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

Sponsor

Karina Gould  Liberal

Status

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

Summary

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.

Elsewhere

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.

Votes

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 9th, 2018 / 10 a.m.
See context

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill C-50, which is important legislation.

I am a little surprised that the Conservative Party has opted to vote in opposition to the legislation, which does not make sense. I listened to them talk at great length, attempting to explain why they were opposed to it.

If they were to read the bill, I think most Canadians would have to question why the Conservatives have made this decision. I hope to maybe explain, at least in part, why I believe the official opposition has decided to vote against it.

The New Democratic Party has taken a little different approach. The New Democrats are reiterating a lot of the their Conservative friends have highlighted. I have often made reference to the unholy alliance between the two parties. They like to work together, fairly closely, and we can hear that at times with their speaking notes. However, the New Democrats have the wisdom to recognize something the Conservatives have not, and that is that this is good legislation and is worth supporting.

What are we asking of the House? The essence of the legislation is that not only do we want the Prime Minister to be more accountable and transparent with respect to who he meets with and who pays for these $250-a-plate meetings or gatherings, whatever type of reception it might be, but that same principle also apply to cabinet ministers, and I think this is really where the catch is, the Leader of the Opposition, and other leaders.

It is a step forward in government legislation and the types of things that could improve accountability and transparency. It all boils down to wanting to amend the law so there is a legal obligation for political entities, those leaders, the Prime Minister, and cabinet ministers, to indicate who shows up at these receptions. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with that. I see that as a strong positive.

We have seen many reforms over the last couple of decades to improve the Canada Elections Act and the Financial Administration Act, and this is yet another piece of legislation to do just that.

One has to question why the Conservatives are in opposition to that. The only thing I have discovered is the current leadership within the Conservative Party seems to believe Canadians do not have any business knowing with whom the Leader of the Opposition is meeting.

It is interesting, because last year there was a fundraising event, and we knew it was a fundraising event, but the Conservatives denied it. It was with the current Leader of the Opposition, the Conservative Party. When we made some initial inquiries in regard to it, we were told that the event never occurred. The Conservatives were formally asked whether there was an event and we were told no.

That puts things at odds with the individuals who actually attended the event. One of those individuals said “No, I did pay”. I believe the opposition leader met with realtors and some business leaders, but I do not know the actual price that was paid. It was over $250, and it might have been $500, although do not quote me on the price. However, it was a substantial amount of money to meet with the leader. The leader finally had to admit they did have the fundraiser. I do not understand the resistance in telling people this, but there was a great reluctance.

If we read the one published news story on the issue, it is interesting that the leader of the official opposition said, in essence, that he was not the prime minister, that he did not have to report it, that he would keep within the law. He implied that if it were the law, then he would report it. If we connect the dots, one could draw the conclusion that the Conservatives do not want this to be the law, and that is the reason they will vote against it.

Members across the way say that it is somewhat silly or possibly ridiculous, but think about it. The leader of the official opposition said if it were the law, he would report it. We now are introducing the law that would obligate him to report it and the Conservative Party will vote against it.

I do not quite understand how the Conservatives can justify that the leader of the official opposition, the person who wants to be prime minister some day, should not have to share with Canadians who he meets with for these big bucks. Instead of trying to explain or justify that, they are choosing use the line that they are voting against the legislation because of so-called cash for access, as if the Conservatives never did it when they were in government. Some of them across the way say they did not do it.

I can recall when former prime minister Stephen Harper would go to British Columbia for summer barbeques. The good news is that if people attended the barbeque, they could watch the prime minister walk into the big white tent. They could not go into the big white tent unless they paid at least $1,000, but if they paid that, it would give them two minutes with the prime minister and a photo. It is not like that was just a one-time event. I understand it was almost an annual event and it was very nice of a senator to put on that event. How quickly things have changed.

Do the Conservatives believe that former prime minister Stephen Harper did not raise money for their party, never attended an event where money was charged? I just gave an example of it.

Did Stephen Harper say that these ware all the people who were in that big white tent? I will suggest, no. If I am wrong, please tell us who was in the white tent with the prime minister, who paid that extra money to have the ear of the prime minister.

We know that whether one is a leader or a prime minister, leaders of political entities have a responsibility to assist their respective parties in raising money. Is it too much to ask that the individuals they meet with, who are paying over $250, at some point become public knowledge? I would suggest not.

This government has said no. The Prime Minister and the cabinet ministers have now been following the rules in this legislation. The Conservative Party still does not want to follow it. It reminds me of another situation, and my friends will recall this one.

I remember when the current Prime Minister was the leader of the Liberal Party, sitting back where the New Democrats are sitting today. We all remember those days. Personally, I am glad those days are over, and the biggest beneficiary of that has been Canada's middle class. I remember when he stood in the House and said that he believed in proactive disclosure. He asked for the unanimous consent of the House to implement “proactive disclosure” in regard to members of Parliament. I remember all the objections and the nos, especially coming from the then official opposition the New Democratic Party. However, those members were not alone at all. The Conservatives also objected to it. It was not like we just tried it the one time; we tried it on several occasions.

I believe the Prime Minister set into work good deeds that ultimately ensured there would be more transparency and accountability coming out of the House. That is what this legislation would do that.

I will go back to the proactive disclosure for MPs and what happened. We decided that even though it was not the law, we took actions and we imposed it upon ourselves, and that is what is happening with the the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers today. It did not take that long for the Conservative Party back then to recognize it was offside, kind of out of touch with Canadians. I give the Conservatives credit. They recognized it, jumped on board and complied. My New Democratic friends went kicking and screaming. It ultimately took an opposition day where they were shamed into supporting proactive disclosure.

Today the New Democrats are recognizing that this is good legislation so they are supporting it. People will notice that even though they are supporting the legislation, they are still somewhat critical of the government but they recognize the value of good legislation, unlike my Conservative friends across the way. After the current Prime Minister convinced them that listening to Canadians was a good thing to do, they came on board with the proactive disclosure for MPs. However, now on this issue, the Conservatives do not seem to want to listen to Canadians.

I always thought we would not do any worse than Stephen Harper with respect to leadership, but on this issue, the Conservatives do not recognize something that even Stephen Harper recognized, which was being more transparent and accountable was what Canadians expected. That is why I do not quite understand their position on Bill C-50. The good news is that it is not too late. It took the Conservatives a little while to come to their senses on proactive disclosure for MPs. I am an optimistic person. I believe the glass is half full. I would hope my friends across the way will actually see the merit of passing the legislation.

I know some Conservatives have argued in their presentations that we do not need the law to tell us what we should be doing.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 9th, 2018 / 10:45 a.m.
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NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, during the 2015 election campaign, the Prime Minister said, “There should be no preferential access to government or appearance of preferential access, accorded to individuals or organizations because they have made financial contributions to politicians and political parties.”

This is the rule the current Prime Minister set out for himself and for his cabinet. He said that there should be no preferential access to government, or even the appearance of preferential access, based on donations. However, this legislation would do nothing to effect that. Only the names of those who donate to political parties would be published, and the bill would change the timing of the publication of those names. Therefore, pay to play would continue, and cash for access would continue. This would just speed up when we tell people how the government was bought and sold. We would inform the public online more quickly how preferential access was given.

Could my colleague explain how Bill C-50 would do anything to help implement the Prime Minister's own promise to Canadians that no preferential access to government or the appearance of preferential access would be given based on financial contributions?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 9th, 2018 / 10:55 a.m.
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NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is no accident that today we are once again debating the Liberals' Bill C-50.

Several scandals have put the spotlight on the Liberals' outrageous and questionable fundraising activities. They introduced Bill C-50 to improve their image. After breaking the electoral reform promise they made before, during, and after the 2015 campaign, they introduced this bill to cover up the fact that they had broken their promise.

The Liberals dangled this promise before a generation of young people, my generation, saying that our electoral system was obviously not very representative and that it did not necessarily reflect how Canadians voted. People believed this promise. The NDP believed it. At the end of the day, we were too naive. We were thinking that, for once, something constructive would be done.

Tens of thousands of Canadians testified and were consulted as the committee travelled across Canada, gathering ideas and suggestions from citizens. Eighty percent of Canadians said that they were in favour of a system with a proportional component. Furthermore, almost 90% of the experts who appeared before the electoral reform committee were also in favour of a proportional system for the next election.

About two weeks ago, the Prime Minister told the CBC that he was not convinced. When he put an end to the electoral reform process one year ago, everyone was devastated. What more do we need to do if the Prime Minister cannot recognize what is democratic, even though 80% of citizens and 90% of experts are on the same page?

At some point, the people stop believing the politicians, whom they mandated to represent the public. The Prime Minister himself repeated some 60 times that he would do what it took to ensure the 2015 election was the last under the first past the post system. He is now outright rejecting this and telling us that the current system works in his favour and that he will leave it as is, despite all the work done on this file.

The committee travelled across the country at great expense. All that work was done for nothing because, in the end, the Prime Minister did what he wanted and decided that the views expressed at all those consultations by all the experts and by all Canadians were meaningless.

Canada Elections ActPrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2018 / 12:15 p.m.
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NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, since we are still talking about Bill C-50, let us all agree on why we are here.

We are talking about this bill, the main goal of which is to restore the Liberals' reputation, which was tarnished by certain ministers and the Prime Minister. We are not talking about the Prime Minister's vacation to the Aga Khan's island. He was severely chastised by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner recently for that. We are talking about political party financing.

