QP: The Morneau-Shepell conspiracy

Shortly after a fire alarm emptied out the Centre Block, and MPs made their way back into the building, Question Period got underway. Andrew Scheer led off, reading a stilted question about the Omar Khadr settlement in French. Justin Trudeau took the chance to take a partisan shot, saying that this was because the previous violated his rights — not mentioning that it was also the fault of previous Liberal governments — and reiterated his previous speech about how he was outraged and hopefully that outrage would ensure that future governments would not violate rights again. Scheer called out that the Liberals were at fault too, and Trudeau modified his response that it was about previous governments (plural) but added that this was not about Khadr, but about the government’s action and they should stand up for rights even when it’s not popular. Scheer then pivoted to the tax change issue, got the usual talking points from Trudeau, and when Scheer tried to skewer this as being one more cost to the middle class, and Trudeau reeled out his points about cutting taxes on the middle class. Scheer made a few digs at Trudeau’s own numbered corporation and his speaking fees before he was made party leader, but Trudeau didn’t take the bait. Pierre Nantel was up for the NDP, and railed about the announcements on cultural industries. Trudeau read a statement that assured him that they had unprecedented investment from Netflix, and that they would ensure that Canadian creators would benefit. Rachel Blaney asked in English, decrying that Facebook and Google were not being made to pay, but Trudeau reiterated his assurances that Canadian producers would benefit from these funds. Nantel repeated the question in scripted English, Trudeau reiterated that this was great news for Canadian cultural industries, and Alexandre Boulerice closed the round by railing that other media companies weren’t being taxed. Trudeau repeated that they were looking to support the industry as it transitions.

Round two, and Alain Rayes, Candice Bergen, returned to the tax change questions that relied on straw man arguments and now conspiracy theories about how these changes will benefit Morneau-Shepell (Morneau: We can have a low tax rate for SMEs and create a level playing field), and Pierre Poilievre railed about how the changes will mean family farms will be sold to corporate giants (Morneau: This is about not letting the wealthiest take advantage of the tax system). Don Davies and Anne Quach raised the PBO report on a pharmacare programme (Blair: We need to ensure that the current system is more responsive before we can look at pharmacare). Gérard Deltell, Dan Albas, Luc Berthold and John Barlow returned to the conspiracy theorising (Morneau: I actively worked to ensure tax fairness). Gord Johns worried that the changes were announced over the summer when small businesses are busy (Morneau: Fairness!) and Pierre-Luc Dusseault railed that there was no legislation on offshore tax havens (Lebouthillier: We have invested in investigating these tax havens).

Round three saw questions on Bombardier, more tax change conspiracy theorising, the Super Hornet acquisition (Rioux: We are continuing to explore the options for an interim fighter), infected salmon, compensation for a large wave incident in Quebec, foreign oil imports, Energy East pipeline, NAFTA talks, House of Commons protective services as it regards the Parliament of Canada Act, the Netflix announcement, and weapons exports to Saudi Arabia (Freeland: No new export permits signed).

Overall, it was another less than stellar day, with Andrew Scheer’s late take on the Omar Khadr file being one of the least illuminating exchanges in ages. Meanwhile, the conspiracy theory that I’ve been waiting for finally showed up today, where the Conservatives accused the finance minister of a perceived conflict of interest because the proposed changes could theoretically push people to seek private pension plans that a company like Morneau-Shepell offers. I knew this was coming because a tax lawyer I spoke to last week said “If I were into conspiracy theories, I would say…” and laid out this very case, and lo and behold, two people at committee this morning proffered this theory and suddenly this was a “perceived conflict” that somehow exists. And like any attempted conspiracy theory, it lays out selective facts and invites people to draw their own conclusions that someone is operating maliciously. But wait, it gets better. After QP in the Foyer, the Conservatives’ director of communications came over to give me a stern talking to for tweeting that this was a conspiracy theory. His scolding was that they weren’t making anything up, and immediately denied that they were insinuating that this was a deliberate choice that Morneau made as a byproduct of this proposed change. So what then are these accusations of a conflict of interest than an insinuation? It’s not just “laying out facts for a constructive argument” – it’s insinuation that lacks credibility as much as laying out the scenario that these changes are a Liberal plot to kill the economy and drive small businesses into the ground for the sole purpose of funding their deficits. It’s all specious nonsense, and playing dumb about it doesn’t make me any more sympathetic to their arguments, while the actual substantive arguments about where there are problems with these proposals continue to go unmentioned.

Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to Judy Foote for a short-sleeved red dress, and to Pablo Rodriguez for a dark grey three-piece suit with a crisp white shirt and a maroon tie. Style citations go out to Jean Rioux for a taupe suit with a bright pink shirt with a blue and pink striped tie, and to Diane Finley for a black dress with a green and blue speckled jacket.

One thought on “QP: The Morneau-Shepell conspiracy

  1. Sad to think that the vast majority of taxpayers have no idea what Morneau-Shepell is about and it means nothing to again 99% of the country. Sad that Parliament is so irrelevant and cannot focus on important matters. Do any of these MPs realize how out of touch they are with the rest of the country away from Parliament Hill.

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