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Results: 1 - 100 of 101
View Francesco Sorbara Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair. Welcome back, everyone.
I'll point to remarks made by the members on the opposite aisle in discussing the amendment on hand, and some of the suggestions for a time allotment from 3:30 to 6:30 versus the current 3:30 to 5. My colleagues and I have entertained and discussed that, Chair. We could accommodate that request.
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
CPC (ON)
There are three things we're seeking, Chair. One is that the minister be here for three hours, which I gather the government delegation has accepted. The second is that his opening remarks be limited to 10 minutes. The third is that we have licence to ask him about any matters related to his work as finance minister. Those are the only three things that we ask for. They seem pretty reasonable, and not out of line with what typically happens at a committee.
Given that this is a budget bill with 350 pages of content, and that this is perhaps the only time the minister will appear before this committee, I can't see any justification for not allowing that kind of openness under any subject for the entire session. I'll leave it at that for now. If members want to further litigate any of those three, I'm happy to do it. If they can offer those things, we can offer quick passage of the motion without any additional changes, and proceed from there.
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
Okay.
Does anybody else wants to speak?
Mr. Poilievre, you and I chatted, and you're saying, “any matters related to his work as finance minister”. It was my opinion that if the minister goes broad in his opening remarks, what I've tried to do in the past is to allow the questions to be broad. If the minister just sticks to the BIA, then the discussion would be pretty well limited to the BIA and, in essence, the budget as well.
Go ahead.
View Peter Fragiskatos Profile
Lib. (ON)
I'm amused by the comments by my colleague, who talks about the boundaries of the discussion. It seems to me that in his view, the opposition is going to set the boundaries of discussion. I think this committee should come to a collective view on that.
When the minister comes here, I'm sure he'll talk about the budget. I want to ask him about the budget, because my constituents are asking me about it, not about grandiose economic theories or the role of the finance minister in general, but on something quite specific—the 2019 budget that has been presented, which we'll hopefully now examine if the opposition wants to be serious. What my colleague is proposing, I'm afraid, is not serious.
View Francesco Sorbara Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thanks for the intervention by my colleague. You know, committees are the masters of their domains. I've been on this committee since we were elected as a majority government. I've really enjoyed it and we are the masters of our domain. When the minister has come to speak to us, we've all asked him questions. Mr. Poilievre, Mr. Deltell and Ms. Raitt, when she was here, asked questions, tough questions. We are going to be looking at the subject matter of Bill C-97. I'm sure Mr. Poilievre, Mr. Richards and Mr. Kmiec will want to ask tough questions and they'll be afforded that opportunity.
In response to my colleague, I was going to say my friend, Mr. Poilievre, that within the three-hour time slot from 3:30 to 6:30, you've asked for the minister to keep his remarks within 10 minutes. I don't think that's something extraordinary. I think the purview is that we are speaking to Bill C-97, which touches upon fiscal policy. It touches upon a thing. It's not a huge bill, and no pun was intended by the comment, but a document that's important to Canadians and to our government. Of course, it is important to this committee to study it, to bring witnesses forth and to commence that process. I think it behooves all of us as parliamentarians to do that.
Mr. Poilievre, I'm very accommodating and I think the committee is accommodating on where members are in terms of the three hours and the 10 minutes. I think it's obviously the chair's role to decide what's in order in any committee to be discussed. If we stray too far, then I think it behooves us to point that out, and it also behooves you folks to point that out on your side. I think we can be accommodating and meet on that.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Greg Fergus Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'll make this quick.
Mr. Chair, parliamentary convention holds that, when a minister appears before a committee, it is to address the issue on the agenda. We are talking about the Minister of Finance, who has appeared before the committee many times. I don't believe he has ever even declined an invitation by the committee, but I digress.
When a committee studies a bill and reviews its provisions, government and opposition members alike have the opportunity to ask a minister questions, as they would with any witness. In all cases, however, the questions must relate to the subject in hand.
Mr. Chair, you've always been very open-minded. In the past, when the minister went off topic, you've always given committee members the leeway to do the same. However, when the minister's comments pertain to the topic on the agenda, the questions put to the minister should as well, as parliamentary convention dictates.
Thank you.
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2019-04-09 15:48
I'm not sure that there really is a conflict on the table. I understand from your recent comment that you're saying that a certain amount of latitude, insofar as the minister speaks about matters qua as Minister of Finance, will be accepted. It's your job to police this. I know that when we are in the House of Commons, the Speaker allows people—to a degree I find rather shocking, frankly—to speak very much outside the four corners of the bill that's at issue. Questions of relevance are rarely, if ever, addressed by the chair.
Given your commitment that you accept that a minister can come and talk about ministerial responsibilities, and given what Mr. Poilievre said, that he is not going to talk about personal matters but merely things concerning his work as finance minister, I don't understand that we have a real conflict on the table. I would suggest that we are ad idem.
View Tom Kmiec Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I guess I missed a thrilling morning when this was being debated.
In anticipation of this meeting, I looked at the previous motion that was passed last year. As you'll remember, eventually that motion hamstrung the committee when the issues of DPAs came up on one really late night. Then we had a lot more questions, and a lot of members around the table weren't happy. I had a kids' school group that was coming through. Late at night I went to speak to someone, and when I returned this was on the table.
I know that we're at this point again. We're dealing with a programming motion. It is slightly different. One thing I'll mention is that nothing in here says that any of this has to be televised. I would like to see that as part of this motion. In actuality, the word “televised” doesn't even appear in this motion.
View Kim Rudd Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you.
I came to this place almost four years ago, coming from a background of having to work with people in business, and I came with an expectation—
Mr. Poilievre is reading his phone and not listening to the answer to the question he asked me.
I came expecting respectful debate. When I saw the behaviour and the complete disrespect for the Minister of Finance in the House when he stood up to read the budget, I question the motivation of Mr. Poilievre and the members on that side as to whether these comments and these requests are designed for respectful debate, real questions, or whether they are intended to have another, frankly, disgusting performance like the one we saw that day.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Some of you will know this and others may not. In my previous career, before I got into politics, I was in real estate. I helped folks sell and buy homes. This reminds me, actually, of some of the situations I found myself in, in those circumstances. Sometimes what you'd get is that someone would say, “I know we have a contract here that says X, Y, and Z, and this is the price of the home and this is the closing date, and all the conditions that go with that, but you know what? Don't worry about that. Yes, we'll get the walls painted for you, or, yes, we'll leave some of the furniture, or whatever the case might be.” They'd say, we don't need to throw that in the contract, though. It will just be an agreement between us. For obvious reasons, I wouldn't accept those kinds of things. This reminds me of those same situations.
Mr. Poilievre has made a suggestion. It's been said a couple of times on both sides, but I will point out that this is a fairly significant compromise by the opposition, I would argue, because we're letting the government have exactly what it wants, which is to limit the amount of time there is for consideration and debate and amendments or anything else related to the budget. In return, the expectation is that there be three hours for the minister to come here to be held accountable for any matters related to his finance portfolio, and that his opening remarks limited to 10 minutes and that the meeting be televised.
What we're hearing, essentially, for the most part, is yes, we agree to all of that, but we don't want to put it in writing. Whenever I have someone tell me they agree with me and they're willing to give me something, but they don't want to put it in writing, I have to question the motivation for not being willing to put it in writing? If it's okay and you're agreeing that you're going to allow it, why not just put it in writing? What's the harm? As I say, it hearkens me back to my days in real estate, when somebody would say, “Yes, no, no, don't worry. We'll leave the freezer. We don't want to put it in the contract—let's not do that—but we'll leave it, we promise.”
You never want to doubt someone's sincerity, and I'm not saying I do, but why not put it in writing then? What's the problem here? I just feel that we're in a spot where it's almost like there's disagreement for the sake of disagreement, or something like that. I wish we could end that. If that's what everyone's saying is—
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Chair, I believe you are a man of your word. I've known you for a long time. I've never once known you to violate your word, and so I take you at your word today that we will be allowed to question the minister, not just on the BIA but also on his broader finance portfolio. I give you my word that my questions will focus exclusively on his work as a finance minister, not on anything unrelated to that job.
As a result, I am prepared to withdraw my earlier amendment and propose a different one.
(Amendment withdrawn)
Hon. Pierre Poilievre: With my new amendment, paragraph 7 would be transformed to read:
the Committee invite the Minister of Finance to appear on Bill C-97 on Wednesday, May 1, 2019, from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., and that his opening statement be limited to ten minutes, and that the meeting be televised;
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
It's not a problem. Is everyone okay with that?
(Amendment agreed to)
(Motion as amended agreed to)
The Chair: We have one other motion.
Go ahead, Mr. Sorbara.
View Francesco Sorbara Profile
Lib. (ON)
The motion is:
That
1. the Committee begin a subject matter study of Bill C-97, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2019, and other measures on Monday, April 29, 2019, if the Bill itself has not yet been referred to the Committee;
2. the Committee hear from departmental officials on the subject matter of Bill C-97 on Monday, April 29, 2019, from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.;
3. if Bill C-97 is referred to the Committee by the House during the subject matter study of the Bill, all evidence and documentation received in public in relation to its subject matter study of Bill C-97 be deemed received by the Committee in the context of its legislative study of Bill C-97;
4. the Clerk of the Committee write immediately to each Member of Parliament who is not a member of a caucus represented on the Committee, to inform them of the beginning of the subject matter study of Bill C-97 by the Committee and to invite them to start working on their proposed amendments to the Bill, which would be considered during the clause-by-clause study of the Bill;
5. Members of the Committee submit their prioritized witness lists for the study of Bill C-97 to the Clerk of the Committee by no later than noon on Thursday, April 18, 2019, and that these lists be distributed to Members that same day;
6. the Committee hear from witnesses on Bill C-97 from April 29, 2019, to May 16, 2019;
7. the Committee invite the Minister of Finance to appear on Bill C-97 on Wednesday, May 1, 2019, from 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., and that officials appear from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., if necessary;
8. proposed amendments to Bill C-97 be submitted to the Clerk of the Committee in both official languages by 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 22, 2019, at the latest;
9. the Committee commence clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-97 on Monday, May 27, 2019, at 11:00 a.m., subject to the Bill being referred to the Committee;
10. the Chair may limit debate on each clause to a maximum of five minutes per party, per clause; and
11. if the Committee has not completed the clause-by-clause consideration of the Bill by 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 28, 2019, all remaining amendments submitted to the Committee shall be deemed moved, the Chair shall put the question, forthwith and successively, without further debate on all remaining clauses and proposed amendments, as well as each and every question necessary to dispose of clause-by-clause consideration of the Bill, as well as all questions necessary to report the Bill to the House and to order the Chair to report the Bill to the House as soon as possible.
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
Thank you, Mr. Sorbara.
I will make a point, and then I have a list of speakers here.
On point 10, that the chair limit debate to a maximum of five minutes per party, per clause, we kind of exercise judgment on that one. There are some clauses that we have allowed parties to talk on for pretty well 20 minutes or so, depending on where we're at in the bill. We're pretty flexible on that, but if absolutely necessary, we'll go to five minutes.
Okay, I have on my list first Mr. Poilievre, and then Mr. Dusseault.
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
CPC (ON)
I haven't had a chance to finish my own remarks. You'll recall, Mr. Chair, that I just finished reading the motion.
Members would benefit from hearing the English version a second time, given that the break for the vote interrupted the flow of our discourse earlier. Just in case members have forgotten the motion as it's written now, I'll read it in English.
