QP: Decrying a fictitious pardon

While Justin Trudeau remained away at the APEC summit, and with Andrew Scheer elsewhere — despite having been present for caucus just hours before — it was up to Lisa Raitt to lead off QP, and demanded to know if Liberal fundraiser Stephen Bronfman was under CRA investigation for his inclusion in the Paradise Papers. Diane Lebouthillier simply stated that they were treating tax evasion seriously and had invested in fighting them. Raitt stated that since the PM assured reporters that he was satisfied with Bronfman’s explanation, she accused him of interfering with the investigation.  No change in Lebouthillier’s answer. Raitt then, incredulously, declared that the PM had “pardoned” Bronfman and railed about separate rules for Liberals than anyone else. Lebouthillier reminded her that she can’t comment on individual cases, but hey, the Conservatives didn’t treat this like a priority. Alain Rayes tried the same lines again in French on two separate occasions, but Lebouthillier remained unmoved, adding in some points about good economic news. Guy Caron was up next, noted his party’s call to bring Bronfman and former Senator Leo Kolber before committee and demanded to know if the Liberals would support them. Lebouthillier assured him that CRA now has the capability to check every tax return. Alexandre Boulerice repeated the question in French, got much the same reply, adding that committees are the masters of their own destiny. Boulerice selectively quoted a couple of Liberal MPs who had noted that there was no demonstrated illegality in the papers, and Lebouthillier repeated the points about investment in the CRA. Caron got back to demand the government change the law to close loopholes, but Lebouthillier reiterated the billion-dollar investment in CRA.

Round two, and Gérard Deltell, Candice Bergen, and Mark Strahl returned to the accusations that the PM “interfered” with a possible investigation into Bronfman (Lebouthillier: The CRA is committed to fighting tax evasion and tax avoidance). Robert Aubin and Linda Duncan railed that the government wasn’t being urgent enough to meet Paris targets (McKenna: I’ll be in Bonn next week because this is serious). Pierre Poilievre returned to the eye-rolling “pardon” line (Lebouthillier: We’ve had 37 convictions in the last year!), and he and Tom Kmiec raised the disability tax credit (Lebouthillier: The eligibility criteria have not changed). Sheri Benson and Karine Trudel worried about the “toxic” environment at the Miramichi Pay Centre (Qualtrough: We are doing everything we can to support them).

Round three saw questions on tax avoidance, disability tax credits, human rights abuses and political prisoners in Vietnam (DeCourcey: We advocate for human rights in all of our international relations), wild pacific salmon stocks, Bill Morneau’s numbered companies, homeless veterans vs Asian infrastructure investments, taxing web giants like Netflix (Casey: We are investing in Francophone culture), the mistaken tweet praising Syria for signing onto the Paris Agreement (McKenna: A mistake was made, I take full responsibility), and a demand to invest in a modernized VIA Rail (Garneau: I am a big supporter of rail).

Overall, my patience for this whole exercise is wearing mighty thin. Today’s disingenuous pile-on started with a press conference that Justin Trudeau had in Vietnam, where he was asked if he had fired Stephen Bronfman as party fundraiser, and Trudeau said that no, he was satisfied with Bronfman’s defence. The Conservatives then tried to intimate that this was somehow interference with a possible CRA investigation, and a full-on “pardon” for any wrongdoing (which, again, hasn’t been proven or even actually intimated given that most of these tax schemes are in fact legal). And trying to twist Trudeau’s response into some kind of big footing of the CRA – while at the same time demanding to know if Bronfman is under investigation, knowing full well that the minister couldn’t actually that question even if she knew (never mind the fact that these revelations are three days old, so there’s it’s unlikely that CRA even has the wherewithal to ramp up thousands of investigations at the drop of a hat) – and then turning around to decry that the Liberals are somehow “protecting their friends,” is galling. It’s not only dishonest in the extreme, but it also treats anyone who has a clue as to what is going on as stupid. But they’re counting on people being confronted with video clips of the Conservatives making these accusations and the minister dissembling in order to build a wholly mendacious image to an uninformed public, which is disheartening to say the least. Add to that, disingenuous questions engender pabulum responses because the government doesn’t want to walk into any rhetorical traps being laid for them, so when the opposition then complains that they’re not getting answers, they are as much to blame. It’s crazy-making just how terrible this whole exercise really has become.

Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to Lisa Raitt for a navy suit with a white top, and to Raj Grewal for a navy tailored three-piece suit with a white shirt and a red turban and tie. Style citations go out to John Barlow for a light grey sport coat with blue jeans, a white shirt and a black tie, and to Catherine McKenna for a black turtleneck dress with a cartoonishly large scarf with white, pink, yellow and green panels). Special mention goes out to Kim Rudd for the snow leopard print wrap she had draped across her.

One thought on “QP: Decrying a fictitious pardon

  1. We’re all getting tired of this nonsense. All they’re doing is creating ammunition for the CPC fund-raising machine. As a reluctant & Chong-voting member of the CPC, I get these emails daily. This is exactly the type of dishonest, fear-based marketing that funds the GOP and undermines democracy in the US. CPC has no qualms about using the same techniques here, and about asking these specific questions to provide fodder for the next round of misleading claims.

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