QP: Strange Paradise Papers storylines

With the Paradise Papers dominating the headlines, and the 150th anniversary of Parliament setting the mood on the Hill, there was going to be a mixed tone. Four previous prime ministers, two former Speakers, and a handful of retired senators were in the Galleries to watch for the anniversary and the speeches that would follow QP.

Andrew Scheer led off, mini-lectern on desk, and he immediately launched into the revelation that Stephen Bronfman was named, then launched the weird non-sequitur about Bronfman going to the state dinner at the White Huose, but the minister of natural resources did not. Trudeau first read a statement about the mass shooting in Texas before noting that they were committed to fighting tax evasion and avoidance. Scheer made the connection between the proposed tax changes and these alleged tax avoiders, and Trudeau reiterated that they were committed to fighting tax evasion. Scheer switched to French to ask again, and Trudeau reiterated his same response. Scheer accused Bronfman of trying to influence the government in protecting offshore accounts. Trudeau said that he would let individuals answer for their own activities, before repeating that they had invested in the CRA and were on track to recoup some $25 billion. Scheer then listed all of the supposed way in which the government was touching the middle class to protect those hiding income offshore, to which Trudeau recited their list of accomplishments in helping the middle class. Guy Caron was up next, railing about Bronfman, the older KPMG investigations, and other avoidance schemes. Trudeau reminded him about the billon-dollar investment they made in the CRA, and fruits that it was yielding. Caron repeated the question, got the same response, and then Alexandre Boulerice took over for the same questions with additional bombast in French, and lo and behold, got much the same answer in French, before going one more round of the very same.

Round two, and Alain Rayes, Candice Bergen, and Pierre Poilievre returned to the Paradise Papers allegations and howls of hypocrisy, along with something that would resemble libel if they were not under the protection of parliamentary privilege (Lebouthillier: We invested and our plan is getting results!) Pierre-Luc Dusseault and Rachel Blaney demanded tougher laws on tax havens (Lebouthillier: We are getting results! $25 billion recovered!) Gérard Deltell and John Brassard kept on the bizarre attack of Bronfman going to the White House instead of Jim Carr (Lebouthillier: You didn’t take tax evasion seriously), and Mark Strahl went on a tirade about Liberal entitlements (Lebouthillier: Results!) Scott Duvall railed about bankruptcy legislation (Bains: We are helping the Sears employees), and Sheila Malcolmson decried the bureaucratic hurdles facing the MMIW inquiry (Bennett: We will get the commission the help they need).

Round three saw questions on the disability tax credit vis-à-vis Bronfman, the No-Fly List capturing children (Goodale: It takes new legislation, new regulations, and a new computer system, and the first of those steps is Bill C-59), Montreal looking to increase the supply of social housing (Duclos: The new national housing strategy will bring benefits to the province), Vanessa’s Law going unenforced (Blair: We will work with stakeholders to ensure this system is fair — which was not really the question), yet more questions on tax shelters, and education funding for Nunavut (Lightbound: The minister recently met with ITK, transferred $1.6 million to Nunavut).

Overall, it went pretty much as I had predicted, minus the question about Trudeau’s apparent lack of care for people of faith following the GG’s speech last week. Nevertheless, the many questions on the Paradise Papers were not unexpected — particularly the attempts to wedge them into the narrative about the supposedly “unfair tax changes,” and the disingenuous narratives associated with it. What was unexpected was the bizarre storyline that Scheer and his fellows decided to pursue by re-litigating the long-buried issue of why Bronfman was one of the party staff who attended the Obama state dinner but not Jim Carr. And they asked this again and again, which makes one wonder just what kind of tactical calculation they hoped to gain from it. Never mind that Bronfman himself put out a statement that refuted many of the allegations made against him, but you wouldn’t know it from the accusations being levelled, and had these comments been made in the Foyer, a lawsuit would have promptly ensued. Suffice to say, other very curious issues – like spending $10 million for Chinese-owned Club Med to build a ski resort in Canada – went unmentioned, which continues to make the whole exercise of accountability a bit of a farce.

Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to Terry Beech for a tailored navy suit with a pink shirt and a navy tie and light blue pocket square, and to Mélanie Joly for a black top and slacks with a dark grey jacket with black leather trim. Style citations go out to Candice Bergen for a ruffled cream blouse with a black lace panel across the front, with a black skirt, and to Vance Badawey for a black suit with a vibrant blue shirt and tie.