The motion is:
That
1. the Committee begin a subject matter study of Bill C-97, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2019, and other measures on Monday, April 29, 2019, if the Bill itself has not yet been referred to the Committee;
2. the Committee hear from departmental officials on the subject matter of Bill C-97 on Monday, April 29, 2019, from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.;
3. if Bill C-97 is referred to the Committee by the House during the subject matter study of the Bill, all evidence and documentation received in public in relation to its subject matter study of Bill C-97 be deemed received by the Committee in the context of its legislative study of Bill C-97;
4. the Clerk of the Committee write immediately to each Member of Parliament who is not a member of a caucus represented on the Committee, to inform them of the beginning of the subject matter study of Bill C-97 by the Committee and to invite them to start working on their proposed amendments to the Bill, which would be considered during the clause-by-clause study of the Bill;
5. Members of the Committee submit their prioritized witness lists for the study of Bill C-97 to the Clerk of the Committee by no later than noon on Thursday, April 18, 2019, and that these lists be distributed to Members that same day;
6. the Committee hear from witnesses on Bill C-97 from April 29, 2019, to May 16, 2019;
7. the Committee invite the Minister of Finance to appear on Bill C-97 on Wednesday, May 1, 2019, from 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., and that officials appear from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., if necessary;
8. proposed amendments to Bill C-97 be submitted to the Clerk of the Committee in both official languages by 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 22, 2019, at the latest;
9. the Committee commence clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-97 on Monday, May 27, 2019, at 11:00 a.m., subject to the Bill being referred to the Committee;
10. the Chair may limit debate on each clause to a maximum of five minutes per party, per clause; and
11. if the Committee has not completed the clause-by-clause consideration of the Bill by 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 28, 2019, all remaining amendments submitted to the Committee shall be deemed moved, the Chair shall put the question, forthwith and successively, without further debate on all remaining clauses and proposed amendments, as well as each and every question necessary to dispose of clause-by-clause consideration of the Bill, as well as all questions necessary to report the Bill to the House and to order the Chair to report the Bill to the House as soon as possible.
Let us go through some of my concerns with the motion as currently written.
First of all, we would like to see the minister testify from 3:30 until 6:30 on May 1, 2019, rather than just from 3:30 to 5:00. We'd like to specify, or we want the wording to specify, that members may pose any questions to the minister related to this bill or his conduct as finance minister, and that the chair shall not interrupt such questioning. Three hours is a more reasonable amount of time than an hour and a half. Furthermore, we would limit the finance minister's opening remarks to no more than 10 minutes so that we can focus on questioning. The finance minister had a chance to give a speech in the House of Commons. He doesn't need to repeat it here. Any members who are concerned about his opening statement can refer themselves to his very lengthy opener during the budget introduction in the House of Commons. If they have any confusion whatsoever about either what's in the budget or what the finance minister thinks of the budget, that speech can answer those questions. Therefore, we don't need to burn committee time listening to him speak for half an hour. That is our principal request.
Second, points 10 and 11 are particularly objectionable, because they restrict our ability to properly debate this omnibus budget bill. Last year, we all stumbled upon a very strange section of the previous omnibus budget that gave us deferred prosecution agreements. Few in this room understood the consequences of that amendment.
To your credit, Mr. Chair, you acknowledged that deferred prosecution agreements did not belong in the budget bill. Mr. Fergus likewise, and very presciently, acknowledged the problems with that section of the bill. The foresight that Mr. Fergus exhibited in that debate is quite startling, now that we have seen events unfold subsequently. I don't know; maybe Mr. Fergus can jump in on this discussion and tell us if he was able to foreshadow just how important his predictions of trouble would become. If you look at the last three months of discourse in this country and you match that discourse with Mr. Fergus's observations, you can only conclude that he has a degree of clairvoyance that is quite frankly terrifying. That he could have foreshadowed so much trouble in so few words is really impressive....
What's that?
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
CPC (ON)
Seriously, I'm here all night.
The reality is that we did not have enough time to properly discuss that section. I think we would all acknowledge that privately. I know there is probably some desire to avoid putting that on the public record, but to have such an important amendment to the Criminal Code appear before a finance committee out of nowhere and then to discuss it in just a few short minutes is not in the public interest.
We do object to the idea that the chair would limit debate on each clause to five minutes. We also object to this hard deadline. There's no rush here. We know that there are many months for the committee and the House to return a bill for passage. There's no reason why Parliament couldn't meet in the summer months to work on the budget as well. It is not unusual for a budget implementation act to be passed in the fall, because none of the measures are particularly time-sensitive. If we were to have a debate here that lasted a little longer than normal, we could simply reconvene meetings in July and August. I know I would be prepared to attend those meetings. I think most Canadians would think it reasonable that we do our jobs in the summer as well, not just in the spring. Being an MP is a full-time job. We can't expect to be at the cottage from June 24 until September 15 or 16. We have to be prepared to show up for work. If it takes until beyond the end of June to get the BIA passed, then I think we would do well by Canadians to show up and do our jobs. Some members have pointed out that they don't have cottages, which is even better. It means the recreational opportunity cost of being here will be particularly small for them.
I know that Mr. Sorbara, as an economist, will appreciate the reference to opportunity cost.
That is my intervention, Mr. Chair. I think there is a speakers list. I'll let the member go on.
View Pierre-Luc Dusseault Profile
NDP (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
My thanks to my colleague for his presentation. I will try to be brief, out of respect for the witnesses who should be appearing before us shortly.
That being said, I will have to oppose the omnibus motion before us on this omnibus bill. The main reason is that, once again, as happens almost every year, budget implementation bills are studied in committee before they are even passed in the House. So we may well be doing work for nothing. If the bill is not passed in the House, it will never be referred to the Standing Committee on Finance. In that case, we will have done all this for absolutely nothing. To study the purpose of the bill before the House has even voted on it at second reading is to predict the outcome of a vote. I think it is inappropriate, as a matter of principle, for a committee to predict the outcome of a vote in the House. That is the main reason why I will be opposing the motion.
However, I would now like to propose that items 2 and 7 be extracted from the motion and put to a separate vote. As a result, the members of the committee could first vote on those two items and then on the rest of the motion. This would allow us, at the very least, to express the desire we have on this side of the table to invite the Minister of Finance to appear before the committee. I do not want my vote against this omnibus motion to be seen as a refusal to invite the minister and his officials to appear before us.
Since I would like the minister to appear before the committee, I would like to be able to comment separately on this issue. I therefore propose at this time that items 2 and 7 of the motion be extracted and voted on separately.
View Pierre-Luc Dusseault Profile
NDP (QC)
I tried to find a compromise, so I'm proposing to delete numbers 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10 and 11.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Mr. Pierre-Luc Dusseault: That's my amendment.
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
CPC (ON)
Yes, that's right.
I think this is a very reasonable motion. At the end of the day, it allows for study of the bill, and it allows us to hear from the minister. I have to say I'm not entirely satisfied with the outcome that this amendment would deliver because of course, once again, it puts the minister in a nice, warm, comfortable cocoon to protect him from the ravages of democracy. He would testify for only an hour and a half, in which he tends to burn easily a 15-minute hole at the very beginning, and then he takes prewritten softball questions from his government members for more than half of what remaining time exists. Finally, whenever things get difficult, the chair has a tendency to come to his rescue, almost as a bodyguard would rescue a client, so that leaves us a couple of minutes to actually ask him serious questions about his conduct and his legislation.
We now know the consequences of sheltering the minister from accountability. They include the adoption of legislation that has engulfed the government in scandal. I think, ironically, if members had been willing to hear legitimate criticisms about the deferred prosecution agreement, hived it off and sent it to Justice for a proper six- or seven-month study, they probably wouldn't have ended up in this mess in the first place. They probably would have spotted some of the dangers that later metastasized into the horrendous events of the last two months.
It's funny sometimes that politicians and governments think they are doing themselves favours by sheltering themselves from accountability, but the resulting impunity with which they act when they are without accountability gets them in more trouble than if they had just answered the tough questions up front.
So in a strange way, while it would have been uncomfortable for the minister to stay longer and answer more questions about his BIA last time, we might have saved him from himself and he might therefore have saved his boss from himself. But by preventing this committee from doing that accountability job, we gave the Prime Minister and the finance minister the liberty with which to cause themselves such enormous difficulty.
Why not just accept the member's amendment for now, and then we can discuss another amendment later that would bring the minister in for three hours, instead of one and a half, and require him to answer questions rather than give speeches while he is here? I think that would probably be a better approach.
I will see if any of my colleagues agree. I believe that Mr. Richards is on the list, as well as Mr. Deltell.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
I think I will actually be looking to move a subamendment, but I want to speak to the amendment first. Then I will maybe move that, and we can discuss it. I'm sure some of my other colleagues will want to chime in on the subamendment at that point. I will allow them that opportunity then, but I want to speak to this before I do that.
Listening to the arguments that others have made here, I certainly would say, first of all, that I can't help but agree. To look at an omnibus bill of this nature with the kinds of timelines that are being proposed here, with the hammer that's going to be put on top of the opportunity for debate.... Any time you limit opportunities for scrutiny, it's a concern. We've seen the outcomes of that limiting of scrutiny in the past.
For example, we could get into the last budget this government brought forward. They, of course, snuck in something there to try to help their buddies, their Liberal friends, and it has led to a giant scandal for this government and, obviously, a huge concern for Canadians all across this country. Those are the kinds of things that happen when you limit scrutiny and you limit the opportunity for something to be looked at in detail. When you limit the opportunity for debate, it results in problems, lack of accountability, maybe even mistakes in some cases.
We have already seen the type of error there was just in the math alone on this budget from this government. Fortunately, that has already been caught by one of our Conservative members.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. McCauley, who discovered it, is a very diligent member of Parliament. Those are the kinds of opportunities we need to give for there to be these things when there are errors. We've seen a multitude of them from this government over the last few years, so there's certainly lots of precedent to believe that there would be more errors and mistakes, and we need to have the opportunity to comb through things for those and to properly question and make sure there are accountability measures built into them.
The idea that Mr. Dusseault has suggested here, whereby there is an opportunity.... Obviously, I think everybody here would agree that there would be a desire to hear from and question departmental officials and, obviously, the Minister of Finance, for some of those very reasons and others, such as the idea that the minister should be here to be held accountable and to be transparent and open. We haven't necessarily seen that in the past, but it's certainly something we should expect.
The same goes, obviously, when we're looking at the details here. There are likely to be a lot of questions for officials on some of the omnibus things that are thrown into the budget.
I saw in this year's budget an example of something like that. There's a line item in the budget that directly affects my riding, and only my riding. There certainly are some questions by some in my riding as to why, in fact, it's being done the way it is. It shrinks the area of some of the ski hills in Banff. It seems like an odd thing to be in a budget, to say the least. Those are the kinds of things on which there needs to be an opportunity to ask questions. That's one example; there are many others like it.
That's why it's important that we do hear from officials, and that we have the opportunity to question them. That's why it is important to have the same opportunity with the finance minister. I guess, as a side note, I will say that at least, in this case, it is going to be the Minister of Finance and not a parliamentary secretary, as was offered the last time when it was supposed to be the minister who was to appear here.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Not at all. The point is that this is not the person who is supposed to be here to be accountable. It's supposed to be the minister.
