An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing)


Karina Gould  Liberal


This bill has received Royal Assent and is, or will soon become, law.


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Canada Elections Act to

(a) enact an advertising and reporting regime for fundraising events attended by Ministers, party leaders or leadership contestants; and

(b) harmonize the rules applicable to contest expenses of nomination contestants and leadership contestants with the rules applicable to election expenses of candidates.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


Feb. 13, 2018 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing)
Feb. 6, 2018 Passed Concurrence at report stage of Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing)
Feb. 6, 2018 Failed Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing) (report stage amendment)
Feb. 6, 2018 Failed Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing) (report stage amendment)
June 15, 2017 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing)

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2018 / 5 p.m.
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Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Surrey—Newton, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for South Okanagan—West Kootenay for raising an important issue. On this side of the House, I can bet that every member went to their constituents and had open discussions, round table meetings, and had a town hall meeting. When I had that town hall meeting, the status quo system was very well supported, because people were confused. They wanted to see the current system remain.

When it comes to Bill C-50, I want to thank the hon. member for supporting it. The bill will take us in a positive direction, which is putting transparency and accountability out front.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2018 / 5 p.m.
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Bob Benzen Conservative Calgary Heritage, AB

Madam Speaker, today I will be sharing my time with the member for Edmonton Griesbach.

The Liberal Party's campaign platform literature attributes a quote to its leader as follows, “sunlight is the world’s best disinfectant. Liberals will shed new light on the government”. That quote by the now Prime Minister has proven prophetic, but not for the reasons he had hoped. A new light has, indeed, been shed on government in this Liberal era, and that light has been unflattering. In the space of less than two years, the government has tallied a litany of ethical failures.

Now, here we are today, against that background, debating Bill C-50, a proposal to amend the political financing rules of the Canada Elections Act.

Context is important here, because the bill, at its heart, is one that addresses a question of ethics, namely, those surrounding the cash for access fundraisers in which Liberals engage. The Liberals are retroactively attempting to find political cover for a problem they created.

Bill C-50 is before us because the Liberal Party was selling cash for access at events where tickets were up to $1,500 per person. Many speakers before me on this issue have detailed the ins and outs of the cash for access scheme and the instances in which the Liberals benefited from it. Suffice it to say, the Liberals now want to legitimize the practice because they depend on it. The numbers have been crunched and they do not look rosy for the governing party.

The Conservative Party just had its best quarter and best year of fundraising results since 2015, but the Liberals logged their worst fundraising year since the current Prime Minister became the party's leader. The Liberals know that Canadians are responding to our positive Conservative vision and taking action to support that vision for Canada through their financial support for my party. The Liberals, for their part, have lost the support of their grassroots donors because of their unethical behaviours.

It seems many Liberal supporters are showing that they have had enough of their party's tax hikes, their government's continuous pattern of debt and deficits, and its failure to deliver results for middle-class Canadians. The Liberals, therefore, want to formalize the cash for access arrangement to help them make up for the loss of funds that have resulted from Canadians' loss of confidence in them. They view Bill C-50 as the answer to their problems. They want to change the rules to conform to their behaviours so they can tell Canadians they are following the rules when they organize these types of fundraisers.

The Conservative opposition, in the course of its duty to hold the government to account, has repeatedly stood to defend Canadians' interests against the cross-purposes of its own Prime Minister. We have consistently exposed matters linked to the unethical behaviour of the Prime Minister and others within the Liberal ranks. Every time we have exhorted their party to do the right thing and take responsibility for their actions, to apologize and change course for the sake of the Canadian people we are all here to serve, their leadership has responded, instead, by dragging out the issue, dodging legitimate questions Canadians have about their conduct.

Here we have Bill C-50, which is the latest attempt by the party to avoid doing the right thing in favour of setting the rules up to give them more latitude. The Liberals know their cash for access fundraisers do not pass the smell test with many Canadians.

Canadians understand human nature and know how suspicious meetings could happen at events of the type that Bill C-50 governs, where people are paying a lot of money to attend and bend the ears of the powers that be. Rather than take the high road and forgo a practice many find objectionable, however, they choose instead to legitimize their bending of the rules so they can keep charging wealthy individuals to meet and discuss government business with Liberals.

We know what Bill C-50 means for the Liberals, but what does it mean for Canadians in general? In short, it means more government. Since the Liberals refuse to relinquish their cash cow, they have decided instead to bring in new rules, which come with new advertising, new reporting, and new administration requirements, which, under a Liberal government, we can bet means more costs for Canadians.

The Liberals prefer this avenue of new expenses for taxpayers so they can continue their sketchy events, rather than the obvious, honourable, no-cost alternative to simply call a stop to these types of fund raisers. That does not take legislation to do. That does not require making new rules to follow, and thereby creating more expense to administrate. The Liberals could just stop doing it. Instead, they opt for more red tape and to make a big bureaucratic mess out of more matters to regulate. The paternalistic answer for the Liberals is always a bigger government and new regulations, as opposed to making right choices. We need less red tape, less bureaucracy, less expense for the taxpayers in Canada, not new opportunities to grow all of those categories.

By now we have heard all the details and provisions of the bill many times. We know how Bill C-50 would provide, among other things, that fundraisers requiring a contribution over $200 and at which party leaders, ministers, or leadership contestants would be in attendance must be advertised online by the party five days in advance, and a report of each individual fundraiser, including the headline guest, individuals who attended, and how much each attendee was required to pay to attend, must be submitted to Elections Canada within 30 days of the fundraiser for public disclosure. These and other proposals in this bill are tailored to add a gloss of acceptability to the Liberals' tradition of such fundraisers that charge for proximity to their ministers.

A new law will not make these cash for access fundraisers ethical, however. What a cynical world view that represents. Canadians want to know that their representatives are honest, trustworthy, and scrupulous in their dealings. People are naturally leery of political fundraising, and Canadians want us to have not even the appearance of a conflict.

That is what some Canadians thought they were getting with the Prime Minister. They were led to believe so because the Prime Minister's own “Open and Accountable Government” guide under the fundraising section states, “Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries must avoid conflict of interest, the appearance of conflict of interest and situations that have the potential to involve conflicts of interest.”

Given such a directive from the Prime Minister, why then do Liberals need Bill C-50 at all, when they could just follow their own stated ethical standard? I think we know the answer. The answer is because the government is ethically challenged. I do not say that as an insult; I say it as a matter of unfortunate fact. It has been proven time and again.

The recent breaches of ethics we have seen from the Liberal Party cannot be characterized as simple mistakes or missteps, though the Liberals have certainly attempted to portray them that way. No, rather these breaches have been serious and even historic in nature.

Less than halfway through his mandate, the Liberal leader has the dubious distinction of being the first Canadian prime minister to break a federal law while in office, when he accepted a gift that the Ethics Commissioner ruled could have influenced his decision-making, a gift, I hasten to note, which also posed a cost of $200,000 to Canadians, a cost the Prime Minister to this day refuses to repay the taxpayer.