As we all know, politics and the exercise of democracy requires funding. Funding is needed to run an election campaign. In order to raise that money, some members of the Liberal government sold privileged access. At what price? It seems that the maximum amount that can be donated to a federal party is $1,500.

In May 2016, the Prime Minister went to the home of a wealthy businessman, where 32 guests paid $1,500 each for exclusive access to the leader of the government.

We also learned that the Prime Minister was present at receptions hosted by the wealthiest people and business people at $1,500 a plate, in order to meet people interested in the infrastructure bank. There were also Chinese nationals hoping to buy Canadian telecommunication companies in B.C. Other people had interests in cannabis, for example. All of these very influential people with a lot of money managed to land a private evening with the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister cannot deny it. This has been made public, so Canadians would know, which put him in an awkward position, much like the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Justice.

If that does not constitute selling access to ministers or the Prime Minister, I do not know what does.

In October 2016, as I said, it was the Minister of Finance who was hosting a cocktail party at $1,500 a plate with wealthy people from Bay Street. The Minister of Finance is supposed to be an arbiter and show fairness to all Canadians, since he regulates Canada's financial sector. However, he had no problem taking money from some of the world's wealthiest people.

The activities of the Minister of Justice have also been the subject of much discussion. What exactly is the problem? How is the Minister of Justice in conflict? Certain lawyers hoping for judgeships attended the Minister of Justice's fundraising events, which were held not in her riding, but in various places across the country. Since the minister is the one who approves judicial appointments, there is clearly a conflict of interest there.

Certainly political parties need to hold fundraisers to generate revenue and to have a platform for candidates' ideas during election campaigns. The problem is the lack of transparency with respect to who attends, what they talk about, and access to ministers.

“Open and Accountable Government” states the following:

There should be no preferential access to government, or appearance of preferential access, accorded to individuals or organizations because they have made financial contributions...

That is exactly what we are talking about today.

Let me be clear. Very few of our constituents, such as the people of Salaberry-Suroît, can afford to spend $1,500 to attend a private event. When someone is prepared to do so, they obviously expect something in return. In the case at hand, it is the possibility of becoming known to a minister or getting one's name into an address book, which could help get an idea or a project off the ground. It goes without saying that there is always the possibility of putting a word in or making a recommendation to the right person.

The only way to make these events less secretive is to make them more transparent. To that end, we have to allow the media to publicly report on the goings on at these events and to name who was present. One might think that that is the goal of Bill C-50 . However, as my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley said, the Liberals invented the Laurier Club loophole.

In some cases, specifically during party conventions, people might donate the maximum amount of $1,500 to the Liberal Party, but the names and addresses of those donors do not have to be made public. Under Bill C-50, every donation of $200 or more will have to be recorded in a report sent within 30 days to Elections Canada, which could publish that report on the Internet. Again under Bill C-50, any fundraising activity that involves ministers, the Prime Minister, and party presidents has to be announced five days in advance, a measure we applaud. In fact, that is why we support this bill. However, that does not stop people from avoiding disclosure by buying a $1,500 ticket under the pretext of attending a Liberal Party convention, for example.

This is just another bill that allows the Liberals to have it both ways. They claim to want to improve transparency, but with a bit of game-playing and an open back door they can continue to provide Liberal Party donors with a bit of discretion to ensure that they do not have to disclose their names and addresses, except in a final report at the end of the year. They also get to keep organizing questionable events providing special access to the Prime Minister and ministers.

Is that loophole fair? Should it be removed? The NDP thinks so. We made this recommendation in committee and the Liberals rejected it outright. Every time we make a recommendation in committee, the Liberals take great delight in rejecting it. Why? If the recommendation improves a bill, if it improves transparency, if they are looking to be accountable to the public, and to be fairer, more equitable, and more ethical, why do they refuse to prohibit privileged access at conventions? No one knows. We suspect that the Liberals are not opposed to that revenue stream.

We are also asking that the Chief Electoral Officer be given investigative powers to ensure that political financing during elections is fair and equitable and that he has the public's trust. Once again, the Liberals rejected the NDP's recommendation out of hand. The NDP has made many recommendations in committee, but the Liberals have ignored them, even though that is part of the democratic process. What is the point of having committees if we cannot make sensible recommendations based on the advice of experts and common sense and if the Liberal majority, which refuses to listen to reason or to be open to other ideas, always prevails? What is the point of hearing from one witness after another, if in the end the government does not listen to any of their suggestions?

The Liberals are the champions of excessive consultation. They are doing the same thing to farmers. The Liberals keep saying that they want to know what to do to protect supply management and maintain family farms in Canada. They keep telling farmers that they are going to consult them and listen to them and that farmers are important, but when it comes right down to it, the Liberals are using farmers as a bargaining chip.

Getting back to the matter at hand and Bill C-50, it is the same thing. Once again, fair, sensible, and significant recommendations that would make Bill C-50 more than just a charade will not be acted upon because, unfortunately, the Liberals rejected them.

Bill C-50 still allows parties to hold fundraisers and makes it even harder to fight corruption. This is an opportunity to strengthen our democracy and prove to all Canadians that their elected representatives live up to moral and ethical standards, but that is not where the Liberals are going with this.

Clearly, the bill does not go far enough. There is an effort to be more transparent, but it still allows cash for access events to be held. Those kinds of events, which we oppose, have been making headlines for the past six months. They will stay in the headlines because certains parties will maintain this practice, as the Liberal Party is doing now.

I want to reiterate that this was a Liberal promise in 2015. This is a betrayal of the people who voted for the Prime Minister, who then decided to give up on the electoral reform that Canadians, especially young Canadians, so desperately want.

We are trying to get young people more involved in politics, not just as candidates, but more interested in political activities, in the debates, in social issues. We want young people to know what is going on, to propose ideas, and to become engaged.

There was one idea that really united young people, gave them hope, and might have won them over, but in the end, they were told “never mind”; the old system was too advantageous for the Liberals, and our young people were robbed of that hope.

What effect will that have? Youth voter turnout has declined by 30% over the past 30 years and no one seems to mind. The Liberals do not seem to think it is important to remedy the situation. They are in power. They have a majority. That means that they are going to continue to dash the hopes of these young people who believed them. These young people will be told to have faith because there may still be some authentic people who keep their promises and bring integrity to politics. Nevertheless, with every broken promise, it becomes harder and harder to show people that there can still be honest politicians worthy of our trust.

Electoral reform was not just a simple election promise. It was a commitment made by the Prime Minister to everyone. Again, we are nowhere near it. The Prime Minister has done a complete about-face and left people with their shattered dreams of a better world.

It is 2018 and there is nothing left of the promise that brought the Prime Minister to power. He made people believe that legislators could not agree. However, as I mentioned, 90% of the people did agree. The Conservative Party, the NDP, the Bloc Québécois, the Green Party, everyone agreed that there was a need for electoral reform and that proportional representation had to be part of the next system. That was not enough for the Liberals.

Clearly, a mixed member proportional system resonated with MPs, Canadians, and experts alike. It would have given a voice to every Canadian.

For all these reasons, I find that Bill C-50 is poorly thought out. It does provide some additional transparency, but there is so much more to be done. The Liberals could have gone further. We hope that they will listen to reason and will be open to the NDP's recommendations and those of the other parties and the experts.

Under the bill, any party that does not follow the rules would be fined $1,000. However, according to a former chief electoral officer, this fine would not deter parties from breaking the law. If donors can donate up to $1,500, the parties are still making money and still manage to fill their coffers. It is not hard for them to pay a $1,000 fine. That is ridiculous.

This really is a smokescreen. The Liberals are trying to restore their public image, but this is mostly fluff.

I think the Liberals should go back to the drawing board, improve this bill, and make it genuinely ethical and moral.

Canada Elections ActPrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2018 / 12:30 p.m.
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NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to hear my New Democratic colleague's views in this area. We all hear that our constituents, voters, Canadians want to see themselves reflected in the government, both in the seats that are here but also reflected in the outcomes of public consultations and public participation. I know that very active youth activists, especially, feel deeply betrayed by the government abandoning its promise, repeated 1,500 times, that it would make every vote count. It had broad public support, and the parliamentary committee made a lot of strong recommendations that the government totally ignored.

Bill C-50, for one, feels like a distraction from that broken promise on true democratic reform. As well, the Liberal government ignored the previous committee study, in the previous Parliament, that could have informed this work, and then also ignored the amendments that the NDP made at committee. It just did not even give them consideration.

How do these betrayals affect public support for the political process and for the democratic process? What is lost when those promises are broken?

Canada Elections ActPrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2018 / 12:40 p.m.
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Conservative

John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise in the House. It is particularly an honour to rise on a Friday afternoon, when so many of my friends and colleagues have joined us in the House today to listen to my speech. It is always a great honour to have so many people tuning in.

It reminds me a bit of when I was a lecturer at King's University College at the Western University when so many people would turn up for my lectures on Canadian public administration. They were always hanging on every word, until I had to wake them up, and then realized they may not have been paying as much attention as I had thought.

However, it is a pleasure to speak today to Bill C-50. As a member of the procedure and House affairs committee, I am well-acquainted with the legislation, having heard from a number of witnesses and participated in the examination of this bill.