The bottom line is that the idea of taking those two out.... There were obviously efforts made by my colleague in the NDP to try to do that in some kind of co-operative way. It didn't seem as though the government was willing to co-operate in any kind of way to try to allow the opportunity to have more discussion about some of the other parts of this motion. He's made the decision to approach it in the way he has.
I will point out to members of the government that I guess there's nothing stopping them from bringing forward the other nine sections they have in here, if this amendment and the motion itself were to pass. There would be nothing stopping them, at least to my knowledge, from bringing forward the other nine sections and trying again. We can have a full debate at that point on the other nine, if that's what they choose to do.
I think they can expect a fairly full debate on it, because there seem to be some concerns. The point is that I can't imagine why anyone would say there's a problem with hearing from the people who are supposed to be here to answer for what's in there and to be held accountable by members of Parliament on behalf of the public of this country. I can't imagine why anyone would oppose something like this, so hopefully that will be what we see as a result here: that we can move forward with these couple of items and then figure out the rest of it from there.
To look at the idea of.... First of all, I would say that probably nobody here has had the opportunity to really fully look at the BIA, obviously, at this point. The briefing for members of Parliament and their staff is not even scheduled until tonight. Is that correct? The briefing will be held this evening, so to have a motion brought forward to give us a drop-dead date when the debate and the opportunity for consideration are going to be closed and hammered shut, before anyone has even had the opportunity to fully examine the contents and to be briefed on it, is beyond the pale, Mr. Chair. I think there are a lot of reasons why everyone would be concerned as a result of that.
Maybe what I'll do at this point is to move a subamendment. It's much in line with some of the comments that we heard from my friend and colleague Mr. Poilievre, but the subamendment I'll move is on section 7.
What it currently indicates is that “the Committee invite the Minister of Finance to appear on Bill C-97 on Wednesday, May 1, 2019, from 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., and that officials appear from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., if necessary”. What I would suggest as a subamendment here would be to indicate that “the Committee invite the Minister of Finance to appear, along with officials, on Bill C-97 on Wednesday, May 1, 2019, from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.” That's so both would be available to the entire committee for the whole three hours.
I think the least that can be expected with an omnibus bill of this nature is that the minister would come and appear for the full period of time and not leave officials here to do his dirty work for him for half of the time.
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
Just to interrupt, Mr. Richards, you could move the subamendment to the original motion, but Mr. Dusseault's amendment is to delete all of those sections. We're not dealing with sections 2 and 7 at the moment, so your subamendment is disallowed.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I am happy to return to this committee as a “guest artist” of this very prestigious Standing Committee on Finance, as everyone knows.
Mr. Chair, I commend your work, even though I challenged you, just a few moments ago, during the vote. I know you don't feel personally targeted. We believe that, in this amendment submitted by my colleague from Sherbrooke, there are positives and negatives, just like in photography. Just because we extract items does not mean that the remaining ones are not part of the debate. From our perspective, they are part of the debate, and we challenged your decision. The parliamentary majority on this committee expressed its will, of course. We respect the laws and we will govern ourselves accordingly.
In his comments before introducing his amendment, the honourable member for Sherbrooke indicated that this was an omnibus motion dealing with an omnibus bill.
As you will well recall, just like every Canadian in fact, almost four years ago, the current government tabled a platform that was intended to be the bible for its actions if it became a majority government. The people democratically elected the governing party with a majority. Canadians are therefore entitled to expect the government to implement the content of its election platform.
Let's talk about these so-called omnibus bills, which, at the time, were the subject of much debate. The current government was very harsh on the previous government about its alleged misuse of that legislative process.
On page 30 of the election platform, it says, “We will not resort to legislative tricks to avoid scrutiny.” The document reminds us that the former prime minister “has used prorogation to avoid difficult political circumstances. We will not.” As an argument, it is stated that the former prime minister “also used omnibus bills to prevent Parliament from properly reviewing and debating his proposals. We will change the House of Commons Standing Orders to bring an end to this undemocratic practice.”
Those who have followed the news over the past two months will have noticed that this promise, on page 30 of the current government's platform, has not been kept to the letter, to say the least. In fact, exactly the opposite happened.
The document also goes on to say that the current government will not introduce any bills like that.
That is what is at the heart of the amendment introduced by the honourable member for Sherbrooke. An omnibus bill that deals with the budget is one thing, but incorporating separate items into it is another. When parliamentary work is done in a parliamentary committee, the least we expect is to let things take their course, as they say. We must ensure that everyone has the right to speak and that we can do a thorough review, to avoid abuses that may become contentious later on.
Let me remind my friends opposite that the past two and a half months could have been avoided if, last year, the fundamental principle of appropriate democratic debate had been applied in parliamentary committee.
We can never take too much time to properly consider such important bills.
Let's come back to this particular case. We can see that this budget is, in a way, a balance sheet budget, since it is the fourth budget introduced by the current Minister of Finance. Consequently, it is time to look at this administration's track record. Each of the items presented here—the time allowed to study this or that part of the bill with this or that person—is not insignificant in itself, but we need to have a shot at studying those aspects.
We believe that, after three and a half years of management, after the tabling of a fourth budget, after everything that has been said over the past four years and, above all, after the actions that have been taken, the time has come for a review. What better opportunity to do so than in the context of parliamentary work that is meant to be intelligent and shared.
Government members should not see the review by a parliamentary committee as an intrusion and a painful ordeal for them. On the contrary, it is an opportunity to present their views. It is an opportunity to present what they believe their successes are. This is a golden opportunity to respond directly to the oblique and sometimes negative comments that the official opposition and opposition groups may make. This is what democracy is. This is what an intelligent debate is. This is what an exchange of ideas is all about. As the saying goes, enlightenment comes when ideas collide. So this is a golden opportunity that every parliamentarian must have and must seize.
Clearly, we are not opposed to the Minister of Finance appearing before the committee. This minister, who is responsible for the more than $330 billion budget of a G7 country, who has led this department for more than three and a half years, who has just tabled and signed his fourth budget, must have the latitude he needs to clearly present his ideas, his viewpoint and his record, as well as to answer the relevant and legitimate questions of all parliamentarians, regardless of political party.
I'm not going after his personality, but he is a person duly elected by the Canadian people, chosen by the head of the Canadian government to assume the very high and prestigious position of Minister of Finance and to manage, as I was saying, the more than $330 billion budget of a G7 country. From our viewpoint, the least he can do is to give us a little more than 90 minutes to talk about it.
This is not about blasting the Minister of Finance and his administration, but it is rather an opportunity for him to explain to Canadians his vision for the future, to outline his achievements, to talk about deficits and to recall some past commitments that have not been honoured. This would allow for a debate. However, the debate is limited to a paltry 90-minute period, when this person is at the heart of the debate and must have every conceivable opportunity to explain his point of view. Let's take this exceptional opportunity to have a proper debate in parliamentary committee.
In terms of the motion of the honourable member for Sherbrooke, we fully understand that he too has some particularly serious reservations about the way things are done and the time available. There is one aspect where our views may differ: in our opinion, when the Minister of Finance comes forward, he must have the time to explain himself, to praise what he thinks is good and to respond to the work of the opposition members.
Let me remind my colleagues on the government side that a minister's testimony is not a test for him. On the contrary, it is a golden opportunity for him to highlight his achievements. Let me also remind government colleagues that they too have the right to speak, even more so than opposition members, which is quite legitimate in a democracy, since they obtained the majority vote of the people. That is not what we wanted, but that is what we got. We cannot be democrats on a sliding scale, that is, we cannot embrace people's opinions when it suits us and not embrace parliamentary and democratic rules when we are not on the winning side. We are democrats and we respect that.
We also note that government members can ask the minister questions. He is from the same political family. They can lob softballs, so to speak, which is fine, as long as what is said is based on facts and the truth. That's not a problem, but the person who manages the finances of the Canadian government, the person who controls a $330 billion budget, the person who is tabling his fourth budget, the person who has been managing the public finances of a G7 country for three and a half years, must have all the time and latitude he needs to present his point of view, while answering relevant and considered questions from both government and official opposition members, as well as from opposition groups.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
Okay. We'll vote on the amendment by Mr. Dusseault to delete sections 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10 and 11.
An hon. member: Can we have a recorded vote, Mr. Chair?
(Amendment negatived: nays 5; yeas 4 [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Chair: That's defeated, so we're on the original motion and back to my original list.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
Was it 1993? I thought you were there.
It's a great honour for me to see you back, Wayne.
What we have before us today is a way of looking at the analysis of the recent budget, which, in our view, does not get to the bottom of things enough.
Mr. Chair, I would like to draw your attention right away to point 7 of the motion before us. Let me take the time to read it:
7. the Committee invite the Minister of Finance to appear on Bill C-97 on Wednesday, May 1, 2019, from 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., and that officials appear from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., if necessary;
This is an important point, but in our opinion it is not mindful of the tremendous burden on the Minister of Finance. That is why we want to extend the hours, and I will table an amendment to that effect a little later.
The Minister of Finance has an incredible burden. This person manages the finances of a G7 country. This person is at the helm of a department and must manage Canada's $330 billion or so in a budget that serves 37 million Canadians. This person must see to every detail of the proposed measures and options suggested to Canadians. Trying to limit the golden opportunity to get to the bottom of things, to ask relevant questions and, most importantly, to have answers to those questions, in our opinion, does not respect the parliamentary system, since everyone has the right to express themselves. It is above all a lack of respect for the Minister of Finance.
This is no small matter, though. When the government tables such thick documents and measures that have a direct impact on the lives of thousands of Canadians, the least we can do is to provide the time for him to explain them and answer the relevant questions. When we limit the minister's testimony to just 90 minutes, minus the 15 or 20 minutes he will take to give his presentation, unfortunately, not much time is left to discuss in detail the commitments made and the impact they can have on the lives of Canadians, on our entrepreneurs, our businesses, our families, our institutions and our partners, whether at the municipal or federal level.
In short, it is a missed opportunity to get to the bottom of things. That is basically why we are here in the House of Commons. We have the extraordinary and signal privilege of sitting on behalf of the 100,000 constituents, in general, who live in our ridings, whether they voted for us or not. We represent all Canadians in our ridings.
The appearance of the Minister of Finance before the Standing Committee on Finance is, in our view, a key moment of transparency, a key moment of accountability, a key moment in parliamentary work and a key moment also for the person who has the extraordinary privilege—deserved, let us not forget—of being at the helm of the Department of Finance. When I say “deserved,” it is simply to remind everyone that, if we have the privilege of sitting in the House, we also have related obligations, including the obligation to respect and honour the mandate entrusted to us all.
We cannot be democrats on a sliding scale, that is, we cannot be happy when victory smiles on us and not happy when we face defeat. Democracy being what it is, we respect the will of the people. Every member in the House deserves to be here.
The government party governs, and the responsibility of the leader of the Canadian government is to choose the people he considers to be best suited for ministerial roles, for the executive. I do not want to favour one over another, but everyone knows that the Department of Finance is one of the largest departments, if not the largest, in any government.
Anyone who has the opportunity, the good fortune and the great honour to sit around the executive table, whether a so-called junior minister or a so-called senior minister, enjoys an invaluable privilege that must be fully appreciated. Around the table, everyone is equal. That is, of course, what we want.
To limit the Minister of Finance's testimony to just 90 minutes is unfortunately to deny him privileged access to speak directly to Canadians, to say exactly what drives him in this budget presentation, what his policy objectives are, and also to report on his achievements.