It has been evident from his actions for some time now that the Prime Minister does not think rules should apply to people like him. Every indicator points to his belief that there is one set of rules for Liberals and their friends, and another set for everybody else. We have seen this in the decision to wait nearly a year to apologize to Canadians for multiple violations of the Conflict of Interest Act. The Prime Minister genuinely did not see anything to apologize for until the Ethics Commissioner's report publicly pointed it out.

Bill C-50 shows us that the Liberals also do not see a problem with selling access to those who are willing to pay up to the maximum federal amount. I am reminded of the proverb “Physician, heal thyself”, an admonition to ensure we are not guilty of the faults we are attempting to correct in others. Cash for access events resulted in the Ethics Commissioner and the Lobbying Commissioner launching investigations against the Liberals, which, in turn, has resulted in Bill C-50.

It shows us that these particular positions in the Liberal Party are choosing only to treat the symptoms rather than cure the disease. Bill C-50

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2018 / 5:10 p.m.
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Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

Madam Speaker, the member quoted quite a bit in his speech, and I have one for him as well. However, I want to touch on the fact that the transparency issue is one that is brought froward in Bill C-50, and whether one calls it a positive first step or a step in the direction, it is simply just that. It baffles me that the member would not vote for this.

I mentioned before in this debate how Conservative ministers used to have fundraisers as well. I mean, that is politics 101 in this country. The executive sits within the House of Commons. Therefore, they have to get elected just like the rest of us.

The Conservatives also claim that when they found out or when it was reported in the media that stakeholders were at some of the ministers' fundraisers, they decided to back away. It is almost like they were saying one's hand was caught in the cookie jar, when in fact they were caught reaching for that very same cookie jar. I find that baffling.

The member mentioned the success of Conservative money raising as opposed to Liberal money raising. Here is what was said by a Conservative member during this debate:

By the way, the party in government should be able to raise twice as much money as the opposition because the governing party is the one that makes the decisions.

Does the member agree with that?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2018 / 5:15 p.m.
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Kerry Diotte Conservative Edmonton Griesbach, AB

Madam Speaker, I am here today to speak to Bill C-50. We have heard a lot of comments from this side of the House noting that the bill really would not get it done. It is quite amazing that our cohorts in the NDP want to support it. I have to say at the outset of my remarks that it is so typical of the Liberals to introduce very complicated legislation and red tape instead of just being inherently ethical.

In the Prime Minister's own open and accountable government guide, which we all know is “Open and Accountable”, under the fundraising section it states, “Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries must avoid conflict of interest, the appearance of conflict of interest and situations that have the potential to involve conflicts of interest.” It is pretty simple, straightforward, and sounds pretty good.

Why do the Liberals need such legislation if they could just follow their own rules? It just does not add up to me.

We all know that the Liberals broke the rules and they were caught. That is why we are here debating this legislation today. That is the only reason this legislation has come forward. Here we are debating Bill C-50, which is basically a band-aid for bad behaviour, Liberal bad behaviour.

This legislation really is quite unnecessary. We do not need new legislation to tell us how to act and to tell us what to do and how to behave. It has been said here before, but it is worth repeating, that a new law will not make the Prime Minister's infamous cash for access fundraisers ethical. Those famous, or maybe I should say infamous, Liberal fundraisers saw scores of people paying $1,500 a pop to have special access to the Prime Minister or cabinet ministers. It is really quite shameful.

Members on all sides of the House should know what is right and what is wrong. We have probably all known this since we were four years old or maybe younger. If we are caught with our hand in the cookie jar, there is a price to pay. The Liberal leader of Canada was clearly caught with his hand in the cookie jar. There is absolutely no doubt about that. He has admitted it, etc., etc.

Canadians tell me they believe the Prime Minister just does not understand basic ethics, and that is pretty evident. He does not like to own up to what he has done. He does not understand that when people do something or take something that does not belong to them, they have to give it back. We were taught that as children. We have to accept punishment. We cannot just say, “My bad, can't do it. Sorry about that. Sorry if I hurt your feelings.”

It is just like his trip to the Aga Khan's private island. The Prime Minister was found to have broken the law. He was found guilty of four ethics violations. We all know what happened. When we break the law, there is a price to pay. We cannot just say “sorry”. We all remember that famous song of the 1980s, Tears Are Not Enough. It rings true now.

We also know the Prime Minister is very good at crying on cue and appearing to be sorry, but he has to make amends and is just not willing to do so. He has said that again and again in the House. I guess he is just not ready. Where have I heard that before? I do not know. It is true that he has just not grown up yet. Maybe he was never punished before. I do not know.

Every Canadian knows that we just cannot take something, say sorry, and then not give it back. We learn that as children. It is especially not cool when someone is taking taxpayer money from hard-working Canadians. Now these are people who know what it is like to work hard for a dollar. That is precisely what the Prime Minister is doing. He is taking from hard-working taxpayers. He is even refusing to pay back more than $200,000 for his illegal family trip to fantasy island. That is what I like to call it. It was a fantasy.

Do not forget he is the first sitting Canadian Prime Minister found in violation of a federal statute while in office. That is quite a record. It is terrible. It is shameful. Here is something I think of all the time. Could we imagine the outrage if then prime minister Stephen Harper had broken the law in this way? They would be stringing up the gallows. However, I know that would never have happened. It did not happen and it could not have happened because of the fundraising rules already in place, as well as the fact that we, as Conservatives, followed them. That is the key. We followed the existing rules.

Canadians really deserve better than a Prime Minister who believes there is one set of rules for Liberals and his friends, and a whole other set of rules for everybody else, all the other poor schmucks. What is really at play here is that if the Prime Minister truly wanted to be ethical and end cash for access, all he needed to do was just stop doing these types of fundraisers. It is a no-brainer. It is cliché to say that it is not rocket science, but it is beyond that. I mean, it could not be clearer. It just does not take legislation to stop unethical behaviour. It just takes being ethical. It is ludicrous that we are even having to sit here and debate this kind of thing when we all know what the situation is. Just be ethical. All one needs is a good moral compass, and we are not seeing that from this Prime Minister.

I will transition for a minute to say a few words about the party I represent. The truth is that we approach things differently. We get a lot of smaller donations from regular Canadians, and we continue to get them. As a party, we do not rely on wealthy elites and pay-to-play events and such fundraisers. We really do not. In fact, I am told that opposition Conservatives just had their best fourth quarter ever and the best year since the 2015 election, without relying on these kinds of unethical fundraising practices the Liberals have employed. Now, the Liberals had their worst fundraising year since the Prime Minister became their leader, because they had to halt these unethical types of fundraisers. That is exactly why that happened.

