Interventions in the House of Commons
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View Candice Bergen Profile
View Candice Bergen Profile
2019-06-19 14:38 [p.29387]
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister believes that there is one set of rules for him and his friends and one set for everyone else in this country. For example, there are his well-connected friends at SNC-Lavalin. They have given over $100,000 in illegal donations to the Liberals, and they got unprecedented access to the Prime Minister and his office.
Will the Prime Minister admit that he inappropriately pressured the former attorney general just to help his buddies at SNC-Lavalin?
View Justin Trudeau Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Justin Trudeau Profile
2019-06-19 14:39 [p.29387]
Mr. Speaker, obviously, the Conservatives are struggling for questions to ask, because they keep returning to this approach. It did not work for them before. It is really a sign of desperation as we head to meet with Canadians and talk about our plan for the next four years.
We have worked to create over a million new jobs in this country. We have delivered in lifting hundreds of thousands of Canadians out of poverty. We are continuing to demonstrate what leadership on the environment, leadership on the international file and reconciliation with indigenous peoples look like. That is something the Conservatives have a lot of difficulty with.
View Alain Rayes Profile
View Alain Rayes Profile
2019-06-19 14:41 [p.29388]
Mr. Speaker, let's talk about the SNC-Lavalin affair and Vice-Admiral Norman.
The Prime Minister tried to cancel Davie's contract to help his Liberal Party friends. The Prime Minister did everything in his power to destroy the reputation of Vice-Admiral Norman, an honest and conscientious man of integrity, just as he did to the former justice minister and the former president of the Treasury Board.
Why did the Prime Minister try to ruin the careers of these honest people who simply wanted to stand up for the interests of Canadians?
View Justin Trudeau Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Justin Trudeau Profile
2019-06-19 14:41 [p.29388]
Mr. Speaker, this fall, Canadians will have a clear choice to make. They can vote for a party that protects the environment, creates economic growth and shows respect for Canadians by lifting hundreds of thousands of people out of poverty and putting Canada back on the international stage, or they can vote for the Conservative Party, which learned nothing from the Harper government's failures, continues to make divisive personal attacks, and continues to focus on me while we are focusing on Canadians.
View Lisa Raitt Profile
View Lisa Raitt Profile
2019-06-19 14:43 [p.29388]
Mr. Speaker, sadly, the Prime Minister seems to want to run on the notion that the means, no matter how bad they are, justify the ends and I would caution that is an inappropriate way to continue with the Canadian public. However, I am going to give him one chance to do something really appropriate on his last day today.
Admiral Mark Norman was put through hell for the last three years because of the concerted efforts of the government to ensure that he was put on the spot. We apologized to the House. Will the Prime Minister stand in his place today and apologize—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
View Justin Trudeau Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Justin Trudeau Profile
2019-06-19 14:45 [p.29388]
Once again, Mr. Speaker, on this last day of Prime Minister's question period, the members opposite are choosing to make personal attacks and not talk about the things that actually deeply matter to Canadians.
I will highlight that during these Prime Minister question periods, I have taken over 3,200 questions from the members opposite, including 237 different MPs. Mr. Harper, during his last term as prime minister, took only 1,400 from about 34 MPs. We know that greater accountability, greater opportunity to participate in debate—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
View Andrew Scheer Profile
View Andrew Scheer Profile
2019-06-12 15:14 [p.28996]
Mr. Speaker, it has been 73 days since the Prime Minister sent me a letter, threatening to sue me for my statements about his corruption and attempted interference in a criminal court case. He is going to get up in a moment and say that he sent the notice to warn me about saying things that he thought were not true. Here is the thing. I have not backed down. I have not apologized for them. In fact, I have repeated those statements, word for word, outside of the chamber.
The Prime Minister knows that if he has to testify under oath, he will be charged with perjury for saying things that are not true. When will he see me in court?
View Justin Trudeau Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Justin Trudeau Profile
2019-06-12 15:15 [p.28996]
Mr. Speaker, once again, the opposition leader is doubling down on misleading Canadians. It shows that the Conservatives are still following the Harper playbook.
We put him on notice because he and his party have a history of making false and defamatory statements. That is what he did in December against the Minister of Innovation, where he was forced to swallow his false words and retract his statements. We will not stand by while he misleads Canadians again.
While the members of the opposition are focused on me, we will stay focused on Canadians.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2019-06-04 12:52 [p.28483]
Mr. Speaker, again, not to sound narcissistic, but if we are going to talk, there should be people here to listen.
We are here today to debate the government's bill, which would implement the main measures of the budget. Budgets are highly technical and theoretical, but this gives us a chance to really dig deep.
My first observation is about the budget, as introduced by the minister, election promises and the format of the bill, which is 370 pages long and covers many topics that have nothing to do with the budget. This is called an omnibus bill.
I will remind members that four years ago, back in 2015, the Liberals made a promise. During the election campaign, they made several promises to Canadians in order to get elected. These promises were scrapped, however. The fourth paragraph on page 30 of their election platform states the following:
We will not resort to legislative tricks to avoid scrutiny.
[The former prime minister] has used prorogation to avoid difficult political circumstances. We will not.
[The former prime minister] has also used omnibus bills to prevent Parliament from properly reviewing and debating his proposals.
This is exactly what we are debating today. Today we are debating an omnibus bill into which the government inserted measures that have nothing to do with the budget. Four years ago, the Liberals promised not to do this, but they did it anyway.
Must I remind the House that, at around the same time last year, we were all here studying the previous budget implementation bill? The government had slipped in a dozen or so pages of legal provisions to allow companies facing prosecution for corruption, among other charges, to sign separate agreements. These provisions were not properly debated by parliamentarians. The Senate asked the minister to testify, but he refused.
That is what gave rise to the SNC-Lavalin scandal. Last year's bill included a process to allow for separate trials or agreements. That led to the director of public prosecutions' decision to proceed to trial on September 4. Ten days later, the former attorney general agreed to this proposal, and that is when partisan politics seeped into the legal process. That is what later led the former attorney general and the former president of the Treasury Board to be booted out of the Liberal caucus for having stood up and told Canadians the truth.
I am talking about this sad episode in Canadian democracy precisely because what we have before us today is a government that was elected under false promises, a government that promised the moon and sought to be pure as the driven snow but, in the end, did not keep its promises. That is essentially it. We have an omnibus bill.
Now let us talk about what is really going on with this bill, the government's budget implementation bill. What is the deal with this budget? Once again, we must not forget that the Liberals got themselves elected on the basis of budget promises they most certainly did not keep. The last paragraph on page 76 of the Liberal Party platform mentions the planning framework, the budgeting framework. It says right there in black and white:
With the Liberal plan, the federal government will have a modest short-term deficit of less than $10 billion in each of the next two fiscal years....