This is the fourth budget tabled by the Minister of Finance. This minister has been in charge of the Canadian government's public finances for three and a half years, and the time has come for a review, especially since there will be a general election in just over six months. The public will then be able to make a judgment on the current government's economic record and its management of public funds. Views may differ, but the fact remains that, after four budgets and three and a half years of government management, the time has come to take stock.
That is why this presentation to the parliamentary committee gives the minister a unique opportunity to brag, which I say in a positive way. He has a unique opportunity to highlight what he considers to be his successes and to respond to any specific or even rough attack or question from opposition members.
There's nothing personal about this. Indeed, we are here because we are the official opposition, because we are Her Majesty's—in the person of the Minister of Finance in this case—loyal opposition. Let's give the minister an opportunity to respond to attacks or relevant questions from the official opposition and other opposition parties. This is a golden opportunity. I don't see why the minister, given his high responsibilities, would not have this exceptional opportunity to answer questions directly. Certainly, he may not like some of the comments, but we are giving him the opportunity to answer them.
That is the mandate of a parliamentary committee. The minister has the privilege, but above all the duty, to answer the committee's questions.
It is also important to remember that questions will come from both sides. As we just saw in the vote a few moments ago, members of the government party hold the majority around this table and they too can ask witnesses questions. In this case, the Minister of Finance is their ally and their questions should not be expected to be particularly brutal, harsh or painful. Rather, it is an opportunity for the minister to justify his or her various policies. As they say in hockey, the minister will be able to receive passes right on his stick. However, it will be up to him to decide how to handle the puck that will end up there.
We therefore believe it is important for the Minister of Finance to appear before a parliamentary committee to have an opportunity to take stock and to answer members' questions directly about his achievements and what we consider to be measures that have not contributed to economic growth.
That is why I propose the following amendment, which makes a change to the second line of point 7 of the motion. I will therefore read point 7 in its entirety with the amendment I'm proposing:
7. the Committee invite the Minister of Finance to appear on Bill C-97 on Wednesday, May 1, 2019, from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.;
View Francesco Sorbara Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Chair, can I get clarification on the amendment on point 7?
Mr. Deltell, you'd like to have the minister appear from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., but then you want to delete the time that the officials would appear also, from 5:00 to 6:30. Is that correct?
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
There would have to be another time for officials to appear. Anyway, the amendment is strictly that the minister appear from 3:30 to 6:30, with some officials with him, no doubt.
All right. The amendment's on the floor.
Mr. Richards.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Thanks, Mr. Chair.
I guess this is kind of similar to what I had tried to move earlier as a subamendment, so obviously I'm in favour of it. I want to take just a little bit of time to explain why. First, I'd like to just get to the question that was raised about the officials.
It is my understanding that the minister is able to bring along with him whomever he would like; it's within his right to do that. The expectation, I think, is that he would answer questions and maybe if he needed some reference he could turn to them to get some reference or something. If members of the committee feel it's necessary to have them, I'm certainly not opposed to having them come at another time. My understanding, though, is that also, in the motion, on point 2, we would have department officials here for three hours on April 29, if that is what the committee chooses. I don't think I would be opposed to having them here again, but the bottom line is that, at the end of the day, the person responsible, the person who is accountable for this act, on behalf of the government, is the Minister of Finance. It's not the officials; it's not the parliamentary secretary, as they tried one other time. It is the Minister of Finance. He's the one who is responsible. The buck stops there, so to speak—or in this case, the bucks all kind of get thrown out from there.
The bottom line is that he's the one who should be here, and I don't really think that an expectation that he would come for the entire period of time, rather than just half of the period of time, is something that is unreasonable in any kind of way. It certainly seems to me as though that's the appropriate thing. I already mentioned earlier—I don't have to get into it in great detail again—that we've seen things slid into these omnibus bills by this government that are intended to be of sole benefit to some of their elite Liberal friends. We've seen things here that certainly in no way should relate to a budget. I mentioned the one example earlier from this current budget of something that would affect the size and area of ski hills in one particular location in the country, in my riding. These kinds of things are pretty odd things to place in budgets, so there are a lot of questions to be asked about things like that.
Of course, there are also a lot of questions to be asked about broad budgetary policy. We have a government here that had promised it was going to balance the budget by 2019—remember? Here we are, and deficits continue to grow and debt continues to be piled on. There are a lot of legitimate questions about what kind of legacy that leaves for our children and our grandchildren. Those are the kinds of questions that need to be asked too.
To expect that in just half that time, in one and a half hours, we could get to some of these things oddly placed in an omnibus bill and also have a chance to actually ask about the broad budgetary policy of the government, with the limited time.... We have seen in the past—Mr. Poilievre mentioned it earlier—how this finance minister has come in and tried to talk the clock out and hasn't given a lot of opportunity for the actual questions. Certainly there isn't much in the way of answers, so let's have a little more time to be able to get those questions in and, hopefully, maybe even get some answers. Who the heck knows—maybe it'll actually happen this time.
Nathalie Drouin
View Nathalie Drouin Profile
Nathalie Drouin
2019-03-06 14:42
Not that I know of.
Nevertheless, as I said in my opening remarks, I have discussed roles and responsibilities and authorities that an AG has under the DPP Act with my colleague at Finance.
View Randy Boissonnault Profile
Lib. (AB)
Constituents and Canadians are curious about how many meetings actually take place on a big government file. You mentioned a file that's important to me. On a matter related to 15,000 jobs in Alberta and the west, to billions of dollars of economic development, the idea of buying the TMX pipeline would have been a new idea and would have prompted a number of meetings between the Prime Minister's Office and the ministry of Finance. How many meetings, ballpark, would the PMO have had with the finance minister's office over the purchase of the TMX pipeline?
View Randy Boissonnault Profile
Lib. (AB)
Gerald Butts
View Gerald Butts Profile
Gerald Butts
2019-03-06 11:08
On the TMX acquisition, I wouldn't want to venture a guess—
Mr. Randy Boissonnault: Ballpark.
Mr. Gerald Butts: —but probably 100.
Gerald Butts
View Gerald Butts Profile
Gerald Butts
2019-03-06 11:08
For a file that big it would be for sure.
Mr. Randy Boissonnault: Okay, so it's affecting thousands of jobs.
Mr. Gerald Butts: That would be a week in NAFTA.
View Jody Wilson-Raybould Profile
Ind. (BC)
Gilakas'la. Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the members of the justice committee for providing me the opportunity for extended testimony today. I very much appreciate it.
Starting off, I would like to acknowledge the territory, the ancestral lands of the Algonquin people.
For a period of approximately four months, between September and December of 2018, I experienced a consistent and sustained effort by many people within the government to seek to politically interfere in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in my role as the Attorney General of Canada in an inappropriate effort to secure a deferred prosecution agreement with SNC-Lavalin.
These events involved 11 people, excluding myself and my political staff, from the Prime Minister's Office, the Privy Council Office and the office of the Minister of Finance. This included in-person conversations, telephone calls, emails and text messages. There were approximately 10 phone calls and 10 meetings specifically about SNC, and I and/or my staff were a part of these meetings.
Within these conversations, there were express statements regarding the necessity of interference in the SNC-Lavalin matter, the potential for consequences and veiled threats if a DPA was not made available to SNC. These conversations culminated on December 19, 2018, with a conversation I had with the Clerk of the Privy Council, a conversation that I will provide some significant detail on.
A few weeks later, on January 7, 2019, I was informed by the Prime Minister that I was being shuffled out of the role of Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.
For most of these conversations, I made contemporaneous notes, detailed notes, in addition to my clear memory, which I am relying on today, among other documentation. My goal in my testimony is to outline the details of these communications for the committee and indeed for all Canadians. However, before doing that, let me make a couple of comments.
First, I want to thank Canadians for their patience since the February 7 story that broke in The Globe and Mail. Thank you as well specifically to those who have reached out to me across the country. I appreciate the messages, and I have read all of them.
Second, on the role of the Attorney General, the Attorney General exercises prosecutorial discretion as provided for under the Director of Public Prosecutions Act. Generally this authority is exercised by the director of public prosecutions, but the Attorney General has authority to issue directives to the DPP on specific prosecutions or to take over prosecutions. It is well established that the Attorney General exercises prosecutorial discretion. She or he does so individually and independently. These are not cabinet decisions.
I will say that it is appropriate for cabinet colleagues to draw to the Attorney General's attention what they see as important policy considerations that are relevant to decisions about how a prosecution will proceed. What is not appropriate is pressing the Attorney General on matters that she or he cannot take into account, such as partisan political considerations, continuing to urge the Attorney General to change her or his mind for months after the decision has been made, or suggesting that a collision with the Prime Minister on these matters should be avoided.
With that said, the remainder of my testimony will be a detailed and factual delineation of approximately 10 phone calls, 10 in-person meetings, and emails and text messages that were part of an effort to politically interfere regarding the SNC matter for purposes of securing a deferred prosecution.
The story begins on September 4, 2008. My chief of staff and I were overseas when I was sent a memorandum for the Attorney General, pursuant to section 13 of the Director of Public Prosecutions Act. It was entitled “Whether to issue an invitation to negotiate a remediation agreement to SNC-Lavalin” and was prepared by the director of public prosecutions, Kathleen Roussel.
The only parts of this note that I will disclose are as follows: “the DPP is of the view that an invitation to negotiate will not be made in this case and that no announcement will be made by the PPSC.”
As with all section 13 notices, the director provides the information so that the Attorney General can take such course of action as they deem appropriate. In other words, the director had made her decision not to negotiate a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin.
I subsequently spoke to my minister's office staff about the decision and I did the standard practice of undertaking further internal work and due diligence in relation to this note, a practice that I have had for many of the section 13 notices that I received when I was the Attorney General. In other words, I immediately put in motion, with my department and minister's office, a careful consideration and study of the matter.
Two days later, on September 6, one of the first communications about a DPA was received from outside of my department. Ben Chin, Minister Morneau's chief of staff, emailed my chief of staff and they arranged to talk. He wanted to talk about SNC and what we could do, if anything, to address this. He said to her, my chief, that if they don't get a DPA, they will leave Montreal, and it's the Quebec election right now, so we can't have that happen. He said that they have a big meeting coming up on Tuesday and that this bad news may go public.
This same day, my chief of staff exchanged some emails with my minister's office staff about this, who advised her that the deputy attorney general, Nathalie Drouin, was working on something and that my staff were drafting a memo about the role of the Attorney General vis-à-vis the PPSC.
It was on or about this day that I requested a one-on-one meeting with the Prime Minister on another matter of urgency, and as soon as possible after I got back into the country. This request would ultimately become the meeting on September 17 between myself and the Prime Minister that has widely been reported in the media.
On September 7, my chief of staff spoke by phone to my then deputy minister about the call she had received from Ben Chin and the deputy stated that the department was working on this. The deputy gave my chief a quick rundown of what she thought some options would be. On the same day, I received a note from my staff on the role of the Attorney General, a note that my office also shared with Elder Marques and Amy Archer at the PMO.
The same day, staff in my office met with the deputy minister. Some excerpts of the section 13 note were read to the deputy minister, but the deputy minister did not want to be provided with a copy of the section 13 note.
On September 8, my deputy shared the draft note on the role of the Attorney General with my chief of staff, who subsequently shared it with me, and over the next day, clarity was sought by my staff with the deputy on aspects of the options that were laid out in her note.
