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View Sébastien Lemire Profile
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to attempt to begin my speech a third time. I acknowledge my colleague from Red Deer—Mountain View, and I am pleased that he is interested in hearing this speech, especially since he is a member of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, which I appreciate. He is always there to stand up for the people of his riding, as is the member for Windsor West, who is present and who I hope will be able to give a speech soon.
We are not debating Bill C-19 right now. We are debating the Investment Canada Act. As I was saying, the member for Calgary Nose Hill, who was co-chairing the industry committee with me at the time, moved this motion so that we could study the Investment Canada Act. In the context of COVID-19, we had very legitimate concerns about the devaluation of Canadian and Quebec businesses, which could be at risk of being acquired by foreigners at bargain basement prices. We had the real and legitimate concern that head offices could be moved out of Quebec or Canada, benefiting foreign investors.
China is obviously one potential aspect, but there were many other issues, such as Air Transat and Air Canada. These airlines were seeing a significant increase in liabilities coupled with a significant decrease in passenger numbers. They were becoming vulnerable, which was why the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology met and invited witnesses so that we could protect these companies.
Based on the report summary, “The Investment Canada Act (ICA) allows the federal government to review foreign investments. The ICA provides two distinct processes: a net benefit review and a national security review.” There are two key words.
For me, the net benefit for Canada must always be demonstrated. We expect some transparency from the government in this regard, particularly from the Minister of Industry, who will be able to place conditions on a sale.
Obviously, I am thinking of the acquisition of Rona by Lowe's, which happened in our own backyard. We never found out whether the federal government had laid down any conditions. It obviously must have, to allow the acquisition of Rona by Lowe's. The problem is that since these conditions were never made public, it was easy for Lowe's to back out of its commitments a few years later. Quebeckers are no longer attached to Rona. We saw brick-and-mortar businesses in cities across Quebec close their doors. The key issue is supply. A company like Rona would buy goods from Quebec and Canadian suppliers. Now that it is owned by an American company, it will favour the suppliers that can offer the lowest possible price. For an American company, that lowest possible price will be in the United States.
I just want to provide some background and say that, in its report, the committee recommended a more cautious, responsive, and transparent approach to regulating foreign investments.
I submitted a supplementary opinion on behalf of the Bloc Québécois. Although the report contained enough to make it positive, relevant and constructive, we believed that it was missing some important information, mainly surrounding the issue of reviews. I would like to read to my colleagues the Bloc Québécois's supplementary opinion, which is simply entitled “Better Protecting Our Companies” because that is what this is all about.
Can we trade in our neo-liberal economy for an economy where we protect our domestic market, for a Quebec economy and a Canadian economy where we can be independent, do business with local suppliers and keep our economy going in an independent manner?
It is important to remember that, in the context of COVID-19, we were dependent on other countries, whether it was for personal protective equipment or any other health-related issues, such as vaccine production. We lost eight months because of that.
I want to remind members of the context in which our study was conducted. I think it is absolutely fundamental. It is more important than ever. We need to come back to the principle of a strong domestic economy where we protect our national interests and where we buy from Quebec and Canada.
Here is the Bloc Québécois's supplementary opinion, which is entitled “Better Protecting Our Companies”.
The industry committee's report is an important and welcome change in terms of foreign investment control. The Bloc Québécois welcomes this shift after a decade of inaction, but we would have liked the committee to go even further.
In our opinion, the report should have suggested that the government bring the review threshold for foreign investments down to a reasonable level so that it can determine which investments are truly beneficial. Hence this supplementary opinion.
The federal government's foreign investment policy these past years can be summarized in two words: deregulation and permissiveness. The policy provides for increased scrutiny when national security is at stake, and ongoing oversight when investors are foreign countries. The fear of China is real.
However, the floodgates are open for all other foreign investments, which are approved automatically and without review. Statutory review mechanisms, which the government readily insists on protecting in every trade agreement that it signs, are essentially rendered ineffective for foreign investments.
In 2013, the Conservatives set the tone by announcing that they would raise the review threshold used by the federal government to determine whether foreign investments are truly beneficial.
From 2015 on, the Liberals have been doubling down on this change. Between 2015 and 2020, the threshold applicable to “private sector trade agreement investments” increased from $369 million to $1.613 billion. The result is striking: the share of reviewed foreign investments fell from 10% in 2009 to 1% in 2019. You read that right: under the current rules, 99% of foreign investments are now approved automatically and without review.
This lack of oversight comes at a bad time. Over the past 30 years, the nature of foreign investment in OECD countries has changed. New investments are down, while investments in the form of mergers and acquisitions of existing companies are up. I would add that this trend has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Between 2010 and 2015, only 54% of foreign investments in Canada went toward new entities, while the remaining 46% went toward mergers and acquisitions, where foreign investors took over a number of our companies, either in part or in full.
Canada is doing significantly worse than other industrialized countries in this regard. New entities receive 72% of foreign investment in the U.S. and 78% in France, compared to only 54% in Canada. And the trend continues to this day: from 2018 to 2020, mergers and acquisitions accounted for $90 billion of the $244 billion in foreign investments in Canada.
Simply put, over the past three years, foreign companies have invested $90 billion to take over a number of Canadian companies in part or in full. This $90 billion in takeovers has led to the downfall of head offices and turned them into regional offices with little power.
Quebec has gained significant economic and financial leverage since the Quiet Revolution, enabling it to pursue a policy of economic nationalism—the intensity of which varies from one government to the next—that gives Quebeckers greater control over their economy.
Our economic nationalism has two components. On the one hand, we are open to foreign investment as a driver of growth and development. On the other hand, we invest in Quebec companies to keep them intact and fuel their growth. And we protect our head offices because we know how important they are as decision makers.
Quebec does not, however, want to shut the door to foreign investment. Our economy is and will always be open to the world, and openness toward foreign investment is essential for enabling Quebec to access major trade networks, which is crucial for guaranteeing the prosperity of our relatively small-scale economy.
As Jacques Parizeau wrote in 2001, even before China joined the World Trade Organization, “we do not condemn the rising tide; we build levees to protect ourselves.” Unfortunately, weakening the Investment Canada Act has caused those levees to break.
One striking realisation is that the federal foreign investment legislation was being gutted at a time when Quebec was becoming concerned about foreign takeovers and the collapse of our companies' head offices.
In 2013, the same year that Ottawa announced that it would raise the threshold for reviews under the Investment Canada Act, Quebec went in the opposite direction and established the Task Force on the Protection of Québec Businesses.
The task force was established by a Parti Québécois government, co-chaired by a former Liberal finance minister and composed mostly of businesspeople. It reflected Quebec's consensus for protecting our businesses.
The task force began by noting that Quebec's 578 head offices provide 50,000 jobs that pay twice the average salary in Quebec, in addition to 20,000 jobs for specialized service (accounting, legal, financial and IT) providers. That is huge.
In addition, Quebec companies tend to favour Quebec suppliers, while foreign companies with a foothold here rely more on global supply chains, which has an obvious impact on our SMEs, particularly in rural Quebec. As we have seen during the pandemic, global supply chains are fragile and make us entirely dependent on foreign entities.
Furthermore, head offices are essential for Montreal’s financial sector, which is in turn essential for SMEs across Quebec, since it gives them the financial tools needed to spur their development. Quebec’s financial sector is responsible for 150,000 jobs and generates $20 billion, or 6.3%, of its GDP. A large part, close to 100,000, of these jobs are in Montreal, which ranks 13th among the world’s financial centres according to the Global Financial Centres Index.
Lastly, companies tend to concentrate their strategic planning, scientific research and technological development where their head office is. In other words, a subsidiary economy is a less innovative one.
The task force’s recommendations were mainly addressed to the Quebec government: make more equity investments in companies, facilitate the distribution of employee shares and better equip boards of directors against hostile takeovers.
However, the power to legally regulate foreign takeovers to ensure that they are beneficial for the economy and society is in Ottawa’s hands. And at a time when Quebec was concerned about foreign takeovers of its key economic assets, the federal government chose to relinquish its power to keep foreign investments in check.
Quebec and Canada are two contrasting economies.
While Quebec upholds economic nationalism, Canada focuses on deregulation. That is because our economies are different.
Quebec’s economic nationalism encourages Quebec companies to grow. However, Canada’s economy is largely based on major foreign companies’ subsidiaries. Whether in the automobile industry, with Ford Canada, GM Canada and so on, or in the oil industry, with Shell Canada and Imperial Oil, Canada has had a subsidiary economy for a long time.
As for Canada’s large companies, they operate in industries that are protected against foreign takeovers by federal law, such as finance, rail and telecommunications. Canada, unlike Quebec, cares very little about protecting head offices because it does not believe that doing so is in its national interest. Nevertheless, Canada’s stance is informed by policy difference, not contempt for Quebec’s interests.
It is a welcome albeit incomplete shift.
A new wave of major investments from companies linked to the Chinese government has been a game changer. Canada is starting to realize that it needs to better control foreign investments and make sure that they are in fact beneficial before green-lighting them.
The Bloc Québécois is pleased that this issue has finally surfaced in the context of a study and in the report of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.
The report suggests that the government should tighten restrictions on investments from foreign governments and investments that could impact national security; better protect strategic sectors of the economy; better protect intellectual property to ensure that China cannot access our technology; and increase the transparency of the government’s net benefit review process. The Bloc Québécois fully supports all of these proposals.
However, the committee did not take the next step needed to protect our economy, businesses and head offices, namely, lowering the review threshold. Hence this supplementary opinion, in which the Bloc Québécois speaks on behalf of a broad consensus of Quebeckers.
Even if the committee did not adopt our proposal, we hope that it will provide the government with some food for thought. After all, the pandemic has shown us that global supply chains are fragile and that it is unwise to be completely dependent on foreign decision-makers. All the more reason to protect our companies here at home.
I will add a few more points to this presentation of our supplementary opinion, beginning with the importance of ensuring that we can protect our intellectual property. I would like to highlight a few recommendations. One of our proposals in the report reads as follows:
That the Government of Canada protect strategic sectors, including, but not limited to: health, the pharmaceutical industry, agri-food, manufacturing, natural resources, and intangibles related to innovation, intellectual property, data and expertise.
I believe the report forgot to mention the aerospace sector, because I am positive we voted for it.
When the committee discussed it, it was important, and I want to recognize the interventions of Jim Balsillie, whom I just had to name in the House. We know him well for his leadership in the Canadian and Quebec economies. He has appeared numerous times as a witness before the committee, most notably on the importance of being able to protect innovations, intellectual property, data and expertise. That is absolutely essential in a knowledge-based economy.
One of the Bloc Québécois's recommendations is that the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry justify their decision whether or not a transaction is to Canada's net advantage. We want more transparency, an explanation of the factors leading to this decision and that the minister make public the conditions imposed for the acquisition by foreign investors to ensure that there is follow-up. When the information remains secret, a company can easily ignore the conditions because it is not accountable to the people. The foundation of a democracy is accountability to the people.
For me, the debates we had at the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology about the recommendations to be made centred around the recommendation that the Government of Canada lower the review threshold to 2015 levels, or $300 million in 2000 dollars. Unfortunately, this is not what happened.
I recognize that when the Conservatives amended the Investment Canada Act they were trying to protect Quebec and Canadian businesses from Chinese investments. At the request of the Conservatives, the Liberals sought to make no changes to the Investment Canada Act. It seems that that thinking has not changed much since 2000.
The recommendation that I made concerning the threshold of $300 million in 2000 dollars was not accepted. This threshold would be revised every year, which is surprising. However this provision recognizes that the mechanism, which I wanted to strengthen, already exists. The threshold will be adjusted annually using formulas based on nominal GDP set out in the act and calculated in accordance with the principles set out in sections 3.1, 3.3 and 3.5 of the regulations.
Another part of our argument focused on thresholds, but other parties did not want to protect our businesses unless there was a national security risk. The goal is to protect our economy by displaying strong economic nationalism that enables us to make choices for our economy without opening ourselves up to takeovers by foreign investors.
View Earl Dreeshen Profile
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Windsor West who is the dean of the industry committee. We always learn a lot by listening to him. I believe at our last meeting, we had Dan McTeague lamenting the lost Liberal legacy as far as industry and business are concerned.
I would like to ask the member if he could comment on the expert testimony that we have seen. Although he did not mention it in his speech, could the member comment on one of the recommendations, and the discussion that we had, where the Liberals felt there was no need to compel the minister to consult with our security agencies during a national security review? In the past, the minister actually did not consult with CSIS or RCMP while doing these reviews. Most experts we heard said the minister does not normally even bother consulting with them.
Is it a good idea to leave it as it is, with so much discretion of the minister?
View Brian Masse Profile
View Brian Masse Profile
2021-05-10 20:30 [p.7009]
Mr. Speaker, I have had a chance to serve with my colleague a couple of times at committee and it has always been very positive. I am glad he raised this question. Although I did have it circled at one point, I did not mention it. The recommendation states:
That the Government of Canada immediately introduce legislation amending the Investment Canada Act to compel the Minister to consult with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the Canadian Security Establishment in the national security process.
The member brought up a really good point that this would mandate it and ensure that it would get done, as it has not always been done. He made an excellent point that it is about best practices and good practices, ensuring everything is thorough and consistent. The most important thing about the Investment Canada Act, especially when it comes under the scrutiny and fairness review, is that this consistency should be there. I know he had raised this and had been a champion of it. It has been a missed opportunity, because some of it gets done, but not all of it. It is not consistent. That would bring some solid resolution to even the challenge of a decision under the Investment Canada Act.
View Sébastien Lemire Profile
Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Saint-Laurent began by pointing out that the minister will examine the six factors as part of the process.