Bill C-50 is really about legitimizing the Liberal cash for access events. So often the Liberals try to tell Canadians that they are different, that they are not like those Liberals of the past anymore. The days of the sponsorship scandal and the Gomery commission, that is not them anymore. Those days are gone. The days of being entitled to their entitlements, those days are gone, as this is a different Liberal Party. The Prime Minister told Canadians, hand over heart, that the Liberal Party was different.

The Prime Minister, when he came to office, told Canadians:

There should be no preferential access to government, or appearance of preferential access, accorded to individuals or organizations because they have made financial contributions to politicians and political parties

However, shortly after the government was elected, that is exactly what happened. We saw a string of cash for access events. High-profile Liberal politicians hosted events where donors gave significant amounts of money to the Liberal Party. In exchange, these donors got private one-on-one access with senior Liberal ministers, senior Liberals ministers who many of those donors could potentially have business with the government and could potentially have business with these same ministers. Most Canadians know this is wrong. Most Canadians know that this is not an appropriate way for ministers of the crown, those who serve our country to operate. However, with the Liberals, old habits die hard.

We should not be too surprised when the Liberals formed government that these types of cash for access events would happen. After all, the Liberals learned from the best. The Ottawa Liberals learned from their Ontario counterparts. The Ottawa Liberals learned from Kathleen Wynne, Dalton McGuinty, and their great success with fundraising through cash for access events.

I want to quote from a Globe and Mail article of July 6, 2016. The title is, “An inside look at cash-for-access Ontario Liberal fundraisers”. The article reads:

On the evening of March 2, 2015, Premier Kathleen Wynne gathered with eight guests who paid $10,000 each for exclusive face-time. Three months earlier, 22 donors spent $5,000 apiece to be entertained by Finance Minister Charles Sousa. Days later, eight people shelled out $5,000 each to attend a reception with then-energy minister Bob Chiarelli.

These were just three of more than 150 intimate cash-for-access fundraisers the Ontario Liberal Party held in Ms. Wynne's first three years in power. At the events, contributors paid thousands of dollars each to bend the ears of the Premier and members of her cabinet privately, typically over cocktails and dinner at five-star hotels or high-end restaurants.

Therefore, the Ottawa Liberals had a great road map from their friends in Ontario.

What happened once the Liberals formed government? They quickly started implementing cash for access events.

Chinese billionaires have been attending Liberal fundraisers, even though they are not allowed to donate because they are not Canadian citizens. One of these individuals, Zhang Bin, who is also a Communist Party apparatchik, attended a May 19, 2016, fundraiser at the Toronto home of Chinese Business Chamber of Canada chairperson Benson Wong, according to the report in The Globe and Mail. A few weeks later, Mr. Zhang and a business partner donated $200,000 to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, and $50,000 to build a statue of the current Prime Minister's father.

On November 7, 2016, B.C. multi-millionaire Miaofei Pan hosted a fundraiser at his West Vancouver mansion. At this event, which was of course a pay-to-play event, Chinese investment, seniors care, and real estate developments were certainly topics of discussion. This event took place while the federal government was reviewing a $1 billion bid by China's Anbang Insurance Group to buy one of British Columbia's largest retirement and nursing home chains.

In Toronto, another example of cash for access was an event with the justice minister that had a $1,500 paycheque. This was again an event with a minister who could potentially be having dealings with these same donors.

When the Liberal Party promised real change, this was certainly not what Canadians were expecting. Canadians know this is wrong. Canadians know this type of cash for access event is not right. In fact, a 2016 Nanos Research survey showed that more than six in 10 Canadians disapprove of this type of event. They disapprove of political parties holding fundraising events in which access is sold to Canadians.

One has to wonder why the Liberals are so eager to raise money through cash for access events. One reason is that they are failing to raise money through other means. Time and again we see the Conservative Party raising more than the Liberal Party. Why does the Conservative Party raise more than the Liberals? It does so because of hard-working Canadians who feel the Conservative Party reflects their views. It does so because the Conservatives have a leader who is committed to Canadians, average Canadians, and not selling access, as our friends across the way have been doing since the beginning of their time in office.

Let us go back to what this bill is trying to do. It is trying to legitimize what the Liberals have been doing. Rather than simply stopping cash for access, they would rather print new rules just to legitimize what they are doing. However, they did not have to. They already have rules in place in their mandate letters and in the “Open and Accountable Government” document.

I will quote from the Minister of Democratic Institutions' mandate letter, but the words are reflected in all the mandate letters of ministers. The Prime Minister wrote the following to his Minister of Democratic Institutions:

...you must uphold the highest standards of honesty and impartiality, and both the performance of your official duties and the arrangement of your private affairs should bear the closest public scrutiny. This is an obligation that is not fully discharged by simply acting within the law.

The Prime Minister's own letter to his ministers clearly dictates that simply following the letter of the law is not enough. They have to appear to be fully above board. This was not happening with the Liberals' cash for access fundraisers, so they brought in this piece of legislation to try to legitimize them.

The Liberal government introduced its “Open and Accountable Government” document with great fanfare. This would be the road map for a new era of transparency for these Liberals. The opening clearly states, “Open and Accountable Government sets out core principles regarding the roles and responsibilities of Ministers in Canada’s system of responsible parliamentary government.”

What are some of those requirements? What are some of those issues ministers and parliamentary secretaries ought to follow? Annex B, “Fundraising and Dealing with Lobbyists: Best Practices for Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries”, 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.

The best practices the Prime Minister lays out were not followed by his Liberals. They were not followed by his ministers, who felt the need to raise $1,500 from donors who could have direct dealings with not only the government as whole but also with its individual departments. Under “General Principles” in annex B, it states:

Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries must ensure that political fundraising activities or considerations do not affect, or appear to affect, the exercise of their official duties or the access of individuals or organizations to government.

It is not only following the letter of the law. It is the appearance. It is ensuring that all actions are above board and are able to have the closest degree of scrutiny to ensure that those who serve as ministers of the crown, those who serve our country in high office, are not tainted by even the appearance of conflict of interest.

I am reminded of a former minister in the Harper Conservative government. Once she became aware that there was a potential that those who lobbied and who worked with her department could be attending a fundraiser hosted by her riding association, that event was cancelled and all funds raised were immediately returned. Then we fast-forward to this government. Not only is the money not being returned, but the Liberals are doubling down on these events and they have introduced Bill C-50 to do so.

This bill has had great fanfare from pretty much only the Liberal Party. In testimony before the committee, almost all witnesses were very lukewarm in their excitement about this piece of legislation. They were very lukewarm in their response to an underwhelming bill being brought forward. It could be because this bill really does not do much at all.

In fact, the media knows this. Despite the advertising of these events, the way the media is actually treated at the events is far from ideal.

Let me read from an article in The Hill Times from June 21, 2017:

A Hill journalist is calling into question the Liberal Party’s promise to make its fundraising events more open and transparent, after party staff restricted media access at a June 19 Ottawa event for the party’s top donors.

Sure, the media can know about the events. They can even show up, as long as they stay in the corner and do not talk to anyone. The report goes on to state:

Reporters were ushered into one room for an RCMP sweep prior to speeches. They were told they were not allowed to mingle, but could talk to guests registering and entering the event in the foyer of the museum.

Even a Liberal Party candidate expressed concern about how the Liberals were treating journalists:

Allan Thompson, a journalism professor at Carleton University who ran for the Liberals in the riding of Huron–Bruce, Ont. during the 2015 election and attended Monday’s event, said in an interview afterward that he had sympathy for the reporters who weren’t allowed to mingle, especially because of his background as a former Hill reporter with The Toronto Star.

It is one thing to try to legitimize cash for access. It is another thing to blatantly use this as a ploy to keep the media away and to ensure that this is actually not opening up transparency at all, unlike the former Conservative government, which, on taking office in 2006, introduced Bill C-2, the strongest measures of accountability and transparency in our country. It was a bill that banned corporate and union donations, and put hard caps on the amount of money that could be donated to political parties. Unfortunately, the good work that was begun by the Conservative Party is now being used by the Liberals to initiate and to continue their cash for access events.

Of course, there are certain exceptions and exemptions to this bill. One such exemption is what I like to call the Laurier Club loophole. Yes, donor appreciation events are included under this legislation, except for when they occur at a party convention. A perfect example of this is the Liberal Party convention happening later this year. The Liberal Party's own website boasts about the benefits of being a Laurier Club member, which include invitations to “Laurier Club events across the country, hearing from leading voices on our Liberal team” and the “opportunity to meet a strong network of business and community leaders who share your commitment to Liberal values”.

The Liberal Party is selling access through its Laurier Club. In fact, earlier this week, the chief of staff to the Minister of National Defence sent a tweet that said, “if there was a time to join Laurier Club, now is the time”, of course, referring in advance to the Laurier Club event that would be held at the Liberal convention later this year. It is cash for access, but simply another way of doing it.

I find it interesting that when this legislation was tabled, we heard from certain witnesses in committee, and one of them was Canada's acting Chief Electoral Officer. It was interesting because the acting Chief Electoral Officer had a number of suggested amendments to this piece of legislation. Why should the Chief Electoral Officer have to encourage a committee to introduce amendments? Could it be that the Liberal government did not actually consult the Chief Electoral Officer before introducing this piece of legislation, and instead, had to rely on the committee to review to take into account some of his recommendations?