A follow-up conversation between Ben Chin and a member of my staff, François Giroux, occurred on September 11. Mr. Chin said that SNC had been informed by the PPSC that it cannot enter into a DPA, and Ben again detailed the reasons why they were told that they were not getting a DPA. Mr. Chin also noted that SNC's legal counsel was Frank Iacobucci, and further detailed what the terms were that SNC was prepared to agree to, stating that they viewed this as part of a negotiation.
To be clear, up to this point I had not been directly contacted by the Prime Minister, officials in the Prime Minister's Office or the Privy Council Office about this matter. With the exception of Mr. Chin's discussions, the focus of communications had been internal to the Department of Justice.
This changed on September 16. My chief of staff had a phone call with Mathieu Bouchard and Elder Marques from the Prime Minister's Office. They wanted to discuss SNC. They told her that SNC had made further submissions to the Crown and that “there is some softening, but not much”. They said that they understand that the individual Crown prosecutor wants to negotiate an agreement, but the director does not. They said that they understand that there are limits on what can be done, and that they can't direct, but that they hear that our deputy of justice thinks we can get the PPSC to say “we think we should get some outside advice on this.” They said that they think we should be able to find a more reasonable resolution here. They told her that SNC's next board meeting is on Thursday, which was September 20.
They also mention the Quebec election context. They asked my chief if someone had suggested the outside advice idea to the PPSC and asked whether we are open to this suggestion. They wanted to know if my deputy could do it.
In response, my chief of staff stressed to them prosecutorial independence and potential concerns about the interference in the independence of the prosecutorial functions. Mr. Bouchard and Mr. Marques kept telling her that they didn't want to cross any lines, but they asked my chief of staff to follow up with me directly on this matter.
To be clear, I was fully aware of the conversations between September 4 and 16 that I have outlined. I had been regularly briefed by my staff from the moment this first arose, and I had also reviewed all materials that had been produced. Further, my view had also formed at this point, through the work of my department, my minister's office and work I conducted on my own, that it was inappropriate for me to intervene in the decision of the director of public prosecutions in this case and pursue a deferred prosecution agreement.
In the course of reaching this view, I discussed the matter on a number of occasions with my then deputy, so that she was aware of my view. I raised concerns on a number of occasions with my deputy minister about the appropriateness of communications we were receiving from outside the department and also raised concerns about some of the options that she had been suggesting.
On September 17, the deputy minister said that Finance had told her that they want to make sure that Kathleen understands the impact if we do nothing in this case. Given the potential concerns raised by this conversation, I discussed this later with my deputy. This same day, September 17, I had my one-on-one meeting with the Prime Minister that I requested a couple of weeks earlier. When I walked in, the Clerk of the Privy Council was in attendance as well.
While the meeting was not about the issue of SNC and DPAs, the Prime Minister raised the issue immediately. The Prime Minister asked me to help out and to find a solution here for SNC, citing that if there is no DPA, there would be many jobs lost and that SNC would move from Montreal. In response, I explained the law to him and what I have the ability to do and not do under the Director of Public Prosecutions Act around issuing directives or assuming conduct of prosecutions. I told him that I had done my due diligence and had made up my mind on SNC and that I was not going to interfere with the decision of the director.
In response, the Prime Minister reiterated his concerns. I then explained how this came about and that I had received a section 13 note from the DPP earlier in September and that I had considered the matter very closely. I further stated that I was very clear on my role as the Attorney General, and that I am not prepared to issue a directive in this case, that it would not be appropriate.
The Prime Minister again cited the potential loss of jobs and SNC moving. Then, to my surprise, the Clerk started to make the case for the need to have a DPA. He said, “There is a board meeting on Thursday September 20 with stockholders”, “they will likely be moving to London if this happens” “and there is an election in Quebec soon”.
At that point, the Prime Minister jumped in, stressing that there is an election in Quebec and that “and I am an MP in Quebec—the member for Papineau”.
I was quite taken aback. My response—and I vividly remember this as well—was to ask the Prime Minister a direct question, while looking him in the eye. I asked, “Are you politically interfering with my role/my decision as the Attorney General? I would strongly advise against it.”
The Prime Minister said, “No, no, no. We just need to find a solution.”
The Clerk then said that he spoke to my deputy and she said that I could speak to the director.
I responded by saying no, I would not. That would be inappropriate. I further explained to the Clerk and the Prime Minister that I had a conversation with my deputy about options and what my position was on the matter.
As a result of this discussion, I agreed to and undertook to the Prime Minister that I would have a further conversation with my deputy and the Clerk, but that these conversations would not change my mind. I also said that my staff and my officials are not authorized to speak to the PPSC.
We finally discussed the issue for which I had asked for the meeting in the first place.
I left the meeting and immediately debriefed my staff about what was said with respect to SNC and DPAs.
On September 19, I met with the Clerk as I had undertaken to the Prime Minister. The meeting was one-on-one, in my office.
The Clerk brought up job losses and that this is not about the Quebec election or the Prime Minister being a Montreal MP. He said that he has not seen the section 13 note. The Clerk said that he understands that SNC is going back and forth with the DPP, and that they want more information. He said that “Iacobucci is not a shrinking violet”. He referenced the September 20 date and that they don't have anything from the DPP. He said that the Prime Minister is very concerned about the confines of my role as Attorney General and the director of public prosecutions. He reported that the Prime Minister is very aware of my role as the Attorney General of Canada.
I told the Clerk again that I instructed that my deputy is not to get in touch with the director and that given my review of the matter I would not speak to her directly regarding a DPA. I offered to the Clerk that if SNC were to send me a letter expressing their concerns, their public interest argument, it would be permissible and I would appropriately forward it directly to the director of public prosecutions.
Later that day, my chief of staff had a phone call with Elder Marques and Mathieu Bouchard from the Prime Minister's Office. They wanted an update on what was going on regarding the DPAs since “we don't have a ton of time”. She relayed my summary of the meeting with the Clerk and the Prime Minister.
Mathieu and Elder also raised the idea of an “informal reach out” to the DPP. My chief of staff said that she knew I was not comfortable with that, as it looked like and probably did constitute political interference. They asked whether that was true if it wasn't the Attorney General herself, but if it was her staff or the deputy minister. My chief of staff said “yes”, it would, and offered a call with me directly. They said that “we will regroup and get back to you on that”.
Still on September 19, I spoke to Minister Morneau on this matter when we were in the House. He again stressed the need to save jobs, and I told him that engagements from his office to mine on SNC had to stop, that they were inappropriate.
They did not stop. On September 20, my chief of staff had phone calls with Mr. Chin and Justin To, both members of the Minister of Finance's office, about DPAs and SNC.
At this point, after September 20, there was an apparent pause in communicating with myself or my chief of staff on the SNC matter. We did not hear from anyone again until October 18 when Mathieu Bouchard called my chief of staff and asked that we—I—look at the option of my seeking an external legal opinion on the DPP's decision not to extend an invitation to negotiate a DPA.
This would become a recurring theme for some time in messages from the PMO, that an external review should be done of the DPP's decision.
The next day as well, SNC filed a Federal Court application seeking to quash the DPP's decision to not enter into a remediation agreement with them.
In my view, this necessarily put to rest any notion that I might speak to or intervene with the DPP, or that external review could take place. The matter was now before the courts and a judge was being asked to look at the DPP's discretion.
However, on October 26, 2018, when my chief of staff spoke to Mathieu Bouchard and communicated to him that, given that SNC had now filed in Federal Court seeking to review the DPP's decision, surely we had moved past the idea of the Attorney General intervening or getting an opinion on the same question. Mathieu replied that he was still interested in an external legal opinion idea. Could she not get an external legal opinion on whether the DPP had exercised their discretion properly, and then on the application itself, the Attorney General could intervene and seek to stay the proceedings, given that she was awaiting a legal opinion?
My chief of staff said that this would obviously be perceived as interference and her boss questioning the DPP's decision. Mathieu said that if six months from the election SNC announces they're moving their headquarters out of Canada, that is bad. He said, “We can have the best policy in the world but we need to get re-elected.” He said that everybody knows that this is the Attorney General's decision, but that he wants to make sure that all options are being canvassed. Mathieu said that if at the end of the day the Attorney General is not comfortable, that is fine. He just “doesn't want any doors to be closed”. Jessica, my chief of staff, said that I was always happy to speak to him should he wish.
In mid-November, the PMO requested that I meet with Mathieu Bouchard and Elder Marques to discuss the matter, which I did on November 22. This meeting was quite long; I would say about an hour and a half. I was irritated by having to have this meeting, as I had already told the Prime Minister, etc., that a DPA on SNC was not going to happen, that I was not going to issue a directive. Mathieu, in this meeting, did most of the talking. He was trying to tell me that there were options and that I needed to find a solution. I took them through the DPP Act, section 15 and section 10, and talked about the prosecutorial independence as a constitutional principle, and that they were interfering. I talked about the section 13 note, which they said they had never received, but I reminded them that we sent it to them in September. Mathieu and Elder continued to plead their case, talking about if I'm not sure in my decision, that we could hire an eminent person to advise me. They were kicking the tires. I said no. My mind had been made up and they needed to stop. This was enough.
I will briefly pause at this moment to comment on my own state of mind.
In my role as Attorney General, I had received the decision of the DPP in September, had reviewed the matter, made a decision on what was appropriate given a DPA and communicated that to the Prime Minister. I had also taken additional steps that the Prime Minister asked me to, such as meeting with the Clerk.
In my view, the communications and efforts to change my mind on this matter should have stopped. Various officials also urged me to take partisan political considerations into account, which it was clearly improper for me to do. We either have a system that is based on the rule of law, the independence of prosecutorial functions and respect for those charged to use their discretion and powers in a particular way, or we do not.
While in our system of government, policy-oriented discussion amongst people at earlier points in this conversation may be appropriate, the consistent and enduring efforts—even in the face of judicial proceedings on the same matter, and in the face of a clear decision of the director of public prosecutions and the Attorney General—to continue and even intensify such efforts raises serious red flags in my view, yet this is what continued to happen.
On December 5, 2018, I met with Gerry Butts. We had both sought out this meeting. I wanted to speak about a number of things, including bringing up SNC and the barrage of people hounding me and my staff. Towards the end of our meeting, which was in the Château Laurier, I raised how I needed everybody to stop talking to me about SNC, as I had made up my mind and the engagements were inappropriate.
Gerry then took over the conversation and said how we need a solution on the SNC stuff. He said I needed to find a solution. I said no and I referenced the preliminary inquiry and the judicial review. I said further that I gave the Clerk the only appropriate solution that could have happened, and that was the letter idea that was not taken up. Gerry talked to me about how the statute was a statute passed by Harper and that he does not like the law. I said something like that is the law that we have.
On December 7 I received a letter from the Prime Minister dated December 6, attaching a letter from the CEO of SNC-Lavalin dated October 15. I responded to the Prime Minister's letter of December 6, noting that the matter is before the courts so I cannot comment on it, and that the decision re a DPA was one for the DPP, which is independent of my office.
This brings me to the final events in the chronology, the ones that signal, in my experience, the final escalation in efforts by the Prime Minister's Office to interfere in this matter. On December 18, 2018, my chief of staff was urgently summoned to a meeting with Gerry Butts and Katie Telford to discuss SNC. They want to know where I—me—am at in terms of finding a solution. They told her that they felt like the issue was getting worse and that I was not doing anything. They referenced a possible call with the Prime Minister and the Clerk the next day.