I would like her to comment on transparency. Does she think it is important in a democracy that people know the conditions being imposed on our businesses if they come under foreign ownership? Is it important for people to know what the minister has negotiated, what he has given up, to ensure that jobs are protected and that our suppliers are entitled to services? Is transparency important in a democracy?
View Emmanuella Lambropoulos Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Emmanuella Lambropoulos Profile
2021-05-10 20:50 [p.7012]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.
I would say it depends on the negotiations and what is being talked about. I think in many cases the key element is confidentiality. Consider the example of the vaccine contracts that we just had. Everything had to be kept confidential or we were not necessarily going to get the doses of vaccine that we needed for Canadians. I am giving this as a simple example, because it always depends on the type of negotiation.
View Stephanie Kusie Profile
View Stephanie Kusie Profile
2021-05-07 11:07 [p.6893]
Mr. Speaker, this is my last statement of this session and possibly before we go to the polls. I am grateful for the four years that the good people of Calgary Midnapore have allowed me to be their voice, so I cannot let this opportunity pass without expressing the following.
Mr. Prime Minister, you have failed the people of Calgary Midnapore. You have taken away their right to make a living. You implemented Bill C-48 and Bill C-69. You delayed Trans Mountain. You did not stand up for Keystone XL and Line 5. You cancelled energy east and the northern gateway. You have called my small business owners “tax cheats” and attacked their retirements and succession plans. This was all before 2020.
You failed to protect them. You squashed their ingenuity of therapeutics, rapid tests and pilot projects. It is you who has delayed their freedom with your horrific procurement of vaccinations, delaying their lives and dreams.
You may want to forget what you have done to the people of Calgary Midnapore, but I will not let you.
View Cathy McLeod Profile
Mr. Speaker, there is one thing that has been very puzzling to me in terms of the government's fiscal approach. As we know, the Minister of Finance, and of course we are very proud to have the first female minister table a budget, is new to this portfolio. We were well into one year of the pandemic when she assumed the role. At that time she had a mandate letter from the Prime Minister. This mandate letter said for her to create no new programs and to create fiscal guardrails, so what we have is a budget that completely defies the mandate letter from the Prime Minister.
Could my colleague explain to me if the Liberal mandate letters to the ministers from the Prime Minister actually mean nothing?
View Angelo Iacono Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Angelo Iacono Profile
2021-05-06 11:58 [p.6774]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague opposite for her question.
The mandate letter clearly sets out what the minister must do as part of her job. The federal government has always been there for seniors. This instruction was always part of her mandate letter.
Since taking power, we have made improvements for seniors. We reduced the age of eligibility for old age security from 67 to 65. We increased the guaranteed income supplement, and we also exempted those making less than $5,000 from any clawback of the guaranteed income supplement.
Jeannine, a woman in my riding—
View Michael Cooper Profile
View Michael Cooper Profile
2021-05-06 16:30 [p.6817]
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my friend, the hon. member for Elgin—Middlesex—London.
It took the government two years to table a budget, this in the midst of a social, health and economic crisis that this country has not experienced in generations. In the face of that, one would have expected the government to put forward a comprehensive economic plan to get Canada out of this crisis and on the road to recovery.
This budget is a long budget. It is a 739-page budget. Despite its length, when it comes to the fundamentals of getting Canada's economy back on track, it is, to put it generously, wanting. This budget has no plan to get Canadians vaccinated, no plan to get Canada's economy safely reopened and no plan to encourage innovation. There is no plan to address Canada's lagging competitiveness or attract investment to Canada. Simply put, when it comes to growing Canada's economy, when it comes to getting Canadians back to work and when it comes to sending a message to the rest of the world that yes, indeed, Canada is once again open for business, this budget misses the mark.
What this budget does do is usher in a sea of red ink, the likes of which this country has never seen. This budget provides for, last year, a deficit of $354 billion. To put that in some context, the deficit for last year is three and a half times the size of the total debt that the government accumulated of $100 billion prior to COVID.
It is hardly as though the government had a record of being good fiscal stewards prior to COVID. Indeed, the government left the cupboard bare during the good times, leaving Canada in a fiscally vulnerable position to weather the COVID storm. That is why, within months of COVID after the first tranche of COVID-related spending, Canada's credit rating was downgraded by Fitch and S&P threatened to do the same unless the government reversed course and got back on track with a fiscally responsible approach.
This budget does not provide any confidence in that regard. This budget will result in the national debt rising to $1.4 trillion by the end of this year, which is double the national debt from a little more than a year ago. That is truly staggering.
This budget will put the Prime Minister in the history books, but for all the wrong reasons. The Prime Minister will go down in history as the Prime Minister who accumulated more debt in the span of seven years than all Canadian prime ministers combined going back to Canada's founding in 1867. Again, that is hardly a record to be proud of.
In the face of all of this red ink, it is no surprise that there was no plan to get Canada's fiscal house in order and no plan to eventually see a return to a balanced budget, which the government inherited from the previous Conservative government under Stephen Harper, and completely missing from the budget was any meaningful fiscal anchor.
The only plan this budget provided is for spending, spending and more spending, burdening future generations like never before, with no end to deficits. This budget lays the framework for forever deficits.
The government likes to say that as we are in a pandemic, we have no choice and these are unprecedented times. That is true, and the COVID pandemic has necessitated some significant spending to help Canadians and businesses get through it, because Canadians are out of work and businesses are unable to operate in the way they were prior to COVID. At every step of the way, we in the official opposition have tried to work constructively with the government to see that there is targeted support and that it is delivered in a timely way to Canadians and Canadian businesses that need help. However, the government's excuse that all of its spending, deficit and debt are attributable to COVID can only go so far.
Under this budget, total program spending for the fiscal year 2021-22 is projected to be $475.6 billion. Of that $475.6 billion, only about 12% is related to COVID. In other words, 88% or so of the government's total program spending is unrelated to COVID. When we consider the $475.6 billion in program spending, that is an increase of a staggering 40.5% from 2019-20 levels.
What this budget contains is massive spending, including billions and billions of dollars of new permanent program spending, despite the fact that the Prime Minister's mandate letter to the Minister of Finance called on the minister not to include any new permanent spending. It turns out that the Prime Minister's mandate letter to the minister was not worth the paper it was written on.
The government hangs its hat on and touts the $101.4 billion in so-called stimulus spending. However, the Parliamentary Budget Officer notes that only $36.8 billion of that so-called stimulus spending is related to COVID, leaving $69.2 billion in so-called stimulus spending. The catch, however, is that, of the $69.2 billion in so-called stimulus spending, some $52.1 billion does not go out the door until 2022 and all the way to 2024. In other words, it will have no immediate impact, which is the very purpose of stimulus spending. It is no wonder that the Parliamentary Budget Officer has said, with respect to the government's so-called stimulus spending, that the government has “miscalibrated”.
With all of the spending, massive deficits and debt, where are Canadians as a result of the government's approach? Canada has among the slowest economic growth rates in the G7; one of the highest unemployment rates in the G7, a full 25% above the G7 average; and the highest level of debt, save for Japan. On top of that—
View Richard Cannings Profile
Mr. Speaker, I know the member for Kingston and the Islands has an open mind when it comes to pipeline debates. Here we have two sides that are seemingly miles apart. The Minister of Natural Resources says this pipeline is demonstrably safe. Michigan obviously thinks otherwise. Earlier, I asked the Conservative whip what he would do, and I know the member liked it, because he repeated it to another member.
What do you think your government should be doing to move this forward, when clearly the two sides are so far apart?
View Mark Gerretsen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I think the member for Elmwood—Transcona put it very well when he was talking about the need for this particular piece of infrastructure. Yes, everything in this room has come into contact with the necessity for having oil and gas at one point or another, but that does not, in my opinion, negate our responsibility to be as conscientious and environmentally sensitive as we can, especially moving forward as we aim to reach that net-neutrality, so I appreciate the preamble to his question.
More specifically to what the government should be doing, I would expect that any government, not just this government, would be working with its counterparts, and obviously that is not always happening in public, to come to an agreement, a compromise or a settlement that can be both productive and meaningful on both sides, trying to get to the root of the problem as both sides see it, as we would in any negotiation, so that this project can continue to deliver the incredible amount of service it is delivering right now throughout both Canada and the United States.
I trust that this government, and in particular this minister, is working really hard on this issue.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to be able to speak about Alberta, the province I grew up in, live in, represent and love so much.
This is an important debate. I will say it has also at times been an odd debate, odd I think because the federal New Democrats, especially my hon. friend from Edmonton Strathcona, are using the federal House of Commons to offer a highly partisan critique of the UCP government in Alberta. I am not here to praise or critique the UCP government. I think I have enough to do seeking to hold the federal government accountable in the federal House of Commons, to push it to adopt policies that are in the national interest and protect Canadians by getting us out of this pandemic.
The NDP members have declared that Canadians do not care about jurisdiction, they want politicians to act. To this, I would observe that jurisdictional details are actually extremely important to how we resolve this crisis. The federal government cannot impose gathering restrictions and provincial governments cannot control borders. Everyone needs to do their job in their own area of jurisdiction. It is silly to pretend that jurisdictional responsibility does not matter. Jurisdictional responsibility is crucial. Politicians need to understand where their responsibilities lie. Then they need to act in those areas of responsibility to do their part to get the outcomes that we are all looking for.
What we have seen during too much of this crisis is an obscuring of responsibility. It is not just the NDP; many federal Liberals have also taken every opportunity to slam the actions of various provincial governments. That might be understandable if the federal government had carried off its own responsibilities flawlessly, but that is far from the case, so now instead of acting effectively it is often shifting responsibility.
I want to pose what I think is the fundamental question for this conversation, the question Canadians have been asking for a long time. Let us end the finger-pointing between different levels of government and let us establish who is responsible for solving the problem of COVID-19 in Canada. Who is responsible for getting us out of this crisis, for charting a course to something different, for building a plan to get us beyond the current pandemic? Who is responsible?
Too often we hear from the provinces that the feds should do certain things, we hear from the feds about what the provinces should do, meanwhile both are saying they are deferring to experts. The public health experts in different jurisdictions do not always agree with each other and do not actually have the ability to publicly contradict the politicians they report to.
Further, when it comes to expertise, it is, by its nature, specialized. One expert may be well placed to tell us about the spread of a disease, but less able to explain the social factors that contribute to whether or not people follow guidelines in certain situations. A different expert still may be required to explain the impacts on life and well-being that are associated with large-scale unemployment caused by certain kinds of policies. The point is that generally we expect politicians to gather the feedback of different experts and make a decision that synthesizes that feedback and applies collective values as dictated by the electorate. That is the point of having a democracy instead of an aristocracy of expertise.
Today, the politicians say they are deferring to the experts when in reality the experts still report in private to politicians and politicians are the ones actually taking decisions, so again there is a lack of clarity about who is actually responsible. When I say “who” is responsible, I am not intending to refer to the World Health Organization, although it is evident that many people in this government would like to defer responsibility for their decisions to the WHO, even though it has been clear from the beginning there have been serious flaws in its approach and recommendations. The WHO is ultimately constrained by its member states. As we have seen, that has limited its action in particular, for instance, in response to identifying issues coming out of China at the beginning. There has been a lot of just passing back and forth the—
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Madam Speaker, I was of course intending to say that I was splitting my time. I was saving that for the ninth minute, just to make sure Sean and Sebastien are still awake.
There has been much passing back and forth of responsibility throughout this. It goes without saying that there have been mistakes made at lots of levels, but what we need now is to stop this extended process of finger pointing, and for someone to finally stand up and say, “I am responsible and I have a plan to get us out of this.” That person, the person we need to show national leadership, take responsibility and give us a plan for getting us out of this pandemic is the Prime Minister. He has the opportunity, better late than never, to step up and work to unite this country and work to build a safe recovery by leading from those critical areas of federal responsibility.
In my view, the most critical actions required for a long-term solution to this pandemic are all in federal jurisdiction. Therefore, I want to give the Prime Minister some suggestions about what a path would look like to get us out of this in federal jurisdictions.
Making vaccines available to Canadians is critically important. Much has been said, I think very well, by my colleagues about the government's failure to do that. However, as we have also discussed, vaccines are not the whole picture.
We live in an increasingly interconnected world where pandemics are going to become more and more common. Locking ourselves down and bringing our nation to the precipice of a debt crisis every time there is a novel virus outbreak or a vaccine-resistant variant, and then waiting for vaccine development is likely not going to be a viable strategy in the 21st century.
We need to learn how and act to build a system that allows us to stay safe and stay open during pandemics like this. Some countries have done that. Some countries beat COVID-19 long before there was a vaccine. I spoke about that in a question that I addressed to the health minister on March 25, 2020, well over a year ago. Here is what I said at the time:
Madam Chair, Canada must look at international comparisons and copy strategies used by countries that have been successful in controlling COVID-19. South Korea provides one such example. Its approach emphasizes widely available testing and tracking of the spread of the virus, making people aware of specific places where they might have been exposed and providing them with the test results as quickly as possible. This targeted testing and tracking approach has helped South Korea turn the corner. Taiwan's approach has been similar and similarly effective.
Has the government studied, and is the government preparing to adopt, the very successful containment model used by Asian democracies which also have more experience at pandemic control?
I asked the health minister that on March 25, 2020, more than a year ago, and the health minister replied that yes, they were looking at these models and different experiences around the world, and yet, we still have not seen the plan to implement some of those successful measures.
