Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise today in the House and join this concurrence debate.
I know this issue was discussed yesterday, but since this is my first time rising since it happened, I do want to add my voice to those of many others who have expressed condolences for the victims of the terrible terrorist attack targeting the Muslim community in New Zealand, and express my solidarity with the victims and all those who are in some way affected by this event.
I also want to highlight growing concerns about the persecution and violence targeting Christians in Nigeria. This is something I have been hearing about from constituents and I know it is a concern for many members in the House as well.
I want to set the stage with respect to the context of the debate. There is some discussion back and forth about the procedure that brings us here.
The opposition has moved a concurrence motion with respect to a report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. It is interesting to hear members of the government speak as if we just should not use the opportunity to bring forward concurrence motions that reflect important public policy issues, but instead we should only debate the things that the government puts on the agenda. This reflects a certain misunderstanding about the role of the opposition and what we are here to do. It is perfectly legitimate for the opposition to put forward motions with respect to committee reports and other issues that reflect public policy issues and reflect what we hear from our constituents. There is nothing illegitimate about the opposition doing its job in that way.
Members of the government would like to talk about aspects of their own legislative agenda, but they need to understand that this is not just about a government and an audience. This is about a government and an opposition. This is how the House of Commons is supposed to work.
We know the government would like to, and on multiple occasions has attempted to, reduce the powers and prerogatives of the opposition to indeed reduce us to a mere audience. However, this Conservative opposition has not and will not go quietly in that respect. It is important for us to assert the prerogatives of members, to assert the important role of the opposition and to use the tools that are available to us, yes, to raise, through concurrence and other measures, important public policy issues, but also to use these tools as a way of challenging the government to do better in other areas.
For instance, we have said that the former attorney general should be able to testify before the justice committee with all of the fetters off. She should be able to actually talk about why she resigned from cabinet and events that happened afterwards. Up until now, the Prime Minister and the government have not allowed that to happen. We have, in a number of ways through parliamentary procedures, highlighted the unwillingness of the government to allow that conversation to take place. Now we have members of the justice committee who are trying to shut down hearings into what happened involving the Prime Minister, the former attorney general and SNC-Lavalin. Therefore, we are very concerned about that.
We hear concerns from Canadians. They are looking for answers and want us as the opposition to use the tools that are available to us to seek answers, and certainly we are going to continue to do that. Therefore, we make no apologies for being an efficient and effective opposition; for standing up for what Canadians are saying; for raising issues around infrastructure, around the Champlain Bridge; and also for raising issues around corruption, dealing with the government. These are things we are going to continue to highlight, whether members of the government like it or not.
Parenthetically I will say that in some of the speeches and comments we have heard from members of the government, they have talked about Bill C-92, which is the legislation that apparently the Liberals were intending to bring forward today. I will draw to the attention of members the fact that Bill C-92 was tabled in the House the last Thursday before the break. Therefore, in terms of sitting days, it has been tabled here for about three days.
Canadians know that the government has been in place for approaching three and a half years. Certainly, these issues around child welfare and indigenous child welfare are important issues for discussion. The government could have moved forward with the discussion of this issue a long time ago. The Liberals could have put forward reforms that they thought appropriate much earlier in their mandate and we would have already discussed these changes and have moved forward with them. However, the government is waiting until the last possible minute to put these things forward and tabling it. Then right away the Liberals are saying that anyone who puts forward other motions and other issues for debate in the House is somehow obstructing this.
The Liberals have been way behind the eight ball in putting forward proposals in this area, and now it is someone else's fault. Their failure to take action, their failure to move the discussion forward earlier, is not something that should lead to the opposition losing its opportunity to raise other issues as well. Their lack of management of the House calendar and their own legislative agenda does not somehow create a requirement for the opposition, especially when all the Liberals would have had to do to facilitate greater co-operation in the House on matters of agenda and procedure was allow the former attorney general to speak at committee without the kind of restrictions the government is continuing to put on the former attorney general.
Canadians want and deserve to hear what she wants to say, and she wants to speak about those things as well. If the government would like to move forward, the first step is to listen to Canadians and let the former attorney general address all the issues around this sordid affair and then allow Canadians to make their own judgment.