These numbers support what we are hearing from all constituents and Canadians across the country. Canadians are really tired of the Prime Minister's unethical behaviour, tax hikes, and failure to deliver results for middle-class Canadians. Conservatives will continue to follow the law, as we always have.

Opposition Motion—Conflict of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 6th, 2018 / 10:20 a.m.
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Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to be able to rise today to speak to our opposition day motion. I want to thank our leader, the leader of the official opposition, for sharing his time with me today.

Let us begin with a simple question. What is this motion about? I appreciate the comments that came from my hon. colleague, the member for Elmwood—Transcona. He asked a question about why we introduced this motion and why it appears to be narrowly focused.

I am a big believer that if one is not faithful and honourable in the small things in life, one will not be faithful and honourable in the big things in life. I believe that same principle applies to us here in the House of Commons. Character is what one does when no one is watching. Character is what one does when one knows one can get away with it. We are calling this specific issue to light. We have been talking about it during last week and this week, because we believe that Canadians deserve a prime minister who will be faithful and honourable, an integrist, in those things that look small. It is not so much about the $200,000, although that is a big amount; it is about a prime minister who, if he is truly sorry, will follow through on what might look like a small thing and pay back the money to the taxpayer. We will then be able to see what kind of character he and his government have when it comes to the big things.

In a nutshell, this motion establishes what we as members of Parliament all adhere to, and should be adhering to, in our behaviour. It is what Canadians would expect from us. This motion establishes and reaffirms our commitment as members of Parliament to be accountable and transparent.

Sometimes as we are doing our duties, we break the rules. We do not do it maliciously. However, sometimes it is done knowingly. I will give two examples where we, as members of Parliament, should be responsible if we break those rules.

Letters sent to the general public are covered under our franking privileges. We are allowed to send letters out to our constituents. There had been some changes in the rules around whether we could send letters to people outside of our constituency. There was a certain point during that transition when members of Parliament sent letters to people outside of their constituency and then found out afterwards that they were breaking the rules. Those members of Parliament could not just say they were sorry for breaking the rules and did not know those were the rules; rather, they had to make it right. They had to personally write a cheque to the Receiver General to cover the taxpayers' costs for when they broke the rules. It may or may not have been malicious, but the rules were broken and amends had to be made. That is the right thing to do.

Here is another example. Let us say that a member of Parliament was given five tickets for him or her and their family to attend an Elton John concert. That member of Parliament then tells the House of Commons that he or she will be going on parliamentary business and claims a plane trip, hotel, and per diems. However, the House of Commons then comes back and asks if that was parliamentary business. It is discovered that it was not and that he or she had taken an illegal gift, thereby doubly breaking the rules. Obviously that member of Parliament would be asked to pay back the cost of the trip, hotels, and per diems. That is also the right thing to do. That is probably an example of knowingly breaking the rules.

Those are two examples where members of Parliament broke the rules, and in breaking the rules used taxpayer dollars and were asked to pay those dollars back. Dare I say that if they did not pay those dollars back, their wages would be garnisheed. The House of Commons would not give them a choice; they would have to pay back those expenses. This motion establishes that we all agree with that. On this side of the House, we all agree with that. I certainly hope that the Liberal members of Parliament would agree with that as well.

This leads me to the biggest example that we have thus far, and what I would say is the biggest breach. That is the one we have been talking about for the last couple of weeks, which is the Prime Minister's illegal holiday.

This is the second time in less than 24 hours that I have risen to speak about it. It seems like more and more often, all we are talking about in this place is the Liberals' conflict of interest. Whether it is the Minister of Finance or the Prime Minister breaking the rules, being investigated, or not recusing themselves from discussions, this is a Liberal pattern that does not seem to end.

Last evening during the debate on Bill C-50, the Liberals' cash for access legislation, I pointed out to the House that the Liberals' very own bill has a requirement to pay the money back when fundraisers stray outside of the rules. It is a sound principle, and one that is mirrored in all kinds of regulatory and legal structures. Why is there a common requirement to pay it back, whether to us as members of Parliament, the general public, in society, or even in Bill C-50, if they fundraise illegally? Why does it exist? It is so that there is a meaningful incentive to encourage people to follow the law. It is that simple.

That is exactly what today's motion calls for. However, regrettably, we are not simply talking about an abstract principle. We have a very real and serious case before us. It is the former ethics commissioner's report on the Prime Minister's winter trip to the Aga Khan's island, better known as billionaire island. In her report, Mary Dawson said that the Prime Minister broke not one, not two, not even three, but four separate requirements of the Conflict of Interest Act.

I want to thank the quick-thinking member, our Leader of the Opposition, as he was the one who submitted the original request for an investigation once the news broke. We were asking the Prime Minister about the trip, and he constantly said it was a legal vacation and he was with someone who was a close friend. We have now found out that he had not talked to the Aga Khan in over 30 years. They are not close friends, and it was blatantly misleading Canadians. The Prime Minister knew very well that he had not seen or talked to the Aga Khan in over 30 years, but he got up day after day in the House, and he forced the House leader to defend his illegal behaviour. In doing so, and this brings it back to the motion, he incurred expenses of over $200,000 of taxpayers' dollars.

This is not a question of him having incurred those expenses anyway. If that were the question, no one would have to pay restitution. Everyone would say, “I would have received a car anyway. Even if I stole a car and did not give it back, I would have needed a car anyway. I would have used some money anyway, so I took someone else's money, but I would have found a way to get money anyway.” That is the most illogical defence I have ever heard, and I am surprised that we are still hearing it from the Liberals.

The fact is that the Prime Minister broke the law, and in doing so he forced the RCMP to be complicit in his breaking the law. I would be incredibly interested to know if anyone in the Prime Minister's Office or who was part of his security team told him, “We are all now breaking the rules by taking this illegal holiday and going on this helicopter.” If he was told, did he say to them “Oh, don't worry. The rules don't apply to me. I can do whatever I want because I am the Prime Minister.” He likes to refer to himself in the third person, even when he is outside of this place. It is quite remarkable to watch.

Instead of answering questions about this, instead of paying back the money, the Prime Minister was signing autographs during question period yesterday. The House leader had to answer for his irresponsible illegal behaviour, and he sat there signing autographs. Not only is it shameful, it is embarrassing to watch. If the Prime Minister cannot be accountable, honourable, and transparent in what is considered something small, then what do we have? Let us be honest, he has a family fortune. We are not talking about someone in poverty who cannot afford to pay for something they shoplifted. We are talking about someone who brags about his family fortune. He can afford to pay the taxpayer back.

There is so much connected to this breach, including, as our leader talked about, when we have a government that is disrespectful, cold hearted to our veterans, to our men and women in uniform. Would the Prime Minister please show leadership, be accountable, pay this back, and let us get on with doing something good for Canadians and stop taking from them?

