Alistair MacGregor spoke about Business of Supply and Federal Courts Act in the House
April 30th, 2019 - 5:39am
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech and his work.
This is certainly not the first version of this bill. I believe he has gone through the 40th Parliament, the 41st Parliament and now the 42nd Parliament.
I know there may be some members who have qualms about this bill, but what is important to underline is that through this important amendment to the Federal Courts Act, we are not making the determination whether a case has merit; we are simply allowing an additional forum for plaintiffs to access the justice system. Ultimately, it is the justice system that will determine whether a case has merit and whether the plaintiffs are to be awarded funds.
In past parliaments, we have seen the Liberals support bills like Bill C-300. We know there are good intentions on the other side of the House to support these kinds of initiatives. I would like the member to just underline the important fact of his bill, for anyone who might have qualms about this, that this is simply enabling an avenue and it will still ultimately be up to the justice system to determine the merit of a case.
Madam Speaker, I want to point out an ironic thing, which is that the system held because of the member for Vancouver Granville. I was there at committee and I listened to her testimony. Yes, she said that nothing illegal happened. However, the system held because of her efforts. Let us make that very clear. She was sent off to another cabinet post because of her efforts, and then she had to resign. The member for Markham—Stouffville also resigned. Two principled women resigned because they could not sit in cabinet and defend the current government's actions.
The text of the motion before us today is about improper lobbying and the amount of power that corporate executives have over the current government.
We know that all the meetings SNC-Lavalin had with the Prime Minister's Office are on the record and resulted not only in a change to the law but also in evidence of improper pressure having been put on the former attorney general in a coordinated and orchestrated campaign to get her to overrule the director of public prosecutions. How can the member stand in this place and say that the rule of law held, when his government did everything it could to overturn it?
Madam Speaker, I think the purpose of today's motion is to zero in on some specific examples, so let us go through the legislative history of the 42nd Parliament.
This is a government that has serviced Air Canada by bringing in Bill C-10, which basically allowed Air Canada the freedom to ship maintenance jobs overseas. The government amended the Air Canada Public Participation Act to allow Air Canada that freedom. Part of Air Canada's privatization deal was that they would keep jobs in Canada.
The government has not done anything legislatively for pensioners. My colleague from Hamilton Mountain has brought in legislation that would amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act. Again, there was nothing on this from the government.
With respect to the national pharmacare plan, the lobbying that the pharmaceutical industry associations have done with the government has gone up to almost double the average. They are telling Canadians that if the government proceeds with a publicly funded national pharmacare plan, certain prescriptions will not be covered and costs will go up. This is total misinformation when compared to the evidence.
Given these specific examples, does my colleague not think that corporations and industry insiders have in fact had improper influence on the government's policies?
Madam Speaker, every time we get close to hitting a sore spot for the Liberals, they seem to want to reference the 2015 campaign, not understanding that it is now four years hence and that we are now in 2019.
However, I think my colleague brought up some good points. I was door-knocking in my riding in the great city of Langford over the last couple of weeks, and I went to a lot of constituents' doors and talked about a pharmacare plan. I was explaining that Canadian families have the potential of saving $550 a year, and some could benefit far more than that.
The interesting thing is that the Liberals have promised pharmacare; I think their last major promise was in 1997. Here we are 22 years later, at the end of another majority government, and we are still waiting for the job to be done.
What is interesting is the amount of lobbying that happened with the government over the last couple of years. It went up quite a bit. In fact, it more than doubled in 2018, from the average, in their efforts to undermine what we are trying to achieve. I wonder if the member could comment on that and how it specifically fits into the motion we are debating today.
Mr. Speaker, whether it is the legislation that was put in the 2018 budget bill that helped out SNC-Lavalin or whether it is Bill C-27 that the Minister of Finance introduced but did not advance any further, we see concrete examples of legislation being changed to suit corporate interests.
One bill that passed three years ago now was Bill C-10, direct lobbying from Air Canada, to amend the Air Canada Public Participation Act so it had the freedom to move its maintenance facilities offshore. Lo and behold, Liberal MPs from ridings where those maintenance workers lived supported that legislation.
