed.
It is not just the Supreme Court that the Conservatives attacked, it was the justice system from top to bottom. We need to look no further than their attempts to, again, spending taxpayer dollars, refuse the integration of Omar Khadr into Canadian society. When it came to the case of Ron Smith, they got tied up in litigation that was based around the refusal to ask diplomatic services to protect a Canadian who was on death row in another country.
I apologize in advance if I get emotional about the next one because it strikes home with me. The Conservatives spent $1.4 million Canadian taxpayer dollars to deny health care benefits to refugees. I am particularly emotional about this one given the experience that my community has had in welcoming refugees to rural Nova Scotia on the eastern shore in Pictou County and in Antigonish.
I feel compelled to draw attention to one example who have now become my friends, the Hadhad family in Antigonish. They ran a chocolate factory in Damascus that employed 30 people and in a week, they lost everything, a lifetime's worth of work, to the war. When they landed in Nova Scotia with nothing but the goodwill of the community to welcome them, they started from scratch. However, they said that if they had to start from scratch they would start that day and they started making chocolate in the basement of the home the community found for them. When they were on their feet, they decided they wanted to give back and when the wildfires broke out in Fort McMurray, they donated a month's worth of profits to the relief efforts in Fort McMurray.
These are not only the kind of people we should be welcoming as newcomers to Canada, but we should be aspiring to be as Canadians. While we welcomed them to our shores, the Conservatives now in opposition spent $1.4 million seeking to deny them access to a full range of healthcare benefits and it was disgraceful.
Continuing on the theme that it is hard to take this criticism legitimately, there is a latent narrative the Conservatives are trying to push in the motion that Atlantic Canada is not being effectively represented despite the fact that there are 32 strong Liberal MPs. I find it ironic that the Conservative Atlantic MPs have been silent on this. Perhaps it is because there are none, because they do not speak to issues that matter to Atlantic Canadians.
Since the election we have been focused on growth in Atlantic Canada. We are constantly advocating for the rights of Atlantic Canadians and investment in the region. Just this summer when the Prime Minister visited New Glasgow and 4,200 people came out to see him, we had announcements of $190 million in infrastructure, $75 million in affordable housing, and $50 million in small craft harbours. These investments create work in the short term, but lay the framework for economic growth in the long term and that is what matters to Atlantic Canadians.
What excites me most is that these are not one-off investments. These are part of a strategy that was announced in July called the Atlantic growth strategy and this strategy was not something that we campaigned on. It was not in our budget. It was a plan that was formed in direct response to the feedback of 32 Liberal MPs working with the government to ensure that the interests of our region are represented in the priorities of the government, and we are having success. This plan focuses on immigration, innovation, infrastructure, trade, and tourism. These are the priorities of the Atlantic caucus that have made it into federal policy and will help Atlantic Canada grow.
It was difficult, 10 years of watching Conservatives diminish my region economically by revamping EI. Their plan for Atlantic Canada was to encourage young people to move to Alberta. The kinds of investments we are making are going to allow young people and families to stay in our region. I cannot stand here and listen to criticism either about the role of the Supreme Court of Canada or members' supposed defence of Atlantic Canada after the record they had in government. I am very pleased to stand here knowing in my heart of hearts that we have been standing up for the rights of Atlantic Canadians, acting on their behalf. I will continue to act as an advocate within our caucus and in public for my region because that is the job I was elected to do.
View Bernadette Jordan Profile
Lib. (NS)
Mr. Speaker, during the speech today by my hon. colleague from Central Nova, he mentioned the Atlantic growth strategy, the historic investment into infrastructure in Atlantic Canada, and the significant investment into small craft harbours.
Does he think that those would be possible if it were not for the 32 strong voices from Atlantic Canada?
View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
Mr. Speaker, I see that people in the House are finding it easier to pronounce “Chezzetcook”. That means they are saying it fairly often, and I thank you for that.
I must say that I am extremely happy to be here in the House after two and a half months of working in the constituency and having the opportunity to be with my constituents. It is good to be back, but I enjoyed my time back home, doing the real work for the people who elected us. That is where they are and we have to do that, of course.
Mr. Speaker, I want to mention that I will be sharing my time with the member for West Nova, as well.
I have been listening to the debate most of the day today. I do not know what to think anymore about the Conservative Party. In the last two or three days, its members are now, for the first time in 10 years, speaking about Atlantic Canada. I do not know if it was just because on October 15 they noticed that, my God, maybe they didn't do anything in Atlantic Canada, maybe they should think about doing something, maybe they should try talking about Atlantic Canada, and maybe they should try learning more about Atlantic Canada.
There we are. This is what is happening right now.
I can tell members that I and my 31 colleagues from Atlantic Canada have been working hard on many cases. This is just another one that we have been working on. The Atlantic growth strategy we are working on that is customized to make sure it is going to bring prosperity to Atlantic Canada in many ways is one; the infrastructure investment across this country and Atlantic Canada is another; the small craft investment is another one. Those are all big investments, tax cuts, etc. that we have been working on over the last six to nine months.
I am excited to talk about this topic because I want to make the contrast between the former government and our government. That is the objective of my presentation today. With the former government, there were a lot of things done, as my colleague mentioned a few minutes ago, that were not open and transparent; far from it. When I think back, I remember the former prime minister said he would not appoint any senators. Guess what? He appointed 57 of them. There were 57 partisan appointments made by his government.
What is happening here is that we have a government that is going to make some big changes to many of the practices that we have been under in the last 10 years—and by that, I am talking about the Supreme Court and the Senate.
As members know, the Liberal senators are independent. That was done by our leader before he was even Prime Minister. That is a clear sign of a path of openness and transparency.
Let us talk about this new process. This new process speaks on three fronts. The first, of course, is the open and transparent one; the second is Canada's diversity; and the third is the merit base, which is extremely important.
The first one is openness and transparency. Qualified judges from across Canada can submit to become a Supreme Court judge. I believe, and we believe and we know, that there are many highly qualified Atlantic Canadian judges who would be in the pool used by the Prime Minister to choose the new Supreme Court judge. They can apply online, and the government of Canada is actively doing many promotions to invite as many qualified people as possible.
The second one is diversity. The committee must consider if we want gender parity; it must reflect diversity as far as linguistic, cultural, regional, and employment equity representation. That is the big piece of the Canadian diversity.
The third one is the merit base. That means the government will be doing everything it can to attract, as I said earlier, as many qualified people as possible.
I am so pleased to say that our Canadian government has acted on its promise to appoint bilingual justices. That is extremely important because lawyers had been unable to get their message across or argue their cases in the Supreme Court without the help of an interpreter.
That is no longer a problem, which is a significant victory.
Today's debate is primarily about the appointment of a justice from Atlantic Canada. Before I get into that, I want to underscore the excellent work that Nova Scotia's Justice Cromwell did for many years. I thank him for his work. The seat is vacant because he retired.
As we all know, this is not officially in the Constitution, which does state that three justices must be from Quebec. However, regional representation is essential and has long been upheld. It is of vital importance, and we must guarantee it.
The new justice must be from the same region because we can benefit from regional perspective, vision, and knowledge in such matters as maritime law.
Let it be legal culture. Let it be social culture. They need to bring that expertise and their competencies to the Supreme Court of course.
Our government respects this convention. It is taking this decision seriously. This process is simply creating an opportunity for Canadian judges to apply, and we encourage many of them of course. We are confident in Atlantic Canada. Many strong and qualified judges will surface through this process. By being selected through an open and transparent merit-based process will give them that much more legitimacy, which is important.
What does that mean? It means that our open process will allow them to function but it also means that the days of secret backroom deals, side deals, friends, rewards, are over. That is out. That cannot happen through this process. That is pretty impressive. Our Canadian government expects better and will do better.
Of course, I am a strong advocate of the appointment of the next Supreme Court judge from Atlantic Canada, and I have every confidence that our Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice will find many qualified candidates and will make the right decision for Canada, for Atlantic Canada, and for the Supreme Court of Canada.
View Ed Fast Profile
View Ed Fast Profile
2016-05-11 19:17 [p.3220]
Madam Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to the bill.
I think we should start by understanding what Bill C-227 would actually do.
It is a classic case of the Liberal government getting its backbenchers to do its dirty work, because we know that the government has already betrayed small businesses in Canada by not reducing the tax rate down to 9%, and the bill before us would impose additional burdens on our small businesses across Canada. Therefore, the Liberals have a private member, one of their backbenchers, bring forward the bill. It provides the Liberal government with plausible deniability. The bill gets passed here in the House, and they blame the House for it rather than themselves. We know what is up.
Essentially, Bill C-227 would allow the minister to require bidders on federal projects to provide information on the community benefits that a federal project would deliver. We have no idea what benefits would be sufficient, which, of course, introduces greater uncertainty into the bidding process.
However, it is not just information that the minister would be able to require. The bill would also empower the minister to demand bidders provide a formal assessment as to whether community benefits have indeed been provided.