Earlier than that, on March 11 of the same year, I tabled a petition in the House calling on the government to strengthen border screening, including having effective temperature testing at the border. Because the federal government has responsibility for developing and approving new testing technology, for coordinating national systems of tracing, for securing our borders and, yes, for providing clear and accurate advice on masking, something else that the government unfortunately failed to do, it has failed to act and has, in many cases yet to act, in terms of putting in place the systems and charting the path that is going to get us out of this. That points to why we are still really in the midst of a third wave that has not hit many other countries around the world, a third wave that is in Canada and it is hitting every province at different magnitudes in different provinces. We have a third wave hitting this country because of a failure of the federal government to act in areas of its jurisdictions.
I agree strongly with my colleagues about the vital necessity of making vaccines available. The Province of Alberta has been rapidly deploying vaccines as they have been made available, but we also must develop systems of effective border control, testing and tracing, things that the federal government must lead on.
On the issue of responsibility, it is important to say that it is not just about government. All of us are responsible. For our collective response to COVID-19 to work, citizens must choose to be engaged and there has to be a level of social trust.
People have to listen to health directives and follow them. It goes without saying that the spread of COVID-19 is determined by the practical actions of people on the ground, and it is only affected by the regulations that are in place insofar as those regulations are followed. However, trust also has to be earned. When we have a national government that has been inconsistent in the advice it has given, and that is routinely attacking the Province of Alberta and other provinces, it unfortunately undermines trust. The government, in addition to the policy measures, needs to work to rebuild trust with people on the ground, especially people in my province.
With that, I look forward to responding to questions.
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
2021-05-04 11:35 [p.6596]
Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague talked a lot about responsibility and how it is a key part of this discourse. One thing, though, has upset me. It has been so disappointing. I wonder if my colleague agrees with me about that. Being in this place, we watch every day the games that are being played between the government and the official opposition about whose process was better, who followed what, or whose responsibility it was. That one-upmanship and that base does not serve women in the Armed Forces.
Would the hon. member agree that that is not where this discourse has to go?
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
2021-05-04 11:35 [p.6596]
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her question. I agree that it is quite the show to see the Conservatives and Liberals passing the buck back and forth, just as the Minister of National Defence and the Prime Minister are doing.
The Conservatives are far from blameless here. They are the ones who appointed General Vance chief of the defence staff at the time, when they knew full well about these types of problems. It is a little surprising to hear them say that it is scandalous and we need to do something. Their fix is to fire the chief of staff.
That is not how things work. As I said, ministerial responsibility lies with the minister. The Conservatives were in power and, had they cared for ministerial responsibility at the time, they would have conducted an investigation to get to the bottom of the matter, rather than appointing General Vance. They did not.
Today the Liberals are in power and they did nothing about it either even though the reports said they need to put management systems in place.
Neither side is doing their job. When they are in power they forget what ministerial responsibility is except to inappropriately claim it in situations where it does not apply.
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
2021-05-04 11:37 [p.6596]
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for North Island—Powell River.
I have spent the last few months as a member of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women hearing powerful testimony from many survivors about their experiences within the Canadian Armed Forces. Sadly, I have also heard from those in positions of power that the systems, which have let so many women down, are in place and they are working. We have heard both in contradiction.
Earlier this year, after hearing brave servicewomen publicly share their stories, I felt compelled to bring forward a motion at the status of women committee that started the study of sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces. I knew that the defence committee was studying the specifics of what happened regarding the Minister of National Defence's refusal to act on the allegations against General Vance and what went wrong with the process. With my motion, we on the status of women committee would focus on the women. We would hear their voices and work to put together what they needed to be able to truly serve their country equally.
We heard some heartbreaking evidence. We learned some gut-wrenching details. We heard witnesses openly contradict each other. We heard people in leadership deny that there is any problem. We also heard from some willing to work for change. So many people wrote to me desperately looking to me for that change and I desperately want to get it for them. However, will this motion today provide them with what they deserve and need? No, I do not believe it will. Do not get me wrong, I believe wholeheartedly that sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces needs to be openly discussed. It is our job in this place and in committees to ensure that we work toward a new culture for servicemen and women. That is why I brought forward that study at status of women committee.
The issue of sexual misconduct in the Canadian Forces is fundamentally about equality. As long as the sexualized culture that tolerates sexual misconduct remains in place, no one can serve equally. I and my New Democratic colleagues cannot support this Conservative motion because it would let the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence off the hook for their failure to act in 2018 until this date and would place the blame on one woman, saying she was responsible for the entire failure.
The defence committee needs to hear from the Prime Minister's chief of staff. Hearing one final witness will not unduly delay the work of the committee, especially if the result is that either the Minister of National Defence or Prime Minister finally takes responsibility. Pinning all of this on one woman is not right. In our democratic system, we elect political officials whose job it is to take responsibility. I cannot begin to express how incredibly disappointed I am to see how something that originally came to our attention from a brave woman trying to have her voice heard and her request for justice has devolved into a competition between the Liberals and Conservatives of who is worse when it comes to following an investigative process, a process that is clearly broken. Whenever the Liberals and Conservatives get involved in a debate about who failed survivors first or who failed survivors more, this does not serve the interests of survivors.
I am so proud to serve in this Parliament and to work with my colleague, the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, on this issue. He serves on the defence committee and I want to quote him from last Friday's meeting because I cannot express it any clearer than he did when he said:
We have failed the survivors of sexual assault in the Canadian military. All of us have failed them by not getting policies in place not just to support them—because I think that's looking at the wrong end of the problem—but to change the culture and prevent there being such an inordinately large number of victims of sexual assault in the Canadian military.
When it comes to the issue of sexual misconduct, trust in the leadership of the Canadian Forces and the government is broken, but without restoring that trust, women in the forces cannot have confidence that true change will occur. Political leaders must show that they understand sexual misconduct and they will take action against it, but, sadly, we have seen no such leadership and no such action.
In fact, no action was taken against General Vance when he faced multiple allegations of sexual misconduct. Instead, he was appointed chief of the defence staff by the Conservatives and his term as CDS was extended by the Liberals, who also gave him a positive performance evaluation that resulted in a pay raise. The Conservatives placed him in charge of Operation Honour, the program that was supposed to root out sexual misconduct. He was left in charge of the program by the Liberals for three more years after they learned of sexual misconduct allegations.
No responsibility was taken when the Minister of National Defence was offered evidence of sexual misconduct by Vance from the military ombudsperson. Instead, he refused to look at it and referred it to the Prime Minister's Office, but no investigation took place and Vance remained in office. No amount of arguing about whether procedures were followed can disguise that fact.
The government failed to implement the key recommendations of Justice Deschamps' 2015 report, it failed to listen to the report from the Auditor General in 2018, and it did nothing with the report on this same issue from the Standing Committee on the Status of Women in 2019. The question is now whether the government will listen to and implement the recommendations from a second review of sexual misconduct.
The government has brought in task force after working group after committee, and now a review. This is a diversion. I certainly respect Justice Louise Arbour and have no doubt she will make a useful contribution, but there are outstanding recommendations by Justice Deschamps that could be acted on now. The issue of sexual misconduct is getting the attention it deserves finally. I have heard from current and former women members in the Canadian Armed Forces, and they hope now is the time there will be action. It amazes me that, after what these women have experienced and currently experience, they still have so much hope. They have made it clear we do not need more reports, more task forces or more empty apologies or promises. The only direction the government can take now is action. The current government has never seen a problem it cannot fix with a report. It believes that with one or more studies the problem is solved.
We all know, and I hope members of the government know as well, that only action will solve this problem. To my Conservative colleagues, I want to say that the firing of Ms. Telford will not solve this problem either. Only political will, leadership and courage to take action will create the change our servicemen and servicewomen in the Canadian Armed Forces need and deserve.
At the centre of this scandal and this problem is power. There is a quote from Aung San Suu Kyi: “It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.” We have a government that will do anything to hold onto power, that will hide behind others and behind processes, that will use excuse after excuse, and that will not take responsibility, because it may limit their power or they may lose it. We have leadership at the top of the command structure of the Canadian Armed Forces who thought they were untouchable, and this is not just about General Vance, but about that entire culture and the generations that have seen its growth and that scourge of power spread.
Now, it seems impossible to change, for so many have been subject to it. That power has infected all relationships and workplaces. Sexual misconduct is about power, fear and punishment, but it is clear to me that the harder we cling on to power for the sake of power, the more we lose and that the only solution for us is to redistribute that power. The path toward equality in the Canadian Armed Forces, for women to be able to serve their country equally, is for all to share power. That is a culture change we need to see in both institutions: the Canadian Armed Forces and the Canadian Parliament. When the Conservative party introduces that motion, I will support it.
View Candice Bergen Profile
View Candice Bergen Profile
2021-05-04 11:45 [p.6598]
Madam Speaker, I agree with most of what my colleague said.
Would she not agree that those in government who were in the highest positions of power and knew of the misconduct allegations against General Vance, but did nothing, should be held accountable?
Certainly, most of us agree that the Minister of National Defence does not have the credibility to continue to serve. He needs to be held accountable, but Katie Telford, if indeed she did know and covered it up, should be held accountable. People say that, because she is a woman in a position of power, she should not be held to the same standard as a man. Does my hon. colleague, as a woman, not find that to be somewhat sexist in and of itself and patronizing, and that somehow strong capable women should not be held to the same account as men when they are in positions of power?
If Ms. Telford knew, and she told the Prime Minister, Conservatives believe very strongly it is the Prime Minister who needs to own up to that and not throw her under the bus—
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
2021-05-04 11:46 [p.6598]
Madam Speaker, I think the crux of that question is that yes, those in positions of power must take responsibility. I come back to a point in speech, which is that we elect people to those positions of power to be held accountable and responsible. The one woman at the crux of this is not an elected official. Therefore, for this, the place to put judgment is upon those men at the top who truly held the power.
In my office, I hold the responsibility for everyone in my staff, and I take responsibility, and that is what we are asking of the Minister of National Defence and the Prime Minister in this case.
View Mario Beaulieu Profile
View Mario Beaulieu Profile
2021-05-04 11:49 [p.6598]
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech.
Someone needs to take responsibility. Everyone is throwing the ball in someone else's court and nothing is being done. I would like my colleague's thoughts on that.
Does she have any course of action to suggest?
Where should we begin?
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
2021-05-04 11:50 [p.6598]
Madam Speaker, we all have to take responsibility now. This is upon all of us, so let us take those actions. There are some clear actions in the Deschamps report that could happen immediately, such as the independent investigative service, which is completely separate from all of the institutions that currently exist under the command structure, and ensuring that the ombudsperson responds and reports directly to Parliament instead of to the minister. That is a clear action that we have been calling for for years. There are clear things that can happen, and we need to move forward with those.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her passion on this important topic.
The hon. member spoke about the importance of moving forward and taking action that would change the reality for women in the armed forces, and I completely agree with that. It seems to me, though, that part of the way we take action is to identify and hold people accountable.
We do have to ask these questions about who know, who took action and who did not take action. Unless we hold people accountable for not taking the action they should have taken, then it will be much harder to move forward, when people cannot be assured that there will be consequences for failing to respond.
That is where the motion comes from. It comes from a reality that people in the Prime Minister's office knew what was going on and a claim from the Prime Minister that he was not notified.
Does the member believe it is important to get to the brass tacks of accountability for who did not share information or who failed to act on particular allegations in an appropriate way?
View Rachel Blaney Profile
Mr. Speaker, I absolutely agree that we need to get down to this but, more important, we need to get those recommendations in place.
Our focus should be on the people who are the survivors, not on the chief of staff of the Prime Minister. Let the committee do its work, and hopefully the Liberals will stop filibustering.
View Alex Ruff Profile
View Alex Ruff Profile
2021-05-04 12:06 [p.6601]
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the Conservative House leader.
Today, I will talk about three key issues. First, as the previous speaker just talked about, is accountability. The next is the actions we need to take to better understand where the process failed and how we collectively move forward. Finally, I will talk about leadership and unfortunate leadership failure in dealing with this situation.
I will talk about the accountability aspects first for both the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence.
The government has gone to great lengths to talk about ministerial accountability. I agree. Being accountable includes taking ownership of a respective department, office or staff.
When we talk about the Minister of National Defence, he is the one responsible for the whole of the department, including being the direct supervisor of the chief of defence staff and the ombudsman. He has talked at length about not interfering politically and respecting the independence of any investigation. I fully agree. I have personally been very vocal about the current Prime Minister's political interference historically with the independence of the prosecution and judiciary with the SNC-Lavalin affair, and how this was a great failure and should have never happened.
However, in the case we are debating today, the minister has forgotten that, as the direct supervisor of both the chief of defence staff and ombudsman, this goes beyond just the political realm. Further, there is a fundamental difference in ensuring that an investigation occurs and interfering in said investigation or even doing the investigation themselves.
The parliamentary secretary in her speech earlier during the debate, as other Liberal members have, stated that the Liberal government apparently followed the exact same process as the previous Conservative government. This is absolutely false.
Under the previous Conservative government, both the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service and the national security adviser were both involved, and investigations actually did occur in response to rumours. This did not happen at all with this current case with the Liberal government. The only thing that happened was a passing of the buck to the PCO and the clerk of the Privy Council, and nothing further occurred despite actually having an actual allegation presented to the ombudsman. In fact, the only thing that did occur was the chief of the defence staff getting his mandate extended, getting a raise and eventually becoming the longest-serving chief of defence staff in history.
The bottom line is that the Minister of National Defence admitted on March 12 in committee that he was responsible for the failures of these allegations being investigated, and the minister is accountable. However, really what we are here today for, and the what the motion before us is about, is to debate the lack of accountability in the Prime Minister's Office.