I would like my colleague to comment on that bill. Memories are short in this place and it would serve us all well to remind Canadians of that particularly egregious example back in 2016 and what the Liberal government was prepared to do for its corporate friends in Air Canada to the detriment of the maintenance workers.
Mr. Speaker, after listening to the member for Winnipeg North's speech, I would just like to remind my colleagues that this is only day one of the remaining seven weeks, so we should all pace ourselves.
As always, in these dying days of the 42nd Parliament, it is a great honour to stand in this place. It is a real privilege to be the voice of the amazing constituents of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford. I appreciated, as I am sure all members did, the previous two weeks, when I got to go to my riding on beautiful Vancouver Island, where spring actually arrived when it was supposed to. I enjoyed the sunshine, speaking with constituents and going to many community events.
I was really excited when I saw the notice of the motion we had picked to debate today. I think it goes to the heart of the kind of message that we, as a party, want to put out there to differentiate ourselves from the other parties in this place.
Before I got into politics as an elected member, I used to work for a former member of Parliament, Jean Crowder. I can remember going to an event at someone's house and seeing an old poster by the CCF. The tag of the poster was “People Before Profits”. That is one of the principles that has always guided me personally, that the people of our great country are key.
We can look at the staggering amount of wealth that corporations have. Some people may see a corporation's wealth by how big its bank account is, how well its executives are paid and how well its shareholders do with dividends. However, in this corner of the House, we prefer to see the wealth of a company in the workers, the services they provide and the things they build. It is ultimately the workers of the company who are on the front line, providing those services to people and giving the company its reputation. In all of our efforts, by all parties, it would serve us well to remember that.
The main thrust of this motion today is that given the experiences over the last three and a half years of this Parliament, we feel there have been some demonstrations quite clearly that corporate executives and their lobbyists have had far too much access to and influence on the Government of Canada.
The most recent example of this, which I think many Canadians still quite clearly remember, is the SNC-Lavalin affair. When that news story broke in the The Globe and Mail on February 7, it very much altered the political landscape. I remember the Liberals first reaction to that story was to deny it, to say that it was not true, that there was no pressure. However, their narrative kept on changing as more facts kept coming out. Ultimately, what it resulted in was the loss of two of their most capable ministers, the member for Vancouver Granville and the member for Markham—Stouffville, the loss of the Prime Minister's principal secretary and the loss of the former clerk of the Privy Council.
Why is that whole affair relevant to the motion today? Last year, unbeknown to parliamentarians and even the Canadian public, a small section was hidden in one of the budget omnibus bills, which even the Liberal backbenchers found out about, with surprise, when they were studying the bill at the standing committee on finance. Of course that was the provision in the budget bill to bring in an amendment to the Criminal Code that would allow for deferred prosecution agreements. I am not against deferred prosecution agreements per se. They can in some cases be a very legitimate tool. The important thing, though, is that it is not up to me to decide that. It is not up to anyone in this chamber to decide that. That role falls squarely on the shoulders of the director of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada.
That brings me to the next step in this whole sordid affair. We found out that it was SNC-Lavalin that lobbied hard to get such an amendment into the Criminal Code and it succeeded with that. Then it started this coordinated orchestrated campaign with the Prime Minister's Office to get the former attorney general, the member for Vancouver Granville, to basically overrule the director of public prosecutions.
When I sat on the justice committee, I was at Ms. Kathleen Roussel's confirmation hearing. She is a very accomplished lady who has immense qualifications for the job. However, when she was looking at the request for a deferred prosecution agreement, she had all the relevant facts of the case before her, she knew what the provisions of the law were and in her capacity, she made the decision that the company was not eligible for a DPA.
Of course, she referenced this to the former attorney general of Canada who agreed with that assessment.