Who would conduct this assessment? Is it the minister at his or her discretion? Is it some independent party? What is the threshold or standard that must be met? Is there a value of contract that would be captured? We do not know. Would bidders compete with each other on who could best meet the community-benefit test, or is it whether the appropriate balance between community benefit and value for money has been met? Who makes that decision?
Bill C-227 would turn what is usually an objective process, which is value for money, in other words, getting a project, product, or service at the best price and the best quality, and turns it into a largely subjective determination by the minister. This is another example of a Liberal government overreaching and interfering in matters it should stay out of.
Last week, I spoke to Motion No. 45, which was another Liberal initiative that essentially interfered in the ability of municipalities to do contracting. Now the federal government wants to force every municipality to run every single infrastructure project over $500,000 through an assessment of the greenhouse gas emissions that will be caused both upstream and downstream. Again, it is a horrific cost to municipalities. There are 4,000 of them across Canada, multiply that by two or three projects a year, and think of how much money that is going to cost municipalities across the country.
This is all about layering red tape upon red tape upon red tape, and undermining and underappreciating the value of small businesses to our economy.
As I mentioned, the Liberals have already hammered Canadian small businesses by breaking their promise to lower the small business tax rate to 9%. That was a very clear broken promise. That decision alone is going to cost our businesses somewhere in the order of $2.2 billion over the next five years, resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs across this country. Now they are hammering them with even more government red tape, increasing the cost of doing business, and further discouraging smaller businesses from bidding on government contracts.
The bottom line is that Bill C-227 would hurt small businesses. It would add a massive amount of additional regulation on top of the ones that already exist. It would dissuade small businesses from bidding on government contracts, and it would require small businesses to assess matters other than price and quality, which, of course, will drive up the cost of government and drive up the cost to taxpayers in this country.
Of course, these companies, if they are going to bid, are going to have to build in these additional risk considerations into the price that they bid. We are talking about additional costs to taxpayers across this country.
Then there are, of course, the additional powers that would be given to the minister under the bill. Bill C-227 would expand the minister's discretionary power and allow the minister to unnecessarily politicize the contracting process.
There is no clarity as to when an assessment would be required. It could be in the middle of the contract, after the contract had been let, or maybe after the bids have been received. There is no clarity in the bill at all. It is very broad in scope. It is highly ambiguous. It is vague. It leaves everybody here in the House, the contracting community, the sub-trades, and the workers in the dark.
I asked a question of the proponent of the bill earlier on. Given the fact that he claimed he had broadly consulted on the bill, had he at the very least consulted with the key business organizations across the country that represent small business? I am talking about the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, the Canadian Association of Importers and Exporters. The member said that he had consulted with unions across the country. Really. Why not with the businesses themselves that actually pay that price? He said that he had consulted with academics. What about consulting with the very Canadians who would be most impacted by the bill?
The bottom line is this. The bill would do a few things. It would impose an increased burden on our companies. It would impose additional costs on them and uncertainty for small businesses that have already been betrayed by the Liberal government. The bill would also replace what in the past was a clear process, value for money, ensuring we get the best quality at the very best price, with a process that would be unpredictable and highly subjective and dependent upon the discretion of the minister and his or her officials.
In his speech, the sponsor highlighted all of the things the bill intended to achieve. It is clear to anyone who heard the speech that this is about social engineering at significant cost to the taxpayer. The bill would drive up costs to taxpayers to try to achieve some social engineering goals that the Liberal government suggests may be reasonable objectives.
The best response we should have when businesses are contracting with the federal government is to ensure that they understand what the rules are, ensuring Canadian taxpayers get the best value for money.
Then of course the proponent referred to Ontario, of all places, as being the role model of these community benefit agreements. A Liberal government in the province of Ontario has mismanaged the economy so much and has driven that province into such debt that today it has the highest sub-federal cost, the highest sub-federal debt not only within Canada, not only within North America, but in the entire world. Is that a role model we should be following? Absolutely not.
No one should be surprised that the bill is coming from the Liberal side of the House. We can also be certain that Liberals' will find new ways of increasing costs to taxpayers, interfering with the private sector, and clearly giving themselves more and more power over time. On that basis alone we should reject the bill.
I ask the Liberal government, the Liberal members of the House, the NDP members who have highlighted significant shortcomings of the bill, to reconsider their support of the bill, let business do what it does best, which is provide contracts, services, products of the very best quality and at the very best price. By doing so, we would be serving the taxpayers of our country.
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