I have had the fortune and privilege of commanding hundreds of Canada's finest. I have been a chief of staff both in Afghanistan and Iraq along with holding other key staff appointments. When I was in charge, I always reminded my staff that I could only do my job if they kept me in the loop. The line I used to use was, “I can only stop the manure from rolling downhill if I know about it. If I don't know about it, it is really hard to stop it.” However, when I was the chief of staff, my primary job was to keep the boss, the commander, in the loop, and this is what we are really talking about today.
In fact, we all know in this specific case that the office of the Minister of National Defence, the Privy Council Office, the Prime Minister's Office and the Prime Minister's chief of staff all knew about sexual misconduct allegations, yet somehow we are led to believe that the Prime Minister himself did not know. Based on this, I think we are faced with only two possible conclusions: either the Prime Minister did know about these allegations or his chief of staff failed to do her job to keep the Prime Minister in the loop. Either way, it speaks to incompetence within the Prime Minister's Office, and the victims of sexual misconduct within the Canadian Armed Forces are suffering as a result of these leadership failures.
Next, I want to focus on briefly the way ahead and why it is so important that these failures to hold those accountable are so important to the members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
I have been hearing from countless former colleagues within the forces. They are primarily concerned about the senior leadership both politically and militarily being held to account. They are concerned that if we do not fix it and we do not understand where those actual failures occurred, that there is no moving forward. We can ultimately put any process in place, but if somehow the senior leadership, especially the senior leadership politically, refuses to take action, then I do not know how anything will change moving forward.
It has been talked about before. The Canadian Armed Forces has the Deschamps report. I was there when it came in. Frankly, I was shocked at the length and depth in it of some of the details that occurred. One of the first things I did, being a serving member at the time, was talk to the female colleagues of mine and ask if it was true, if there was that much rampant sexual misconduct.
To be frank, I was shocked and disappointed that in so many cases within the leadership of the Canadian Armed Forces we were still allowing this to occur. I can only speak to the specific positions I was in, and I did everything in my power, but at the same time, I fully admit that I should have done more to create an atmosphere and environment where anybody could come forward with any type of allegation.
Ultimately what we are debating today is that if these allegations, especially against somebody like the chief of the defence staff, do not get properly investigated and concluded, then we cannot move ahead. This is not about pronouncing guilt or innocence; this is about actually doing a proper investigation. It is all about this cover-up that is creating all the problems.
I do not disagree with the previous member's comments that the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence are ultimately responsible. However, in this case, if we take the Prime Minister at his word that he did not know, ultimately he needs to now show leadership, make the tough choice and remove those within his office who are preventing him from doing his job as the Prime Minister.
This is all about trust and accountability. The members of the Canadian Armed Forces, particularly the victims of sexual misconduct and harassment, need to know that they can have faith in both the senior political and military leadership to ensure this does not happen again going forward.
I do agree with the member for North Island—Powell River that more action is required. However, first, leaders, in this case the Prime Minister, need to show leadership, be accountable and find out why this failure occurred from his chief of the defence staff.
View Cathy McLeod Profile
Mr. Speaker, I want to note that the Prime Minister is the one who used to say “sunshine is the best disinfectant” and that the Liberals would not resort to parliamentary games. Again, this motion is about accountability. Could my colleague, the House leader, talk about why we felt it was important for this motion to be put forward and for the Prime Minister to be held to account?
View Gérard Deltell Profile
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2021-05-04 12:34 [p.6605]
Mr. Speaker, I want to pay all my respects to my colleague from Kamloops, British Columbia, for whom I have a lot of respect. I am sad that she will not renew her mandate, but I wish her the best for the future, because she serves so well here in the House of Commons.
It is quite important to have confidence in our leader, so when we have the government leader, the Prime Minister of Canada, saying something here in the House of Commons but on the other hand we have the exact contrary of that, black on white, written directly to the chief of staff, we need clarity on that.
We just asked yesterday for the chief of staff to testify in the committee and the Liberal government decided to shut down the committee. This is awful. We need leadership. We need accountability to this Parliament.
View Michael Barrett Profile
Mr. Speaker, this afternoon I will be splitting my time with the member for Elgin—Middlesex—London.
This subject we are discussing today is of tremendous importance. We are talking of course about the situation arising from an epidemic of sexual misconduct in the Canadian Forces and a failure of government to address it.
We know in 2015 the Deschamps report was released, and after taking government in 2015, the current government was able to act on all the recommendations that were made by retired Supreme Court Justice Deschamps with respect to sexual misconduct in the Canadian Forces.
Here we are six years later, and amidst a political crisis the Liberal government is proposing a new review conducted by another retired Supreme Court judge into sexual misconduct in the Canadian Forces.
In 2018, the ombudsman for the CAF was made aware of allegations of sexual misconduct perpetrated by the then chief of the defence staff, the top soldier in the Canadian Forces, the top of the chain of command, so the ombudsman took these serious allegations to the minister responsible, the Minister of National Defence.
When the ombudsman advised the minister specifically this complaint and these allegations were of a sexual nature, that it was sexual misconduct, the Minister of National Defence heard it and then pushed away from the table. Following that meeting, he then made sure that information was passed to the Prime Minister's Office. We know from documents that the Prime Minister's chief of staff, Ms. Katie Telford, was made aware of the nature of these allegations of sexual misconduct alleged to have been perpetrated by the chief of the defence staff, Canada's top general, against one of his subordinates.
No more grievous a breach of trust or offence against those who have committed to serve could the CDS make than this. Members of our Canadian Forces serve our country under what is known as “unlimited liability”. That means they can be given lawful orders to enter harm's way that could result in their death in service to this country. When they take their oath and agree to serve under unlimited liability, they expect rightly that not only will they be protected with all means possible and available by the chain of command, by the chief of the defence staff, they also rightfully expect their chain of command, Canada's top soldier, will not be the one who is taking action that would injure them or cause irreparable harm. Certainly not that they would perpetrate acts of a sexual nature in an inappropriate way.
The men and women of Canada's armed forces deserve to have a system much like is outlined in the Deschamps report of March 2015 that gives them the assurance they can serve their country without having to be subjected to sexual misconduct, harassment, crimes and other actions of a sexual nature particularly by their chain of command, by those senior to them.
The power imbalance in the military is textbook of course in what a power imbalance looks like because it is codified in the rank of those who serve, with the chief of the defence staff being at the top of that chain.
When those complaints brought to the ombudsman in 2018 were then given to the Prime Minister's chief of staff, action was required. Action was required by the Prime Minister's Office. The Prime Minister's Office had failed to act on those 2015 recommendations.
After years of lessons learned, and victims and survivors having to endure the system in the Canadian Armed Forces, those recommendations were made, and the government failed to act.
Then, in the face of those new allegations, again the government failed to act. What is worse, the Prime Minister has said he was not informed that there was this complaint and that his office did not know that it was a complaint of a sexual nature, that it was a #MeToo allegation. The facts simply do not support that contention. We know that Ms. Telford knew the nature of these allegations.
If the Prime Minister is to be believed, then we understand that along with the Minister of National Defence, the Prime Minister's chief of staff orchestrated a cover-up to protect the Prime Minister and to protect the aggressor, the individual alleged to have committed these offences, the then chief of the defence staff. This is unacceptable.
It is unacceptable that we ask everything, up to and including the lives of those who serve our country in uniform, and the accountability, or lack of accountability, that we are getting from the government does not even amount to a single person being fired for covering up this sexual misconduct.
The women and men in our Canadian Armed Forces deserve better. We owe it to them. We owe it to them to implement the recommendations from retired Supreme Court Justice Deschamps' report in 2015, before we embark on another review. Let us implement those. That is responsible. That is showing that we are listening. That is showing that we are acting. That is showing that are we standing up for victims, for those women and men who come forward, and those who have not come forward.
We know that simply failing to act because there is silence is tacit approval of the behaviour we know is going on behind closed doors. We have seen that with the suspensions and resignations of some of Canada's top soldiers.
The Canadian Armed Forces is a tremendously proud organization, and we should, as Canadians, be so proud of the women and men who serve and who have served. This is certainly the least we can do. We must hold those in the highest offices in this country to account.
If the Prime Minister's chief of staff orchestrated or participated in a cover-up to protect her boss, the Prime Minister, and to protect the Chief of the Defence Staff, so as to avoid an embarrassing political situation, then the Prime Minister must fire her. Then we need to hear from the Minister of National Defence about what he is prepared to do, how he is prepared to be accountable for what has happened.
The recommendations in 2015 were clear, the actions that the government failed to take in response to the evidence that was given to the ombudsman and the action that it did in covering it up is a blight. It is a stain on the government. It is a shame not worthy of the victims and survivors who brought that forward.
We are all very proud, and I am very proud, of our women and men in uniform. However, we need to demonstrate that pride with our actions. We need to demonstrate that this organization, those women and men, are worth protecting, that they are worth acting on the report that came out in 2015, that we do not have a government that is trying to trick Canadians into confusing motion for action. It is inappropriate to commission a new report without acting on the first report that was commissioned in 2015. We owe the victims that much.
It is time to demonstrate our pride and fulfill our commitment to the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces, like they do for us every day. The government needs to do that by taking action and holding people accountable for covering up serious allegations of sexual misconduct in our Canadian Armed Forces. It is absolutely the bare minimum we can do for the women and men of our Canadian Forces, and that is what we will be voting for on this motion.
View Louise Chabot Profile
View Louise Chabot Profile
2021-05-04 13:09 [p.6609]
Mr. Speaker, since I was called to order twice this morning, I will do everything I can this time to direct my questions to you.
I deplore the fact that the motion seeks only one thing: to find a scapegoat. A scapegoat will not do anything to address the willful blindness of both the Conservatives and the Liberals in this situation involving such a fundamental matter as victims of sexual assault in our armed forces.
My question for my colleague is this. Rather than looking for a scapegoat, does he not think that we should take immediate action to send a clear message to victims that parliamentarians are doing something about this?
View Michael Barrett Profile
Mr. Speaker, I absolutely believe we should take immediate action. The recommendations made in the report that was completed in 2015 by retired justice Deschamps are in the immediate arsenal of recommendations that can be acted on by the government. It absolutely can do that. That is a concrete step and an evidence-based approach that the government can take to address sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces, but people must be held accountable, and it is to the Prime Minister to hold those individuals accountable. If, through his interventions and responses he has said that his chief of staff kept this information from him, then that individual is the first to be held accountable for orchestrating a cover-up of sexual misconduct in the Canadian Forces.
View Cathy McLeod Profile
Mr. Speaker, the government sat on serious allegations of sexual harassment at the highest level for over three years. The Bloc is stating that it believes this motion is about scapegoating.
Could my colleague talk about how this is about accountability at the highest level of government? It is not about scapegoating on very serious allegations.
View Michael Barrett Profile
Mr. Speaker, it is vital that we hold people accountable for failures of this nature. This is the most grievous situation: The top soldier in the chain of command is alleged to have perpetrated sexual misconduct on one of his subordinates. That is the greatest example of a power imbalance in this type of situation that one could imagine, so we must hold all of those accountable who covered it up.
We have heard that the Prime Minister was not informed by his chief of staff, though she knew. Therefore he must hold her accountable, and if there are others who were part of that cover-up, he must hold them accountable as well. If he fails to, Canadians will hold him accountable.
View Richard Cannings Profile
Mr. Speaker, the Deschamps report came out in 2015 under the Conservative government, which did not implement it. The Liberals have been sitting on those recommendations for six years. Now they are up against the wall and they say they will take action. However, they are not going to implement the Deschamps report; they are going to have another review. They are going to make another framework.
Why did the Liberals not implement the reforms of the Deschamps report when they took power in 2015?
View Kamal Khera Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Kamal Khera Profile
2021-05-04 13:57 [p.6616]
Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned in my speech, and as the Minister of National Defence has always said, first and foremost, there is absolutely no tolerance for misconduct.
I agree with the member that institutional cultural change is complex and takes a lot of time, and the time for patience is over. That is why we announced that we were creating a new internal organization, led by Lieutenant-General Jennie Carignan as the chief of professional conduct and culture. She will be tasked with unifying, integrating and coordinating all policies, programs and activities that currently address systemic misconduct and support cultural change across National Defence. We need to ensure that everyone who wants to come forward feels comfortable in doing so.
View Randall Garrison Profile
Mr. Speaker, I want to say first that I normally have the greatest respect for the member for Oakville North—Burlington, but I am disappointed with her speech today. She is engaging in the “both of us failed, but who failed first and who failed more” argument when it comes to survivors. I am disappointed because there was an opportunity in 2018 for this government to succeed.
The Minister of National Defence was presented with evidence of sexual misconduct. He was told there was evidence of sexual misconduct, and he refused to look at that evidence. He says that he told the Prime Minister's Office, and the Prime Minister's Office took no action. What we have here is a missed opportunity to restore the trust needed for any future reforms to be successful.
Does the member really believe that no one knew that General Vance had been accused of sexual misconduct in 2018? Does she believe that these procedural arguments excuse the failure to investigate and remove him from his role?
View Pam Damoff Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I sat in on the testimony we had when we were studying Bill C-65, and no one who testified said that politicians should get involved in allegations of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment. We heard that there needed to be independent investigations into those charges, and if it was independent, people might have some confidence to come forward. Even then, they were still fearful.
Now, Lieutenant-General Jennie Carignan, who has just been appointed as chief of professional conduct and culture, will be looking to implement Bill C-65.
I am not saying that one is better than the other, but I am saying that we need to improve the process. I find it really disturbing for the Conservatives to stand in this House and accuse the Liberal government of not following the proper process, when it is exactly the same process that they followed.
View Cathy McLeod Profile
Mr. Speaker, the speech from my colleague was very disturbing, and it should be disturbing for the victims.
Like the colleague from Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, the Liberals are just going back six years and pointing their fingers. Does she justify the government's inaction on very clear recommendations from the Deschamps report when the Liberals have been in government for over six years, and when they have made a clear commitment to the women who serve in our military to actually take action?