Opposition Motion—Conflict of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 6th, 2018 / 10:35 a.m.
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Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to affirm, once again, that the NDP believes there needs to be consequences for members of Parliament who break the law, whether they are the Prime Minister or other members.

I want to return to the question of the scope of today's motion. Yesterday we debated Bill C-50, which has to do with electoral finance reform. I listened to a number of speeches by Conservative members who made a good point. They said that for all the song and dance of a government bill, Bill C-50 kind of tweaked the law, that It did not address a lot of the systemic issues with political financing in Canada. Given the opportunity of being a government bill, a lot more really could have been in it.

I am having similar feelings about the opposition day motion, which references only four sections of the Conflict of Interest Act. Section 16, which is not dealt with in the motion, talks about ministers of the crown not personally soliciting funds from donors if it would put them in a conflict of interest. It is not addressed in today's motion. Section 8 of the act talks about not using insider information for personal gain. These are provisions in the act that if contravened by a member ought to have consequences. Why are those not included in the motion as well?

Opposition Motion—Conflict of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 6th, 2018 / 1:05 p.m.
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Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to this motion regarding the Conflict of Interest Act and the report made by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner with respect to the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons and the Conflict of Interest Act.

The first thing I would like to point out is that the Prime Minister has accepted the findings of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner and has accepted full responsibility. Further, the Prime Minister has also undertaken to consult with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner on all future personal and family vacations to ensure that they always conform to the requirements of both the members' code and the Conflict of Interest Act.

The Prime Minister thanked the former conflict of interest and ethics commissioner for her work and for her advice in managing his relationship with the Aga Khan. There is a good reason for this. The commissioner's work ensures that Canadians can rely on a non-partisan officer of Parliament to make determinations on activities of members of Parliament.

Although the House of Commons is naturally an adversarial chamber where accusations often fly back and forth one side to the other, Canadians know that officers of Parliament, such as the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, investigate allegations and make findings and recommendations which are non-partisan. When the former conflict of interest and ethics commissioner answered questions on this matter before the ethics committee on January 10, 2018, she stated that the act has accomplished what it sets out to do, and that she stands by her report.

The Prime Minister has accepted the findings, and he has made arrangements to ensure that he clears all family and personal vacations with the office of the commissioner on an ongoing basis. The Conservatives are the ones who refuse to accept the fact that the report stands for itself. The former commissioner also found that no preferential treatment was ever given by the Prime Minister throughout this endeavour. In fact, no such preferential treatment was even sought. However, the Prime Minister has put in place measures to better manage his relationship with the Aga Khan moving forward. The fact that the Prime Minister immediately took full responsibility for the commissioner's findings is exactly what Canadians expect from their elected officials and their leaders. Not only has the Prime Minister stood and responded to the concerns in this House, he also has crossed the country engaging with Canadians on matters that are of concern to them.

Let us recap. The Prime Minister immediately took responsibility and answered numerous questions from the media. He answered numerous questions here in the House. He attended a number of public town hall events where Canadians were able to ask him unscripted questions on issues that they judged to be important. In fact, the Prime Minister came to Hamilton, my hometown, for a town hall. I am delighted to report that approximately 2,000 attendees were delighted that the Prime Minister would engage with them on matters that were important to them.

This civic engagement is very important to our government. This is why the Prime Minister is making himself available to connect with Canadians across the country. We are proud of this initiative. I want to thank all those Canadians who are showing up to the town hall events to engage. We appreciate their input and know how important it is for us to govern effectively.

I wish to confirm that at our town hall, as with all the other town halls, none of the questions were vetted, and the Prime Minister answered every question that was put to him. It was a great day for Hamilton. This is what real accountability looks like, and it is very different from what the Conservatives did while they were in power.

I would like to stay positive on this subject, so rather than criticize my Conservative opponents, let me say this. Our Prime Minister believes that engaging with Canadians and hearing from them directly, and truly listening, as our dear friend Arnold Chan asked all of us to do, will make this country better.

Why? That is easy. We believe in Canadians. We know that listening to Canadians will help us serve them more effectively. This is not an approach that former prime minister Stephen Harper took with Canadians or the media. Our Prime Minister's acceptance of the findings and willingness to work with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner is proof of the strength of the protections we currently have for our democratic process and decision-making.

We are currently debating a proposal to put in place additional members to protect our democratic process from undue influence. The Conservatives actually oppose Bill C-50, which would increase the transparency and accountability of our current fundraising regime. New requirements would be in place for how ministers, opposition leaders, and party leadership candidates would advertise their fundraising events, report on how much they charge, and let us know who attended those events. This legislation would give the public the information they need to verify that their ministers and party leaders are acting with an openness and accountability to everyday Canadians, who expect political contributions not to influence the decisions that will be made in their lives.

In regard to costs, Canadians expect that the Prime Minister's security is assured, wherever and whenever he travels. This is not just the case for our Prime Minister. This has been the case for previous prime ministers as well. The Prime Minister listens very carefully to the advice of security experts and makes sure their advice is followed. In her testimony before the ethics committee, the former ethics commissioner also pointed out, in response to the questions from the member for Thornhill, that expenses to protect the Prime Minister are costs incurred wherever the Prime Minister happens to be.

Today's motion focuses on the Prime Minister. In fact, this focus has been seized by the opposition for the past number of weeks. However, what the Conservatives fail to understand is that we need to focus on the needs of Canadians. That is what we are doing. We are working hard for Canadians.

Let us look at the results. Unemployment is lower than it has been in 40 years. In fact, some members of the House have never seen as low an unemployment rate as we have today. The Canadian child benefit has lifted over 300,000 children out of poverty. In Hamilton, the Canada child benefit has lifted 89,500 children out of poverty with an investment of $25.7 million. We have lowered taxes for nine million Canadians thanks to the middle-class tax cut. We have strengthened the CPP and increased GIS benefits for the most vulnerable seniors.

While the opposition stays laser-focused on us, we remain focused on Canadians and we will not be distracted from this focus no matter what tactics the opposition implements. We have a strong country and we have a strong democracy. This is thanks, in part, to the work of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, who helps Canadians better trust their institutions.

The Conflict of Interest Act has been applied for the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister has accepted the findings of the report. He has promised to closely work with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner going forward. This is what Canadians expect and this is how democracy works.

Opposition Motion—Conflicts of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 6th, 2018 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I will make it very clear that the previous commissioner, both in her report and in testimony in committee, answered many questions related to her report. We accepted those findings, and respect the fine work she has done. On this side of the House, we respect the work of all officers of Parliament. Unlike the opposition, when officers of Parliament make recommendations, we take them seriously and work with them to ensure we follow those recommendations.

On top of this, the Prime Minister is committed to working with the office of the commissioner to clear all future personal and family vacations. As has been the case for past prime ministers and is the case for the current Prime Minister, whenever and wherever the Prime Minister travels, there are costs associated with security. We always accept the advice of our security agencies as to how best ensure the safety of the Prime Minister. As the Prime Minister has said, going forward, he will engage the commissioner.