I would like to address, in particular, the issues raised in the concurrence motion. This is report 4 of the Auditor General, which deals with the proposal to replace the Champlain Bridge in Montreal and the issue of extensions and late fees being paid by the government. It is another case of Canadians paying in the form of late fees for the mistakes of the government.
We see so many areas in which Canadians are paying more as a result of the mistakes of the government. We are seeing, as a result of that, attempts by the government to raise people's taxes. We know that those attempts to raise taxes are not the end of it from the government. Indeed, this out-of-control spending is the same thing we saw from the Kathleen Wynne Liberals in Ontario. When there is out-of-control spending, it leads to subsequent proposals from the same government for higher taxes.
We have a critical window of time to fix those failures, to get back on track in terms of spending, to address the deficit, to control the areas of failure that are costing Canadians and to thus prevent this kind of situation where taxes will have to go up.
Moving forward on the Champlain Bridge is an important project. It is a process that began with the previous Conservative government, but we have seen a failure to move this forward effectively by the current Liberal government. This is representative of a larger problem in terms of the infrastructure policies of the government. The government has failed to deliver on infrastructure in many different areas. The Liberals talk a lot about infrastructure. They have made a lot of promises about infrastructure, but they have failed to deliver.
Let us start from the beginning on the infrastructure file. The first minister of infrastructure, who is from a neighbouring riding in the Edmonton region, was very concerned about the infrastructure of his office. He was very concerned about developing the infrastructure where he and his political staff would be operating. Huge amounts of money were spent on renovations in his office, and this was widely discussed within his constituency and the surrounding area. I heard those discussions. When the priorities of the infrastructure minister should have been infrastructure Canadians use, such as roads, bridges and so on, so much in the way of public dollars went into renovating the infrastructure of his office instead.
We see repeatedly from the government announcements and reannouncements of the same projects, projects, in many cases, that were previously put in place, and a lot of the work done, under the previous government, yet we see a lack of action.
Earlier this year, the Prime Minister and eight of his ministers fanned out across the country to reannounce infrastructure announcements that had already been made, which provided more opportunities for photos and selfies. However, the Liberals, when it comes to infrastructure, as in so many other areas, are all talk and no action. They are not moving forward. We see that on all sorts of key infrastructure, including the Champlain Bridge.
I would add that while there is a failure to move forward on Canadian infrastructure, the government made a decision to make a big investment in something called the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the AIIB. The AIIB is headquartered in Beijing and really is a tool of China's foreign policy to build infrastructure throughout Asia. We have seen the way the Chinese government seeks to build infrastructure as a way of extending its political influence and control throughout the continent. There is the example of a port constructed in Sri Lanka. It has raised big concerns about Chinese control and influence as a result of the way this port project has proceeded.
There are many different cases through the so-called belt and road initiative, whereby the Chinese government seeks to extend its influence by spending money on these kinds of projects. One might understand why the Chinese government sees it as in its national interest to do so. However, what I do not understand and what constituents in my riding do not understand is why it is in Canada's interest to be spending Canadian taxpayer dollars on building infrastructure in Asia through a vehicle that is designed to advance the foreign policy objectives of the Government of the People's Republic of China. That does not make sense to me and my constituents, and I do not think it makes to taxpayers anywhere.
While putting hundreds of millions of dollars into the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which is building a pipeline in Azerbaijan and projects outside the country, we have had a failure to move forward with vital infrastructure projects here in Canada.
I have raised the issue of the dissonance between the eagerness to invest in infrastructure overseas and the failure to invest in infrastructure here in Canada. The government's response is that this is about Canadian companies now having the opportunity to bid on these projects. The Liberals say that if they give money to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, this vehicle of China's Communist government's foreign policy, Canadian companies will be able to participate in these projects. That would be an interesting argument, if it were true.
When I was in Beijing last, I visited the headquarters of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to discuss its procurement policies. It said very clearly that it has an open staffing and open procurement policy. Therefore, any company from anywhere in the world, theoretically, has the same opportunity to bid on their projects, regardless of whether the country in which that company is headquartered is a member of the bank. That was the Liberal government's one argument for putting hundreds of millions of dollars into this foreign infrastructure bank: it would provide opportunities for Canadian companies to bid. However, Canadian companies already have those opportunities.