Let us talk about penalties in this act. Clause 11 of the bill states:

Section 500 of the Act is amended by adding the following after subsection (1):

Punishment — strict liability offences

(1.1) Every person who is guilty of an offence under section 497.01 is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than $1,000.

That is one aspect of it. The other aspect is found in proposed section 384.4, which refers to the return of contributions. I find it interesting with these Liberals that if, in this situation, an event is held that does not comply with the new rules they are putting in place, the money has to be repaid, but what about an all-expense paid trip to the Aga Khan's private island? What about a trip in which the Ethics Commissioner found that the Prime Minister had violated the ethics laws on four separate occasions? What about that situation?

No, these Liberals feel there is no need to repay money in that situation. There is no need for the Prime Minister to pay back $200,000-plus that was expensed to Canadian taxpayers for an illegal and ethically challenged trip that the Prime Minister himself took. No, the Prime Minister does not feel the need to pay that back, because what is good for the goose is not good for the gander. This behaviour, by an elected member of the House, let alone the Prime Minister of this country, is unacceptable.

The bill is clear in what it intends to do. It intends to do nothing more than legitimize the cash for access schemes of the Liberal Party of Canada. Old habits die hard and with these Liberals, it is the same old Liberal Party.

Canada Elections ActPrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2018 / 1 p.m.
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NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like the thank the member for Perth—Wellington for his speech on Bill C-50, which is a bill, as he described, that arose because of the problem around the Liberal cash for access fundraisers.

I wonder if the member could comment on what the average Canadian might want the government to do to fix this problem. If we asked a reasonable person on the street, would they feel a whole lot better about these things if they had been invited? Would they feel a whole lot better if they found out a month from now who was there rather than a year from now? These people cannot afford $1,500 to get this access.

Should the government make it illegal to have cash for access fundraisers? I wonder if the member could elaborate on that.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2018 / 3:20 p.m.
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Burlington Ontario

Liberal

Karina Gould LiberalMinister of Democratic Institutions

moved that Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing), be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-50. This bill would amend the Canada Elections Act to create an unprecedented level of openness and transparency for political fundraising events.

Political parties are made up of Canadians from across the country who have different experiences and points of view. Political parties help the public learn more about their leaders and their politicians, as well as their policies and positions of principle. Political parties appoint and train candidates and volunteers, support them before and during elections, and coordinate the logistics for national election campaigns.

Unlike many organizations with mandates that are just as broad and vital, political parties must do their own fundraising to support almost all their activities. Donations pay for all activities, from daily operations to a national election campaign.

The system works. Canadians donate because they believe in our political parties, what they stand for, who leads them, and the candidates they empower to run for office.

A strict regime is in place to ensure fairness in this system. Existing regulations regarding political fundraising in Canada are among the strongest in the world. The existing regulations include strict spending limits, a cap on annual donations, and a ban on corporate and union donations.

Caps on donations have existed for 44 years in Canada, and governments, both Liberal and Conservative, have worked to strengthen our political financing system over this period of time. Bill C-50 would do just that. It would add an additional layer of openness and transparency in political fundraising.

Our government has stated that we must raise the bar for transparency, accountability, and the integrity of our public institutions and the democratic process. We also said loud and clear that we want to encourage Canadians to fully participate in our democracy. It is this last objective that I have been focusing on since the Prime Minister asked me to serve as the Minister of Democratic Institutions one year ago.

Our government has moved on several fronts to ensure a more open and inclusive democracy. We have changed the way we appoint senators and judges. More women have been appointed through our public appointments process. We are making elections more accessible and inclusive. We are taking steps to protect our democracy from cyber-threats and foreign interference. We take these actions seriously, because we know how deeply Canadians value and cherish our democracy.

Former Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci said:

Political parties provide individual citizens with an opportunity to express an opinion on the policy and functioning of government.

Section 3 of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees Canadians the right to vote. This article and the right to freedom of association are intimately connected. Canadian citizens and permanent residents also have the right to donate to a political party of their choice.

Many Canadians make financial contributions to election campaigns or participate in political fundraisers, since that is a way for them to actively participate in our democracy. It is also an important way for people to express their democratic will. We will continue to protect the right of all Canadians to provide financial support to the political party of their choice.

Canadians have been loud and clear. They want to know more about who funds political activities in Canada. Bill C-50 would shine a light on who is attending political fundraisers, where and when these events are taking place, and the amount required to attend them.

This bill would ensure that more information than ever before about political fundraisers was shared with the media and the public. This transparency would allow Canadians to continue to have confidence in our democracy, confidence that they could support a party with which they shared values, ideals, and policy positions and confidence that they, too, could actively participate, should they so choose.

Our laws, when it comes to political financing, are already quite strict in this regard. Bill C-50 would build on these existing strict laws. Specifically, it would see the following rules put in place. First, details about fundraising events involving the Prime Minister, cabinet ministers, party leaders, and leadership contestants of parties with a seat in the House of Commons, when over $200 per person was necessary to participate at the event, would now be required to be made public. Second, these events would be required to be advertised on political parties' websites at least five days before they took place, and political parties would be required to report a list of attendees to Elections Canada within 30 days after the event.

The bill would also make technical amendments, which would bring leadership and nomination campaign expenses in line with the current regime for candidates.

This bill takes into account certain privacy considerations with regard to the disclosure of the names of minors, volunteers, event staff, journalists, and support staff for people with disabilities or for any minister or party leader who participates in the event.

I would like to highlight some quotes from acting Chief Electoral Officer Stéphane Perrault, who said the following at a committee appearance on the subject:

I note that the bill offers a calibrated approach. Not all parties will be subject to the new requirements and I believe that is a good thing. Similarly, the rules will not apply to all fundraising activities, but only those for which a minimum amount is charged to attend and where key decision-makers are also present.

Later in his testimony, he elaborated, saying:

Generally speaking, the bill increases the transparency of political fundraising, which is one of the main goals of the Canada Elections Act. It does so without imposing an unnecessary burden on the smaller parties that are not represented in the House of Commons or for fundraising events that do not involve key decision-makers.

It is clear from Mr. Perrault's testimony at committee that he feels that Bill C-50 would accomplish the goal outlined in my mandate letter to “significantly enhance transparency for the public at large and media in the political fundraising system for Cabinet members, party leaders and leadership candidates.”

I believe that my hon. colleagues, like our government, want to provide Canadians with more information about political fundraising activities.

If Bill C-50 is passed, it will keep the government's promise to significantly enhance transparency in Canada's political fundraising system for both the public and the media. By improving transparency, we will also help build Canadians' trust in the political system. This is one of many measures that we are taking to improve, strengthen, and protect our democratic institutions.

I am proud to speak to this bill at third reading, as I strongly believe that it is one more step in our efforts to improve our political financing system, one that would strengthen the confidence Canadians have in how parties raise money through events.

I would like to close my remarks by thanking the officials in my department for their hard work in helping to put this bill together, the members of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs for their diligent study of this bill, and the members of this place for their support in getting this bill to the next step in the parliamentary process.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2018 / 3:35 p.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I could be wrong, but I understand the Minister of Democratic Institutions had some experience and expertise in democratic reform and looking at different kinds of electoral systems prior to getting into politics.

One of the things that has struck me about Bill C-50 is its lack of ambition in changing the landscape of Canadian elections. We are doing some tinkering at the margins with respect to transparency around political financing reform. However, prior to getting into politics, had she known she would have the opportunity to reform the Canadian electoral system, whether political financing or the way we vote, is this the extent of her ambition for changing Canada's electoral laws? If it is not, what does she think we should do in addition to this and why is it not in the bill?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2018 / 3:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Madam Speaker, the Prime Minister of Canada, the chairman of cabinet, the head of government is a very powerful position, one that only 23 people in the history of our country have had the distinct privilege of holding. While constitutionally this position serves at the pleasure of Her Majesty, it is Canadians who the Prime Minister ultimately is to serve.

Therefore, we have to ask ourselves, when we have newspaper headlines like, “[Prime Minister] defends cash-for-access fundraising”, or articles that state, “Prime Minister...says financial donation limits in federal politics are too low for wealthy donors to buy influence with his cabinet ministers”, are Canadians really being well-served and, specifically, are they being well-served by this legislation?

Today, as we debate Bill C-50, those are the questions we have to answer. Perhaps this headline speaks to that, “Liberals’ fundraising bill fails to quell cash-for-access charges.”

Let us be perfectly clear why the Liberals introduced the legislation. It was because they got caught with their hands in the cookie jar, and now they are trying to blame the cookie jar.

Bill C-50 came to fruition because the Liberal Party was selling cash for access to the Prime Minister at events where tickets cost up to $1,525 a person. What is worse, in the Prime Minister's own “Open and Accountable Government” guide, 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.

The document goes on further to state:

There should be no preferential access to government, or appearance of preferential access, accorded to individuals or organizations because they have made financial contributions to politicians and political parties.

One wonders if Orwell's 1984 Ministry of Truth may have produced that document, given the actions we have seen from the Liberal members and the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister simply got caught for breaking the very ethics guidelines that he himself created. Now we get this legislation as a mandate, as an attempt to try to fix this self-inflicted Liberal wound.

Even after introducing Bill C-50 and promising to abide by these new rules, the June 19, 2017, Liberal fundraising event took place. This event featured the Prime Minister speaking at a Liberal so-called donor appreciation night for Laurier Club members. In order to join such a club, members must donate at least $1,500 annually to be a member. Just to get in the door, one needs to donate $1,500 to see the Prime Minister speak.