The commissioner has dealt with this. It is not the first time the commissioner has had to deal with issues. The Conservative human resources minister was also someone Mary Dawson had to deal with and provide a report on. We all have an obligation to report to the commissioner and the commissioner gives us advice, some more formal than others. That is the reality, and we respect what the commissioner presents to us.

Today I have heard time and again about ethical standards, as if the Conservative Party has more ethical standards. We all know that is far from the truth. I will remind members across the way of the reality of the Prime Minister and this government in comparison. The irony is that just prior to resuming debate on the motion this afternoon, we voted on Bill C-50.

What would Bill C-50 do? It would ensure more transparency and accountability for leaders, whether it is a prime minister, a cabinet minister, the leader of the official opposition, or the leader of any other political party, so when people pay $200-plus to sit down with leaders, there is accountability. Elections Canada has to be told who the individuals are. There are other requirements. It is all about accountability. Even the commissioner, who Conservatives like to cite, suggested that it was good legislation, and the Conservatives voted against that. They voted against transparency and accountability. I have tried to understand why they would do that.

Last year, the Conservative leader had a fundraiser and he did not want to tell Canadians about it. When he was challenged about it, his initial response was denial, that he did not have that high-priced fundraiser. Then when individuals said that they paid the big bucks to meet with the leader of the Conservative Party, he admitted to having that fundraising event. This legislation would obligate, by law, the reporting of things of that nature.

It was interesting that in a story about that incident, the leader of the official opposition said that if it was law, he would have reported it. Is that the reason the Conservatives did not support that legislation, because if it were law, they would have to report it? That is the kind of legislation this government and the Prime Minister have brought forward to ensure there is a higher level of accountability and transparency on these types of issues, which are important to Canadians.

When the Prime Minister was leader of the Liberal Party, the third party in the House, with only 34 or 35 Liberal MPs sitting in the corner, he brought forward what we called proactive disclosure. He stood up on several occasions to get the opposition and the government of Stephen Harper and the Conservatives to agree to share with Canadians, in a transparent way, how MPs were spending money. Initially, the Conservatives and the NDP both said no. That was when the Prime Minister was leader of the Liberal Party, not the prime minister. What we saw was very much a high sense of accountability.

After the commissioner made her report, the Prime Minister did not go into hiding. He travelled the country. He went to town halls all over the country. Canadians, real people, got to ask questions of the Prime Minister, and their focus was on issues such as the economy, jobs, and health care. They were concerned about the different social programs the government is providing.

It is truly important for us to recognize that as much as the Conservatives want to continue to focus on being negative in all aspects of the Prime Minister's personal life, the Prime Minister and his cabinet are going to continue to focus on what is important to Canadians, and that is the middle class and those aspiring to be a part of it, and the many individuals who we want to give that lifting hand to.

Our government will continue to be transparent and accountable for the many positive actions. Those actions have seen Canadians develop jobs that have never been seen in recent history for our country, with 700,000 jobs, and I think it was 422,000 jobs in 2017 alone, not to mention the redistribution of wealth, supporting Canada's middle class. Those are the priorities of the Prime Minister and the government.

I agree with the government House leader when she says that the Conservatives have nothing else to talk about because they know how well things are going and how well the government is performing, so they want to focus on the negatives, the personal attacks.

One thing I agree with my colleague from across the way on is that we did not need to spend a day on this issue. What we should be talking about today are those important issues that we hear about at those town halls the Prime Minister is doing. There are so many wonderful things that are taking place in our country, but we can always do better and those are the kinds of ideas we should be talking about in the House.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 5th, 2018 / 12:05 p.m.
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Gagan Sikand Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to rise today to speak to Bill C-50, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act in relation to political financing. The Government of Canada promised to set a higher bar on the transparency, accountability, and integrity of public institutions and the democratic process. We also said that we would take steps to ensure that Canada's elections are run more fairly. We promised to encourage more Canadians, in particular, youth and indigenous Canadians, to play a more active role in our democracy.

Canada's Minister of Democratic Institutions has taken this role seriously. Since she received this mandate from the Prime Minister in January, she has been encouraging Canadians to become more involved to expand their civic literacy. This is not just about voting or volunteering for a campaign. Canadians can expand their civic literacy by simply engaging in discussions with their friends and neighbours at coffee shops, online, or through public policy issues that matter to them. Participation can mean volunteering for a charity, joining a community organization, or signing a petition.

Democracy has many wide-open doors for those who want to enter and play a part. We want to make sure all voices are heard. One issue that has come up in the media and in the House relates to federal rules governing the funding of political parties. Political parties of course are fundamental to our system of government. If Canadians have concerns about how the government regulates them, then those concerns must be addressed.

The concerns raised in Parliament relate to private fundraising events. Now, we are proud of Canada's strong reputation in running elections. Our system is recognized as one of the most progressive in the world. Elections Canada, as we know, regularly hosts delegations from countries wanting to learn from our system, but the government recognizes that some Canadians want their government to do more to increase transparency. These Canadians have asked questions about fundraising activities.

We believe that steps are necessary. That is why the government is creating a new level of transparency. We want to empower Canadians, including opposition parties and the media, to take a much closer look at fundraising in Canada. As I mentioned, our current laws are relatively strict. Canadian citizens and permanent residents can contribute a maximum of $1,550 annually to each registered party. They can donate $1,550 in total to all leadership contestants in a particular contest. In addition, they can donate a total of $1,550 to contestants for nomination, candidates, and/or riding associations of each registered party.

These upper limits are among the lowest in the democratic world. In fact, some other democratic countries have no limit, which of course raises serious concerns about money influencing decisions. Here in Canada, contributions are reported to Elections Canada and the name, municipality, province, and postal code of those who contribute more than $200 are published online.

Bill C-50 builds on that solid foundation of transparency. This legislation would apply to all fundraising activities attended by cabinet ministers, including the Prime Minister, party leaders, and leadership contestants when a contribution or ticket price of more than $200 is required of any attendee.

The name and partial address of each attendee, with certain exceptions, would be published online. The exceptions are youth under 18, volunteers, event staff, media and support staff for the minister or party leader in attendance. Parties would be required to report the names and partial addresses of attendees to Elections Canada within 30 days of the event. That information would then become public.

These provisions would apply to all parties with a seat in the House of Commons. Bill C-50 would require parties to advertise fundraising events at least five days in advance. Canadians would know about a political fundraiser before the event takes place, giving them an opportunity to inquire about attending, if they wish.

Bill C-50 would also give journalists the ability to determine when and where fundraisers are happening. At the same time, political parties would retain the flexibility to set their own rules for providing media access and accreditation. The bill would also introduce new offences in the Canada Elections Act for those who do not respect the rules and require the return of any money collected at the event. These sanctions would apply to political parties, parties' agents and event organizers rather than the senior political leaders invited to the events.

The government proposes a maximum $1,000 fine on summary conviction for offences introduced under Bill C-50, and if rules are broken, then contributions collected at the events would have to be returned. I should note that we have decided to limit the application of the new framework during the writ period. This is to avoid imposing an unduly heavy burden during elections when campaign organizers and their many volunteers and colleagues are working around the clock to get their message to Canadians. Reports on events that occur during the writ period would only be required following polling day.

It is important for us as we debate this legislation to collectively send a message to Canadians that there is nothing wrong with a legal campaign and its contributions. Political parties need to have access to adequate political funds so that they can get their message to Canadians and engage them in our democratic process. Candidates and their teams must be able to pay for office rent, buy lawn signs, and occasionally order some pizza and pop for their dedicated and tireless volunteers.

Making a contribution is also an important form of democratic expression in Canada. This is a big step that many thousands of Canadians take in order to show emphatically their support for a political party or candidate. The fact is that in every developed democratic country parties are funded either privately, by the public sector, or quite often a combination of both.

We should also acknowledge that there is nothing inherently wrong with someone trying to get their message through to decision-makers. Politicians are solicited in numerous ways: at crowded town halls, gatherings, at meetings in MP offices, and at local skating rinks.

I will conclude by returning to the initial focus of this address, that the government has promised Canadians a new level of openness and transparency. At the same time, the government is determined to protect the charter rights of all citizens to participate in our democracy. I believe the government has found the right balance with Bill C-50.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 5th, 2018 / 12:15 p.m.
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Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak about democracy in Canada today and, more specific, about political fundraising, which is an important part and an important reality of the political system in which we operate.

Bill C-50, which I am proud to lend my support to, is designed to enhance the transparency of political financing in Canada. It would do a number of things, but I will focus my remarks on just a few, such as the scope of application of the bill to not just cabinet ministers and the Prime Minister, but to opposition leaders and contenders for the opposition leadership; the necessity to report attendees of fundraisers to Elections Canada; and the need to advertise publicly the fundraising activities involving one of the individuals affected.

However, before I get into that by point analysis, I would like to spend a little time talking about why transparency is an important value in our democracy and in our political financing in particular.

It is a trend around the world where people, rightly or wrongly, believe their governments can be bought. I do not believe that is true in Canada. We have a phenomenally strong electoral system that has a number of institutional safeguards to prevent this kind of phenomenon from taking place.

The fact is that everyone deserves to benefit from the decisions of their government, and not just the wealthiest members of society who are able to buy influence. I would not suggest for a moment that there is a single member of Parliament in the House whose integrity is for sale. However, it is important to build public confidence by demonstrating that our institutions prevent that possibility from ever arising.

We know that a system where only the richest can dictate policy decisions is not the kind of society in which we want to live. Governments have a duty, in my mind, to serve the public interest and not the personal interest of either politicians or their donors.

The perception of politicians peddling influence is also a very important point that we need to make. When members of the public believe, even without grounds to reasonably believe it, when the perception is that politicians will sell themselves and their values to have a donation made to their riding associations so they can stay elected in perpetuity, it undermines faith in the system and is a heck of an inspiration to cause citizens to become disengaged with the work of their government and disengaged with the electoral process more generally.

We cannot ban donations altogether. Realistically, campaigns cost money. Every member of the House knows this. I value, greatly, the small donations that citizens gave to my campaign to put up election signs on my neighbours' yards, and some of the larger donations that maybe went to a communications plan to let the public know about some of the work I planned on doing locally and perhaps our party was campaigning on across the nation.

The fact is that there is real value in this form of civic engagement, and I believe citizens should be able to contribute to political parties or candidates of their choice to help get that message out during a campaign. However, we need safeguards. Gone unchecked, members of society with a capacity to pay have the potential to influence the activity of their elected officials. I do not believe that is fair or just, and it is not the kind of Canada in which I want to live.

Thankfully some of the safeguards we have in place are some of the strongest the world has to offer. We have spending limits for campaigns, a certain value cannot be exceeded, depending on the length of the campaign, which keeps it reasonable. The party or the campaign with the most amount of money does not necessarily have the loudest megaphone.

We have individual donor limits. I believe it is $1,575 annually. Again, I could not in good faith stand here and say a member of any political party, no matter his or her persuasion, would sell his or her integrity for that figure, or any figure for that matter. I trust my colleagues on all sides of the aisle.

We also, importantly, do not allow corporate or union donations. This is important because we know that the donations coming into campaigns, to candidates and to parties are made by Canadians, and we have a duty to govern for them. We are not pursuing merely corporate interests or unions that can afford to pay. This is about serving people.

Some improvements are needed. Of course, some people are not familiar with the political process, the electoral process and maybe have never donated to a campaign in their lives. I can imagine the thought process they may have when they hear about a campaign fundraiser that maybe costs $500. That is a lot of money for most of the people who live in my riding. The median income in the riding I represent is about $21,000.

The idea that some of these people will contribute $1,500, or even a more modest amount of $200 is not something they can reasonably afford. They do not want to believe that their neighbours who may have that kind of money lying around are able to walk into a fundraiser with a politician, or perhaps a future politician, and dictate what that person will campaign on in the future.

At the end of the day, what forms the idea in the basis of a campaign cannot be what has been demanded by a donor. There can be no quid pro quo. We cannot have the sense that because people donated to a campaign, they are owed some kind of an obligation. That is not right. We need to ensure that the politics of our country are dictated by what serves the public best, not what the richest donors can afford.

That is why I believe Bill C-50 would add certain important elements to enhance the transparency of our political financing system. If I look specifically at the need to report attendees to these fundraising events to Elections Canada when the cost of the fundraiser is over $200, which is the same threshold as today, I know this will let the public know who came to one of the fundraisers of the Prime Minister, or a minister, or leader of the opposition, or a candidate for opposition leadership. If I see 100 donors making maximum donations to a person's campaign and the next day he or she comes out with a new policy designed just to meet the needs of that donor base, I will know something is up. When I go to the ballot box, that will inform my decision-making.

Assuming that Bill C-50 passes, I also note the requirement to report, at least five days in advance, that there will be a fundraising initiative. This gives the public the opportunity to enquire about the nature of the fundraiser and potentially attend if people are so inclined. It prevents the opportunity for the person or party hosting the fundraising event from sequestering the attendees and burying the message to ensure the public never finds out who was there.

Transparency is of extraordinary importance. I would like to pre-emptively answer a question I heard asked of the last speaker about the need to ensure Bill C-50 would apply to both government and opposition sides of the House. I would only suggest that it would be appropriate to limit the scope of the legislation to the government if I did not believe individual members of Parliament had the ability to make a difference. I reject that notion as strongly as I possibly can.