The platform also stated that the deficit would decline in the third year and that Canada would return to a balanced budget in 2019-20.
That was the promise that got the Liberals elected. Their bold but not-so-brilliant idea was to make a solemn pledge to run small deficits and eliminate the deficit entirely in 2019-20. That deadline has arrived, and what happened? Those modest deficits ballooned into three big deficits in excess of $70 billion. This is 2019-20, the year they were supposed to get rid of the deficit, but instead, this year's deficit is $19.8 billion.
Twice now I have asked the Minister of Tourism and the Liberal member for Surrey-Centre, if I remember correctly, to tell me the amount of this year’s deficit. They can never come up with the simple and yet very serious figure of $19.8 billion. How can we trust these people who get elected by promising, hand on heart, that they will generate only small deficits and zero deficit in 2019, when they generated three large deficits plus a huge one on the year they were meant to deliver a zero deficit?
What the Liberals fail to understand is that a deficit is a bill that our children and grandchildren will have to pay. A deficit today is a tax tomorrow. It will have to be paid sooner or later. Why did this happen? Because we are living beyond our means.
I would like to remind the House that, historically speaking, deficits are permitted under special conditions. You will remember that we ran deficits during the war. We had to defeat the Nazi menace. We will soon be celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Normandy landings on June 6. It was not until Prime Minister Louis Saint-Laurent that fiscal balance was restored, and I am not just saying that because I happen to represent the riding of Louis-Saint-Laurent.
It was in the early 1970s, under the Liberal government led by Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the current Prime Minister’s father, that we began running deficits in times of prosperity.
It was unfortunate for the Canadian economy. Indeed, fast forward 50 years and the son of the prime minister who ran deficits in times of growth is doing exactly the same thing, running four huge deficits in a period of rapid global economic expansion.
I truly have a great deal of respect and esteem for the Minister of Finance, as I do for all those who run for election and offer their services to Canadians and who, proud of their personal experience, wish to put it to good use. The Minister of Finance had a stellar career on Bay Street. We might even call him a Bay Street baron for having administered his family’s fortune so well. When he was head of the family company, Morneau Shepell, he never ran deficits.
When he was in the private sector, the Minister of Finance never ran a deficit, but since he moved to the public sector, since he has been using taxpayer money, since he has been using money that belongs to Canadian workers, he has been running back-to-back deficits.
How many have there been? There have been one, two, three, four budgets, and there have been one, two, three, four deficits. Four out of four, that is the grand slam of mismanaged public funds, while, in the private sector, he was a model money manager, an example to be followed.
To say the least, he is now neither a model or an example to be followed. Generating deficits during periods of economic growth is the ultimate heresy. No serious economist will tell you that this is a good time to generate a deficit. Quite the contrary, when the economic cycle picks up, it is time to put money aside.
They were very lucky. When they were elected, they took over the G7 country with the best economic track record. When we were in power, we were so intent on serious and rigorous management that we were the first G7 country to recover from the great crisis of 2008-12. That was thanks to the informed and rigorous management of the late Hon. Jim Flaherty, Minister of Finance, and Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper. These people inherited the best economic situation among the G7 nations, as well as a $2.5 billion budget surplus, which will not be the case in five months if Canadians choose us to form the next government.
Worse still, in the past four years, they have taken advantage of the sensational global economic growth and, of course, the economic strength of the United States, which has been experiencing growth for several years. What did they do with it? They made a huge mess of things, and the monstrous deficits they have been running these past four years will be handed down to our children and grandchildren to pay in the future.
That is why we are strongly opposed to this bill, which flies in the face of two election promises: to do away with omnibus bills, and to only run small deficits before balancing the budget in 2019.
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 Mark Strahl Profile
View Mark Strahl Profile
2019-06-04 14:43 [p.28500]
Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government uses its power to punish its enemies and reward its friends.
If its SNC-Lavalin, the Prime Minister fights to get it out of troublesome court cases. If one is a decorated vice-admiral, that vice-admiral gets a Prime Minister promising that he will be in court before an investigation is even complete. If one is a cabinet minister who speaks truth to power, that cabinet minister is fired and kicked out of the Liberal Party. If its an anti-Conservative group like Unifor, that group gets to decide how to hand out $600 million to the media in an election year.
When will the Liberals stop trying to stack the deck in their own favour?
View Karina Gould Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karina Gould Profile
2019-06-04 14:43 [p.28500]
Mr. Speaker, let us just take a walk down history lane here and look at what the Conservatives have done.
There is only one party in Canada's history that has been found several times to have broken election laws: robocalls, the in-and-out scandal and actually having a member of Parliament go to jail for spending over the limit. That is just the tip of the iceberg. Let us not talk about the so-called Fair Elections Act that they put in place to made it harder for Canadians to vote.
We will take no lessons from the party opposite.
View Mark Strahl Profile
View Mark Strahl Profile
2019-06-04 14:44 [p.28501]
Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government had no problem putting its fingers on the scales of justice in the Mark Norman case. It did not hesitate to try to interfere in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin. It sees nothing wrong with allowing foreign funding to continue to pour into special interest groups in Canada. It is unapologetic for putting an anti-Conservative group like Unifor on a panel that will decide how to hand out $600 million to the media that will cover the upcoming election.
Why are the Liberals so desperate to use the power of government to punish their enemies and reward their friends?
View Karina Gould Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karina Gould Profile
2019-06-04 14:45 [p.28501]
Mr. Speaker, it appears my colleague opposite did not hear the answer the last time, so if he does not mind, I will repeat it.
There is only one party in the House that has been found to have broken election laws on numerous occasions. Let us go back. Let us remember the robocalls. Let us remember the in and out. Let us remember that one of its members of Parliament was found to have overspent and actually went to jail.
When it comes to this side of the House, we made it easier for Canadians to vote. We gave the Commissioner of Canada Elections more power to enforce our laws. We have ensured that we are protecting our elections from foreign cyber-threats.
View Michelle Rempel Profile
View Michelle Rempel Profile
2019-06-03 13:34 [p.28398]
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.
The institution of freedom of the press is an underpinning of any democratic nation. It is the principle by which we understand that journalists or those in civil service investigate policy, politicians, and comings and goings, and shed light and perhaps different viewpoints on what is going on in our country. This is in order to ensure that we have the best public policy and work toward equality of economic opportunity. Regardless of political stripe, I hope we all agree that the institution of freedom of the press is very important.
I want to contrast the institution of freedom of the press with something that my colleague just said, which was on the industry of journalism. The institution is different from the industry. The institution of freedom of the press does not imply that somehow someone has to make a profit off of this. What we are talking about today is the state interfering in the industry of the press and whether or not that is appropriate in terms of the ability for the institution in Canada to survive.
In 2013, PwC's report, “Online Global entertainment and media outlook 2013-2017”, predicted that newspaper revenue would drop by 20% by 2017. This was not attributed to a lack of consumer demand for journalism, but was attributed directly to a rise in advertising revenue being shifted from print media to online media. It will be no surprise to anyone in this room, or anyone listening at home, that it is because the way we consume information has changed dramatically in the last several years. Many of us consume information on our phones. We consume information with short video blogs. We consume information from content that it is pushed to our phones.
The industry of journalism in Canada knew, through its own corporate forecasts and reports like this one, that its business model was failing. It begs the question of why the taxpayers of Canada should have to bail out a business model that was failing, which is print journalism. These organizations should have known, as any industry does, that they would have to adapt in order to survive. Anyone who owns a business knows that business models can change. For example, look at taxi companies when Uber came in. When something is disruptive to an industry, one has to adapt or one does not survive.
We are now debating whether the government should be bailing out a failed business model, or a failed industry. Unfortunately, what the government has chosen to do in answer to that question affects the institution of freedom of press. Anyone of any political stripe should be concerned about this. A partisan political actor should not be allocating tax dollars in such a way that it could harm the independence of the institution of free press in Canada.
How does that happen? What the Prime Minister has done is to allocate $600 million, which is a lot of money that could be used for a lot of things, to a select group of industry actors in journalism, based on criteria that the government selects and doles the money out on. If those industry actors are not sympathetic to the government of the time, are they inherently credible in terms of actors in the institution of free press? That is what is at stake here.
Anybody who votes Liberal, Green or NDP should be as comfortable with a Conservative-led government selecting those criteria as they are their own. They would have a very hard time standing here arguing for, let us say, Stephen Harper having control over the Canadian media. If an argument does not work both ways from political strife, then we actually have a big problem. Somebody who votes NDP or Green should have a huge concern.
Let us park, for a second, whether Canadian taxpayers should bail out a failed industry that has failed to transition to digital online. This is really about the credibility of anybody at any journalistic institution who takes money out of this fund and for those who choose not to take funds or who are not eligible to take those funds, whether they will be able to compete with people who now have a partisan interest, and they do have a partisan interest.
The government has appointed Unifor to the panel of people who will select the criteria by which the government doles out the funds. Unifor has a publicly stated, publicly funded campaign against a political party in this place. This weekend on the political talk shows, the leader of Unifor said that he should be on that panel because he had a score to settle. He said that other industry and media had endorsed the Conservatives before and why should he not be able to settle the score.
What we are debating here is which partisan actor is better suited to influence the industry on which the institution of freedom of the press is based in Canada. That is disgusting.
We have had a lot of discussions in this place about foreign influence in our election and fake news. It is the individual responsibility of every Canadian to understand how to critically evaluate information presented as news. There is no way the government can regulate that. Many of the existing actors in Canadian industry have responded to this drop in online content by trying to build their own media platforms and responding with clickbait. We do not have a lot of print journalism that I would constitute as journalism anymore. There is some, but a lot of it is editorialization on both the right and the left. Why would Canadian taxpayers perpetuate a failing industry that has such strong ramifications for Canadian democracy?
I know why the Liberal government is doing this and I know why the NDP supports it. When people control the press, they control people. That is what is happening here. Jerry Dias said that he had a score to settle. People cannot control the press through the state. Let us vigorously debate policy and let us even want to throttle each other over differences in public policy. However, to somehow argue with any sort of a fig leaf that this is anything other than the state controlling the press is shameful.
Columnists who have written about the fact that any journalist who works for an organization that takes money from this fund will have to work ten times harder to be credible are right, and they are brave for saying that.
At the end of the day, this bailout will not save print journalism in Canada. The only way that is saved is if these organizations figure out how to transition to the new digital reality, which many of them have failed to do.
In the strongest possible terms, I oppose any sort of interference in this regard. We need to have a conversation about what the state's role is in funding news writ large in Canada. We need to oppose partisan political actors being involved in the doling out of tax dollars to save an industry on which the institution of freedom of speech in our country is underpinned. I refuse to stand here, partisan hat off, and say as a Conservative that I would be excited about that level of control. No, we should have vigorous debate that challenges dogma, not that perpetuates a monopoly that is controlled by partisan actors. It is wrong and it needs to stop.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2019-06-03 13:44 [p.28399]
Madam Speaker, I listened very closely to the member opposite. I cannot help but think of the word hypocrisy. During the time of Stephen Harper, his government invested tens of millions of dollars annually in print or news magazines.
On the one hand, former Prime Minister Harper and his government recognized that they needed to support news magazines. Now that member has made it very clear that this is a bad idea, a dumb idea. I do not know if she represents the entire Conservative caucus when she says that. Stephen Harper recognized it.
It seems to me that the Conservative Party is even going further to the right, getting closer to the Doug Ford mentality with respect to policy. Is the position of the member opposite the same as the Conservative Party and Doug Ford?
View Michelle Rempel Profile
View Michelle Rempel Profile
2019-06-03 13:45 [p.28400]
Madam Speaker, my colleague opposite has committed two logical fallacies.
One is tu quoque, we are doing it too. He is comparing himself to a Conservative government. The policy he talked about was perpetuated under a Liberal government. Frankly, yes, I disagree with it. I do not think we should be funding failed business models. I do not think we should be bailing these organizations out, and we should stop it.
The other logical fallacy that he committed was a red herring. As opposed to refuting any of my argument with regard to the fact that the government's motive was to control the press and undermine freedom of speech, he tried to divert the argument with crass partisan politics. This topic deserves more than that. It deserves real, intelligent debate. For anyone watching, I offer my condolences for having to watch that debate failure.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Madam Speaker, today we are discussing a proposal by the government that is transparently ridiculous. I think my six-year-old daughter could well understand why it is ridiculous and government members should as well. It is a $600-million government bailout fund for some journalists and media organizations. The distribution of that fund is to be controlled by a committee that includes Jerry Dias and the leadership of Unifor. Unifor's leadership has made it clear that it will use workers' funds for electoral purposes. It will campaign to defeat the Conservatives in the next election and for the re-election of the Liberal government. It calls itself “The resistance” to the Conservatives.
Overtly partisan people are responsible for meting out dollars to journalists; that is for determining who is a journalist and who is not for the purpose of this funding and for determining who gets the money and who does not.
Our contention on this side of the House is that in defence of an independent press, we should not have overtly partisan individuals or entities responsible for meting out funds on the basis, supposedly, of supporting non-partisan journalism. This should be very clear. Having people who are actively involved in campaigning for one particular outcome in the election and also determining who is a journalist for the purposes of receiving funding is outrageous. It is beyond outrageous. I think members across the way would understand this very easily if the shoe were on the other foot.
That is why thus far in this debate members of the government are trying to avoid the real conversation about the real issue by all means necessary. They are making all sorts of other points that do not really address their decision to have partisan mechanisms handing out funding and deciding which journalists get funding.
Government members have talked about the important role that journalists play in our democracy. Of course we strongly agree with that. However, the most important tool that journalists have in their toolbox is a recognition of their credibility. Why do people choose to get their information from credible media organizations as opposed to blogs? Why do people go to as opposed to to get their media? It is because of credibility. People understand. They hope that when they go to a media organization they trust, they can expect the information to be credible, accurate and non-partisan.
When the government intervenes by determining who gets funding and who does not, it is undermining the perception of credibility in the press by the public. Thus, it makes the job of independent professional journalists that much more difficult. The government is eroding public confidence in the fourth estate and it is doing so for its own interests.
If the government really cares about defending the vital work our independent press does, it should actually listen to what members of the press are saying about the proposal.
Don Martin from CTV says, “The optics of journalism associations and unions deciding who picks the recipients of government aid for journalism are getting very queasy.”
Andrew Coyne says, “It is quite clear now, if it was not already: this is the most serious threat to the independence of the press in this country in decades.”
Jen Gerson from CBC says, “If any of these associations or unions could be trusted to manage this “independent” panel, they would be denouncing it already.”
David Akin says, “I am a Unifor member and had no choice about that when I joined @globalnews. Unifor never consulted its membership prior to this endorsement. Had I been asked, I would have argued it should make no partisan endorsements.” He says “Jerry: I invite you to visit with Unifor members who are also members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery. I’ll set the meeting up. You will learn first-hand how much damage you are doing to the businesses that employ us, to our credibility and how terribly uninformed you are.”
Chris Selley, from the National Post, says, “Liberals' media bailout puts foxes in charge of the chickens.”
Chantal Hébert says, “Among the ranks of the political columnists, many fear it is a poison pill that will eventually do the news industry more harm than good.”
That is quite a list of intelligent, thoughtful journalists who comment on a range of different issues and who are known and have recognized names in Canadian democracy.
If the government says that its goal is to defend independent journalists like Don Martin, Jen Gerson, Andrew Coyne, David Akin and Chantal Hébert, then maybe it should listen to those independent journalists, because they understand that when the government pursues policies that undermine their perceived credibility in the eyes of the public, it makes it more difficult—not easier, but more difficult—for independent journalists.
Members of the government talk about an independent press. They talk about how having Unifor on a panel that doles out government funds and determines which journalists get the money and which do not, how having overtly partisan mechanisms controlling which journalists get funding and which who do not, is somehow in defence of an independent press. That is very Orwellian. War is peace; freedom is slavery; ignorance is strength. It is Orwellian to say that government partisans doling out funding arbitrarily to media organizations of their choice is a way to maintain the independence of the press.
Canadians should be concerned about it because journalists are concerned about it. Not only is it a waste of taxpayers' money and not only is the government trying to intervene to stack the deck in its favour for the next election, but it undermines the independence of the press and it creates greater challenges for the press as they try to do their job. It makes it harder for them to fight back against those who are challenging their credibility.
In response to this, Jerry Dias from Unifor said that he is entitled to his free speech. I agree that all Canadians are entitled to free speech, but he is not entitled to use Canadians' tax dollars to promote those particular views.
Further, we expect certain positions in our democracy to be independent. We expect budgets not to be involved in overtly partisan politics. We expect the Clerk of the Privy Council not to be involved in overtly partisan politics—oops—and we expect some of these people to be outside of speaking about elections and parties. We certainly expect that the people responsible for doling out funding to journalists or deciding which organizations get the money would indeed be independent and would be separate from politics.
This is about preserving the independence of our institutions. We on this side of the House stand for preserving the independence of those institutions. It is not good enough to say it; we have to actually leave those institutions alone and not interfere with them. We should not interfere in the independence of our journalists, our public servants, or the functions of our judicial system, which is another problem. There are so many cases of the Liberals not respecting the independence of our institutions and interfering with them, and they are doing it again with respect to independent media.
The government's argument is that Unifor should be represented because it represents journalists. Here are some important numbers: Unifor is a very large union, representing over 300,000 people. There are about 12,000 journalists in that number; less than 5% of the membership are journalists, so this is not an organization that speaks uniquely and exclusively for journalists. In fact, journalists represent a very small part of the overall membership of the organization, so claiming that Jerry Dias can speak particularly for journalists in the context of public policy and advocacy widely misses the mark, especially since we hear so many journalists speaking out against this situation.
This is part of a broader pattern. We see repeatedly by the Liberal government efforts to stack the deck in its favour to undermine the independence of our institutions. We saw this first with the electoral system, when the government wanted to change the electoral system to its advantage and wanted to do it without a referendum. When the consultations came back and were different from what the government wanted, it ordered another round of consultations, again trying to stack the deck. The government tried to change the electoral system to its advantage and it failed. We called the government out on it.
The government also tried to change the Standing Orders of this place. Without the agreement of all parties, it tried to bring in automatic closure, again undermining the role of the opposition in the House of Commons. The government has tried to do this multiple times, but we successfully stood against it.
We called on the government to clamp down on foreign interference in elections; it refused to act on that.
The government has unilaterally acted to control the structure of the leadership debate. It has pushed through other changes to the Canada Elections Act that allow third party groups to massively outspend political parties in the pre-election period. The government did that to stack the deck.
Now again we see, in its efforts to undermine the independence of the media by having overtly partisan people controlling the handouts that are going to media, that the government is again trying to stack the deck in its favour.
The government does not respect the independence of the media. It does not respect the independence of Parliament. It does not respect the independence of the opposition, and that more than anything else is the reason that the Liberal government must be defeated.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2019-06-03 16:46 [p.28431]
Mr. Speaker, what comes to my mind is the fact that when Stephen Harper was prime minister, tens of millions of dollars were given out to newsmagazines every year, and it was the government that decided which magazines and news reporters would receive the money.
What is happening here is far more arm's-length than the principles Stephen Harper used, so I wonder if the very same principles that the member opposite was using would have applied for Stephen Harper.
View Luc Berthold Profile
View Luc Berthold Profile
2019-06-03 16:46 [p.28431]
Mr. Speaker, advertising is open and transparent. Anyone can see where the government places ads. With this process, people will not know how decisions were made, nor will they be able to find out who did not get a media fund contribution. That gives the government way more power to influence the media than it should have. That is the problem.
If there is no list, if we have no way of knowing who applied and who was turned down, it will be very easy for the government to favour the most accommodating media organizations. Who will pay the price? Journalists, unfortunately. Because of this government's bad decisions, journalists will be under pressure. Public trust in journalists will be shaken. People behind closed doors will have made decisions that affect them, decisions they have absolutely no say in.
View Adam Vaughan Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Adam Vaughan Profile
2019-06-03 16:50 [p.28432]
Mr. Speaker, on this particular day, I would like to pay a bit of respect to the commission on missing and murdered indigenous women and the important work it did in reporting out today, particularly in the area of housing and the way in which we move people in Canada and public transportation. This issue is one that I am sure all members of the House are seized with. In my role working on the housing file, I understand the importance of making sure that this part of the recommendations gets fulfilled.
In terms of the missing and murdered indigenous women commission, it is also important to note that one of the reasons we know so much about this issue is the indigenous journalists in this country. If it were not for the voices of independent indigenous journalists screaming at us to pay attention, the voices of victims may never have reached Parliament Hill. For those brave journalists who stood by their sisters, mothers, aunties and cousins, I want to thank them for the role they played. That underscores why supporting independent journalism, community-based journalism, is so profoundly important.
We all live in a media environment where some of the loudest voices in Canada, and the names have been quoted today endlessly, are often heard in debate on the floor of the House of Commons. However, some of the most important journalism in the country is done by some of the smallest and most independent of journalistic voices. In fact, those are the ones most at risk in the current media environment. They are the ones who have come to us and asked for us to deliver the work we are now speaking about.
I emerged from that community of journalists. My first job as a journalist was at the community-based radio station CKLN in Toronto. If it had not been for the ability of that station to give someone who had no training a break, I would not have made my way from there to Citytv, from there to CBC and then back again to Citytv and CP24 as a journalist. I would never have worked for The Star and the Globe. I would never have made it into some of the other broadcast organizations that I have.
The survival of community-based journalism is at the heart of what I am speaking to today. My riding is home to CBC headquarters, CTV News in Toronto, Corus Entertainment and The Toronto Star. The city of Toronto has a GDP of $330 million. To put that in context, Alberta has a GDP of $331 million. In Toronto, digital media is the second-largest employer. In the cultural sector, that is a critical sector of workers who live in my riding, find work in my riding and are attached to those news organizations. I have a responsibility to those workers, not just as former colleagues or members of my own family. My sister is a journalist, and many other members of my family, including my father, were also journalists.
I grew up in the industry and watched it change over the last 30 years. Quite frankly, it scares me. The camera guys I used to work with, their shoulders are breaking down, and their backs as well. When I walk out into a scrum, I can see four or five former colleagues working for different stations on short-term contracts. Those are people whom I shared the birth of their first child with or went through the death of parents with. They are not just the writers whose names are being quoted here.
Journalists and media corporations in this country hire people through the entire workplace, from the receptionist to the people who clean up the coffee cups when the newsroom has gone to bed. It is the editors, and it is the writers. Yes, it is the people whose names get put on the by-lines, but there are hundreds, thousands, in fact tens of thousands of people in this country whose jobs depend on having a strong and independent media. It is not just the large organizations in the large cities.
When a small newspaper is pulled out of a small town, so much disappears when that newspaper goes quiet. So much disappears when a radio station stops producing independent news or putting the voice of new journalists on the air. We have to be smart about this and sensitive to it, because this is not about the profession and the ethics of journalism; it is about the health of media in this country. The health of media in this country has never been more fragile and threatened by more forces, and we have never seen so many journals, radio stations and small TV stations disappear.
The other side referred to them as “fossils” and said to get with it and that technology is changing. So many of these independent newspapers are small family-run businesses. If we replaced media with the family farm, and if we were to establish an advisory panel in the federal government to decide which family farm sectors were to survive or not, and if we did not appoint family farmers to it, the Conservatives would be the first to scream at us, as they should. If we were to make oil policy in this country and not put oil workers on the panel, the Conservatives would be the first ones screaming at us.
Unifor represents 12,000 people, and most of them have ordinary jobs, doing good work for good pay with good benefits because of the union. That is whom Unifor represents, as much as any of the opinion leaders who have been quoted in the debate. Those people deserve a voice in this process, and I will stand here and defend those people, because my career would have disappeared without them.
From the day I started working in the media, my father took me aside and told me that I have to respect every single part of the production chain, because otherwise it will fail. I took that to heart, and I still take it to heart. When I walk through some of those newsrooms, I see faces of fear there, as the layoffs cascade through year after year, month after month.
We have a responsibility to all Canadian workers. A receptionist in a newsroom is no different from a receptionist at an oil company or a feedlot. Every single person deserves the support of the Canadian government to make sure livelihoods and communities are protected.
What have we done? I am listening to this debate as someone who has spent most of his life as a working journalist, and from what I hear, one would think the government is paying for content. That is just nonsense. Canadians need to know that no part of the measures we introduced would mean paying for content.
There are three major parts. First, we would allow small community foundations and news organizations to set themselves up as charities so that Canadians can choose for themselves whom to donate to. These charities could then protect and create a foundation to protect independent journalism. We do not choose which charities get donations. That is for Canadians to decide. All we decide is which news organizations should qualify as charities.
That is important, because now there are fake news organizations parading as if they were news organizations, even though they have not come close to following the ethics of journalism once in their entire lifetime. This would allow the industry to enrol industry members that want to partake in this. If they want to sustain their independence and not partake in the program, that is their business. However, it is good to have a group of independent journalists look at an organization to see whether it is hiring journalists from the profession and has a footprint in the community it claims to represent.
Second, there would be a tax break for hiring. As with any industry that is in trouble, it is normal to provide tax breaks to organizations that are hiring working journalists. It is to ensure that we do not put money in the front door while some hedge fund in New York takes money out the back door. We saw this with the National Post. It came to the Hill and cried poor, laying off a bunch of people, and then all of its senior executives got massive bonuses while Canadians went unemployed.
We need to make sure that if we put money into this industry, we build employment and hard-working Canadians do not lose their jobs as money from the federal government simply gets filtered through to a hedge fund in New York. I think that is critically important.
The final piece is a tax break for subscriptions. Canadians would choose where to put their money, not us. They would be able to write off their subscriptions, especially e-subscriptions, so that the flow of money into the bank accounts of independent journalists is sustained. Again, Canadians would choose which newspapers get their donations and which newspapers they subscribe to. The federal government is simply setting up a mechanism to incentivize that process so that we can provide some stability to the industry.