This is after the Liberals promised to abide by the rules of Bill C-50, the legislation they had just introduced, and promised to be open to the media. However, instead, the following took place. Liberal Party staff restricted media access to Ottawa bureau chief at the Huffington Post, Althia Raj, as well as to Joan Bryden from the Canadian Press. Then, after a lot of representations on its own behalf, the media was actually allowed inside, cordoned off into one little area, and not allowed to mingle with any of the guests. Giuseppe Valiante, a Montreal reporter with the Canadian Press, was told to leave after the Prime Minister gave his speech.

Therefore, it is not quite clear why the Liberal government bothers to put these so-called rules in place when it is quite evident it just intends to break them anyway.

Legislation is not supposed to be about a PR exercise, legislating is not about a pair of the Prime Minister's socks that BuzzFeed can write a kitschy article about. Legislation is supposed to be about making good policy that changes Canada for the better.

Legislation should not be a way for the PMO to try to spin out of the bad headlines the Prime Minister created through his bad behaviour. Some of those bad headlines include, from the National Post, “Ethics watchdog says [Prime Minister] vacation on private island broke conflict rules”; from CTV, “[Prime Minister] broke ethics rules, watchdog finds”; and from the Toronto Star, “[Prime Minister] violated conflict-of-interest rules with vacation to Aga Khan's island: ethics commissioner”. It is kind of like a greatest hits album for the Prime Minister, but it is not one he should be proud of.

In 2006, when our previous Conservative government came to power, we came in to clean up the corruption culture, the corruption that had taken hold in Ottawa after 13 years of Liberal rule. One of our government's top priorities then was passing the Federal Accountability Act. In that legislation, our Conservative government banned all corporate and union donations to political parties. If political parties wanted the ability to be heard and operate, they would be forced to go to ordinary Canadians on main street and make their case. That is a promise Canadians were and are on board with.

Clearly, that is not a concern for the Liberal Party or for the Prime Minister. Regular Canadians do not have billionaire friends who invite them to vacation on private islands. Regular Canadians usually cannot afford $1,500 for the privilege of bending the Prime Minister's ear. After all, the Prime Minister should be equally accessible to all Canadians. However, we know that is not the case.

If this is something the Prime Minister actually believes in, then he should do the right thing and stop attending cash for access fundraisers. The ethical issue surrounding cash for access fundraisers is not solved because the event is apparently open to the public. At the end of the day, is the event really open to the public? Does publishing the list of attendees on some website a month and a half later make the event transparent? No, it certainly does not. For the Liberal government, it is apparent that it is “do as I say and not as I do”. Apparently, the Prime Minister thinks the law does not apply to him.

If the Liberals really wanted to end these sorts of practices, all they had to do was simply follow their own guidelines to stop attending cash for access fundraisers. It is really quite simple. If one is the justice minister, this means not attending the fundraiser with lawyers who are lobbying the government. If one is the parliamentary secretary who has been tasked with coming up with a plan for marijuana legalization, do not attend fundraisers with representatives from the cannabis industry, and if one is the Prime Minister, do not attend fundraisers with stakeholders who regularly and actively conduct business with the government. Those are very simple measures that even the Liberal Party should be able to follow, if it cared to bother following the rules.

Ethics is not a tricky thing, but I guess for a Prime Minister who views his role as merely ceremonial, there is really no reason for him to be worried about a conflict of interest. I have bad news for him. The office of the Prime Minister is not ceremonial. It requires more than selfies and signing autographs. As the head of cabinet and the head of government, the Prime Minister should go above and beyond what is stated in the law. He should follow his own guidelines.

The Prime Minister is most certainly not above the law, no matter how much he thinks he is, so he should lead by example. As public figures, we are all expected to lead by example. The Prime Minister should understand that, but it appears that neither he nor his government have plans to stop this obvious conflict of interest.

If someone does not have $1,500 to pay for access to a fundraiser, apparently that person's opinion does not matter to the Prime Minister, and that is simply not right. We are talking about the Prime Minister and his cabinet, the people who make our laws, create regulations, and raise our taxes. Is it right that they attend partisan fundraisers where they are being actively lobbied? How does the entire Liberal government not see that this is a serious conflict of interest?

I know the answer to that one. It is a classic case of Liberal arrogance seeping in yet again, the same type of arrogance that led to the sponsorship scandal. How quickly the Liberals forget that they were swept out of power previously during the Chrétien and Martin days because Canadians were simply tired of their arrogance and their unethical dealings. Now, after just two years as government, the Liberals have piled up a whole slew of ethical breaches already.

The finance minister introduced a bill that would rewrite pension laws while he still held on to a million shares of Morneau Shepell, a company that could benefit from these new laws. That led to an investigation by the ethics commissioner.

The Liberal's former Calgary minister campaigned with his father for a school board seat while using House of Commons resources. That also led to an investigation by the ethics commissioner.

Who can forget about the private island vacation that the Prime Minister took on an island of a billionaire who lobbies the government? That led to him making history as the first prime minister to have been found guilty of breaking the law, not once, not twice, not three times, but four times.

It is no wonder the Liberals have voted down the opposition's efforts to have the Prime Minister appear in front of the ethics committee to answer for his actions. He has even refused to answer the opposition's questions in question period in the House of Commons about these serious ethical breaches. Instead he leaves the government House leader to answer for him, for the mess that he made, while he sits there and signs autographs.

This is why it is so hard to take the Prime Minister and his government seriously when they claim that Bill C-50 would make political parties more accountable. The truth is it will not.

The barbershop owner, the mechanic, and the farmer in our ridings do not have time to go on the Internet to keep up with the fundraising activities of the Liberal Party. They rely on the Prime Minister and his cabinet having the moral integrity not to sell access to themselves to the highest bidder.

Fundraising is a perfectly normal activity for politicians and political parties. Asking Canadians to support us and our party's vision and our ideas is part of how democracy works. Political parties take their ideas to the people and if the people like them enough, they chip in a bit of money to help the message get spread. Selling government access for donations to a political party is not a part of being in a democracy. Maybe it happens in countries with basic dictatorships, which the Prime Minister admires so much. I do not know. Maybe that is where he came up with the idea that this was okay. I can tell him that it is not right and it is certainly not ethical.

As politicians we are expected to go above and beyond. I challenge the Prime Minister and his government to do just that. Stop attending cash for access fundraisers and all of these problems will be gone. No more publicity stunts. It is time to take real action and to make real change, not just lip service.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2018 / 4:05 p.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise at third reading of Bill C-50 to offer some thoughts about the bill and about the issue of electoral reform, whether it is reforming finance, reforming the way we vote, or more generally.

I think it is important to start off with some reflections on why anyone listening at home might care about this debate, because if members looked at the bill, they would see it would not do a lot. It would add some measure of transparency to political fundraising events held by members of government in the formal sense, such as cabinet ministers, the prime minister, and party leaders.

Those Canadians who are on the Elections Canada website all the time and are interested in poring over these things, or those who watch political news shows with analysts who are more familiar with the names and data would benefit from understanding better some of the relationships around government, and understanding those things is not a bad thing. It is helpful to have more of that information in the public domain. However, I do not think that a lot of Canadians would think that Bill C-50 would make a big difference for them personally in terms of the way they relate to the political system.

The way a lot of Canadians relate to the political system is with a fair bit cynicism. They feel that it does not really matter whom they vote for as the issues of the day do not really get addressed. If they are going to see any kind of reform, it has to be big enough and bold enough to help them feel that their participation, even if it is only voting once every four years, is going to start to make them feel that it makes more of a difference than they feel that it does now.

I would say to a lot of Canadians that voting makes more of a difference than they know. They may not feel that it makes much of a difference, but it can make a lot more of a difference than they know. However, I would also forgive them for not feeling that way, particularly in light of a government that ran on a slogan of real change but is largely defending the status quo. We can see that with the bill before us.

The bill is not really about fundamentally changing the Canadian political system at all. A lot of Canadians who voted, and many more who do not ever bother to vote, would look at this and think that our political system is not working for them. They feel that it is hard for them to have their voice heard, and tinkering around the edges does not fix that.

A lot of Canadians voted for a government that promised real change, and not just real change generally, or real change on this or that, but it promised real change specifically on electoral reform. The big promise was that 2015 would be the last election fought under the first past the post system. Bill C-50 is really a status quo bill. It would not provide anything near the level of change that was promised in terms of electoral reform.

To the extent that I think all of us in this chamber have a stake in caring about how Canadians feel about the state of their democracy, and to the extent that some real change is required in order to get many Canadians who feel disaffected and disinterested in Canadian politics back to the table or to the table for the first time, we should be concerned that the bill, which was an opportunity for the Liberal Party and the government to present its vision on how we were going to bring some meaningful change to Canadian electoral politics, really is saying to let us keep on with the status quo.

Around 40% of Canadians do not find it is worth showing up to vote, and many feel that the system is, in some important way, broken. This is not a good status quo. It is not a status quo that the Liberals promised to defend in the last election. They said they were going to change it. They said that they heard that message, and that they were onside with Canadians who felt that way, and a reason to vote for them was that they understood that and they were going to bring meaningful reform.