I will now read to you a transcript of the most relevant sections of a text conversation between my chief of staff and me almost immediately after that meeting.
Jessica: “Basically, they want a solution. Nothing new. They want external counsel retained to give you an opinion on whether you can review the DPP's decision here and whether you should in this case.... I told them that would be interference. Gerry said, 'Jess, there is no solution here that does not involve some interference.' At least they are finally being honest about what they are asking you to do! Don't care about the PPSC's independence. Katie was like 'we don't want to debate legalities anymore....' They keep being like 'we aren't lawyers, but there has to be some solution here.'”
I—MOJAG—texted: “So where were things left?”
Jessica: “So unclear. I said I would of course let you know about the conversation and they said they were going to 'kick the tires' with a few people on this tonight. The Clerk was waiting outside when I left. But they said they want to set up a call between you and the Prime Minister and the Clerk tomorrow. I said that of course you would be happy to speak to your boss! They seem quite keen on the idea of you retaining an ex Supreme Court of Canada judge to get advice on this. Katie Telford thinks it gives us cover in the business community and the legal community, and that it would allow the Prime Minister to say we were doing something. She was like 'If Jody is nervous, we would of course line up all kinds of people to write OpEds saying that what she is doing is proper.'”
On December 19, 2018, I was asked to have a call with the Clerk. It was a fairly lengthy call, and I took the call from home. I was on my own, by myself. Given what occurred the previous day with my chief of staff I was determined to end all interference and conversations about this matter once and for all. Here is part of what the Clerk and I discussed.
The Clerk said he was calling about DPAs, SNC. He said he wants to pass on where the Prime Minister is at. He spoke about the company's board and the possibility of them selling out to someone else, moving their headquarters and job losses.
He said that the Prime Minister wants to be able to say that he has tried everything he can within the legitimate tool box. The Clerk said that the Prime Minister is quite determined, quite firm, but he wants to know why the DPA route, which Parliament provided for, isn't being used. He said, “I think he is going to find a way to get it done, one way or another....So he is in that kind of mood, and I wanted you to be aware of it.”
The Clerk said he didn't know if the Prime Minister was planning on calling me directly or if he is thinking about somebody else to give him some advice. You know, he does not want to do anything outside of the box of what is legal or proper. He said that the Prime Minister wants to understand more, to give him advice on this or give you advice on this if you want to feel more comfortable you are not doing anything inappropriate or outside the frame.
I told the Clerk that I was one hundred per cent confident that I was doing nothing inappropriate. I again reiterated my confidence in where I am at on my views on SNC and the DPA have not changed. I reiterated this as a constitutional principle of prosecutorial independence.
I warned the Clerk in this call that we were treading on dangerous ground here. I also issued a stern warning because, as the Attorney General, I cannot act in a manner, and the prosecution cannot act in a manner, that is not objective, that isn't independent. I cannot act in a partisan way and I cannot be politically motivated. This all screams of that.
The Clerk wondered whether anyone could speak to the director about the context around this, or get her to explain her reasoning. The Clerk told me that he was going to have to report back to the Prime Minister before he leaves. He said again that the Prime Minister was in a pretty firm frame of mind about this, and that he was a bit worried.
I asked what he was worried about. The Clerk then made the comment about how it is not good for the Prime Minister and his Attorney General to be at loggerheads.
I told the Clerk that I was giving him my best advice and that if he did not accept that advice, then it is the Prime Minister's prerogative to do what he wants, but I am trying to protect the Prime Minister from political interference or perceived political interference, or otherwise.
The Clerk acknowledged that, but said that the Prime Minister does not have the power to do what he wants. All the tools are in my hands, he said.
I said that I was having thoughts of the Saturday night massacre, but that I was confident that I had given the Prime Minister my best advice to protect him and to protect the constitutional principle of prosecutorial independence.
The Clerk said that he was worried about a collision because the Prime Minister is pretty firm about this. He told me that he had seen the Prime Minister a few hours ago and that this is really important to him. That was essentially where the conversation ended, and I did not hear from the Prime Minister the next day.
View Jennifer O'Connell Profile
Lib. (ON)
You mentioned earlier, in my first round, that you felt it was entirely appropriate to have the conversation about the jobs and those types of impacts—I'm paraphrasing here. Then you mentioned Minister Morneau and the conversation you had with him on the 19th, which was in the House, I believe you said in the testimony. You said that he mentioned job losses. What made you feel that this conversation was inappropriate?
View Jody Wilson-Raybould Profile
Ind. (BC)
To the first point about mentioning jobs and job losses, as I said in my evidence, including the conversation I had with the Prime Minister, I do not believe it is inappropriate—
View Jody Wilson-Raybould Profile
Ind. (BC)
—to have conversations about job losses, about SNC, in the early stages where ministers can raise these issues with the Attorney General. What is inappropriate is the long sustained discussions about the job losses after it was clear that I had made my decision and was not going to pursue a DPA.
Leaving aside job losses, the conversations that I had, where they became clearly inappropriate, was when political issues came up, like the election in Quebec, like losing the election if SNC were to move their headquarters, conversations like that, conversations like the one I had with the Clerk of the Privy Council, who invoked the Prime Minister's name throughout our conversation and spoke to me about the Prime Minister being dug in and about his concerns as to what would happen. In my mind, those were veiled threats, and I took them as such. That is entirely inappropriate.
View Lisa Raitt Profile
CPC (ON)
View Lisa Raitt Profile
2019-02-27 18:27
Did you think it was odd that the chief of staff to the Minister of Finance would be requesting meetings with respect to your authority on deferred prosecution agreements, or even in the conduct of criminal prosecutions? Was that a surprise for you?
View Jody Wilson-Raybould Profile
Ind. (BC)
I was aware of initial conversations that the chief of staff to the Minister of Finance had with my chief of staff. I didn't consider it hugely problematic, but I did find the sustained communication problematic. I'm not sure why anyone from the Department of Finance would be talking to my chief about something in terms of my role as the Attorney General.
View Tom Kmiec Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I tabled a series of motions last week, and I wish to move a motion today, as follows. I move:
That, considering the statement in the Ministers' mandate letters from the Prime Minister that Ministers be held accountable to parliamentary committees, the Committee request that the Minister of Finance appear before the Committee on a date no later than December 11, 2018, for a briefing on the government's 2018 Fall Economic Update; and that this meeting be televised.
The reason I'm moving it today is that I would really much prefer that the Minister of Finance appear before the committee. I know his fall economic statement is tomorrow. I think he's going to be providing an update on the state of the budget and whether it has balanced itself yet. I would like him to appear before the committee as per his mandate letter. In his mandate letter, directing him in the work that he does, it says, “This will include: close collaboration with your colleagues; meaningful engagement with Opposition Members of Parliament, Parliamentary Committees”. It goes on and on to list a series of other organizations and stakeholders that the Minister of Finance is supposed to interact with.
I believe the work of parliamentary committees is critical to the role of Parliament and to holding accountable ministers for the management of their departments, as well as the management of the economy in the case of the Minister of Finance. In his mandate letter as well, given to him by the Prime Minister, it says, “We have committed to an open, honest government that is accountable to Canadians”. I think that nothing could be more accountable than appearing before a committee of the House of Commons, duly constituted, and to have his fall economic statement and his ideas and proposals that he's going to put forward tomorrow deliberated upon for an hour before the committee—or more, if he wants to be here longer. I think it would be great to have him.
With that, Mr. Chair, I'm going to see if anybody else wants to continue debate on this.
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
The motion is in order, so it is moved and I take it you are in favour.
Go ahead, Mr. Poilievre. Is there anybody else? It's open for debate.
We have Mr. Poilievre, and Mr. Julian.
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
CPC (ON)
In 41 days we are expecting a balanced budget. That's the Liberal election promise. It was in the Liberal election platform. It is still on the Liberal Party website, and the Liberals are in government.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I support the motion as well. I think the minister has come before committee a number of times, and I don't doubt that it would be useful for the public and for the committee as well to have him come before us again. I think, on the fall economic statement, it's an important statement that's being made tomorrow. I'll have some questions, of course, about things like housing and pharmacare, but I have no doubt that the minister would probably enjoy coming before committee and defending what he announces tomorrow.
I support Mr. Kmiec's motion for him to do so.
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
If there is no further discussion on the motion, I will call the vote.
Hon. Pierre Poilievre: A recorded vote....
The Chair: Okay, we'll have a recorded vote.
(Motion negatived: nays 5; yeas 4)
View Sheila Malcolmson Profile
NDP (BC)
I know that you and the finance minister are proud of the gender budget. As you know, I still have some big pieces that are missing. In order to expand on this, Chair, if I could move my motion, I would like the committee to invite the finance minister, Bill Morneau, to come to the committee to explain the effects of the budget on women and girls.
I have a motion that was distributed. It reads:
That the Committee invite the Minister of Finance, the Honourable Bill Morneau, at the earliest opportunity to explain the effect of Budget 2018 on women and girls; and that this meeting be televised.
View Karen Vecchio Profile
CPC (ON)
Is there any discussion on this motion?
I see no debate. All those in favour of inviting Mr. Morneau to the status of women committee in camera.
(Motion agreed to)
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
CPC (ON)
Actually it does, Mr. Chair.
The supplementary estimates provide funding for those same offices, and as a result the minister is here. He's answering questions about all kinds of other expenditures that the government wants to talk about. This might not be an expenditure he wants to talk about but the committees don't exist to the pleasure of ministers.
I'll ask again. Have any offices that report to you as minister ever awarded contracts or paid work to companies in which you own shares?
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
CPC (ON)
All right. Thank you.
The next question is regarding tax treaties with tax havens.
Mr. Minister, when you were asked about the ongoing tax treaty with Barbados and why you hadn't addressed that tax treaty as part of your grand crusade to raise taxes on other Canadians, you said, “we're not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater”. You didn't reveal when you made those public comments that you had formerly been on the board of a company that had relocated its office to Barbados.
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Chair, the members across the way and the minister, in his earlier comments, went outside of those bounds as well, so I appreciate that you're narrowing the confines now—
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Minister, have you sold your Morneau Shepell shares? If you have, what tax rate was applied to the earnings?
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
The amendment is that the witness list be split fifty-fifty between the opposition parties and the government. It will be a recorded vote.
(Amendment negatived: nays 5; yeas 4)
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
Okay. We'll have a recorded vote.
(Motion agreed to: yeas 6; nays 3 [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Chair: We now have the Department of Finance. We said that we would adjourn at 5:30. I've already told some people that we would, so we will go 40 minutes with the first panel and 40 minutes with the second, if that is okay. All right.
Mr. Leswick from the Department of Finance, please go ahead.
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
CPC (ON)
Good morning, colleagues. Welcome.
We have one order of business before we turn to our panel. Ms. Malcolmson has tabled an order of motion, which was sent out to you, so I'll turn it over to Ms. Malcolmson.
View Sheila Malcolmson Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you, Chair. Good morning, committee.
I will move the first motion that I gave notice of on Thursday. I move that the committee invite the Minister of Finance, the Honourable Bill Morneau, at the earliest opportunity, to explain the effect of budget 2017 on women and girls and that this meeting be televised.
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
The finance minister, I believe, is at the finance committee today to take questions on budget 2017. That's the appropriate form. I think every committee has an interest in hearing the finance minister speak about the budget. I don't think it is appropriate for him to appear at each committee that would like to see him. I'm sure we all would.