As someone who is not part of the cabinet, not sitting as Prime Minister, not an opposition leader, or not campaigning to be the leader of a party, I know I still have the opportunity to make a difference. My integrity is worth more than a $1,500 donation to my riding association. It is not fair for the wealthiest members of my community back home in Nova Scotia to have additional influence on me than my neighbour who might earn $21,000 a year, like the median person in my riding. I, and I trust every member in the House, am in it for the right reasons. We are here to serve the public, not just the wealthiest members of it.

I am pleased to support Bill C-50. I know it will make one of the strongest political financing systems in Canada even stronger, it will strengthen our democracy, it will enhance public perception of our electoral system more generally, and it will give faith that politicians are here for the right reason, which is to serve the public interest.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 5th, 2018 / 12:25 p.m.
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Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his intervention. My question relates to the substance of the issue, the motivation for the bill, specifically the fundraising events that suggest the possibility of access to ministers and the Prime Minister in exchange for a substantial amount of money.

I am wondering whether my colleague is okay with that practice, since all Bill C-50 does is formalize the practice and make it more transparent. The bill gives the public more information, but it does not change anything about the fundamental issue, since it allows for the practice to continue.

Basically, I want to know my colleague's thoughts on a political party engaging in cash for access. Does he agree with this practice? My question refers more to the substance, rather than the form, of the bill before us today.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 5th, 2018 / 12:30 p.m.
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John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have the opportunity to speak today to Bill C-50.

I am in a unique position given the fact that I am a member of Parliament from Ontario. Having seen what went on with the provincial Liberals, I can speak to the issue of cash for access and how it relates federally given the examples that happened in Ontario.

As I was going about the last election, meeting with residents of my riding, engaging in town halls and all-candidates debates, I remember warning those who would consider voting Liberal of the fact that the same players from Ontario would be involved not only with the Liberal election campaign but also within the Prime Minister's Office, and that certainly has shown itself to be true. The cash for access scheme originated in Ontario. Ontario was ground zero for cash for access.

What does cash for access mean? It means that ministers, the premier, and parliamentary secretaries would sell access to themselves to those stakeholders who were willing to pay up to the maximum amount. Ontario had no maximum amount at that time. I recall some people at small intimate settings were paying in excess of $5,000. Imagine what a fundraiser that would be. Ministers in Ontario had the opportunity to sit in private settings and sell access to their time for $5,000, and in some cases, it was more than that. It was a heck of a fundraiser for the Ontario Liberal Party, which on some nights could get upwards of $50,000 to $100,000.

Let us fast-forward to after the election. Those same players who came from Queen's Park, Gerald Butts and Katie Telford, who formalized and legitimized the plan in Ontario, came to the Prime Minister's Office and the first thing they did was to concoct the same plan federally, a plan that saw the Prime Minister and ministers of the crown engage in private cash for access fundraisers. The difference was that there was a limit here federally and the limit was $1,500, a bit more above that.

In Ontario, they called this “the system”. Ministers would sell access to themselves in most cases to stakeholders and those stakeholders would be able to bend a minister's ear for whatever project, whatever dealings, whatever issue he or she had with the government. The minister would be paid and that money would go directly into a Liberal bank account. The same plan happened here.

This amounts to political extortion. It is about extorting money from those who have business dealings with the government so that those individuals can gain access to ministers and in some cases the Prime Minister.

The issue was really one of hypocrisy on the part of the government and that is why we are in this position right now with Bill C-50. The Liberals are trying to correct a problem that they created. I will remind the House what the Prime Minister told his ministers in their mandate letters about perception, real or otherwise, and about undue influence. Cash for access provides undue influence.

The member for Central Nova said he could not see how $1,500 could influence a minister of the crown. It is not just the $1,500 but rather the multiples of $1,500. We saw examples of that during the height of this cash for access scheme. The height of public awareness of this scheme was when the Prime Minister was at a private event with some stakeholders from the Chinese community. A gentleman by the name of Shenglin Xian, along with the other people there, donated the maximum amount. Mr. Xian had business in front of the government. His business was that he wanted to open a bank. Mr. Xian received approval for the bank and it was opened shortly after this meeting.

It is important to understand that ministers of the crown are very powerful. They control multi-billion dollar budgets. With one fell swoop of a pen, a minister, the Prime Minister, and the government can approve whatever business those people have. Also, the money is going into Liberal bank accounts. It is not going into the coffers of the government. These are people who are paying for access to put money into the Liberal bank accounts.

We have seen examples of this happen with other ministers. The Minister of Justice held a meeting at a Bay Street law firm. There were lots of lawyers there. I do not think they were talking about the Blue Jays, or the Maple Leafs and how they were doing. They were talking government business. In some cases, some of those lawyers who would pay the $1,500 perhaps had applications for the bench. This is why this is wrong.

What the Liberals are proposing now is to take it out of the shadows, where it was and put it in public, but that legitimizes and formalizes it. Why are they doing that? It is so they can hide behind it, so if there are any further complaints, if anyone else has a problem with cash for access, they can say they changed the rules and that the rules are clear.

In Ontario, there was so much public backlash that they actually banned cash for access. They made it so that no more could ministers or members of the provincial legislature even go to these cash for access fundraisers. Therefore, if the government is truly showing some virtue on this, it should just ban them altogether and go back to the donation process that exists today.

Of course, the Liberals want to use every advantage they can to try to extort as much money as they can from these stakeholders, because they know from a fundraising standpoint that they lag far behind the Conservatives and our grassroots donors who support our party year in and year out because they agree with the policies, principles, and values of conservatism. The Liberals want to extort people. They want to say, perhaps to the marijuana industry, perhaps to more lawyers, “Give us money, and you can have access to us and bend our ears”. How is that going to apply to middle-class Canadians and those working hard to join them? It will not, because most of the people in my riding cannot afford to go to one of these Liberal fundraisers.

The other interesting part about this, and this is the thing that really concerns me, is that it does not include parliamentary secretaries. The bill says the reporting mechanism will happen for the Prime Minister and for cabinet ministers, but it will not happen for parliamentary secretaries. Why not? That is a fair question. In fact, when I talked to the member for Banff—Airdrie, this was one of the amendments that was put forward. In fact, it was a recommendation of the Ethics Commissioner.

I have heard the argument that the Ethics Commissioner agrees with most parts of this, but this is the one area she does not agree with. Why not include parliamentary secretaries in Bill C-50? One could speculate that perhaps the reason is that, if the Prime Minister cannot do it and cabinet ministers cannot have a cash for access event in private with stakeholders and people who have business in front of the government, they want to send their parliamentary secretaries, because they, through the line, will have the ear of a cabinet minister who will eventually have the ear of the Prime Minister with respect to those people who are involved.