View Pam Damoff Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I would remind the hon. member that we created the sexual misconduct response centre in 2015. I would also remind the hon. member that it was her government that appointed General Vance, ignoring rumours that were heard. I would also remind her that no government has dealt well with getting rid of the toxic masculinity that exists in the armed forces. I would also remind her these women are survivors; they are not victims.
View Kristina Michaud Profile
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech. I know that she unequivocally condemns sexual misconduct in the army.
We all know what has been happening for the past few years. Justice Deschamps wrote a report.
Instead of taking action, the government has asked for a new report from Justice Arbour, who said herself that she was surprised at this request when we already know what the problems are.
I would like to know what my colleague thinks of this new request for a report. Does she think that the government is prepared to act to eliminate all forms of sexual misconduct in the army?
View Pam Damoff Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, yes, absolutely we want to act on allegations of sexual misconduct and sexual violence. It is why Madame Arbour has been appointed.
I am not a fan of doing report after report and I think we need to take action. However, we need to find out how we can implement the recommendations of the previous report and also why women still do not feel comfortable coming forward in spite of the fact the response centre was set up in 2015.
View Pierre Paul-Hus Profile
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Calgary Nose Hill.
I am pleased to speak to this motion. While the Prime Minister continues to say things in his speeches that are not true, we need to continue to tell the truth about him. There is no doubt that over the past six years, this Prime Minister, who calls himself a feminist, has shown Canada that he definitely does not put his money where his mouth is. It is astounding to see how the Prime Minister tells everybody that he would open the door for the cause of Canadian women, yet he never misses an opportunity to throw them under the bus.
The first sign of his duplicity was his treatment of women in his own caucus. Since becoming Prime Minister, he has kicked three women off his team simply because they were not prepared to blindly copy his corrupt ways. They had enough character to say no, while the other members of the Liberal caucus remained silent to avoid being kicked out as well.
Then he dragged his feet when it came to getting answers about the murder of Marylène Levesque, because he knew that the people he appointed to the Parole Board of Canada gave a violent murderer permission to solicit women for sexual services while out on parole. Parliament has been waiting in vain for answers in that case, because the Prime Minister has made sure that we will never get any real answers.
His most recent insult to Canadian women is his statement to the effect that, even though everyone in his entourage knew about the allegations of sexual misconduct against General Vance, he did not. Well, I have no choice but to take his word for it, because we know that this Prime Minister never lies, or so he says.
To help people understand what we are talking about today, I would like to read our motion. It says, and I quote:
That, given that:
(a) women and all members of the Canadian Armed Forces placed their trust in this government to act on claims of sexual misconduct;
(b) the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff was informed about a specific sexual harassment allegation against General Jonathan Vance three years ago;
(c) the Prime Minister asserts that this sexual harassment allegation was never brought to his attention; and
(d) the Prime Minister said that those in a position of authority have a duty to act upon allegations,
the House call upon the Prime Minister to dismiss his Chief of Staff for failing to notify him about a serious sexual harassment allegation at the highest ranks of the Canadian Armed Forces and for being complicit in hiding the truth from Canadians.
As members know, Canadians were shocked to learn about the allegations of sexual misconduct against the former chief of the defence staff and the ensuing cover-up. Once again, the Prime Minister claimed that he had no prior knowledge of these accusations, despite testimony indicating that his chief of staff, Katie Telford, had known about it for years.
To add insult to injury, instead of doing the right thing for the women who serve our country in the Canadian Armed Forces, the Prime Minister has decided to bury the file until the next election. After months of reports of sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces and Liberal attempts to cover them up, the Prime Minister is now announcing an external review of sexual harassment in the Canadian Armed Forces. We will have to wait at least a year to see the recommendations that come out of that review. This is an insult to the women and men of the Canadian Forces because they know that former justice Marie Deschamps already reviewed this issue and produced a report in 2015. There is no need to redo work that was skilfully done by former justice Marie Deschamps.
I do not know Katie Telford personally, so I cannot say if she tends to lie or tell the truth. However, for more than six years now, the Prime Minister has been telling the House that he always tells the truth. Of course, his title includes the words “Right Honourable”, so we have no choice but to believe him. If the Prime Minister is telling the truth, and if we assume he never lies, he must fire his chief of staff if he wants Canadians to believe him when he says he was not aware of the evidence of General Vance's sexual misconduct.
Why? If he is telling the truth, that means Katie Telford not only neglected to inform him about a serious sexual misconduct allegation, but also orchestrated a cover-up to hide the truth from Canadians. If the Prime Minister does not fire Katie Telford, that would be an admission that he misled Canadians about his knowledge of the allegations of sexual misconduct against General Vance and that he is complicit in the cover-up.
I am sure members will agree that it is time for the Prime Minister to stop hiding the truth from Canadians and to take responsibility for things that were done in his own office.
Last week's announcement by the government is not action. It is another attempt to take the pressure off the Liberal cover-up. Canadians are not fooled. They have had enough of the Prime Minister's imaginative speeches. They know a lie when they hear one.
They will have the last word the next time they are called upon to vote. In the next election campaign, the Prime Minister will once again ask Canadian women to vote for him. They will answer that he is asking for more than they can give.
View Mark Gerretsen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, the member for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes said something very interesting about this issue a week ago in the House when he asked the Prime Minister a question. He said, “Prime Minister Harper heard a rumour, had the head of CSIS investigate it and then had the courage to sit down, look the general in the eye and ask him questions about it.”
I am curious if the member feels as though the prime minister at the time, Prime Minister Harper, did the right thing by sitting down with the general to discuss with this him after he heard the rumour.
View Pierre Paul-Hus Profile
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.
What I can tell him is that General Vance was initially appointed in 2015. In 2018, even though the new Prime Minister knew about the allegations of sexual misconduct, he extended General Vance's contract by three years.
He did so even though he was aware of the facts and his entourage was aware of the facts, the ombudsman having sent everyone an email on March 2. In spite of that, he extended the general's contract by three years and gave him a $50,000 raise. I consider this a much more serious problem.
View Michelle Rempel Garner Profile
Mr. Speaker, systemic misogyny persists when silence gives cover to the sins of powerful men. I have heard a lot of sanctimony here today, so let us start with the facts. Every political party that has participated in debate today has members who have been silent and given cover for the sins of powerful men, so let us not kid ourselves about that.
We do not need another report to provide justice for women in the military. We need courage, and we need to stop the garbage that is happening here. I have been in this place for 10 years, and I have experienced systemic misogyny. I have had my rear end fondled, I have been called every name in the book and I have watched other women come behind me and have the same experiences. I have publicly called out my party when I have had instances come to light within my own tent, because I have had to, or my silence would have provided cover for the sins of powerful men.
We do not need another report. We need courage. Every single party here has had it happen in their own tent, including the NDP, the Liberals and the Green Party, which had an article in the Toronto Star. It is enough. I am so tired of listening to people finger-point. Are people really going to blame Stephen Harper? Not a single Liberal backbencher has stood up and said that maybe the defence minister did something wrong.
The only way things change is when people have the courage to speak up and demand change within their own tent. I have watched quarter be given for six years, under the watch of the government, to the most senior people in government. I have watched, at the same relative time as the allegations about General Vance came out, the Prime Minister have an unresolved groping allegation. Not a single Liberal has called this out within their own tent, not one, and if one wants to stand up today and talk about Prime Minister Harper to me, they had better start by addressing that, which has never been addressed.
I watched them unceremoniously can the member for Vancouver Granville and Jane Philpott for daring to speak truth to power. Not a single Liberal spoke up for these women speaking truth, not one, so if a Liberal wants to get up and talk about Prime Minister Harper, they had better speak up about that injustice first.
Then we have the member for Kitchener South—Hespeler, who the Liberals allowed to run for them knowing there were substantiated harassment allegations. Not a single Liberal spoke up about that, not one, so if somebody wants to get up and talk to me about Prime Minister Harper, they had better speak out about that. When a similar thing happened in my party, I trotted myself out into the House of Commons and said, “No. No more. This has to change,” so if somebody wants to ask me about Prime Minister Harper, they had better be asking about that.
I am just furious. Can members imagine being a member of the armed forces and watching this debate today? Of course we need to call out the people who are at the highest level of power, because they are the ones who give silence to the sins of powerful men. We should not kid ourselves that the Prime Minister's Office did not know about this. It is just ridiculous. Now there will be another report. What we need to be doing is saying no more silence in any political tent.
There should not be quarter anywhere. I am tired of having to do the heavy lifting, as a woman. It gets really tiring to have to explain to people that silence is complicity and that when we cover it up within our own tent, it tells the people in our tent that there will be no justice. That is what is happening with the defence minister right now. In question period after question period, it is Stephen Harper's fault. Members should look inwardly, and somebody should call it out. Somebody should say this cannot continue.
With every program we put in place we can put hundreds of millions of dollars and ask every Supreme Court justice in the world to do another report, but if silence gives quarter to the sins of powerful men, systemic misogyny persists. I have always put my money where my mouth is on this issue, and I have watched other women in this place do the same. I give kudos to Jane Philpott. She went to the wall for her colleague because she knew she was doing the right thing, but silence is rewarded around here. It is rewarded with promotion. Do members know what is not rewarded? It is courage. Do members know what is rewarded? It is covering up stuff like this.
Honestly, that is what is rewarded. That is what is wrong with government and that is what is wrong with power systems in this country. I cannot believe that we are having a debate when Liberal members have not once had the courage to publicly speak out in any form, even anonymously, by saying, “Hey, I have concerns about the competency of the defence minister” or, “Hey, what about the Prime Minister's chief of staff? Surely she must have known something.” Then people bring her gender into it. That is disgusting too. Come on.
Misogyny knows no gender. There are women who cover up the sins of men with their silence and we should not give them quarter just because of their gender either. Something happened here over the last six years. There is evidence upon evidence. We have someone offering to give a lie detector test. A woman in the Armed Forces watching this says, “Get your act together. I do not need another report, I need safety and I need the people who have covered this up to come to justice”.
I have a stepdaughter who is serving in the United States armed forces and she is incredible. She inspires me every day. She is watching this debate. She is watching one of her allied countries and literally watching members of Parliament talk about some other guy who was not here six years ago. He is not the prime minister any more, okay? He is not the prime minister. Somebody else is, and somebody else was in charge of this.
To keep deflecting this, to not have a way forward, to not hold people to account, to give quarter to this is everything that is wrong with this system and it is every reason why systemic misogyny exists. I am tired of having to stand up here and call people to account. It makes me angry, it makes me frustrated and it makes me sad as a Canadian. Honestly, somebody needs to be fired over this, and systems need to be put in place to make sure that nobody ever gets promoted within a cabinet or within a Prime Minister's Office again who knew about this, for now and forever going forward.
My party is not perfect. The NDP is not perfect. The Green Party is not and the Liberals are not either, but they are in power today and they have the power to change things. They are in power, and if they want to show Canadian women that they have any credibility at all on feminism, they have to deal with the fact that they are continually and perpetually silent on these issues, every single time. Any time there is any sort of sexual harassment or misconduct or whatever it is, there is silence and crickets across their backbench. That is wrong and that is what the report is going to tell us. Liberals do not need to pay somebody else to do that or another five years: They need change.
I dare somebody to ask me a question right now about Stephen Harper. Whoever does that had better stand and say what the defence minister did is wrong right now, and that they stand in solidarity with me across political lines, across partisanship and stand up for justice for the women in the Armed Forces and for every woman who suffers from systemic misogyny and systemic racism in this country. Enough is enough. If we stand here and keep bickering along partisan lines to keep protecting the people up our food chains, nothing will ever change.
View Monique Pauzé Profile
View Monique Pauzé Profile
2021-05-04 16:37 [p.6640]
Mr. Speaker, my colleague just asked Madame Arbour to make recommendations on the recommendations made by Madame Deschamps. My colleague also said that her government is taking this seriously. Is this really what she considers taking things seriously?
An analyst and journalist compared the two news releases about Madame Arbour and Madame Deschamps and said that they were essentially the same.
I repeat: Does my colleague really think the government is taking this seriously?
View Salma Zahid Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Salma Zahid Profile
2021-05-04 16:37 [p.6641]
Mr. Speaker, I suggest that our focus should be on how we can create a safer future for women and indeed for everyone who serves in our armed forces. There is much to be learned from the Deschamps report, and I look forward to Justice Arbour building on her work with her independent review of the Canadian Armed Forces, which will include the creation of an external reporting system that is independent from the chain of command and meets the needs of those impacted by sexual misconduct and violence.
View Maxime Blanchette-Joncas Profile
Mr. Speaker, Justice Deschamps presented a damning report in 2015, demonstrating that there is a sexist culture within the armed forces, which ignored cases of sexual misconduct.
This report contained 10 recommendations, and the main recommendation was to make the complaints system independent from the armed forces. Justice Deschamps testified in committee in February. She pointed out that, unfortunately, the centre is not independent from the armed forces.
I am trying to understand whether my colleague, who is the Minister for Women and Gender Equality, is comfortable being part of a government that wants a new report but is not even capable of implementing the main recommendation from a report that came out more than five years ago.
View Maryam Monsef Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, as my hon. colleague can appreciate, the issues around gender-based violence are complex and deeply rooted in society. However, sexual misconduct and gender-based violence within institutions like military are even more complex. The work Madame Deschamps did years ago is important. It has allowed the government and the DND to make progress, but far more work needs to be done.
Madame Arbour's work will allow us to move forward. However, we will not wait for a report as she hears testimony. As we continue to hear from survivors, we will be sure to implement measures that improve the safety and well-being of all members in the DND and the armed forces.
