POLITICS
01/30/2020 16:53 EST | Updated 01/30/2020 17:03 EST

Liberals Defend $50M Investment In MasterCard’s Cybersecurity Centre

Mélanie Joly says the move is about creating jobs.

Adrian Wyld/CP
Economic Development Minister Melanie Joly responds in the House of Commons on January 30, 2020.

The federal minister of economic development has attempted to “set the record straight” about an almost $50-million investment the government is making to help MasterCard develop a cybersecurity centre in Vancouver.

“This new investment made by the government will create hundreds of jobs across the country, in particular in British Columbia,” Mélanie Joly said in the House of Commons Thursday.

Conservative House Leader Candice Bergen rose in question period to call on the Liberals to reverse a decision, announced last week at the World Economic Forum, to have Canadian taxpayers shell out $49 million for the creation of the Intelligence and Cyber Centre. MasterCard is putting $510 million towards the project.

Watch the exchange:

 

Though the funding is coming from the government’s so-called Strategic Innovation Fund, which supports projects meant to “spur innovation for a better Canada,” Tories have already framed it as a handout for a hugely profitable company.

“The Government of Canada has invested in a major new cybersecurity centre which will make Canada world-leading when it comes to countering cyber crime, ensuring cyber security, as well as developing new technology,” Joly said. 

Bergen noted that since MasterCard’s revenue last year was reported as more than $16 billion, they can afford to develop “their own cybersecurity.”

“MasterCard didn’t need the $50 million. Actually, no credit card company needs $50 million from this Canadian Liberal government,” Bergen said.

“On this side of this House we believe in job creation,” Joly responded before being jeered by the Opposition benches.

Curiously, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made no mention of the cybersecurity centre when Tory Leader Andrew Scheer pressed him on the matter in the House Wednesday.

“Why did the prime minister make taxpayers so sad by giving $50 million to a company that made $16 billion off the backs of hard-working Canadians who cannot afford to pay their full balances?” Scheer asked.

Trudeau responded vaguely that his government is focused on investments that help to grow the middle class.

“We are going to keep looking at investing in a better future for Canadians, while Conservatives continue to talk about cuts and austerity,” he said.

“Having a wasteful government that believes in corporate welfare may not be priceless,” Scheer said, riffing off MasterCard’s slogan. “It turns out it is worth $50 million.”

Scheer shared a clip of that exchange on Twitter Thursday:

Tory MP John Brassard also picked up on that theme with a member’s statement before question period that blasted Liberal deficit spending.

“There are some things money can’t buy, but for everything else there’s the Liberals,” Brassard said. “How can the prime minister defend this reckless borrowing using the Canadian taxpayer credit card to give MasterCard a single dime of our tax dollars?”

The government said in a release last week it expects the project to “support 380 jobs and enable the creation of 100 new co-op positions.” The centre will work to create “technologies and standards” to ensure any internet-enabled device can be used without fear that personal or financial information could be stolen.

“This will make Canada a world leader in cybersecurity and help us tackle the cost of cybercrime in Canada—an estimated $3 billion a year,” Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains said in a statement at the time.

With a file from The Canadian Press