As for Unifor, there is this notion that a Toronto Sun writer who will be representing Unifor is somehow going to be beholden to this government because that person gets to choose someone who chooses someone who chooses someone. It is so arm's length that it is perhaps an arm and a leg's length. The idea that a Toronto Sun writer could be bought is a joke.
Every journalist I have ever worked with would say that this is a joke. The mere fact that the Conservatives have quoted journalist after journalist saying, “We will not be bought” tells us exactly how protected that principle in the journalistic field is. No one is going to be bought because someone has made a donation to a charitable foundation. That is just ridiculous. In many ways, it casts a view or a perspective on journalists that would only come from a party that thinks, despite getting three-quarters of the recommendations from editorial boards last year, that there is still a Liberal bias in the media. It is absurd.
The reality is that professional journalists are just that: professional journalists. I can assure members that they are skeptical of everybody, equally.
This is about workers and we need to keep that central in everything we talk about here. This is a sector of the economy, a very large sector in my riding and in different communities, that needs to be protected and needs support.
As I said, members should look at their speech, cross out media and put in the family farm and tell me if they would say anything like that about the family farms in their communities. They would not. They have no hesitation with the family farm and agricultural boards. They have no hesitation understanding there needs to be tax credits for the family farm. They have no worry about ensuring the family farm is represented inside trade agreements. We do not tell the family farm whether to raise chickens, or to ranch cattle or to produce eggs. Those choices will be made by the family farms in the same way the media will make its decisions about journalistic integrity. Journalists have integrity. It is bred into the profession.
I will end by telling a story of exactly how I came to experience the true face of the Conservative Party as it relates to journalistic independence.
I covered city hall mostly. I covered Queen's Park quite a bit. I was also sent to Ottawa quite often in the last six years of my being a political journalist, when Mr. Harper was just starting out as the prime minister. I used to cover the issues from the Toronto perspective, the same way I speak from the Toronto perspective as an MP.
I remember covering a nomination announcement in the riding of St. Paul's, at Timothy Eaton Memorial Church. I made reference to the member for Thornhill earlier today when I thanked him for the donation he made to my campaign when I first started to run. He claimed that I went off the rails. I would say I ended up just where I needed to be, but will beg to differ on the outcome of his donation. My residents thank him for his support and clearly have sent me to Ottawa a couple of times now as a result of it.
I was at the nomination battle when that member first entered politics. He decided he would run for the Conservative Party in the riding of St. Paul's. The prime minister at the time, Stephen Harper, showed up to celebrate the acquisition of a star candidate for the Conservative Party. I was not happy that Stephen Harper refused to talk about housing every time he came to Toronto, despite the fact we were in the midst of a housing crisis then. Even then I was demanding the national government have a federal housing policy and even then that issue needed to be pressed much more forcefully in the House of Commons.
I interrupted the scrum that he was holding and asked the question. I was told that was a local matter and not to ask those sorts of questions. Then I tried to scrum him on his way out of the hall and to ask him why the federal Conservative Party did not have a national housing strategy. At that point, somebody grabbed me from behind, by the scruff of my neck, and literally yanked me out of the scrum almost to the floor. I almost turned around and clocked the individual with my microphone, but I did not. Who was it? It was Harper's press secretary. This was quite an event. The cameraman had to hold me back. I was furious. I had never been dealt with physically in a scrum in my life, and I had been in scrums with everybody.
The most interesting thing was what happened the next day. Unbeknownst to the Conservatives, I was sent to Ottawa to cover a minority Parliament that was having trouble staying alive. I walked into the news bureau where I worked and lo and behold there was Harper's press secretary standing in the office in which I had a desk. I was the senior political correspondent with CHUM CityNews at the time. He was barking at my two colleagues, threatening they would never get another question again if a certain reporter in Toronto showed up and asked the leader of the Conservative Party a question. He was screaming that if they did not get rid of that reporter, they would never get a question, Citytv would never get a question and they would be ignored. He said that the party would do everything it could until it got rid of that reporter.
That is the Conservatives' attitude toward independent media. When they do not get an article they like or when they get asked a question they do not like, they do not just sit there and take it like adults. They go after people with everything they have. They threaten lawsuits, and I could talk to the House about Julian Fantino. They threaten one's job, and I could talk to the House about Paul Godfrey and Mel Lastman.
However, what the Conservatives really do not like is an independent journalist sticking up for the local community, asking the questions that members of that community need to have answered by a federal government. When journalists do that, the Conservatives do not just threaten them, they threaten their entire news organization.
That is the attitude of the Conservative Party when the lights are down and in the backrooms of the press gallery in Parliament. The Conservatives will go out of their way to silence the voice of independent journalists time and time again.
The Conservatives pretend to stand here on the Unifor file. What has them worried is that Unifor does not like them. What they do not understand is that Unifor has no more sway with journalists they represent in the editorial rooms and the papers, the television stations and the radio stations. Unifor never walks into those newsrooms or those story rooms and dictates what is going to happen anymore than the teacher's pension fund, which used to own the Toronto Sun, would tell Paul Godfrey, or Sue-Ann Levy, or David Aiken when he worked there, or Brian Lilley when he worked there, or Ezra Levant when he worked there or Faith Goldy when she worked there. None of them was ever dictated to by the teachers' pension fund and they certainly have not been endorsed by Unifor.
Nonetheless, Unifor in participating in this process to ensure that all workers inside the media, not just journalists but everybody employed at all news organizations right across the country from coast to coast to coast, have a fair shake and a fair go of it. The bill is about that. Defending journalism is about that. It is about more than just talking about the writers. It is talking about every person who draws a paycheque, who supports a family and who spends dollars at the corner store, just like we do when we go to our home communities.
The bill is attempting to do that. That is why the bill is so critical. I am very proud to stand with a government that understands journalists cannot be bought, but media can be supported. We will support the media organizations across the country even when they criticize us. Unlike the Conservative Party, we are not afraid of them.
View Tom Kmiec Profile
View Tom Kmiec Profile
2019-06-03 17:31 [p.28439]
Mr. Speaker, I hear the member for Kingston and the Islands chirping away at me. I know he will not like the rest of what I have to say about the government's media bailout. He will not appreciate it, but he can always ask me questions afterward.
This motion started with two former journalists on the Conservative side speaking to it, the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent and the member for Thornhill. They are both exceptional journalists who have had long careers in the media and know what they are talking about. They are veterans of journalism. We always say within our caucus that the member for Thornhill has some of the most interesting life stories we will ever hear. I encourage any member in this House to ask him about the stories of his journalistic exploits and the situations he found himself in when he would follow them wherever they would go.