For that reason, the best forum is in the finance committee today to take questions. I hope there are questions on gender there or, of course, in question period in the ordinary course.
View Sheila Malcolmson Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you, Chair.
If I could speak to my motion, I'm secure of the four rationales.
First, the budget was touted as an important step for women with the use of gender-based analysis and the gender statement. It is reasonable, therefore, to ask the Minister of Finance to appear before this committee to discuss the ways in which the decisions were made in the budget. This committee has done at least two studies over the last five years specifically on gender budgeting, and there was our study last year on gender-based analysis. We have expertise at this table specifically.
The second point is that Finance Canada conducts a GBA but does not share its findings. Therefore, we need to ask the finance minister directly. That is something that has been said several times in public by the finance minister.
Third, his fall economic statement, released November 1, noted that it would ensure that the government continues to deliver real and meaningful change for all Canadians. It specifies publishing a gender-based analysis of budgetary measures.
Fourth, Standing Order 108(2) specifically says this committee has the broad authority to study the policies, programs, expenditures, budgetary estimates, and legislation of departments and agencies that conduct work related to the status of women.
Inviting the finance minister is no different from having any other departments, such as Statistics Canada, Industry, Natural Resources—all of which have appeared before this committee. I would argue that if this government has a good story to tell about its gender budgeting, we would benefit from hearing from the minister directly.
Thank you.
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
CPC (ON)
Are there further points on that?
(Motion negatived)
Would you like to bring your second motion?
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
I call the meeting to order.
We're here, pursuant to Standing Order 106(4), for a meeting requested by four members of the committee to discuss a request to undertake a study on the Canada pension plan agreement—at least, that's how I read it.
On September 4 there was a letter directed to the clerk of the committee by Ms. Raitt, Mr. McColeman, Mr. Liepert, and Mr. Caron, so we will turn to one of those four.
Go ahead, Mr. McColeman.
View Phil McColeman Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Chair.
First of all, it's good to see that everybody is in good heath coming back to the committee on this wonderful summer day.
As Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, we're extremely concerned about the lack of information, the lack of analysis, and the lack of consultation—it has not happened, as far as we know, or we haven't been told of it if it has happened—regarding the changes to the CPP.
It was announced that an agreement in principle came into existence between the finance minister and his provincial colleagues. That's about all we've heard. We've heard that there was an urgency to get something done. We don't know if we're going to see legislation in the fall or if it will be a Governor in Council order outside of Parliament that will do this. There's just a lack of knowledge around this issue, and it's a huge concern.
We've had economic round tables through the summer, in particular with businesses, which are extremely tentative and extremely nervous about the effects these increases could have on them, particularly in the case of small businesses.
From our reading of the situation, there's been no meaningful consultation that we're aware of with organizations such as the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which represents tens of thousands of businesses in this country, and there's been no consultation, as far as we know—at least, they tell us there hasn't been—with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, which represents all varieties of businesses in this country. As far as we know at this point, not having been party to any information, we don't know if there's been any meaningful consultation with the public generally and with workers on how their pay will be affected if these changes come into effect.
We realize that the government made this commitment during the election campaign. We acknowledge that, but we think this is the public venue where we let Canadians know how this is going to affect not only them personally but the economy in general and the fiscal policy of the government, and how it intertwines in our system of economics across this country. This is what the finance critic and I heard in our round tables across the country when we were engaging with people.
I will lead off, Chair, with a motion. I'll read the motion:
That the Standing Committee on Finance invite the Honourable Bill Morneau to appear before the committee to answer questions about the Government's June 20, 2016 agreement with the provinces to expand the Canada Pension Plan.
I have copies of the motion. I can pass them out. I can give them to the clerk.
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Phil McColeman Profile
CPC (ON)
I'll speak to that motion now.
I'm not sure all committee members are aware that in a lead-up to this meeting, we wrote a letter to the finance minister 15 days ago. It was a letter directed to him, specifically informing him that we were concerned about this issue and about a lack of information, and that we had the concerns I brought up previously. We asked him to consider coming to this meeting, not specifically on this date but on a date that was convenient to him. We gave him 15 days' notice that we were intending to call this meeting today, as the four members have. We asked him to indicate dates that might suit him, and we had no response.
I'll also say that having no response from the minister, we determined that this was such an important issue that we initiated the process for using Standing Order 206(4).
View Phil McColeman Profile
CPC (ON)
That's how it came about.
We are saying in this motion that we would like the minister to be here. We think he's the appropriate person to speak to this issue, because he's the lead on it. We would like to have him here at the committee. Frankly, we would have liked to have him today or on a day that he indicated, but we didn't get that.
View Lisa Raitt Profile
CPC (ON)
View Lisa Raitt Profile
2016-09-09 11:09
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I echo the concern my colleague well expressed.
Mr. Chair, we rose on June 17 of this year, and on June 20 the minister made the announcement of changes to the Canada Pension Plan. I am concerned and I'd like to get some answers from the minister on some specific issues, one of them being how that process actually dovetails with the formal legal process that comes under the Canada Pension Plan legislation. Have government officials been instructed to just not abide by what the legislation says?
I prepared to ask officials questions today, and I was hoping they would be here. I don't know if the minister actually knows the answers, because they are technical questions, but I would have appreciated if the officials had shown up. They know we've had these questions for a long time.
Mr. Chair, there's supposed to be a review every three years. Indeed the annual report, which was signed by the Minister of Finance, notes that there is a triennial review, and it's on the basis of this triennial review that changes are made to the CPP. Now, this may seem to be a little bit technical and in the weeds, but I think it's really pertinent to the issue at hand: why the rush?
The only testimony we have on record so far on the CPP comes from Jack Mintz, who appeared on Thursday, June 16, before the Senate Standing Committee on National Finance. He gave evidence, and he was asked, because it was fresh, what he thought about the CPP expansion. His initial advice and evidence led with the following quote: “The question is, what's the problem?”
Mr. Mintz went on to talk about the fact that he has studied this issue in the past. McKinsey has studied it. The truth is that 83% of Canadians are actually doing fine and are in a financially sustainable program of support for retirement.
One of the questions I'd like to ask officials, and what I'd like to ask of the minister when he appears, is that while there may be gaps in CPP—and I recognize that there are gaps that need to be addressed—why did they not go down the road of figuring out how to help those in pain, such as single senior women who end up losing a significant amount of money—$10,000—when their partner passes away? To me, that seems to be something we should fix and we could fix, but it is not fixed by what the minister is proposing to do.
Another aspect I would like to understand, Mr. Chair, as my colleague mentioned, is exactly what process we will be going into. Will we have until October 1, as noted in the legislation? Will a Governor in Council regulation be passed before October 1 so that this measure can be implemented? I'd like to know the answer to that as well, and we're running out of time. That's why we gave two weeks' notice for the minister.
Mr. Chair, I was asked a question by a reporter outside, who said that the minister indicated that he didn't know about the meeting today. I would suspect that you informed the office of the Minister of Finance regarding the request that he appear today. His office is saying that when they get the official paper, they will make sure to make him available. We could have missed that step in the middle. We could have had him here today, and that's why we're moving the motion to bring him in as soon as possible.
I will close, Mr. Chair, with this. The other aspect of the testimony Jack Mintz gave on that day in June was around the question “Why now, and why the rush?” I think that's an important question for Canadians: What is the motivation? He believes that right now there is a movement afoot to try to kill off the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan, otherwise known in Ontario as the ORPP, for a lot of reasons. He says that “It is a terrible idea, the ORPP, one of the biggest mistakes I've seen in public policy in years. There's now an attempt to try to get a CPP expansion to try to kill off the ORPP.”
Well, Mr. Chair, Ontario, although my home province, is only 38% of the country. There's another 62% that should not have a CPP change that has not been described to the public. The cost-benefit analysis has not been given to parliamentarians. The time frames and the understanding of who benefits are cloudy at best. Two polling institutions have indicated that there's a lack of understanding and much confusion about what the benefits are and what the costs are. Indeed, one of the most telling polls recently indicated that a full 25% of Canadians think it's the government that's putting more money into the pension, which we all know is not the case.
For clarity, for having different stakeholders come in to talk about the effect this change would have on the economy today, for understanding from the actuary what the plan is to shoehorn this separate, ad hoc process into legislation that must be abided by, and finally, for the minister to tell us what his true motivation is for these changes are the reasons I support the motion put forth by my colleague.
View Francesco Sorbara Profile
Lib. (ON)
Good afternoon, everyone. Echoing Phil's comments, it's great to see everybody here again.
I'd like to offer what I would call a friendly amendment to the motion Mr. McColeman brought forward. It would be that the Minister of Finance and officials from the Department of Finance be invited to testify before the finance committee on September 19, 2016, from 12:00 to 1:00, and that the subcommittee schedule a further meeting to hear from stakeholders.”
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
Okay, do you want to read that again so that everybody is clear about what it says? I know that it's an amendment, so it probably isn't typed out.
View Francesco Sorbara Profile
Lib. (ON)
It reads, “That the Minister of Finance and officials from the Department of Finance be invited to testify before the finance committee on September 19, 2016, from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m., and that the subcommittee schedule a further meeting to hear from stakeholders.”
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
The amendment has been moved. It's in order, as I see it.
Is there debate on the amendment—sorry, Mr. Duvall; I had you on my list.
View Scott Duvall Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you.
I appreciate everybody being here today and giving your valuable time.
We support the main motion. I'll talk about the amendment in a minute.
On the main motion, I think it's crucial that we have up-to-date information about what was agreed to with the provinces. We certainly are very happy with this positive step forward on the CPP expansion, but there are a lot of unknowns out there, and people are very concerned. I think openness and transparency are very important.
I understand the amendment, as I was just saying, but my concern would be whether 12:00 to 1:00 is sufficient time. I think there are a lot of questions about what actually happened and I don't think one hour is going to be adequate.
I'll leave that question to you, Mr. Chair, and maybe they can answer.
View Francesco Sorbara Profile
Lib. (ON)
On the allocation of time, I think 12:00 to 1:00 for the Minister of Finance, with associated department officials, is plenty. I think the subcommittee can sit down to review the stakeholders and to allocate more time for stakeholders.
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
Just so I'm clear, we would have the minister and officials for an hour on September 19. That will give us an outline of where the government is at. Then the subcommittee would meet to see whether other witnesses were required and when we could have them appear.
I think people have to understand as well that we are in pre-budget consultations and that we will be pretty busy from September 20 to October 31. The suggestion in the amendment is that the subcommittee would meet and determine what other witnesses we would invite as well.
View Francesco Sorbara Profile
Lib. (ON)
We could, for the second hour, have the department officials remain to answer further questions.
View Steven MacKinnon Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Like my colleagues, I am very happy to see you.
Mr. Duvall, welcome to the Standing Committee on Finance.
I think we have to put things in context before we vote. I sense a consensus around the table.
I know that our government is very proud of what has been accomplished in seemingly record time by our Minister of Finance and his provincial counterparts. Nine provinces out of ten signing on to a major expansion in retirement benefits is an important and meaningful step for Canadians, and one that I think has been done prudently. As all of you know, despite claims of lack of information, it will be phased in over a seven-year period beginning in approximately three years and it will represent a meaningful change in the quality of life of Canadian retirees for as far as the eye can see, so I know we'll be very proud to hear the details of this arrangement from the finance minister on September 19.