Of course, we are also looking for any ideas this chamber may have. In addition to that independent review, what else can we do as parliamentarians to change the conversation about gender-based violence and workplace harassment, not just in the armed forces but in every workplace?
View Mario Simard Profile
View Mario Simard Profile
2021-05-04 17:03 [p.6644]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her surreal speech. There is a funny new word that I think might apply. We hear more and more about people being “woke”. This was like a woke debate on acid, but I will leave it at that.
My colleague seems to be particularly fond of the concept of toxic masculinity. I find that all the more unusual because she belongs to a party that constantly challenges women's right to have control over their own bodies when it comes to abortion, but let us leave that aside for now.
We know that the government dragged its feet or simply failed to act in the case of General Vance. We also know that the initial allegations against General Vance were made in 2015. The Conservatives decided to ignore those allegations. They are the ones who appointed General Vance.
Was the Harper government demonstrating toxic masculinity at that time?
View Cheryl Gallant Profile
Mr. Speaker, he goes off on tangents and deflects. In 2015, the current leader of Her Majesty's official opposition heard a rumour and based on rumour alone took it to the Prime Minister's Office to have investigated. Here we have a minister who had the ombudsman for the military come with actual evidence of inappropriate sexual behaviour. What did he do? He said he did not want to see it. He swept it under the rug and then denied, deflected, delayed, until maybe it would go away, there would be an election and then we could all start over again. That is not going to happen this time.
View Shannon Stubbs Profile
View Shannon Stubbs Profile
2021-05-04 17:08 [p.6645]
Mr. Speaker, “There is no room in the Canadian Armed Forces for sexism, misogyny, racism, anti-Semitism, discrimination, harassment or any other conduct that prevents the institution from being a truly welcoming and inclusive organization.” That is how the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence began her reply to an Order Paper question from the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke detailing how the Canadian Armed Forces deal with sexual misconduct. I want to give kudos to my colleague from Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke for her powerful and utter indictment that she just delivered.
It is becoming disturbingly clear that the Liberals have actually allowed room for sexual misconduct and harassment in the military despite all their rhetoric. Doubtlessly, they would be happy to take credit for how much progress has been made otherwise. Indeed, the defence minister, in particular, is not shy about taking credit, as he did when he stole valour and claimed to be the architect of Operation Medusa, but true to pattern, the Liberals are dodging, shutting down committees, keeping staff from being questioned and embroiled in yet another cover-up scandal.
Today it is Parliament's job to debate this cover-up by the Prime Minister's own chief of staff. She was informed of specific sexual harassment allegations against General Jonathan Vance three years ago, three years of another victim's voice being silenced. Committee testimony revealed that senior PMO staffer Elder Marques briefed the Prime Minister's chief of staff about an issue related to the former chief of the defence staff and that the military ombudsman and the Canadian Armed Forces had discussions with the Minister of National Defence. Mr. Marques does not work for the Prime Minister or the Liberals anymore, so he was not barred from testifying at committee like every other Liberal staffer has been. His testimony shines a light on how high up these discussions went and how many people knew, but turned a blind eye.
In March 2018, the Privy Council Office was informed of the allegations, but came to an “impasse” and no further action was taken. This did not clear General Vance; rather, it only stalled the investigation. Even so, a pay raise that bureaucrats say the minister was involved in was still given to him in May 2019. Allegations began being publicly reported in 2021.
Five hundred and eighty-one is the number of sexual assaults reported under Operation Honour between April 1, 2016 and March 9, 2021. Two hundred and twenty-one is the number of sexual harassments reported during that same time period. These numbers represent real men and women in uniform and they are just the ones that are known. How many more have not and will not come forward because they see how these allegations are handled, because they see those in the highest positions of authority avoiding their responsibility to protect them, like the Minister of National Defence?
The minister's inaction and evasiveness harm Canada's men and women in uniform. That is perhaps the most disturbing part. Operation Honour is referred to casually in the military as “operation hop on her” and, ironically, in the very worst way, was headed by General Vance. Many members of the military report that if they come forward with sexual assault allegations that are not proven, they are given two options: return to their unit or be honourably discharged. Effectively, they lose their jobs or go back with their abusers. Sadly, this kind of thing is not that unusual in predominantly closed institutions that rely on the discipline of a rigid power hierarchy.
However, it is mind-boggling that the minister failed to take any real action during the past six years since the Deschamps report and recommendations on sexual misconduct and under-reporting in the military in 2015, while simultaneously declaring themselves a feminist government and turning a blind eye to allegations brought directly to him by the military ombudsman. That is six years of failing to act and to proactively address this systemic challenge for the men and women he served with and who served under him. The Minister of National Defence is avoiding his own responsibility and is an active part of this Liberal cover-up. I cannot fathom why he would choose to ignore the evidence brought to him by the ombudsman and to silence voices of victims, but perhaps the fact that General Vance was the minister's superior during his own military service is insightful.
Regardless, when confronted with difficult situations, strong leaders take responsibility and take action. The ombudsman confirmed that the defence minister was strong in one way, strong in his refusal to see any evidence about the allegations against General Vance and strong in his efforts to keep the ombudsman away from his office after that. He cancelled seven meetings to avoid further discussions. Ombudsman Walbourne testified, “I did tell the minister what the allegation was. I reached into my pocket to show him the evidence I was holding, and he pushed back from the table and said, 'No.'”
When presented with evidence of sexual misconduct, evading and avoiding can never be the reaction. The defence minister failed in his duty and has broken trust with men and women in the Canadian Armed Forces and with all Canadians more than once. It is reported that General Vance believes he is “untouchable”. I suggest the minister and all the people at the top have enabled that conclusion.
That seems to be systemic in this particular government. The Prime Minister first claimed his office knew nothing about the allegations, but the evidence shows his most powerful, privileged and likely closest confidante and staff member knew about it. She abdicated her duty and orchestrated a cover-up of the allegations.
She is also complicit in silencing voices of victims and survivors of sexual misconduct, and if she had nothing to hide, I think she would gladly step forward at committee and proactively share the steps the Prime Minister, the defence minister and the government are taking to strengthen the reporting, investigations and consequences for sexual misconduct in the military.
Instead, Liberals are interfering with committee scrutiny and have announced yet another review rather than acting on recommendations from the major report done shortly before they were elected in 2015.
Canadians have heard this song and dance too many times from the Liberal government. It is yet another example of passing the buck, dodging responsibilities and saying one thing and doing another.
The filibustering of witness discussions at the Standing Committee on National Defence clearly imitates the filibustering, delaying and dodging that was a hallmark of the SNC-Lavalin scandal, where the Prime Minister pressured the former attorney general, who is the member for Vancouver Granville, to interfere in an independent prosecution. When she refused and resisted months of relentless pressure, which he also denied, he fired her. It is much like the still-ongoing cover-up of the WE Charity scandal.
As recently as April 27, the Prime Minister said neither the defence minister nor his office knew the complaint against General Vance was one of sexual misconduct, but his own former staffer testified that he himself kept the chief of staff updated about the bureaucratic investigation into the claims and that the bureaucrats were informed the allegation was related to sexual harassment.
The Liberal chair of the defence committee unceremoniously cancelled the meeting to which the Prime Minister's chief of staff had been invited to clear all of this up. As recently as this past weekend, the defence minister studiously avoided answering directly whether he knew the allegation was sexual in nature. All of this stretches the bounds of believability of the Prime Minister's claim that no one really knew the details.
Of course it all makes sense in the context of hiding something. Canadians know well the lengths to which this particular government will go. With the Liberal government, where there is cover-up there is scandal. There are clearly networks of very powerful people at the very top who must be held accountable. As the Prime Minister once used to say, there is clearly a need for sunlight as the best disinfectant.
Quite obviously, the Liberals ought to actually walk their talk and work immediately to implement recommendations from the report they have sat on since 2015 instead of doing another review, despite the esteem of the former justice now in charge of it, because justice delayed is also justice denied. For victims of sexual harassment and abuse, that is only too true.
Operation HONOUR itself puts a fine point on it, in the Path to Dignity and Respect:
Whether real or perceived, organizational tolerance of sexual misconduct or a pervasive insufficient organizational response to incidents will contribute to a climate where sexual misconduct is ignored, minimized or excused and impacts the willingness of people to report incidents.
It is chilling that the top soldier in charge of Operation HONOUR was the very person who reportedly intimidated and threatened consequences against his target. Major Kellie Brennan said:
It's recorded...him directing me in what to say, what not to say, how to say it, what to exclude, to perjure myself and to lie.
She added:
I definitely feel that there will not be justice for me...if my speaking out can change everything for other women to come forward and change our policies, that's okay with me.
Such a debt of gratitude is owed to her and to all men and women who volunteer to enter into harm's way to protect all of us and serve in the Canadian Armed Forces. The loss of trust in leadership must be staggering and it must be severely damaging. The least that can be done is for the Prime Minister to take the first step in showing that people will be held to account by firing his chief of staff, but it cannot stop there. The defence minister is also complicit and also needs to be held accountable for his actions.
View Luc Desilets Profile
View Luc Desilets Profile
2021-05-04 17:17 [p.6646]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech.
I have had some difficulty following today's debate at times. I am hearing statements about toxic masculinity that I absolutely disagree with coming from one side of the House, and I am utterly baffled by the level of patience and tolerance demonstrated by the Liberal women on the other side of the House who spoke today about the allegations of sexual misconduct.
Earlier, a senator said the following on social media:
Justice Arbour, whose reputation goes beyond the borders of our country, cannot agree to participate in this cynical travesty in which victims paid the price to protect the image of the Prime Minister and that of his defence minister.
Does my colleague want the Minister of National Defence to resign?
View Shannon Stubbs Profile
View Shannon Stubbs Profile
2021-05-04 17:18 [p.6647]
Mr. Speaker, I am sure it will not surprise my colleague to know that I have no faith or confidence in this particular Minister of National Defence, and he has frankly earned that lack of trust and loss of confidence, not just on the issue we are talking about today, but on others that I have noted.
I am also glad my colleague raised the issue about toxic masculinity, which my colleague for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke spoke about, and they were asking why she was bringing it up. I will tell members why she was bringing it up. In the response to her Order Paper question, the Liberal Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence talked about that. The government's reply said:
National Defence understands that a culture change within the Canadian Armed Forces is required, to remove a culture of toxic masculinity and to create an environment where everyone is respected, valued, and can feel safe to contribute to the best of their ability.
I think she quite rightfully and truthfully showed toxic masculinity in the leadership roles of the current Liberal government. What she is saying is not to blame the men and women serving in the military and the culture within the military, but to hold the people whom Canadians elected and trusted to do their jobs, such as the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence, to account.
View Kristina Michaud Profile
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech. We were just talking about this yesterday in committee. I do not think that writing report after report will get us anywhere.
Justice Deschamps already gave the government her recommendations. I think my colleague will agree that the government is obviously hiding behind this next report instead of taking action with respect to General Vance.
Does she think the government should be taking action instead? If people need to be fired, so be it, but I think there are other things that can be done. I would like her to comment on that.
View Shannon Stubbs Profile
View Shannon Stubbs Profile
2021-05-04 17:22 [p.6647]
Mr. Speaker, similar to my answer to our colleague previously, I certainly agree with the member that it is high time for action to be taken. There are a couple of things needed. There needs to be immediate transparency and accountability for the subject of the issue that we are talking about, which is why we are calling for the Prime Minister to take action to fire his chief of staff. The Liberals also need to allow everybody else who might have knowledge about this particular issue to testify at committee and be transparent. To the larger issue, I completely agree. I do not know why there has been a delay on acting on the concrete recommendations that were already provided.
I did want to say to this particular colleague that I very much enjoy working with her on the public safety committee. She is an incredible MP. She is extremely gifted and very strong. I know we constantly share our frustration at governments and committees simply creating report after report. We like to see action and we call for action. I certainly know my constituents in Lakeland do too.
View Andréanne Larouche Profile
View Andréanne Larouche Profile
2021-05-04 17:24 [p.6647]
Mr. Speaker, I will heave a big sigh because it is with great exasperation that I rise today to speak to the allegations of sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces.
As vice-chair of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, which studied this important issue, I heard some troubling and disturbing testimonies from survivors. They asked the current government to take action to restore confidence in this institution.
We know that the Prime Minister's chief of staff was informed of a specific allegation of sexual harassment against General Jonathan Vance three years ago. We know that the Prime Minister says that this allegation of sexual harassment was never brought to his attention, but the facts lead us to believe otherwise. We also know that the Prime Minister said that people in a position of authority have a duty to act upon allegations. However, I will repeat what my colleagues have already stated today: the Bloc Quebecois will vote against the motion, for the simple reason that it is not up to the House of Commons to manage the Prime Minister's Office.
Making an employee take the blame for the Minister of National Defence's and the Prime Minister's failure to take action would set a dangerous precedent for ministerial responsibilities. The Liberal government knew that there were allegations of sexual misconduct against Mr. Vance, but it deliberately turned a blind eye. Why try to blame an employee who is just following her boss's orders? The Conservatives' motion is puzzling.
I now want to talk about the Conservatives' actions in the past and what we know about what has happened in the last few years under the Liberal government. I will then conclude by talking about some points relating to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women.
The Conservative Party is in no position to be giving lectures. The current leader of the Conservative Party was informed of the allegations of sexual misconduct against General Vance, but that did not stop the Conservatives from appointing him as chief of defence staff, even though they were all aware.