There are significant challenges with Bill C-50. The fact is that the government wants to legitimize and formalize the cash for access scheme so it can use it as a shield later on. If something comes up, the Liberals could then say they changed the rules, everyone knows the rules, and they are applying the rules. If they were going to apply the rules in this case, they certainly should have done it when the Prime Minister wrote his mandate letters to say that the perception, real or otherwise, of undue influence should not happen within his government. They changed that.

There is no reason to believe they are going to follow the rules in Bill C-50. This is hypocrisy as its best. They are formalizing and legalizing what will continue to be political extortion on the part of the government of stakeholders and those having business with the government.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 5th, 2018 / 12:40 p.m.
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Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me begin by saying how disappointed I am that the opposition members are not supporting this legislation, which I think is a tremendous move towards having greater openness and transparency and which is something they are asking for. I am wondering what is at the root of them not supporting it. Is it that they do not want the opposition to have to disclose the information that is being asked for in Bill C-50?

This is about openness and transparency. It is about ensuring that the website shows what events are going to be held. It is about ensuring that the attendees who have paid over $200 for events are noted and there is a list so that people know.

I do not understand. Therefore, my direct question to the member is this. Is he not supporting this legislation because the opposition members do not want to provide lists of who attend their fundraisers for over $200 or more?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 5th, 2018 / 12:45 p.m.
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Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to on Bill C-50an act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing).

Bill C-50, more particularly, would require require certain public notification and reporting in respect of certain political fundraising events. In that regard, Bill C-50 would require that where a cabinet minister or party leader or leadership candidate attends a political fundraising event, and where the ticket price for the event is more than $200, that public notification would be required and a report would be sent to Elections Canada on the event.

The government has sold this bill as a bill to increase transparency, accountability, and to strengthen Canada's political financing laws. I say that one should not buy into the bill of goods that the government is trying to sell to Canadians. This bill is not about increased transparency. It is not about increased accountability. It is not about strengthening Canada's political financing laws. Rather, what Bill C-50 is about is legitimizing and sanitizing the government and the Liberal Party's sordid cash-for-access racket. That is what Bill C-50 is about.

Why would the government, by way of legislation, seek to legitimize cash for access? As my colleague, the hon. member for Banff—Airdrie has pointed out, the government has found its hand caught in the cookie jar one too many times. The government has been caught with its hand in the cookie jar, and as much as the Prime Minister has said one thing, he has then done another. We have a Prime Minister who, after all, more or less disavowed cash-for-access fundraising and then proceeded to engage in cash-for-access fundraising. He not only engaged in cash-for-access fundraising but perfected cash-for-access fundraising.

To understand the degree to which the Prime Minister broke his word to the Canadian public, one need only look back to the 2015 election, when he told Canadians to elect him and that he would deliver the most open, most transparent, and most accountable government in Canadian history. To try to demonstrate that he meant what he said and said what he meant, the Prime Minister, upon appointing his cabinet, unveiled a document called “Open and Accountable Government”.

“Open and Accountable Government” was the code of conduct, the standards of conduct, by which the Prime Minister said that he, his ministers, and parliamentary secretaries would be held to. “Open and Accountable Government” did deal with sets of standards, standards of conduct, for cabinet ministers, for the Prime Minister, and for parliamentary secretaries, specifically relating to political fundraising.

It is important to speak to and review some of what “Open and Accountable Government” said to understand how blatantly and how flagrantly this Prime Minister has broken his word to the Canadian people. “Open and Accountable Government” says, among other things, “Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries must avoid conflict of interest, the appearance of conflict of interest and situations that have the potential to involve conflicts of interest.” However, it gets better. It says, “There should be no preferential access to government, or appearance of preferential access..”.

Moreover, “Open and Accountable Government” states that department stakeholders, including lobbyists, should not be targeted for the solicitation of political funds. That is what “Open and Accountable Government” says. That is the standard the Prime Minister set for himself and his cabinet, so it begs the question: what did the Prime Minister do following the issuance of that standard? The answer is that the Prime Minister ignored “Open and Accountable Government”.

It was as if “Open and Accountable Government” had never been written. As my friend, the member for Barrie—Innisfil, said, it was not worth the paper it was written on, because almost immediately, the Prime Minister doubled down with cash for access event after cash for access event. Indeed, in 2016, the Liberal Party held more than 100 cash for access events, like one held in May 2016, in Toronto, with none other than Mr. Sanctimony himself, the Prime Minister, who was at the residence of a Chinese billionaire. There were other Chinese billionaires there, each of whom paid $1,500 to the Liberal Party of Canada. There they had an evening with the Prime Minister, making dumplings and having the ear of the Prime Minister, and, I am sure, spending a wonderful evening with him.

Among those in attendance was none other than the chief investor in the Wealth One Bank of Canada, a bank that was seeking a banking licence in Canada at the time of the cash for access fundraiser. What a sweet deal: $1,500 to the Liberal Party and an opportunity to spend the evening with the Prime Minister to talk about Wealth One Bank. Sure enough, the licence was approved.

At the very same event, there was a Chinese Communist official. He was not a Canadian citizen, so he could not send the money directly to the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party said not to worry about it. Two weeks later, that same individual wrote a $200,000 cheque to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation. I guess we are supposed to assume that it was a coincidence that he would spend the evening with the Prime Minister and two weeks later decide to write a $200,000 cheque to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation.

My friend from Barrie—Innisfil says that we could not make this up. Well, we really could not, because it is just incredible. It speaks to the hypocrisy, to the lack of ethical conduct, on the part of the government.

Here we are today with Bill C-50. What does it do? It requires public notification five days before an event. I say, big deal. It requires reporting to Elections Canada of an event. I do not know if it occurred to the government, but every single political contribution is already reported to Elections Canada, so in terms of substantive improvements to political financing laws in Canada, the bill falls short.

It is nothing more than smoke and mirrors so that the Prime Minister can pretend that he is doing something about political financing, all the while giving himself a blank cheque to engage in the most sordid types of political fundraising activities. This is a cynical bill, and Canadians deserve more than a cynical bill from a cynical and ethically challenged government.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 5th, 2018 / 12:55 p.m.
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Burlington Ontario


Karina Gould LiberalMinister of Democratic Institutions

Mr. Speaker, I can absolutely say that this is not a cynical bill. This is a bill that is making a substantial difference. It is unfortunate to hear from my colleague across the way on this topic in such a cynical manner, because to be perfectly honest, fundraising is an activity that all political parties undertake.

I want to make one correction. We know that no foreigner can make a contribution. It is against the law. That is something all political parties uphold.

Second is that parties would actually report who attended an event, when it took place, and where it took place. This is important, because this is information Canadians have not had before.

Bill C-50 aims to make fundraising events more open and transparent. All I hear from the opposition members is that they do not believe in more openness or transparency. We know for a fact that the Leader of the Opposition was holding fundraising events in secret this summer and refused to provide details.

Does my hon. colleague not believe that more openness and transparency about fundraising is a good thing? That is exactly what the bill aims to do.