The other important thing, because I know all of us as parliamentarians take our responsibilities very seriously, will take place this autumn.
This fall, we will hear from the Minister of Finance and his officials, and probably from experts such as the Chief Actuary of Canada and the parliamentary budget officer. We will also possibly hear from other witnesses. We have already invited the representatives of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. We will do a very comprehensive review of this arrangement.
To answer the questions asked by my colleague Ms. Raitt, I want to point out that a bill will be drafted to implement this arrangement, and our committee will study the bill. So the Parliament of Canada will have its say. A full debate will be held on the changes the Minister of Finance will propose on September 19.
We are addressing this issue with a great deal of confidence. We are very pleased with the fact that an election promise will be kept. Once again, we will be able to tell Canadians that we are delivering on our commitments and that we will make a positive change to the quality of life of the middle class and of all Canadians.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Ziad Aboultaif Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you very much.
Welcome back, everyone, to the game here.
The point is that one hour, as the motion proposes, is not enough time for questioning the minister and the officials together. I think that will be nothing but a complete waste of time. We definitely need more time to be able to discuss the details, since no details at all were released. There has just been big talk about how Canadians are going to feel better going forward, especially the retirees and the people who need the money most, while we know behind the scenes that this is not something that anyone is going to be benefiting from anytime soon. This is a very long-term thing, and God knows who, years down the road, will come back and say to Canadians, “We're sorry. We taxed you all the way on this, and right now we don't know how much you're going to benefit from it.”
It's a very dangerous route we're going down. A lot of people see it as just another tax hike, and that's something we have to be careful about. We're all responsible here for moving forward on any policies that are going to hit Canadians in the pocketbooks, given the hardships we're going through right now with the economic downturn we have been facing.
I believe that one hour is not enough. Actually, even two hours is too short a time. I would like to see us have more time to question the Minister of Finance and his officials.
View Scott Duvall Profile
NDP (ON)
As I said before, our position is that this is a very good step, but more work needs to be done. I don't want to keep repeating myself, but maybe we could have some extra time with the officials after the minister is here, since we understand about his time.
My other question is on the definition of a stakeholder.
View Phil McColeman Profile
CPC (ON)
I share that concern about the definition of stakeholder. For this particular amendment, I'm not so sure that the whole committee shouldn't deal with who those stakeholders are and discuss them and put them on the table, instead of having a subcommittee deal with it. I have some concerns regarding having the subcommittee deal with it. Why not have the complete committee do so? I ask that question of the mover of the amendment.
Second, Chair, you bring up a really good point. The fact is that with this committee's workload on pre-budget consultations and the things we've already planned, we're here today after offering the minister time to be here two weeks ago. We asked him to work it into his schedule and tell us the date, but we got no meaningful reply from the minister, so we're here today. Frankly, in my opinion, he should be here today or on a day of his choosing. That should have happened before now.
That said, when I look at our schedule and the workload we have, I'm not sure the 19th is a great choice. Yes, we'd be fitting him in, but frankly, we'd probably be talking about this issue superficially, because if we bring in the stakeholders that those of us on this side want, we're going to have to put together a full agenda of one meeting after another to get the consultation with the stakeholders that hasn't happened to date, obviously, because we're now debating an amendment to bring in stakeholders.
Given all of those things, this committee may want discuss this issue with the minister next week. I think probably all committee members know that the chair worked on trying to get the minister here and suggested the 15th. We could perhaps look at that as a possibility. The reality is that maybe we should be fitting this in sooner rather than later.
View Francesco Sorbara Profile
Lib. (ON)
To address what was commented on earlier with regard to the proposed meeting, I mentioned that in the second hour on the 19th, with unanimous consent, we could have the department officials remain for further questioning, so that's on the table.
The motion is quite clear in terms of having the finance minister appear on the first day we're back for the sitting of Parliament, so we would like to stick to that time frame. That works for the minister and it works for everyone on our side.
I'd like to echo some of my colleague's comments on the CPP. Obviously, we live in a day and age in which a lot of companies aren't providing or have wound up their private pension plans, whether they were defined benefit or defined contribution, so the CPP is playing an even more important role in retirement futures for Canadians.
This is a campaign commitment of ours. This is a campaign commitment we have fulfilled, and we will fulfill it legislatively in the fall, so it's important for us to make sure all Canadians understand that. One of the important steps is having the finance minister appear here before the committee. With the motion we have proposed today, that will happen on the 19th of September.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Jennifer O'Connell Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'm confused by the comments from Mr. McColeman just now. It's an urgent matter that must be dealt with, and he wants the minister here as soon as possible. We provide the first day back, and now all of a sudden the committee will be too busy with the pre-budget consultations that are coming up.
Mr. McColeman acknowledged that September 15 was an option, so which is it? Is this really important, or is this really about bringing the committee here and saying how they feel without actually hearing the details from the minister?
The minister, as per the motion we've put forward, would come here with officials, and then the subcommittee would determine the meeting availability for stakeholders, which has been the process so far for any topic, whether it's pre-budget consultations or matters such as the CRA. That has been the process for this committee as well as the subcommittee.
We're providing the date. In fact, the original motion from Mr. McColeman didn't even specify a date. It just said “as soon as possible”. We're providing literally the first possible date when we're back. I would hope that this amendment would be passed unanimously.
As far as the definition of “stakeholder” goes, we've acknowledged it in the sense that stakeholders have been part of the process throughout. The subcommittee can find the appropriate date and find a process for all three parties at the table to provide witnesses, if that's the case.
This is nothing new to this committee. I hope we don't lose sight of the fact that we're providing the first possible date, a date that the original motion didn't even speak to.
We're happy to be here. We're happy to have the minister and officials appear, because I think Canadians will be happy to hear about all the work the minister and his officials have been doing. I hope this amendment is passed unanimously so that we can deal with exactly that and talk about the CPP enhancements and all the work the minister has done on this issue.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Raj Grewal Profile
Ind. (ON)
View Raj Grewal Profile
2016-09-09 11:30
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I want to echo the sentiments of my colleague. I'm not speaking here on behalf of the Minister of Finance, but as Mr. McColeman said, the fact of the matter is that there were conversations in the background, before this meeting was even scheduled, about getting the minister here. Then he presented a motion when we got here today that did not specify a date.
There were two dates proposed in conversations—September 15, and now, today, September 19—when the minister would be prepared to come to speak to CPP enhancements at the first possible opportunity. I just don't understand why we need to go through procedural wrangling and political grandstanding when the minister was already ready to appear before this committee. We came here today—all of us, from all across the country, some from vacation—only to get a motion put in front of us by the loyal opposition without a date specifying when he should come.
Now the amendment proposes that he show up on the first day at a special committee of finance, because he understands the importance of CPP. We all understand the importance of CPP here and across the country. It's important to have the Minister of Finance and officials here to give us an update before the legislation comes to the House in October.
I encourage members of this committee to support this amendment and get it passed. Let's go back to working for Canadians, because they sent us here to do a job.
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
Thank you, Mr. Grewal.
Could I ask the clerk to read the amendment in the proper form before we go to Mr. McColeman and then to Ms. Raitt?
Suzie Cadieux
View Suzie Cadieux Profile
Suzie Cadieux
2016-09-09 11:32
It is:
That the Standing Committee on Finance invite the Honourable Bill Morneau and department officials to appear before the committee on September 19, 2016, from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m., with officials staying for a second hour from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m., to answer questions about the Government's June 20, 2016 agreement with the provinces to expand the Canada Pension Plan, and that the subcommittee schedule a further meeting to hear from stakeholders.
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
I would say that instead of the subcommittee scheduling a meeting to hear from stakeholders, it really should be for the subcommittee to schedule further meetings with stakeholders. Are we okay with that?
A voice: Yes.
The Chair: Go ahead, Mr. McColeman.
View Phil McColeman Profile
CPC (ON)
I appreciate the motion, and frankly, I'll be supporting it, but let's be clear. This is an extremely important issue. That's why we're here. We're here because we were not getting, from the minister, any feedback as to whether he would appear or when he would appear. That's why we're here. We sent him a letter inviting him to choose the date, and we did not hear back. Let's be clear about why we're here.
View Lisa Raitt Profile
CPC (ON)
View Lisa Raitt Profile
2016-09-09 11:34
Thank you very much.
I will be supporting the motion as amended. I didn't hear about the officials in the first resolution, and that's why I wasn't in favour of it.
I also want to thank Mr. MacKinnon for giving us clarity on a very important question, which has to do with the legislative path this measure will be taking. We would not have received that information, quite frankly, Mr. Chair, if we weren't here today. I think it is an important piece in order for us to understand where and when Canadians are going to have the ability to insert their comments, which they gave to us as the opposition this summer, on the topic of CPP. With that, I'm going to support the amendment as proposed.
I thank Mr. MacKinnon for being transparent on the manner in which we are going to be proceeding on these changes. We look forward to a thorough discussion.
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
Is there any further discussion on the amendment?
(Amendment agreed to)
The Chair: Is there any further discussion on the motion as amended?
(Motion as amended agreed to)
The Chair: That is the result of this meeting.
Before I adjourn, we have a couple of issues on pre-budget consultations that I would like to raise so that the clerk and others can start inviting witnesses. There also needs to be discussion on how we will operate in pre-budget consultations.
Go ahead, Mr. McColeman.
View Phil McColeman Profile
CPC (ON)
Again, I expressed my reservations about the subcommittee—
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
Before you speak, are you on pre-budget consultations or is it another issue?
View Phil McColeman Profile
CPC (ON)
We're not finished this meeting. I have more motions to present to this committee.
We on this side would like to be very clear about who we would like to have as stakeholders. I've expressed my reservations about the fact that the subcommittee will decide these things. I think we as the opposition want to button down who we invite.
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
Phil, the motion already has in it that the subcommittee will meet. I think all of us on this committee understand that whatever the subcommittee decides—and I don't think the subcommittee has ever been restrictive—has to be voted on by the committee as a whole in any event. There will be an opportunity to add further names if the subcommittee, in your opinion, doesn't include enough witnesses.
View Lisa Raitt Profile
CPC (ON)
View Lisa Raitt Profile
2016-02-16 11:44
Thank you very much.
Mr. Chair, I'm going to start by going back to what you said at the beginning, which was that the minister will not be appearing before committee this week and that we can expect him for next week.
I would like to remind the chair that we anticipate his testimony and we look forward to it. I do hope he will show up next week. I am concerned other things will happen that will take away from his busy schedule.
I will just leave this for the committee to remember. On this side we have Conservative members and we have NDP members, and together we represent 9.1 million Canadians. That is an important number to remember, because it's in this committee and this House of Commons that the minister has accountability to those 9.1 million Canadians. I take it very seriously, and I expect him to be here.
Mr. Chair, you were a minister. I was a minister for seven years as well. You always take the invitation of the committee. I understand that there are scheduling issues, but this is a serious matter, and I will take great offence if he does not come here next Tuesday and speak to us.
With that, I will turn my nicer face to the witnesses, and thank them for their testimony so far. You're not going to get cranky, Lisa.
I have three separate sets of questions, if you will indulge me.
First of all, to the Assembly of First Nations, I'm sorry that we don't have your full report yet. It's coming from translation. In the meantime, can you give me an idea of what the total bucket or the total ask is? I just want to get a sense from you. I ask that question because I know the minister has already promised many billions.
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