The Prime Minister, the Minister of National Defence and the current leader of the official opposition are responsible and accountable for the sexual misconduct scandals involving the senior leadership of the Canadian Armed Forces. It is enough to want to simply bury your head in the sand. The Prime Minister did not include implementing Justice Deschamps's report in the mandate letters to the current Minister of National Defence on three occasions, in 2015, 2019 and 2021. In baseball, after three strikes, you are out.
Everyone in his office knew about the allegations against General Vance, but the Prime Minister claims he knew nothing. His own minister did little or nothing—he was wilfully blind—and the Prime Minister never reprimanded him. On the other hand, the Prime Minister was quick to expel two of his MPs before they became ministers, expelling them without hesitation when there were allegations of sexual misconduct against them. Why the double standard?
The Prime Minister claims he knew nothing of the allegations against General Vance, but everyone in his office was aware and so was his minister. If his own minister and his own staffers are hiding such information from him, that is further proof of his incompetence in leading his team and of his flagrant lack of leadership.
The Minister of National Defence did nothing when the former Canadian Armed Forces ombudsman, Gary Walbourne, informed him of the situation during a private meeting on March 1, 2018. The Minister of National Defence flatly refused to see the evidence against General Vance. What is more, Mr. Walbourne described the meeting as “tense”.
When it came time to testify before the Standing Committee on National Defence, after the story against Mr. Vance came out in the media, the minister categorically refused to answer any questions, and he said he was surprised to learn about the allegations against General Vance in the media. After being accused of not even wanting to look at the file, according to former ombudsman Gary Walbourne, the minister returned to the Standing Committee on National Defence. This time he claimed that he did not learn about the allegations against General Vance because he did not want to interfere, which every witness, except for the Liberals, thought was baseless.
The Minister of National Defence even said that the nature of the allegations against General Vance was not important. This proves yet again that he is not taking the situation seriously. He has been the Minister of National Defence since 2015, but he has yet to implement all the measures in Justice Deschamps's report. One of the key recommendations in this document was to create an external mechanism Canadian Forces members could use to report misconduct.
Justice Deschamps made her recommendations six years ago, but the Liberals have not acted on them. Justice Deschamps commented in committee that she believes not much has been done and that very little has changed. The Liberal government chose to do nothing, just as it chose to do nothing about General Vance. Instead, it announced on Thursday, April 29, 2021, that it had given former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour the mandate to conduct an independent and comprehensive review of misconduct in the army.
I will first express my utmost respect for Madame Arbour's sterling reputation. She is renowned around the world. However, that does not at all excuse the government's behaviour or its inaction with respect to General Vance over the past three years.
In 2015, the Conservatives appointed General Vance as the head of the Canadian Armed Forces even though they had already heard the sexual misconduct allegations against him. The current Leader of the Opposition, then the veterans affairs minister, knew that there were sexual misconduct allegations regarding Vance. The military police conducted an investigation of Vance, but it was dropped on July 17, 2015, the day Vance became chief of the defence staff and, therefore, boss of the military police.
The Conservatives did not even wait to get the findings of the investigation, and they did even less due diligence in appointing Vance as head of the Canadian Armed Forces, knowing that the new chief of defence staff would be responsible for implementing Justice Dechamps's recommendations.
I now want to talk about some facts related to this situation. On March 27, 2015, former justice Marie Deschamps released a damning report, finding that there was widespread sexual misconduct within the Canadian Armed Forces and a sexist culture that turned a blind eye to misconduct.
This report had been commissioned in the wake of accusations against Warrant Officer André Gagnon, who sexually assaulted a subordinate, Corporal Stéphanie Raymond, in December 2011. Corporal Raymond filed a complaint against Warrant Officer Gagnon in 2012, but her superiors in the chain of command turned against her and she was eventually dismissed for misconduct in 2013. She spoke about this when she testified before the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. Warrant Officer Gagnon was acquitted in 2014, but after Raymond successfully appealed that ruling, he finally pleaded guilty in 2021.
It was Corporal Raymond's case and the accusations she made against the Canadian Armed Forces that led to Justice Marie Deschamps' report. When she testified before the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, Corporal Raymond confirmed the difficulties she had after she filed her complaint, the intimidation she was subjected to as well as the reprisals against her that pushed her to resign. It was not a trifling matter.
The Deschamps report contained 10 recommendations. The most important one was to make the complaints reporting system independent of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of Defence. When she testified before the Standing Committee on National Defence in February 2021 and before the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, Marie Deschamps stated that very little had been done since her report was released in 2015 and that not much had really changed. Only three of the 10 recommendations had been implemented in 2019, which we cannot really say is a good batting average.
Elder Marques, a former adviser to the Prime Minister whose testimony the Liberals tried to block by filibustering, finally appeared before the Standing Committee on National Defence. He confirmed that the Prime Minister's chief of staff, Katie Telford, was aware of the allegations against Vance and that she or one of her assistants had spoken to him about it, without providing details on the nature of the allegations and simply mentioning misconduct.
However, Marques assumed everyone had figured out that it was a sexual misconduct complaint. Two of the Prime Minister's close advisers, and probably more, were aware of it, but Marques said that he did not remember discussing the issue with the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister denies having been made aware of the sexual misconduct allegations against General Vance. He says Gary Walbourne never sent the documents that were requested to his office and that he did not know there were #MeToo allegations. However, he did not clearly deny knowing or that there were allegations of an unknown nature against Vance. He always made it clear that he did not know they were allegations of sexual misconduct, which could be his way out if emails or testimony confirmed what he knew.
The Liberals' defence makes no sense. Anybody who had taken the time to listen to Walbourne would have understood why the victim did not want to file an official complaint. Vance would have found out about it and could have destroyed her career. What the victim needed at the time was leadership, but the Liberals failed to provide it.
I also want to point out that, in 2019, the defence minister was consulted about a $50,000 increase to Vance's annual salary, retroactive to April 1, 2018. The Prime Minister allegedly signed off on that pay raise. Why would the Prime Minister authorize a raise for General Vance long after the PMO was made aware of the allegations against the general? That is unacceptable.
On January 14, 2021, General Vance retired. In February 2021, Global News reported on cases of misconduct by Vance, including his relationship with a subordinate and the obscene emails he exchanged with a much younger service woman in 2012.
The woman who was in a relationship with Vance has publicly stated that he threatened her multiple times. General Vance thought he was untouchable. He said that he controlled the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service. I also heard that from the victims who testified before the Standing Committee on the Status of Women.
The Standing Committee on National Defence chose to once again look into the allegations against Vance, but when the Minister of National Defence was initially called to testify, he said that he had learned about the allegations against Vance from the media, and he systematically refused to answer any questions on the pretext that the case was before the courts.
The testimony of Gary Walbourne, who confirmed that he had informed the Minister of Defence and that the minister had refused to even look at the file, was a huge black eye for the government. Other witnesses told the committee that the minister could have taken action and had several tools that he could have used to call for an investigation into Vance. The Minister of Defence came back to committee in March, and this time he agreed to talk in order to defend his handling of the file. He admitted that he had refused to look at Walbourne's file, but he claimed it was because he did not want to do the investigating himself, even though no one was asking him to.
The Liberals did not hesitate to filibuster in an attempt to prevent Liberal staffers Zita Astravas and Elder Marques from being invited to appear before the committee. I know this because I was filling in for another member of the Standing Committee on National Defence that day. I thought it was truly a sad day for democracy. Thanks to Elder Marques' testimony, we know that everyone around the Prime Minister was aware, but the Liberals continue their denials. When other staffers were summoned by the House, the Liberals chose to send the Minister of Defence instead, saying they would not let their staffers testify.
Again, both parties chose to do nothing. Even though the Conservatives had already heard rumours of allegations against General Vance, they still appointed him chief of the defence staff when the CAF had just been severely criticized for their management of sexual misconduct and the widespread sexist culture.
In the absence of evidence, the fact remains that there were already many rumours and allegations against General Vance. Why, then, did the Conservatives not appoint someone above reproach to make major reforms in the forces to combat sexual misconduct?
The Liberals chose to ignore the issue. The Minister of Defence flatly refused to meet with the former ombudsman 12 times and would not even look at the evidence, claiming that he did not want to interfere in the investigation. The Prime Minister's entourage knows that he knew there were allegations against General Vance, but even if the Prime Minister did not have all the details, everyone around him suspected that the allegations involved, as I was saying, a case of sexual misconduct. There were emails that mentioned sexual misconduct directly. The minister even said that the nature of the accusations against Vance did not matter and that what matters are the actions.
The Liberals did absolutely nothing on this file. They did not even implement Justice Deschamps' main recommendations, including a complaints process that would be completely independent of the military to receive all sexual misconduct complaints. The facts speak for themselves. There are now four generals with misconduct complaints against them. In short, if the Liberals did nothing, it is not Katie Telford's fault; rather, the entire cabinet is to blame, led by the Minister of Defence and the Prime Minister.
As a final point, one of the things we learned at the Standing Committee on the Status of Women is that officers regularly attempt to interfere after allegations are made and that military prosecutors often end up negotiating inadequate settlements with victims. Many survivors developed a distrust of the military's internal justice system and wished that allegations of sexual crimes were not handled by the Canadian Forces' own police, prosecutors and judges.
The military justice system seems ill-equipped to deal with this type of crime and was not designed to deal with this type of offence. Corporal Raymond finally won her case by going before the civilian courts after several years of hard fighting.
We also noted at committee that, when faced with hundreds of allegations of assault and harassment, General Vance launched Operation Honour in 2015, which promised to ensure that victims of sexual misconduct would feel safe coming forward. However, Operation Honour did not live up to its promises. According to an investigation by The Fifth Estate, in the four years following its inception, the military conviction rate for sexual assault was 14%, well below the 42% conviction rate in Canadian civilian courts. Many of the cases in the military courts often ended in inadequate settlements between the prosecution and the defence.
Beyond that, an entire culture must change. The committee also heard from Julie Lalonde, who spoke about the difficulties she experienced when she tried to deliver her training to the cadets at the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston. When she tried to teach them about harassment issues, the comments she heard were degrading, chauvinist and sexist.
A retired lieutenant-colonel came to testify about the reprisal he experienced when he tried to help an employee who asked him to report that she was facing harassment and human rights violations by a senior manager.
Several survivors also testified about the lack of acknowledgement of the trauma they had experienced. We now recognize the consequences of post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from overseas missions, but victims of sexual assault and misconduct do not get the same recognition. The consequences are felt not only by the survivors, but by everyone around them.
Speaking of overseas missions, there have been articles showing that in addition to addressing the culture within the Canadian Armed Forces, we must also probe the culture surrounding what happens during foreign missions. It could even be a matter of national security.
According to Ms. Raymond, who testified before the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, from what she heard, if cases of assault are happening here, internally, then they must also be happening on overseas missions.
The Standing Committee on the Status of Women had already undertaken a study, but it had to be halted when the 2019 election was called.
In closing, we absolutely need to put an end to the code of silence surrounding the environment of abuse of power and harassment. We need to put an end to the complicit silence within the Canadian Armed Forces. Let us stop looking for scapegoats. Let us complete the studies being carried out by the Standing Committee on National Defence and the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, because we really need to stop discouraging women and those who want to serve in the Canadian Armed Forces. We need to stop putting off taking action by requesting yet another report.
We need practical solutions to help survivors, so let us take action.
View Brian Masse Profile
View Brian Masse Profile
2021-05-04 17:43 [p.6651]
Madam Speaker, the government is not following through with some of its promises. How deflating is that for real change? If we use symbolism but do not act with specific measures and have consequences, what does that do for other people?
View Brian Masse Profile
View Brian Masse Profile
2021-05-04 17:44 [p.6651]
Madam Speaker, if we have no significant consequences and just the symbolism the Prime Minister has shown, how deflating is that for real change and for the people affected and traumatized by what has taken place?
View Andréanne Larouche Profile
View Andréanne Larouche Profile
2021-05-04 17:44 [p.6651]
Madam Speaker, the member is right. We have to move away from symbolism and implement concrete measures to hold people accountable for their actions.
If the government is truly feminist, it must condemn these actions. People who commit sexual assault must actually get the punishment they deserve. They have to suffer the consequences of their actions, not in a symbolic way, but in a tangible way.
View Francis Scarpaleggia Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Francis Scarpaleggia Profile
2021-05-03 13:02 [p.6511]
Madam Speaker, the climate change challenge has often been compared to the moon shot of the 1960s. The moon shot involved a redoubling of resolve after a difficult and halting start to the space race in the United States. The moon shot was very much about targeting a seemingly out-of-reach objective on a seemingly impossible timeline: namely, reaching the moon before the end of the decade of the 1960s.
By all accounts, the scientists and engineers who came together to achieve this astounding historic feat that was the moon landing came up against tremendous technological challenges, brick walls that no doubt appeared insurmountable, especially on a tight timeline. NASA scientists were up against a target for which they were held to account by a president who created a public expectation of success with American national security and American pride on the line.
The key words here are “public expectation of success”. That is what the net-zero emissions accountability act is all about: a public expectation of success backed by a legal mechanism aimed at holding successive federal governments to account for fulfilling that expectation.
In the same way NASA scientists followed a critical path informed by experts for reaching their target, Bill C-12 will require the government to set greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets informed by experts, plans for achieving those targets informed by experts, regular reporting by the government on its progress in achieving its targets, regular assessments by the government on the effectiveness of its measures for achieving its targets, and regular independent analysis by the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development of the government's measures aimed at mitigating climate change, including those undertaken to achieve its most recent greenhouse gas emissions target as identified in the relevant assessment report.
More specifically, the government's progress report must provide an update on the progress it has made toward achieving its relevant milestone GHG target and an update on the implementation of its climate plan: that is, the federal measures, sectoral strategies and federal government operations strategies aimed at reaching the relevant milestone target. These progress reports must be prepared no later than two years before the beginning of the relevant milestone year so that adjustments can be made to these measures and strategies.
For its part, the assessment report must contain a summary of Canada's GHG emissions inventory, a statement on whether Canada has achieved its national GHG target for the milestone year and an assessment of how federal measures, sectoral strategies and federal government operations strategies described in the relevant emissions reduction plan contributed to Canada's efforts to achieve the national GHG target for that year.
The strength of this framework is that it does not rely solely on the government's own assessment of its progress and the effectiveness of its climate action plan. It allows for multiple expert voices to weigh in, in a sense to write the government's report card on climate change. In other words, the government will not be grading itself.
Incidentally, the space race achieved more than a target. It achieved a government-driven acceleration of technological progress and economic growth. Similarly, Bill C-12 is not only about meeting a life-saving target for the planet. It is ultimately about driving technological innovation and economic growth associated with the proliferation of the green products and services the world increasingly wants and needs.
There is, however, one difference that I see between the moon shot and the present task at hand. In a sense, the moon shot was a closed system involving a singular locus of scientific activity and a well-defined technological focus, all within the purview of a dedicated government program that obviously involved numerous partnerships.
The quest to meet targets around greenhouse gas emissions reductions in Canada is, in a sense, organizationally more complex, with more moving parts. Achieving net-zero emissions involves technological progress in many areas and simultaneous co-operative actions by many orders of government, where the degree of commitment to the goal of fighting climate change is not always shared equally across jurisdictions.
Added to this is the fact that the federal government lacks exclusive jurisdiction and power in the matter. We are a federation, not a unitary state. Nonetheless, our government has been able to exercise meaningful leadership on climate change.
We have been a government of firsts. Our government was the first federal government to put a national price on carbon and fight for the constitutional right to do so all the way to the Supreme Court. Our government was the first to develop a clean fuel standard.
Our government was the first to have the courage to attempt to negotiate a pan-Canadian framework on climate change with the provinces and territories, and we were successful, thanks to the Prime Minister's political will and capital and the can-do determination of the member for Ottawa Centre, who was the Minister of Environment and Climate Change at the time, but, governments change and can renege, and we have seen this happen.
Our government was the first to provide financial incentives for the purchase of a zero-emission vehicle. Our government was also the first to require environmental assessments of large energy projects to factor in their GHG emissions. Our government was the first to set a net-zero emissions target, and our government is now the first to create a legal accountability framework for setting and achieving interim GHG targets on the way to net-zero emissions.
View Tako Van Popta Profile
View Tako Van Popta Profile
2021-05-03 13:14 [p.6513]
Madam Speaker, I am pleased today to speak to the draft legislation of Bill C-12, with regard to net-zero emissions. I am also very pleased to highlight some of our party's positions, which are set out in our position paper, entitled “Secure the Environment”. With a Conservative government, Canada will meet its Paris Agreement targets, importantly, without killing jobs or taxing an already over-taxed population. Our plan will help the environment while also helping Canadians succeed in every region of the country and in all sectors.
The Liberal plan is based on an ever-increasing taxation plan that, while being presented as being revenue neutral to the government, is certainly not revenue neutral to the taxpayer. At best it is a tax scheme that redistributes wealth away from those living in parts of the country where greater energy consumption is a fact of life. Why are they being punished for that?
The Conservative plan, on the other hand, is much fairer in that it sets aside some of the money that each consumer will pay for energy consumption into a personal savings account that the consumer can spend or invest as they see best for their own purposes on green options.
The big distinction between the Liberal carbon tax and the Conservatives' plan to secure the environment is that Conservatives trust Canadians to do the right thing, spend their money wisely, be incentivized to think green, act responsibly with regard to the environment and do their part. We all want to do that. The Liberals, on the other hand, think that government knows best. We think educated Canadians know best.
Bill C-12, while being promoted as a significant step forward in the fight against climate change, is really more symbolic than substantive. It might give the casual political observer the impression that something significant is happening, but keep in mind that Bill C-12 follows up from Canada's dismal record of setting, and then missing, its emissions reductions targets.
What does Bill C-12 do? I think this is important and should be read into the record, so let us take a look at section 16. This is under the heading “Failure to achieve target”, and it states:
If the Minister concludes that Canada has not achieved its national greenhouse gas emissions target for a milestone year or for 2050, as the case may be, the Minister must, after consulting with the ministers referred to in section 12, include the following in the assessment report:
(a) the reasons why Canada failed to meet the target;
(b) a description of actions the Government of Canada is taking or will take to address the failure to achieve the target; and
(c) any other information that the Minister considers appropriate.
What happens if we miss the target? Not much, we just set another target. We create more reports, and the conversation just continues as though nothing happened. If anything, this would help Canada's pulp and paper industry as more and more reports are being printed.
Canada is a federal country, as has been noted by some of the previous speakers, with parliamentary sovereignty shared among two levels of government. Much of what is needed to be accomplished in protecting the environment falls within the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces under section 92(13) of the Constitution Act, 1867, property and civil rights within the province.
The federal government cannot do it on its own. It must work with the provinces. Sadly, the Liberal government's record is one of being sued by the provinces. The federal government won the last round, so I guess congratulations are in order, but Canadians are wondering why intergovernmental affairs on something as important as the environment needs to resort to the courts in the first place.
Why does the federal government not work with the provinces and come to a consensus on how to move forward? Conservatives understand the significance of that, and we will work with the provinces. Conservatives also recognize that the fight against global climate change is, in fact, global.
Canada cannot do it on its own. If it is global, after all, solutions also must be global. Canada is a large expanse of land. It is in the northern hemisphere. It is cold, and people must travel a lot and heat their homes and offices. That is just a fact of life in Canada.
Canada produces only a small fraction of the total world's greenhouse gas emissions, something often overlooked. Canadians want to do their part. We are inventive, we have great universities, we are leaders in technological advances and with strategic partnerships, we can develop and export green technology around the globe, not only for our own use domestically but internationally. We are a trading nation, but that trade must be fair. We have to be on an even playing field and if we are to impose tough environmental standards on ourselves, and I agree that we must, then it is only fair that others who trade with us should be held to the same or comparable standards.
Producers in countries with emission reductions targets and mechanisms compatible with our own would be exempt. Countries that do not and have high-emission reductions standards would have to pay. That way, the Conservative plan would secure both the environment and Canadian industry and jobs and would urge our American trading partner, our biggest trading partner, to adopt the same approach.
I want to talk about the oil and gas sector. Canada is a big producer, but also a responsible producer. We have the best minds in the world working on cleaner energy production, and that applies not only to renewable energy but also the more traditional oil and gas extraction, production, processing and delivery. We are a leader in all of that. To say that this sector needs to be phased out misses the reality of an ever-improving industry and the very obvious fact that the world needs Canada's oil and gas.
The International Energy Agency has projected that demand for oil will remain high for decades, and this is particularly true with the downturn in U.S. shale production. The world needs our oil and we need to produce it responsibly. We do not need to be talking about phasing it out.
The government's stated goal in phasing out oil and gas also overlooks the fact that since 1998, investment and production of Canada's oil sands is one of driving forces behind Canada's economic growth, and that must be true as we look to a pandemic recovery plan as well.
I also want to talk about LNG. The province of British Columbia is a big producer of natural gas and it can be a big tool in Canada helping the world become cleaner. Natural gas burns much cleaner than other fossil fuels and should be used at home and abroad to replace other more polluting energy sources. Using LNG instead of coal cuts emissions in half and countries across Asia are eager to do business with us.
Red tape imposed by the Liberal government means massive projects like Kitimat LNG being in danger of cancellation. This would not only hurt Canadians and Canadian jobs, but the planet. What Canada needs is a government that sends a message to the world that we are proud of our natural resources and that we will develop them in a responsible way. We will attract investment, not scare it off.
When we talk about investment, the Conservatives recognize that industry leaders are already changing their world view and investment strategies to be looked at through an ESG lens, an environmental, social and governance lens. Our plan recognizes that increasingly there is an expectation in global capital markets that ESG is an important factor. Our ESG leadership would help demonstrate the leadership of our oil and gas sector with respect to emissions-intensity reduction.
I want to mention indigenous peoples. We need to acknowledge the historic fact that they have not been treated respectfully. Canada needs to show leadership here as well. The current government has often said that no relationship is more important to it than with our indigenous peoples, but let us look at how that has worked out recently.
Coastal GasLink investors thought they had an understanding with the Wet’suwet’en people, the people whose traditional lands the pipeline will be built across, and who should be benefiting from that investment and structure. However, so far, it is not built and the protects continue—
View Majid Jowhari Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Majid Jowhari Profile
2021-05-03 13:29 [p.6515]
Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise virtually in the House today to speak on Bill C-12, the Canadian net-zero emissions accountability act.
Bill C-12 emphasizes the action needed to meet our goals toward fighting climate change and reducing our carbon footprint.
For years, our youth have been calling for action. Advocates alike have been demanding targets and concrete change. We have had rallies for decades, and scientists and experts alike have warned of the damage to come should we not act.
The bill is comprised of five themes: accountability, transparency, target measures, monitoring and holding all governments, current and future, accountable. Specifically, the proposed bill will require tabling and publicizing targets, plans, progress reports and assessment reports. We need robust parliamentary accountability mechanisms to fulfill our commitment to be transparent to the public, to set and achieve target measures, monitor progress and, last, ensure that this government and future governments alike remain accountable to every principle in the bill.
On that note, in December 2015, Canada joined 194 parties in signing the Paris agreement, a historic agreement that would be the start of the commitment to address climate change. That agreement aimed to limit the global temperature increase to well below 2°C above the pre-industrial level and to pursue efforts to limit our temperature increase to 1.5°C. Since 2015, our government has been working hard to achieve this goal, listening to the advice of scientists and experts. This momentum of remaining accountable must continue. Bill C-12 would require a target and establish an emissions reduction plan to be put in place, both to be tabled in Parliament within six months of the coming into force of this act.
Furthermore, the bill would set a legally binding process for the federal government to set climate targets and bring forward an ambitious climate plan every five years between 2030 and 2050. This would mean that a 2030 progress report must be tabled before the end of 2027, and a 2030 assessment report to be tabled within 30 days of the 2030 national inventory report data.
In addition, an annual report detailing how the federal government is managing the financial risk of climate change and the opportunities must be conducted and tabled in Parliament.
Finally, a review by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development within five years of coming into force of this act must be conducted.
The dates are aligned with the very structure of the Paris agreement based on 2030, as are plans in provinces like B.C. and Quebec and those around the world.
To promote transparency as well as accountability in relation to meeting those targets, the enactment also requires that the several reports mentioned above to be tabled and published to the public. Canadians deserve to know the targets being set, our plan to meet these targets and our progress along the way. Importantly, having a Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development providing an analysis of the government's plan at least once every five years adds additional scrutiny and transparency. This is yet another example of how we plan to be transparent to Canadians.
Our government believes in science and evidence-based research, and we will continue to include science and research in every step. That is why an advisory body composed of up to 15 experts will be established to provide the Minister of Environment and Climate Change advice with respect to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.
This advisory body will engage with experts, stakeholders, indigenous people and the public to ensure that its advice is grounded in the priorities and ideas of all Canadians. The advisory body will submit an annual report to the minister of the environment with respect to its advice and activities. The creation of an advisory board is consistent with other actions taken by our peer countries, including the United Kingdom, Germany, New Zealand and France.
This bill aims to hold the federal government to its commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and to exceed our 2030 Paris target.
On Earth Day, the Prime Minister announced at the Earth Summit a commitment to cut emissions by 40 to 45% by 2030. It is an ambitious goal that I am sure we can achieve, if done right with co-operation on all fronts. This is why Bill C-12 is so important.
Let me reiterate that prior to 2030, the target measures entail the following: Within six months of the act coming into force, the 2030 milestone target and tabling the 2030 milestone plan would be set; before the end of 2027, a 2030 progress report would be completed and tabled; and within 30 days of all 2030 national inventory report data, there would be a 2030 assessment report.
Post-2030, the target measures would entail the following: At least five years before each milestone year of 2035, 2040 and 2045, the milestone must be set; two years prior to each milestone year, preparations for a progress report for the milestone year would commence; and within 30 days of national inventory report data for each milestone year, preparation of an assessment report for the milestone would be under way. Last but not least, there would also be targets associated with the Environment Commissioner, and the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development must, at least once every five years, examine and report on the Government of Canada's implementation of the measures aimed at mitigating climate change, including those undertaken to achieve its most recent greenhouse gas emissions target as identified in the relevant assessment report.
Everything that I have outlined is necessary to monitoring our progress and reaching the benchmarks that will be set for each target milestone. It is crucial that we set up mechanisms to fully monitor our progress, and that is why this advisory board is crucial.
Again, it is crucial that we act. Countries around the world are accelerating their transition to a net-zero economy and Canada cannot fall behind. It is crucial that we set targets and make every effort to meet them. Net zero is not just a plan for a healthier environment: It is a plan to build a cleaner, more competitive economy. I encourage my colleagues from all parties to support this bill. We must work together to ensure that we collectively reduce our emissions. We need to act to ensure that the momentum of this progress continues well after this Parliament. This is exactly what this bill intends, and this is exactly what we plan to do.
As the representative of the beautiful riding of Richmond Hill, I am proud to support this bill that members of my environmental community council have been strong advocates of. This bill is an opportunity to move toward a greener and cleaner environment and economy. This is why there are several key initiatives, 43 different measures, in budget 2021 that will not only help us achieve this target but move Canadians to innovation in clean and green technology.
In closing, Bill C-12 is a bill for Canada and a bill for Canadians. Once again it is a promise made and a promise kept for a greener and cleaner economy and environment.
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