What we are talking about today is a media bailout the government is pushing through for large media organizations. There are three components to it: the labour tax credit, the digital new subscription tax credit and a qualified donee measure. Those three measures form this media bailout.
The media bailout is embedded within the omnibus budget bill. Other members have mentioned that the government promised not to present omnibus bills, and actually, in the throne speech, the government said it would never do it again. It could have brought this measure as a separate bill in order for it to have a full discussion and then go to the appropriate committees for a review.
I have read the bill. I remember the debate at the finance committee with officials and asking questions to the officials. When the member for Bow River said it would not apply to the weeklies and dailies in a community because they are owner-operated and the editor is heavily involved in the operations, that is exactly right. I asked that question of the officials. They meandered around it and said that for owners, this only applies to two-plus full-time journalists. That is how it works. The criterion is in section 43. It is written right into the law. Therefore, if owner-operators hire some students during the summer months as contractors, they are not eligible for this particular media bailout.
We asked the officials who this would apply to. We quickly found out it would exclude anybody who in previous tax years had applied for the periodical fund. Therefore, Maclean's, Chatelaine and other magazines would be excluded.
Then we asked what would happen to an agricultural newspaper in my area if half of the newspaper was devoted to agriculture. Well, that would not qualify either, because as I found out from the officials at committee, it would have to cover current events. I asked what “current events” means within the law. They pointed me to subsection 248(1) of the act, which states it “must be primarily focused on matters of general interest or reports of current events, including coverage of democratic institutions and processes.” Those are the criteria.
During the debate I heard members across the way say the decision has not been made. However, there are criteria already included, and if a journalistic organization does not qualify, it is excluded from all three measures. That is the way the law is written.
Maybe our Liberal government caucus members do not like that fact, but that is the way the law is written and how it will apply. Unless the publication is basically covering politicians in some way, it will not be eligible for any cash. Therefore, this broad dragnet that the officials initially said would be the case is not the case. It is a very small, select group of people who will be eligible for it.
The motion before the House today is one of the primary worries we have on the Conservative side. The Liberals, by appointing a Unifor representative to the board of this panel, have made it partisan. Unifor has openly said it will campaign against one of Canada's large registered political parties. It posted it on social media accounts. It is happy to do it. It calls itself the “resistance”. There is no way around this.
The government has made everybody's participation on this board a partisan affair, because they are now participating actively in the electoral outcome of October 21. The government cannot say this panel is independent, as the panel is appointed by the government. It cannot say this Parliament is completely non-partisan, because Unifor is on the panel.
That simply cannot continue. We cannot have a situation of a national organization that represents some journalists as well as a great deal of other workers actively working against one of Canada's registered political parties as well as participating in deciding who will get access to these three measures I just talked about that form the media bailout.
We have repeatedly heard members on the Liberal side say things that were maybe partially correct in the best of light. I heard one member say that maybe bloggers could be eligible, and I actually asked the question, but bloggers are not eligible. I asked if The Post Millennial, which is a purely online web news site, would be eligible. They did not know whether it would be eligible.
There is a great Yiddish proverb that says “What you don't see with your eyes, don't say with your tongue.” It is a fanciful way of saying that if it is not the truth that we read, do not say it.
At the finance committee, I asked all of these questions because I wanted to better understand which organizations would actually be eligible for this tax credit. They were very quick to say that they did not have all answers, because some of the criteria are set in law and some of the criteria will be up to the panel to determine.
We now know that this panel would be tainted by the participation of Unifor. It is the perception that matters. It is the perception that journalists could be bent by the ownership or by the eligibility for certain criteria. We would be subsidizing journalists directly, because there is a labour tax credit of up to $55,000 by which a salary could be offset. It works out to about $13,750 at the end of the day for an employee. It is a direct subsidy for an employee.
The panel is going to decide who qualifies as a Canadian journalist. I can think of no worse thing for independent, autonomous journalism in this country than to have the perception that perhaps their reporting will be tainted one way or another on the type of content they choose to report.
I do not have a problem with journalists writing tough stories. I do not have a problem with them misquoting me. I do not have a problem with them not coming to me or not following a lead I think is worth following. I do not have a problem with it. They are independent and autonomous and can do whatever they want. That is up to them. Hopefully they will find a readership who is willing to read what they have to offer. I like to read the National Observer. It is kind of left-leaning, one could say, but it provides a lot of content that I actually like using, and so I am fine with it. However, I do not know if the National Observer would be eligible for this measure. Everything outside of current events would be excluded. If a publication covers too much sport or too much entertainment news, it would be excluded. All of those decisions the panel would get to decide.
This is the only tax credit measure I can find that the CRA does not administer directly. It will be administered indirectly by this panel. I hear all these Liberal government caucus members say that it will be the panel that will decide. As soon as one qualifies, it would be eligible for these other things.
Why not just let the CRA do it? It does the disability tax credit. It decides at the end of the day who is eligible for it. It decides for the child expenses. Why is the CRA not going to be administering the law? There is a lot of leeway provided in the law as well, but I am just wondering why the CRA is not deciding, from A to Z, the whole thing. Would that not be the more transparent, non-partisan, completely opaque, arm's-length but within arm's reach way of doing this, as opposed to having a panel with Unifor on it after Unifor has explicitly said that it is going to be devoted from now until October 21 to the defeat of one of Canada's registered political parties?
For Unifor to participate in the determination of who qualifies as a journalistic organization and qualifies through those three measures I mentioned is ridiculous. There is no way we can claim that this will be a complete non-partisan exercise. We cannot. The government has basically put on the committee an organization that is going to be helping it directly. That is what I heard at the finance committee. Nothing I have heard during the debate today changes my mind on the fact that the government is trying to push the scales again on one side, just as it did with the justice system. It is pushing on the scales here and trying to ensure it gets the best possible coverage, because a lot of the money does not flow out immediately. It is the potential of future cash that would ensure that large media organizations are on side.
Therefore, I will be voting for this motion, because it is very important that every single member stand on this issue and be heard on where they stand on behalf of their constituents for a free press without any direct government involvement. We should not be in the business of subsidizing the business of the press. We want a free press, yes, but not press subsidized with government and taxpayer dollars.
View Gordie Hogg Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Gordie Hogg Profile
2019-06-03 18:01 [p.28443]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Lac-Saint-Jean for sharing his time with me. It has been a delight to sit here this afternoon and listen to the debate and the profound, sometimes heated, disagreements about values and the same heated disagreements about the process. It has been interesting to follow.