Canadian nationals already have the opportunity to work for the bank. In fact, when we went to Beijing, we met with a Canadian national who was working for the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Therefore, the Liberals' only argument for hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers' money going to these projects falls through. It would not have been difficult to find that information.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: How much money did Harper put in the Asian bank?
Mr. Garnett Genuis: My colleague is heckling with a question he can ask during questions and comments. I think it was about how much other countries are putting into this bank.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: No, how much did Harper put in?
Mr. Garnett Genuis: He is asking about the previous government. The previous government of Canada did not participate in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. It chose not to. That decision was aligned with the decision, for instance, of the Barack Obama administration in the United States, which raised significant concerns about accountability and issues around human rights related to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. However, the Liberal government, in its eagerness to curry favour with the Chinese regime, put hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars into that bank.
The issue I hear from Canadians is that they are supportive of a focused, objective-driven, compassionate international development policy, but they do not see why we should give money to an organization affiliated with the Chinese government that is building infrastructure as a way of advancing its foreign policy, when we have dramatic unmet infrastructure issues here at home that the government is simply ignoring.
One other aspect of infrastructure, although it has historically generally been infrastructure built by the private sector, is the issue of pipelines. We see a total failure of the government to move forward with pipelines. The former infrastructure minister, now the natural resources minister, has been no more successful moving forward natural resources infrastructure than he was in his previous portfolio directly dealing with the issue of infrastructure.
We see many areas of failure with the Liberal government when it comes to infrastructure, pipelines and prioritizing the needs, interests and values of Canadians. As a result of those failures, Canadians are paying for the government's mistakes.
If members are wondering why the government's focus seems to be off here and why it seems to have missed basic points about things like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, it may be because it is distracted. It may be because its focus has so narrowly been on its own strategic interests and on covering for the damage to its political reputation that is coming about as a result of the SNC-Lavalin affair.
The government's effort to manage this message without actually coming clean on the reality is really unbelievable. The latest announcement on the government's approach to responding to SNC-Lavalin was that it is going to appoint a former Liberal cabinet minister, who is still actively involved in fundraising for the Liberal Party of Canada, to provide some kind of independent advice. That is quite something. That would be like asking Stephen Harper to provide non-partisan advice. Clearly, when one brings in a former politician who has long been affiliated with and continues to support a political party and claims that this person is going to provide independent advice, that is a transparent attempt at misdirection.
There would be a simple solution to the government's efforts to manage the message, and that would be to actually come clean, open up the doors, recognize that sunlight is the best disinfectant and allow all the conversations that need to happen to happen. What would that look like? It would mean allowing the former attorney general to come to committee to speak without the restrictions of solicitor-client privilege or cabinet confidence. The government tried to play this sleight-of-hand game on this issue by saying that it was going to waive these restrictions, but only up to a certain point and not after a certain point.
The Conservative deputy leader, the member from Milton, was very clear in asking questions at committee and received very clear answers from the former attorney general. Was she able to speak about why she resigned from cabinet? No. Was she able to speak about conversations that happened after? No. Was she able to speak about the possible continuation of pressure or clarify the nature of the pressure, discussions and information that came to her afterwards? No, she was not.
We know now that another member of the cabinet has resigned. The Prime Minister's principal secretary has resigned, and the Clerk of the Privy Council is leaving. We have four major resignations associated with this affair, but nothing is wrong, according to the front bench. It is incredible that the Liberals would try to sustain this narrative that nothing is wrong while we have this continuing spate of resignations. That does not include the large and growing number of members of the Liberal caucus who are saying that they are not running again. We cannot, of course, know the exact cause in every case, but there has been a significant spike in announcements of not running again ever since this affair broke.
This affair stinks. We need answers. Let the former attorney general speak.
We are seeing many cases of failure by the government to proceed on infrastructure issues, failures that are costing Canadians more. These are important issues to highlight and discuss in this House.