When it comes to publishing the details of a fundraising event five days in advance, the lack of that information is not what has been driving Canadians away from the political process progressively more and more over the last 30 to 40 years. It was not that they did not get the five-day notice on the fundraiser. It was not that it did not apply to the leaders of political parties that are not currently in government. That is not what Canadians were calling for when they said that they wanted meaningful change in order to feel that the political process was working for them. However, that is all that is offered in the bill. That is fine. It is a step in the right direction. I do not have a problem supporting it. It is not that it is a bad measure because it is not enough, but it really does not meet the expectation that was set in the minds of Canadian voters for improving the electoral system.

Where are we four years from now regardless of who is elected as government in the next election? Well, we are in the same bloody place we were over two years ago when Canadians were dissatisfied and electoral reform was an election issue. How is it that we went through a whole election where that was a key election issue and there were key promises made on the part of the now governing party, and we end up in the same place with the same complaints and the same feelings of dissatisfaction? That is the problem with the bill. It is not a reason not to vote for it, but it is a real problem with the bill and it is a problem for Canadians who were rightly fed up with the status quo.

To some extent this does not just defend the status quo, but it actually legitimizes some of the worst aspects of the status quo that the Liberals have professionalized to an extent that no one foresaw or expected in terms of cash for access fundraising. Politicians of all stripes have always done fundraising and members of the governing party have always done fundraising. However, it was not until this Parliament that it became and issue. Believe me, it is not because we had more charitable opposition parties in former Parliaments that cash for access was not an issue; it is because there was not the same evidence of the professionalization by government of selling access to their ministers.

That is why we did not hear about the term “cash for access” even under the Harper Conservatives. It was not because there was a benevolent opposition party that was willing to let the Conservatives get away with that. Believe me, if they had been doing that, the NDP as the official opposition would have been calling attention to it and the Liberals as the third party would have been calling attention to it too. I disagree with my Conservative colleagues on many things, but I am not going to make up that they were doing something that they were not doing.

Cash for access was not a theme of the Canadian political discourse until these particular Liberals came to power. There is a reason for it. Nobody was as organized in seeking out members of the Canadian business community or different communities that would have an interest in getting the ear of a minister until the current government was elected and members made a science of it. They recruited those people and offered them special time in smaller venues at a high price in order to get the ear of ministers. That is wrong. I do not care what the law says, that is wrong.

To be going through the motions of passing a bill on electoral financing and fundraising and not address that issue, not by making that practice, which is a repugnant practice, more transparent is not what we need to do. It is a practice we need to put an end to. To the extent that we do not see any sign from the government benches that the repugnant practice of selling access to ministers is not going to end as a result of Bill C-50, there are serious problems with the bill.

It is a great step in the right direction. We could pass a law that says anytime we meet someone in the grocery store we should smile at them. That would make the world a better place. It would make everyone feel good. It would be a step in the right direction, but it would not solve a lot of the real problems that are facing Canadians today.

The bill does not do that and it does not solve the real problems that Canadians are facing today with respect to how they feel about their own political system. At the very least, it should do that. We do not expect the bill to fix the problems with pensions in Canada. We do not expect it to fix the problems with health care, but surely we could have expected that it would fix some of the problems that Canadians experience in the way they relate to their politics.

I am concerned that the government sees the passage of this bill as legitimizing a new practice in Canadian politics in terms of the level of sophistication of going out and selling access to ministers based on interests that donors have in the ministers' portfolio area. The government's defence of this practice does not hold up at all. It says that this is not so bad because the Prime Minister gets out there and does town halls. He talks to people, and if they write him a letter he will get back to them.

It is an offence to the intelligence of Canadians to pretend that the little old lady who comes to a town hall with 3,000 people and has to sit in the back because she got there by Handi-Transit and gets to wave at the Prime Minister is the same as a high-powered corporative executive who pays $1,500 to go to a small dinner in somebody's condo, residence, or whatever, to talk about whatever he or she is going to talk about. This bill does not give us any more insight into what is talked about at those events, what is said or not said.

To compare those two scenarios and expect Canadians to believe that they are comparable is just ridiculous. It is totally ridiculous, and kind of offensive. It offends me, and I think it probably offends a lot of Canadians. “When I sign up to go to a town hall,” says Joe Canadian, “I get it that I am not going to get the kind of experience that a high-powered corporate exec is getting when he pays $1,500 to go meet the Prime Minister in a mansion somewhere. I get that it is not the same thing.” However, the Liberals are trying to say that it is the same thing. Canadians have to ask themselves whether they want people in government who think they are that stupid. This is a legitimate question for Canadians to be asking themselves.

That is the issue as I see it. We have a really repugnant practice of cash for access. We have a bit of window dressing here to try to make it seem a little better, maybe kind of okay. I do not think it accomplishes that at all. However, in the absence of real reform, it is not worth turning down.

What a missed opportunity this is. The Liberals actually built a mandate for meaningful reform. They said they were not a status quo party and wanted change. Instead of talking about the quality of this window dressing and the colour of the drapes, we could be talking about what kind of new voting system we are going to have.

We could be talking about other measures that would have done a lot for Canadian democracy. Some measures we have talked about, because they have been presented in the form of various private members' bills. I am thinking particularly of my colleague from Burnaby, who had a great idea. We talked a bit about how political parties are already subsidized publicly in two ways.

One is that when these high-powered corporate execs buy that $1,500 ticket, Canadian taxpayers actually reimburse them almost half the cost of the ticket. There is something particularly perverse about that. Corporate execs, who can pay the $1,500 with the money in their pocket, are able to climb over ordinary Canadians, who also want the ear of the government to get special attention, and then actually have those same ordinary Canadians pay them back about half the cost of the special access they are using to steamroll Canadians. One can pick any issue, whether it is big pharma and jacking up drug prices, or energy companies that want to build a pipeline through this community or that community and want the ear of the government instead of having to go to the communities to get their permission. There is something perverse about the fact that those same people who are the victims of those bad policy decisions are being made to pay for the corporate executives' access to those dinners.

That is one way in which Canadians already subsidize political parties. There is another way, in that the costs that Canadian political parties incur during an election are rebated, in part, by taxpayers as well. Therefore, we already have different forms of subsidy. I am trying not to go off on a tangent too much.

It is completely legitimate to talk about a per-vote subsidy, and maybe even look at cancelling some of those other subsidies in order to pay that money. Allocating already existing public subsidies on the basis of the parties that people actually want to support makes far more sense than rewarding certain parties for having donors who have more money to give, and then forcing all taxpayers across the country to rebate those donors simply because they are the ones with more money in the first place. There is something perverse about that, too.

However, I will digress on that point. The point I want to make comes back to the excellent point made by my colleague from Burnaby. Because we are rebating a certain portion of the costs to political parties for what they spend during an election, we could use that as a tool in order to encourage political parties to nominate more female candidates so we can start to correct the serious gender deficit we have in the House of Commons. We have 26% or 27% women in the House of Commons, even though women make up more than 50% of the Canadian population. That is a great idea. That is the kind of bold thinking that might actually do something to change the status quo of Canadian politics. That would be in keeping with the kinds of promises the Liberals made in the last election, when they said that they would not be defenders of the status quo.

That is not what we see in the bill. The bill is simply a reimagining and reinstituting of the status quo. We have heard good ideas about how to really increase the participation of women in Canadian politics, and not just to encourage them more. That is good too, and it is something that also needs to happen, but it ignores the fact that there are a lot of systemic barriers in the way of women participating in politics. It is not just about calling up our female friends more to see if we can get them to run. We also have to take more concrete measures.

Earlier this week, I was listening to the member for Burnaby South speak to this bill. He said that Canada has slid down to 65th in the world for participation of women in its House of Commons. That is not a very impressive number. It is certainly not an impressive number for a government that styles itself as a feminist government and says it is very committed to increasing the participation of women in politics.

We know that the Liberal Party has assured its incumbents of being able to run again, and it has a disproportionately small number of women in its caucus. This means that if the Liberal Party is successful in the next election, in re-electing most of its members who are here, that would be a bad day for women, because there are not a lot of women, proportionately, in the Liberal caucus.

There are no real policy ideas coming from those benches to address those issues in any real way. It has been unfortunate that when we have had real ideas come forward, they have been quashed. Who quashes new ideas like that?

They could be ideas that came out of an all-party committee on electoral reform, which many pundits predicted would not be able to come to a majority opinion on how to proceed with electoral reform, but it did. It recommended a referendum on proportional representation. That idea got quashed, even though it took many people across many different political fault lines working together to make it happen.

Here we have a great idea on how to concretely take a measure that would not cost Canadian taxpayers any money. In fact, it would save them money, because the way it was going to work was through the rebate I was talking about. Parties that did not run a slate with gender parity across the country would have their rebate reduced by a proportionate amount. That would actually save Canadian taxpayers money and incentivize political parties to get more women involved in politics at the same time.

If we want to talk about policy innovation and good ideas, that is a good one. A lot of good ideas we talk about that would move us in the right direction do cost money. That is money worth spending, in many cases. I do not apologize for that. However, this is one that is actually more likely to save Canadian taxpayers money, and certainly would not cost them any more. We saw it quashed. Who would quash those things? Only a party and a government that, frankly, are satisfied with the status quo would do that. Where this leaves us is largely with the status quo. We have changed the drapes, but the house is the same.

We need to do a heck of a lot better if we are going to address the real democratic deficit in Canada. I look forward to passing this bill and then moving on to those real questions.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2018 / 4:30 p.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, the member is quite right. There are two roots to that cynicism. One is that what we are ultimately getting out of the government, certainly on the electoral reform issue but actually on a lot of other issues, is the defence of the status quo. That is not at all consistent with the main message of the Liberal campaign, which was change, real change, in fact.

If the Liberals promised real change and the upshot of a lot of their measures, and that is certainly the case here with Bill C-50 and it is the case on the electoral reform file, is a strong defence of the status quo, then people are going to feel disappointed and betrayed. I do not blame people for feeling that way with respect to the paucity of ambition of this bill and the total lack of movement on the larger electoral reform file.

The second root of the cynicism comes from the idea that those guys were bad and we are better so anything we do is okay. We see that in a lot of ways. We see that in the Prime Minister's remarks about electoral reform. We needed electoral reform when it was Stephen Harper, but now that it is him, we do not need to change it. The system is working again. The job of the system is to elect Liberals and, hallelujah, the good old days are back and we do not have to worry about making any changes.

We see it in the Prime Minister's behaviour with respect to being found to have broken the law on conflict of interest, and thinking that it is okay that there are no consequences for that. We see it from government ministers who are unapologetic about their cash for access fundraising and do not think it needs to change. In fact, the Liberals can pass a bill that kind of tweaks at the edges of some of the rules of this nefarious thing they are doing, and they think that is okay.

That is where cynicism lives and grows. It is unfortunate to see it all day, every day, in this place.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2018 / 4:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Surrey—Newton.

It is a pleasure to rise today to speak to this important piece of legislation that the government has brought forward, Bill C-50, which would make political fundraising events more open and transparent for Canadians and enhance the trust and confidence in our democratic institutions. Transparency is so important because the public deserves to know what its elected representatives are doing, what information lies at the root of government decisions, and how influence is exerted in the government. Transparency is in the best interests of Canadian democracy and is much needed in our political financing process.

The previous government simply did not understand the importance of transparency. It was a government often criticized for its pervasive secrecy and categorized as one of the worst in history regarding access to information. In fact, reports from the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression gave the previous government the lowest possible grade on transparency for a number of years running. Liberals were elected on a promise to restore a sense of trust in our democracy. At the heart of this is a simple idea: transparent government is good government. Through Bill C-50, our Liberal government will establish the openness and transparency that political financing has been needing for so long.

It is important to recognize that fundraising is a significant part of political participation and democratic expression. Fundraising is a way for Canadians to show support for a party with which it shares values, ideals, and policies. Therefore, it is of vital importance that we get these processes right.

Canada already has one of the most robust systems in the world for political fundraising. This system includes strict spending limits, a cap on annual donations, and the banning of corporate and union donations. At a national level, Canadian citizens and permanent residents can contribute a maximum of $1,550 annually to a registered party. Contributions to federal political parties are reported to Elections Canada and donations of more than $200 are published online, including the contributor's name and address.

At present, Canada is the sixth best democracy in the world, according to the Democracy Index from The Economist's intelligence unit, with a score of 9.1 out of 10. Canada ranks particularly high on the process of financing political parties with a score of 9.6 out of 10. It is evident that our democratic system is strong, but the performance of our system is due to the constant work of assessment, evaluation, and improvement.

Our democratic institutions are the pillars upon which our democracy is built. As our society continues to evolve, these systems need be strengthened and improved. Measures within Bill C-50 are a step in the right direction. These measures ensure our system continues to evolve while furthering the principles of political participation and democratic expression.

Bill C-50 would improve the fundraising process and simplify the processes of accountability. In front of committee, the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner mentioned her support for the direction of this proposed legislation with the following. First, this piece of legislation, via increased transparency, would also make it easier for her office to investigate complaints. Second, the ease of access to the names and addresses of attendees at fundraising events would be useful if her office were to look into an allegation that a stakeholder who attended such an event subsequently received a benefit from a minister or a party leader. Third, the bill would remove secrecy surrounding fundraising events.

It is these types of results that demonstrate our government's commitment to a fair, transparent process. These types of measures are how we seek to restore a sense of trust in our democracy. We recognize that these are important steps in improving the system and, as this government has said time and time again, we will work tirelessly with opposition members, the Ethics Commissioner, and other experts in making sure we get this right.

In examining this bill, Dr. Leslie Seidle, a leading scholar in this field, has gone on to say that transparency is a vital principle of our political financing system. In fact, for those who do not know, political financing regulations in Canada were created under the 1974 Election Expenses Act, which established a regime for the financing of federal elections in Canada. Seidle explains that since 1974 two critical developments have occurred to strengthen transparency in federal political financing. First was the extension of reporting requirements beyond parties and candidates to other entities such as constituency associations, leadership contestants, nomination contestants, and third parties. This was an amendment of the Election Expenses Act of 1974, and took place in the eighties.

The second development mentioned by Seidle took place in 2004. Since 2004, political parties must report on their contributions at the end of every three-month period rather than annually. According to Mr. Seidle, Bill C-50 fits into these two critical junctures as a third development, enhancing further transparency to our political financing system.

The reason I mention this is that it was under a Liberal government that the Election Expenses Act of 1974 was crafted. It was under a Liberal government that reporting requirements were extended. It was also under a Liberal government that enhanced transparency over political party contributions were established. It is now again under a Liberal government that transparency over political financing is further being strengthened.

Looking back in history, it is very easy to identify the pattern. Not a single Conservative government has enacted legislation to strengthen transparency in political financing. Not only have the Conservatives chosen to disregard this file time and time again, the Conservatives have chosen to omit making improvements to our democracy. The Conservatives are now refusing legislation that enhances public scrutiny.

I wonder why the Conservatives would continue to oppose strengthening transparency in our political financing system. Even though stakeholders such as the Ethics Commissioner clearly indicate that Bill C-50 is good legislation moving forward, the official opposition continues to reject it. It does not make any sense that the Conservatives are unwilling to support sound legislation that promotes transparency. It does not make sense that the Conservatives object to transparency, unless of course they have something to hide. Under the bill, measures would also apply to fundraising events held by party leaders, and in this case, as I have mentioned many times in the House, the Conservative leader specifically.

We know the Conservative leader, the leader of the official opposition, has refused to disclose details of his own private events in the past. However, moving forward under this legislation, he, along with all parties, would have to disclose these events. No longer would the leader of the Conservatives be able to hide who his donors are and who influences his agenda.

In sum, I am strongly supportive of Bill C-50 because it reflects the importance of transparency in democratic rule. Bill C-50 brings forth enhanced transparency to the political fundraising process. These changes are a step in the right direction. They complement and strengthen our democracy, and they contribute to fairness within the political fundraising system.

I encourage all members of the House to vote in support of Bill C-50. Again, our party understands that when we bolster transparency, democracy wins.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2018 / 4:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Surrey—Newton, BC

Madam Speaker, first of all, I would like to thank the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands for splitting his time with me and for the very passionate speech he made.

I rise today to speak to Bill C-50, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act, political financing. Under the leadership of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Democratic Institutions, we have taken concrete action to make the government more open so that Canadians can fully understand what their government is doing. A clear way to do this is to make political fundraising more transparent.

I am proud to say that Canada has been a leader in this since the former prime minister, the right hon. Jean Chrétien, banned corporate and union donations to political parties. Today Canada's strong fundraising and election laws are an example throughout the world, as foreign countries regularly visit our country to understand our system and learn from it.

We have one of the most robust systems in the world, which includes strict spending limits, a cap on annual donations, and a ban on corporate and union donations. Canadian citizens and permanent residents can contribute a maximum of $1,550 every year to a registered federal party. This is among the lowest in the democratic world. In fact, many other democratic countries have no limit at all.

These laws prevent big money from influencing our elections and policies and provide transparency, because any donation above $200 is published online with the information about who donated it. It is important for our democracy that the voice of every Canadian is heard and that decisions are made based only on facts, principles, and values. I have no doubt that every member in the house would agree with that.

I am proud of the work that has been accomplished to make our elections fairer, where big money plays no role. Our elections are about ideas, and we need to keep it that way. These laws are important to protect the integrity of our institutions. When the government or its policies are motivated by large donations from corporations or unions, that is when public trust in government begins to erode and Canadians become disinterested in the political process. This undermines the foundation of our country and the foundation of our democracy.

Many countries have no limits on how much one can donate. The result is that large interest groups control the conversation regarding policy because of their ability to donate large amounts of funds. This leads to the policy discussion changing from what is in the public interest to what is in the interest of raising enough money for the next election.

I want to be clear. There is nothing wrong with raising funds. It is an important part of our democracy, as it gives political parties and their candidates the ability to reach out to citizens through communication materials and other means.

It is also an opportunity for voters to express their support with their money, which is their individual right. I myself am very proud of the grassroots fundraising from thousands of people who have supported me over the many years I have been in public service. The value of those donations is much higher than those that come in large sums from single groups, because they bring real committed support along with them.

However, these laws need to be made stronger so that our bar for transparency and accountability is high enough to maintain the highest standards of trust in our election process. That is why we are introducing new actions that will increase transparency and give Canadians a new way to understand the fundraising by political parties.

Our promise to Canadians was to increase trust and accountability in Parliament and the democratic process. This is something we have continuously worked towards that began with our actions to strengthen our election system and to engage more Canadians, especially new and young Canadians. Bill C-50 would build on the existing rules and add a new layer of transparency around fundraising by making several changes.