As I reflect on the small newspapers in my community, three of them have not survived over the past number of years. The one that has survived has survived with layoffs, with the volume inserts increasing. They are about an inch thick in some cases, with advertisements from places like Walmart and Home Depot and a myriad of others. They still report on local issues, service clubs, community events, local sports, cultural events and fundraisers, and they connect and inform the community in an important way. I think we all agree that they are an important part of our communities. That is something we share throughout the House.
How did we get to the point we are at today? I was interested to find that in the United States, in 1949, they introduced something called the fairness doctrine. It had two basic elements. It required people to devote some of their air time and some of their print time to controversial matters of public interest and to ensure that contrasting views regarding those matters were evident. It required those to be present in each instance.
The main agenda of the doctrine was to ensure that viewers and readers were exposed to a diversity of viewpoints, consistent with the things we talk about in the House and that we talk about in democracies. As John Stuart Mill said, one may understand one's position perfectly well, but unless one understands the opposite position equally well, one is not informed enough to make a decision between the two. That is important to look at with respect to the doctrine. That doctrine was taken out of the U.S. in 2011, but the principles are still looked at by a number of media outlets.
Here we have had a number of reports done. The Public Policy Forum, on January 2017, published “The Shattered Mirror: News, Democracy and Trust in the Digital Age”. It looks at the digital age, the type of change that is taking place and its impact, particularly in small communities across our country. Subsequent to that, the heritage committee, in June 2017, issued a report entitled “Disruption: Change and Churning in Canada's Media Landscape”.
All these reports have obliquely, if not directly, called on government to take action to protect the connection of local communities and to protect the notion of what we need to see. We do not want to see one newspaper for the world. We do not want to see Sirius radio reporting on the whole world. We want the focus on our communities, where we live and where we connect.
Reference has been made to the fact that 41 dailies and 235 weeklies have closed over the past few years. Some 10,000 positions have been lost. That is 31% of jobs in the field.
I was interested to read recently a report by the Canadian Media Concentration Research Project. It found that 95% of newspaper endorsements in the 2011 election were for Harper. That was every daily in Canada that endorsed a party, except the Toronto Star, which endorsed the NDP that year. That was roughly three times Harper's standing in the opinion polls at the time, Carleton University Professor Dwayne Winseck wrote in his report.
In the 2015 election, things were not quite as monolithic, but 71% of all newspaper endorsements still went to Harper, and 17 of 23 newspapers that endorsed a candidate endorsed the Tories.
As we look at the debate today, it almost seems that there is identity-based decision-making taking place. We are in agreement that we want there to be no biases or favouritism and that we want total transparency on the issues coming from government and presented by the media. I agree that it is essential that our democracy rely upon the respect and independence of journalists.
I have no doubt that a proper balance of perspectives would be achieved with the composition of the panel. As I have said, there are biases on both sides and assumptions on both sides. Each of us has our biases and ways of proving that what we believe to be true is true.
The organizations that will appoint the members of the panel are operating at arm's length from government. All three reports I referred to have called upon government to act, and we are doing it in that fashion.
We are talking about professionals. We are talking about their expertise and their knowledge for the benefit of the news industry. The best thing government can do is leave the panel to do its work and report back in due time, and that is what is going to happen.
The motion before us suggests that journalists may be able to be bought. It assumes that workers should not be involved in their own decisions, which is contrary to everything we say in terms of the policy development we are working with in government. I disagree with that. A bankrupt press, which is entirely possible if we do not do this, is not a free press. It is no press at all.
I encourage members of the House to stand up for a free press and for a well functioning democracy and to stand up against the motion we have before us.
View Pierre Paul-Hus Profile
Mr. Speaker, today we learned that the Liberals polled Canadians about remediation agreements months before hiding the measure in the 2018 omnibus bill. Apparently Canadians across the country see these agreements as a get-out-of-jail-free card for corrupt and criminal corporate executives. The Liberals did not have public support for these agreements.
Is that why the Minister of Finance hid the measure in his bill at the last minute?
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2019-05-30 14:39 [p.28298]
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question.
I have three things to say about deferred prosecution agreements.
First, it was announced to Canadians through a gazetting process. Second, consultations took place around the country. Third, it appeared and was vetted at the finance committee of the House of Commons and was also vetted by a Senate standing committee.
These agreements exist among five members of the G7: Japan, Britain, the United States, Canada and France. They are important measures that ensure accountability at the corporate level and ensure that employees are rendered harmless.
View Pierre Paul-Hus Profile
Mr. Speaker, that is exactly what we have learned. Opinion polls showed that Canadians did not agree with protecting corrupt criminals.
The former attorney general also understood that adding remediation agreements to the omnibus bill at the last minute was just a ploy to protect the government's friends at SNC-Lavalin. We are all aware of the Prime Minister's political interference and months-long pressure campaign against her.
Now we want to know why the Prime Minister is being so dishonest with Canadians.
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2019-05-30 14:41 [p.28299]
Mr. Speaker, with respect to the documents and the policy he referred to, it is extremely important to emphasize the truth for those Canadians watching us on television. There are three criteria for these agreements.
First, there must be an admission of responsibility. Second, a penalty must be paid. Third, they must pay victim restitution. Fourth, they must co-operate with ongoing investigations. These agreements are not about get out of jail free cards; they are about holding corporate directors responsible for corporate wrongdoing.
We agree with the member opposite that those people need to be held accountable, and they are.
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
2019-05-30 14:41 [p.28299]
Mr. Speaker, actually, based on those very criteria the member just listed, SNC-Lavalin does not qualify for a deferred prosecution agreement. This is not just my opinion; that is the opinion of the top prosecutor, the former attorney general and now, most recently, a Quebec judge.
We already know Canadians do not support special deals for accused corporate criminals. Will the government confirm that no politician will overturn the justice system and give a special deal to SNC-Lavalin?
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2019-05-30 14:42 [p.28299]
Mr. Speaker, we are well aware of the decision that was rendered yesterday in a matter that is currently before the court. That was a preliminary inquiry about an evidentiary threshold in an ongoing criminal matter.
It would be entirely inappropriate for me as parliamentary secretary, or indeed for any member of Parliament, to comment on an ongoing criminal matter. I will refrain from doing so.
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
2019-05-30 14:42 [p.28299]
Mr. Speaker, this is new. Now, all of a sudden, the Liberals do not think politicians should be involved in the justice system. What a strange turn of events.
The top prosecutor, the former attorney general, a Quebec judge and Canadians writ large all believe accused corporate criminals like SNC-Lavalin should face the music in a trial. Unfortunately, the matter is not closed. The government still gives itself the power to interfere.
Will the Liberals confirm that no politician on that side will interfere to cancel the trial into SNC-Lavalin?
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