The lobbying of the Prime Minister's Office to get the independence of that decision overturned is very worrying. Yes, no laws were broken, but the irony is that no laws were broken because of the efforts of the former attorney general of Canada, who very much stood on her principles and decided she would stand against that pressure and not overrule the director of public prosecutions. Ultimately, she was shuffled out of her cabinet post and then had to resign, followed by her colleague, the member for Markham—Stouffville. The two of them could no longer in good conscience sit in the cabinet and defend the government day to day when they knew the truth of what had really happened behind the scene.
That is item number one of the most clear and recent examples of the awesome power of corporate lobbying and what it was able to achieve with the current government.
I will take members back to 2016 to another example. The government introduced Bill C-10, an amendment to the Air Canada Public Participation Act. This was in spite of the fact that many Liberal MPs represented ridings where aircraft maintenance workers lived and worked and in spite of the fact that in the 2015 election campaign, the Prime Minister was right there with Avios workers, saying that he was there in solidarity with them and that he supported them. However, what did that government bill do? It basically amended the act so that Air Canada, which had done extensive lobbying of the government, would now be free to move its aircraft maintenance work offshore. It would no longer be constrained by the provisions in the act where it had to have maintenance facilities in places like Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. Again, this goes to the heart of where corporate lobbying led to a change in the law, which ultimately will and has hurt workers.
Of course, we have the Minister of Finance who brought in Bill C-27, which I am very happy to see remains in purgatory, stuck at first reading. The government has been far too timid to bring it forward for debate, because it knows the uproar that would happen. The Minister of Finance own company, Morneau Shepell, used to specialize in this kind of work of changing pension plans. The Liberals finally became aware of the uproar that would happen, and that bill has not proceeded any further, which I am glad to see.
However, it did not stop the Minister of Finance who, in a clear conflict of interest, introduced that bill in the first place, showing what the Liberals' intent was all along.
Then, of course, I move to pharmacare. I was listening to the member for Winnipeg North as his volume got steadily higher and higher. We have short memories in this place. It was back in 1997, 22 years ago, when the old Liberal empire of the 1990s was at the height of its power. Members will remember that the Liberals won a majority in 1993, again in 1997 and again in 2000. This was a clear promise they made in 1997. They did not follow through with it then, they did not follow through with it in the 2000 government and here we are, three and a half years into the term of the current majority government, and what do we have? We have a paragraph in the budget, which is an intention to do more consultation. However, we can look at the lobbying records and the coordinated campaign that was brought about by the pharmaceutical industry. On average, pharmaceutical companies and their associations lobbied the government approximately 49 times, which is about the average over 11 years. However, in 2018 alone, it was 104 times.
The report by the Standing Committee on Health recommended a universal pharmacare plan, one that all Canadians can get behind, one that would save Canadian families $4.5 billion. On average, Canadian families would save about $550 and some families would save far more.
The proof is in the pudding, because instead of us being at a point where we could implement a national universal pharmacare plan, the lobbying has had its desired effect. What we are probably going to get from the Liberals, these masters of the long promise, the ones who like to tell people to re-elect them and they might get what they want, is that the lion's share of the national housing strategy is going to come after 2019, and the pharmacare plan is probably going to be some kind of a patchwork system. In other words, the pharmaceutical industry was able, through its lobbying efforts, to get what it wanted all along. It wanted to have a patchwork system where it still had that key role to play.
Finally, there is the Loblaws example. My friend from Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke had it perfectly in his intervention earlier when he asked why a company as wealthy as Loblaws is able to access $12 million, when it commands so much wealth and would have been able to do that itself, headed by a man who is worth more than $13 billion. For Mr. Weston, $12 million is pocket change. That is something he could lose in the blink of an eye, a rounding error for a billionaire.
The question is legitimate. Why is this money not being made available to the corner stores, to small businesses, which would use that $12 million to make significant upgrades to their bottom line to be energy-efficient. No one is arguing the fact that we need to take these steps. What we are trying to underline is the power of big corporations, the lobbying efforts they can employ with the government to get those kinds of corporate handouts, when small businesses, the ones that really need them, are being left behind far too often.
I appreciate this time to speak on behalf of the constituents of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford.