November 23, 2017

CPC

Tom Kmiec

Conservative

Mr. Tom Kmiec (Calgary Shepard, CPC)

Madam Speaker, there is a Yiddish proverb that goes, “When you sweep the house, you find everything”, and it applies here. All the House is asking for is to sweep and find out everything.

You, Madam Speaker, are a servant of the House, just as every single member here in every single seat serves his or her constituents. We ultimately hold this power on behalf of our constituents. There is no commissioner who can replace Parliament. There is no government official who can replace the duties that we assume on behalf of the citizens and the residents of our ridings. What this House is asking for through this motion is a sweep. We want to know what the Minister of Finance holds so that we, as a group, can judge whether he is meeting the ethical requirements we believe are necessary for a minister of the crown to meet, a minister who hold such vast powers over Canada's economy and finances.

With respect to the motion presented by the member for Carleton, he has done laudable work in proving and explaining the deficiencies shown thus far by the Minister of Finance in the conduct of his duties to Canadians in general.

The motion reads:

That the House agree with the Prime Minister’s statement in the House on November 1, 2017, that “sunshine is the best disinfectant”; and call on the Finance Minister to reveal all assets he has bought, sold or held within all his private companies or trust funds since he became Finance Minister, to determine if his financial interests have conflicted with his public duties.

There is only one chamber in Parliament that can attest to whether a minister of the crown is fulfilling those requirements and working in the public interest. That is this House. We can lean on the commissioner, we can lean on officers of Parliament for their opinion, but they cannot substitute or replace the work that we do on behalf of the residents of our ridings. At the end of the day, it is this House that makes the judgment call, and no one else.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford and his contributions, such as the smell test and comparing it to raising his twin daughters. I am glad that everyone is okay since his return to the House. He is an excellent member, who has made great contributions to this debate in the House as well.

We heard the views of the member for Battle River—Crowfoot. He was a former minister of state and brings an interesting perspective to this debate from the other side, the side that works for an executive council. He was a member of a previous cabinet, who understands what it means not only to live up to the letter of the law but also to the expectations of Canadians, of residents, and of prime ministers who set the rules and the tempo.

I previously asked this question of one of the parliamentary secretaries. We heard in the speeches from the Liberal side, and will continue to hear in questions and answers and speeches, justification for what the Minister of Finance has done. It took two years to get to the point where he admitted fault, although I do not believe he understands why he had to admit fault, and he was fined $200 for breaching the code. The specific violations are his failure to include in a confidential report a corporation established in France, an estimate of its value, and his directorship in that corporation. I still do not believe that the Minister of Finance understands what exactly he did wrong. He knows that the Ethics Commissioner fined him, but he does not quite understand why his actions were wrong. Apart from a breach of the law, there is something much higher at stake here relating to ethics and the honourable status that all members here hold. We refer to ourselves as the “hon. member for” the riding that we represent.

It is “moral and procedural blindness”, according to a Globe and Mail editorial describing the conduct of the Minister of Finance thus far in the past few years. I rose to ask this question. Do the speeches of justification justify all the conduct we have seen thus far, the ethical lapse, and the moral blindness to what has been going on? The members on the other side said it is okay. They said the economy is doing great and they have put in place all of these great social programs of theirs, which may or may not turn out to be good programs. Who knows? Probably not. They said it was okay that the Minister of Finance had brushed some of those crumbs off the economic table straight into his pocket, because he was giving it all back.

I think most Canadians would agree that if they earned a few extra million and then gave it away to charity, that it would be a pretty good day, and they would be pretty happy with themselves. However, how much did they lose out of their pockets? It would not save them that much.

This is not to say that this situation has not happened before. We can go back through Canadian history. I will use the example of British Columbia's Social Credit Party, which is an exact situation like we have here, where a minister of the crown resigned. However, we are not asking for that, yet. We are asking to see what exactly is in all the corporations that the minister holds.

My example is Stephen Rogers who sat in the British Columbia assembly. Mr. Rogers was the health minister at the time, and he resigned. He was not necessarily forced to resign, and it took some time to obtain it, but he took the honourable step and resigned due to a personal conflict with the rules. On March 4, 1987, page 6 of The Province, it was reported that he resigned because of a conflict of interest situation involving the family trust, which owned shares in Westmin Resources and stood to benefit from the decision to expand mining in Strathcona Park.

If we switch a couple of the words around and use different corporations, what do we get? We get a very similar situation to what we have here. What did Minister Rogers do at the time? He resigned.

We are not asking for that yet, but we want to see what type of conflicts the minister may or may not have in all the private corporations he holds. Let the sun shine in. We want to see more. We want to be the judges, which is our role on behalf of the residents of our individual ridings. The House, whether by unanimous consent or by a majority vote, can express its will, and that is what we are testing today. We have a will to let the sun shine in. We want to see whether the conduct of the Minister of Finance over the past two years has indeed been honourable. We want to judge on behalf of our residents. We are getting emails and phone calls from residents who want us to judge. We cannot do that without the information, so we are asking for that.

The B.C. situation and the resignation happened in 1986. It was a provincial minister, but it was exactly like this situation. It was a family trust and decisions were made by the minister benefited the private corporation. It is almost similar. Just change the names and we are at the same point. Therefore, the motion presses us to vote in favour of it and pass it in the House.

The headlines in the Leader-Post at the time, and it made it all the way to Regina, was “Former minister pleads guilty to not disclosing finances”. In that case, it went to a court of law. In this case, it was the Ethics Commissioner who fined the minister $200. Some Canadians have said that this is far too little and that he should have been fined a much greater amount, but the act calls for that.

However, beyond just fining ministers, beyond the legalese of the situation, we should be living up to certain things, some sort of ethical standard. The Prime Minister, in mandate letters, has set out the expectation of the conduct of his ministers. The House is here to judge that conduct. The Prime Minister can judge the conduct of his ministers. He can replace or remove them with the consent of the Governor General. Also, the House should be able to judge whether ministers are meeting their ethical standards set by the Prime Minister, and not just the Prime Minister but the ethical standards and expectations of the residents of our ridings.

I want to go back to something I said in the House before, and it applies here. It is this motion that I call House sweeping. Former prime minister John Diefenbaker used to say this. He would end his speeches with this, and he would also sometimes use it as a speech crutch. He would say that he was a “House of Commons man”. This place was the most important institution to him. This was where he set his ethical and moral bar. What the House said, he accepted.

I wonder whether the finance minister will rise today at some point and defend himself and his conduct. Is he a House of Commons man or is he not?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's assets
Permalink
CPC

Marilyn Gladu

Conservative

Ms. Marilyn Gladu (Sarnia—Lambton, CPC)

Madam Speaker, I think one of the reasons we are here today is that when Canadians hear the finance minister and the Prime Minister continually saying things that do not line up with the facts, they lose credibility. When the finance minister says that he has fully disclosed his assets, but the Ethics Commissioner has charged him $200 for not disclosing his assets, it is clear there is a problem. When the Prime Minister says that there is no issue with Stephen Bronfman, but we see it on the front page today, Canadians lose confidence. I think this is why they want to know what is in all of these other companies, because there is no credibility. Therefore, we cannot just take the finance minister's word for it. Would my colleague agree?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's assets
Permalink
CPC

Tom Kmiec

Conservative

Mr. Tom Kmiec

Madam Speaker, I agree with my hon. colleague. I refer to her that way because I know she has met all the requirements, not just of the law but the expectations of the residents of her riding.

I have a problem with these speeches of justification. All day we will hear members on that side say that the economy is doing great, that they have great social programs, that we should look at what they have done. They are looking anywhere but at the personal finances of the minister. They do not want us to look there because there may be problems, and the Liberals are not sure what to do. They are not sure because none of them know what potential conflicts of interest lurk in any corporations. All they have to go on is the word of the minister.

The Ethics Commissioner has already fined the finance minister for a failure to disclose, but it took two years to get to this point. That is where I have a problem. This behaviour cannot be justified. We need to see what is in those private corporations.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's assets
Permalink
NDP

Pierre Nantel

New Democratic Party

Mr. Pierre Nantel (Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, NDP)

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. As a federal MP I like to remind the people of Longueuil—Saint-Hubert that we were elected here to talk about and address important matters.

I want to know whether the hon. member thinks it is sad to see that because of the government's patent lack of transparency we are forced to spend almost an entire day on a point of order. It is a day-long point of order.

Does he not find it sad that it has come to this?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's assets
Permalink
CPC

Tom Kmiec

Conservative

Mr. Tom Kmiec

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Longueuil—Saint-Hubertfor his good question.

I certainly agree with him that this should be a point of order, because it is one.

We are forced to come to the House and move a motion to debate the matter. We are only now debating this because it took two years for us to learn the truth, for the Ethics Commissioner to tell us that under section 62 of the Conflict of Interest Act:

If an administrative monetary penalty is imposed on a public office holder in respect of a violation, the Commissioner shall make public the nature of the violation, the name of the public office holder who committed it and the amount of the penalty imposed.

She then described the nature of the violation for our benefit here in the House. Of course, the Ethics Commissioner cannot replace us. She cannot replace any members of Parliament. All she can do is provide her opinion and advice on the legislation and what it says. We are here in the House discussing a motion that simply asks the Minister of Finance to disclose all his assets within his companies.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's assets
Permalink
LIB

Kevin Lamoureux

Liberal

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, could the member across the way give some sort of a clear indication as to whether he has confidence in the commissioner's office?

The commissioner has an obligation to review not only the Minister of Finance but all members. All members are obligated to report, and the commissioner has been charged with the responsibility, as opposed to a very partisan opposition party, at times, that creates its own parameters and wants to focus on something totally different than what Canadians want the government to focus on.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's assets
Permalink
CPC

Tom Kmiec

Conservative

Mr. Tom Kmiec

Madam Speaker, the hon. member is making justifications again, dodging, and evading the issue. That is what the government does all the time. It blames the Ethics Commissioner, that it is all her fault. She figured out that the Minister of Finance was not telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The $200 fine, and the nature of the violation, speaks for itself.

We have delegated a certain amount of authority to the Ethics Commissioner. If the government does not trust her, it can replace her at any time. It has not done so because she is still investigating the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance on separate infringements of the rules, a first for a Canadian government.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's assets
Permalink
LIB

Kyle Peterson

Liberal

Mr. Kyle Peterson (Newmarket—Aurora, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to address the opposition motion. I am happy to assure the House that through smart investments and an overarching commitment to fairness, our government will ensure that Canada's best days lie ahead.

I would like to focus on the state of Canada's economy and our recent measures in the government's fall economic statement, which is a continuation of the government's plan. The foundation for plan was laid out in our two budgets and was built on during last month's fall economic statement.

The government's plan to invest in Canadians and our communities is based on the belief that when we have an economy that works for the middle class, we have a country that works for everyone. I think it is fair to say that there are many clear signs that the government's plan is working.

Right now, the Canadian economy is the fastest growing in the G7, with an average growth of 3.7%—

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's assets
Permalink
CPC

Harold Albrecht

Conservative

Mr. Harold Albrecht

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I want to remind my colleague that we are not talking about the budget implementation act. We are not talking about the budget. We are here today to discuss a very clearly defined motion by the opposition. I would ask you, Madam Speaker, to ensure the member addresses the motion in his comments.

Earlier today, the same kinds of games were being played by other members when they went on and on to talk about the government's accomplishments, but today we are talking about the ethics, or lack thereof, of the finance minister.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's assets
Permalink
NDP

Carol Hughes

New Democratic Party

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Carol Hughes)

I would remind the member that the hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga is absolutely correct in that the speech has to be relative to the opposition motion. If he could bring his speech around to the motion, that would be greatly appreciated. There is some latitude, however, it has to be related to the motion itself.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's assets
Permalink
LIB

Kyle Peterson

Liberal

Mr. Kyle Peterson

Madam Speaker, with respect, the way my hon. colleague characterized the motion is inaccurate. I will read the last line of the motion, which has nothing to do with ethics.

The last line states that the finance minister “determine if his financial interests have conflicted with his public duties.” That part of the motion draws into complete question whether his private interests conflict with his public duties. I am relating to the House, all my colleagues, and all Canadians that he has put his public duties first. His financial interests have nothing to do with the fall economic statement and, in fact, by laying out the success our economy is seeing, any Canadian or objective bystander would come to the conclusion that the finance minister's public duties always come first. That is the very essence of the motion.

To say my comments are irrelevant, my friend is misguided and, in fact, not based on the words of the motion. With respect to the hon. member, I appreciate him interrupting my speech, but to grandstand and bring the House's attention away from the success the Canadian government is having, away from the success that Canadians—

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's assets
Permalink
?

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's assets
Permalink
NDP

Carol Hughes

New Democratic Party

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Carol Hughes)

Order, please. I want to remind members of the opposition that while the member is speaking, we need to afford him the respect he deserves. There will be a chance for questions and comments. I understand we are getting close to the end of the week, however, the member has brought his speech around, and I would ask him to continue.

The hon. member for Kyle Peterson (Newmarket—Aurora).

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's assets
Permalink
LIB

Kyle Peterson

Liberal

Mr. Kyle Peterson

Madam Speaker, right now, the Canadian economy is the fastest growing in the G7, with average growth of 3.7% after the last four quarters. This is due, in large part, to increased consumer confidence, a direct result of programs like the Canada child benefit, which puts more money in the pockets of moms and dads, so they can pay off debt, buy hockey equipment or healthier food for their children and families.

Everywhere we look, there are signs of progress for the middle class. Over 500,000 jobs have been created since 2015 and the unemployment rate is nearly the lowest it has been in a decade. Canadian economic growth has accelerated sharply since the second half of 2016. Over the last four quarters, the Canadian economy has had its fastest rate of growth in more than 10 years, and growth is forecast to be 3.1% in 2017, significantly above expectations at the beginning of this year.

These gains, coupled with a better-than-expected fiscal outcome in 2016-17, have resulted in a real positive improvement to our budget outlook. In fact, Canada's fiscal outlook has improved by over $6.5 billion annually, on average, compared to what we were expecting in March. The federal debt-to-GDP ratio has been firmly placed on a downward track, with Canada's net debt-to-GDP ratio projected to remain the lowest in the G7. Our government and the finance minister are committed to preserving Canada's low-debt advantage for current and future generations.

The actions the government has taken are having a real positive impact on our economy and for Canadians.

I would now like to go into more detail about how the government's recent fall economic statement proposes to keep us on this positive track.

Canada's fast-growing economy is giving our government the ability to reinvest the benefits of growth back into the people have who contributed most to that success. This is why we are strengthening the Canada child benefit, to ensure it continues to play a vital role in supporting families for years to come. The CCB will be strengthened by making annual cost of living increases starting in July 2018, two years—

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's assets
Permalink
NDP

Carol Hughes

New Democratic Party

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Carol Hughes)

Another point of order from the member for Souris—Moose Mountain.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's assets
Permalink
CPC

Robert Gordon Kitchen

Conservative

Mr. Robert Kitchen

Madam Speaker, again, I am questioning the relevance of this debate.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's assets
Permalink
NDP

Carol Hughes

New Democratic Party

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Carol Hughes)

Again, I must remind the member that he has wavered from the actual motion, which in part states, “to determine if his financial interests have conflicted with his public duties.” He can look at the whole motion. If he would like, I can send a copy of the motion over to him. However, I remind the member that there is some latitude, but it has to be brought back to the main motion.

The hon. member for Newmarket—Aurora.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's assets
Permalink
LIB

Kyle Peterson

Liberal

Mr. Kyle Peterson

Madam Speaker, the relevance of my speech and the reason it is important that I lay out the great fiscal success Canada is experiencing is that a finance minister clearly—

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's assets
Permalink
CPC

Kelly Block

Conservative

Mrs. Kelly Block

Well, she has just ruled, so the member might want to pay attention to that.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's assets
Permalink
CPC

Peter Van Loan

Conservative

Hon. Peter Van Loan

Respect the ruling, please.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Finance Minister's assets
Permalink

November 23, 2017