First, fundraising events that had a ticket price of over $200 and were being attended by cabinet ministers, party leaders, and leadership candidates, would have to release the name and partial address of each donor, with the exception of youth under the age of 18, volunteers, staff, media, and individuals providing support services.

Second, parties would have to advertise the event to the public at least five days in advance so that Canadians would have access to where and when fundraising activities were taking place. After the event, political parties would have to release the names and partial addresses of donors within 30 days.

Third, to ensure that the rules for fundraising were followed, the donations collected would have to be returned if not reported within a set period of time.

Bill C-50 recognizes that even though Canada has world-renowned rules on political fundraising, we understand that this is something that needs to be continually addressed and improved.

This bill would allow Canadians to continue to place confidence in our democratic institutions. These amendments to the Canada Elections Act would give Canadians, including the media, more information than ever by letting them know who was going to fundraisers, when they were happening, who was attending, and the amount required to attend.

In closing, I urge all members to support this bill. Our democracy is the most important foundation of our country. Making fundraising activities more open and transparent has been a core commitment of this government, and we will continue to deliver on that promise.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2018 / 5 p.m.
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Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Surrey—Newton, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to tell the House and Canadians that the Prime Minister is not being above the law. This is a prime minister who is a grassroots leader. I have seen him over many years, and he does not shy away from being transparent. That is why we have brought Bill C-50 forward.

On the other hand, I am sure the member for Banff—Airdrie is very informed that his leader, who did events this past summer, refused to declare who attended and who donated. It is our Prime Minister, our leader, who is transparent and open. That is why we have brought the legislation forward.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2018 / 5 p.m.
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Liberal

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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Conservative

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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Liberal

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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Conservative

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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Conservative

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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NDP

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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Liberal

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.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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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Liberal

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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Liberal

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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NDP

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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Conservative

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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Liberal

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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Conservative

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

Liberal

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.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 5th, 2018 / 1 p.m.
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Liberal

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, before I begin my speech, I note that the parliamentary secretary and I agreed on ground rules for the fundraiser I held. We agreed that we would not talk about cannabis, despite a mutual interest in discussing it. Also, just so the record is clear, the cost of that event was $150, or $20 for monthly supporters, which might make it the cheapest cash for access in the history of Canadian politics. I also note that the individual who was quoted in the Globe bought a ticket under a different name, and we refunded the money as soon as we found out who she was.

Bill C-50 would improve our political financing rules, which are already some of the strongest in the world. Our stable democracy, including our open and fair elections, in many ways depends on these rules, enforced as they are by a truly independent watchdog in Elections Canada. Of course, while the rules that underpin our elections are fair, our electoral system more generally remains less fair than it could or should be. Under first past the post, there will always be a significant gap between election outcomes and voter intentions.

I did not think it fair for the Harper administration to hold 100% of the power in government, including complete control in this House, with less than 40% of ballot box support. I do not think it is any fairer for us, as Liberals, to do the same. As our lives have moved online, we have seen communities of people from different geographies coalesce around different issues and common experiences, yet our electoral system largely ignores this reality and these communities.

I recognize that this government does not intend to revisit this issue, but I want to lend my voice in support of current efforts in British Columbia. I hope that BC shows us a way forward, bringing the same leadership to our country on electoral reform they have brought on carbon pricing.

In contrast to the sweeping change of electoral reform, Bill C-50 is a series of tweaks, thankfully in the right direction. We already have political financing rules to be proud of here in Canada. No one can buy an election here. We ban corporate and union donations. We cap annual personal donations at $1,550, with a set escalator of $25 a year, and we have strict spending limits. In a traditional writ period, the expenditure limit for local candidates is around $100,000.

I played baseball in Oxford for a year while completing my master in laws. I was a pitcher, and our catcher was from Mississippi. He had volunteered on the Obama campaign on the west coast, perhaps because it was lonely in Mississippi. We talked about our mutual interest in politics and about the idea of elected office. When I explained the hard cap on riding spending, he could not stop laughing. He joked that the same amount of our spending limit is one bad radio spot for them.

As a member of the board of young MPs for the Inter-Parliamentary Union, I helped organize a conference of young MPs here in Ottawa this past November. We were joined by 120 MPs from over 50 countries. In between sessions, we compared notes on political financing rules. If our rules were emulated around the world, the ideal of democracy would be significantly strengthened in practice.

A fair and participatory democracy depends on the rough equality of the strength of our voices in the political process. As Ronald Dworkin has put it, in calling for a more ambitious conception of democracy, it is “one that understands democracy as a partnership in collective self-government in which all citizens are given the opportunity to be active and equal partners”. As our Supreme Court has put it, “The advancement of equality and fairness in elections ultimately encourages public confidence in the electoral system.”

We need only look south of the border to see what can take place absent such rules. Unfortunately, we are unlikely to see positive and lasting change in our American ally until Citizens United is revisited. Again, in the words of Dworkin:

The most effective way to prevent money from dominating politics, and to prevent powerful corporations, unions, and other groups from receiving favors for contributions, is to lessen politicians' need for money, and the most effective way to do that is to limit what politicians may spend.

Given the importance of our strict political financing rules, it is necessary to revisit them on occasion, with a view to strengthening them further. Such is the case with Bill C-50. Bill C-50 rightly addresses public concerns about large donors receiving preferential access.

The bill would improve transparency. For political fundraising events at over $200 a ticket, Bill C-50 would require the attendee list of the event to be disclosed publicly. It would ensure that fundraising events would no longer be held informally or privately, where a minister or leader is concerned, as Bill C-50 would require that all such events be posted publicly in advance of the event's scheduled date. This is as it should be. It would not be a major change, but Bill C-50 would make a set of strong rules even stronger.

Having listened to the debate here in the House, and having read the testimony at committee, I am struck by how lucky we are to live in Canada. In Iran, thousands of protesters have recently taken to the streets. Women have been arrested for defying a law that requires them to wear headscarves. I stand with all defenders of democracy around the world, including in Iran, who exercise the basic human right of free speech in the name of democracy.

The right of political participation is, as Jeremy Waldron notes, the “right of rights”. We should defend such participation at every opportunity and equally defend demands for such participation where it is currently absent.

I just received an email this morning from a constituent, who has been involved with the elections in Kenya. He writes, “a senior political leader in the Kenyan opposition...was arrested last Friday after administering the presidential oath of office to the opposition leader...Later in the day, a court ordered that [he] be released on bail. To date, the Kenyan government has failed to do so. This morning, it defied a court order that he be brought to court. As a consequence, the Inspector General of Police has been found in contempt and ordered to produce him tomorrow.” This is outrageous, and the Kenyan government should act expeditiously to respect the rule of law and the separation of powers.

Again, we must stand firmly in support of these ideals and in support of activists around the world who demand a voice in the political process, the right to vote, and other core rights and freedoms.

Here we are debating, among other things, the difference between a $100 or $200 ticket price threshold for public disclosure of attendee lists. It is not a trivial debate by any means, but it is a luxury of living in Canada.

Of course, we should not turn down an opportunity to improve our rules simply because the rules, and the enforcement of the rules, are worse elsewhere. Therefore, I will add my own suggestion for improving political financing for our government to consider. We should cancel all political tax credits and direct all such funds through restoring the per-vote subsidy.

The Department of Finance estimates that the total tax expenditure for political tax credits is $30 million per year. As we remind our supporters every December and in every over-the-top email blitz, political tax credits are incredibly generous, exceedingly and unnecessarily more generous than the credits available for charitable donations. Meanwhile, the federal cost of restoring the per-vote subsidy to its pre-phase out level, adjusted for inflation, is estimated at $39.2 million as of 2017, according to a Library of Parliament analysis conducted at the request of my office.

The simplest solution would be to restore the per-vote subsidy in an amount equal to that saved by the cancellation of the political tax credit. Our balance sheet remains the same, but political financing becomes fairer. While it is not electoral reform, it would, in its own way, make every vote count.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 5th, 2018 / 1:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to address Bill C-50 by articulating what I believe is its central purpose, which is not to remedy an absence in the law that has resulted in unlawful behaviour. Rather, it is to deal with an issue that was never unlawful; it was something that did not pass the sniff test and was not considered acceptable by Canadians.

Therefore, the goal of the bill is to put in some new and completely insignificant reporting requirements about who attends cash for access or pay-to-play fundraisers. It puts some minimal limitations on where they can be held, and has a few other little bells and whistles of that sort. It does so for the purpose of saying that the government has done something to address what the Canadian public regards as an ethical problem even though, strictly speaking, it is not a legal problem.

The goal here is to normalize or legitimatize a practice that Canadians have said is not normal and not legitimate, which is holding fundraising dinners at which individuals pay up to $1,500 a pop to meet someone as eminent as the Prime Minister or the Minister of Finance, people who have a direct impact on issues of immediate importance to their enterprises. Sometimes we will see multiple people from the same company buying tickets, effectively grouping together, as a way of maximizing the potential interests that the Prime Minister or the Minister of Finance would have in talking to them. In doing so, the government is saying that this practice, once it reports on it, will become legitimate, or at least it hopes Canadians will regard it as legitimate.

I want to make the suggestion that Canadians' rejection of this practice as illegitimate is well-founded. It is quite deep. I certainly hope the legislation will not overcome the concerns Canadians have.

Let me read a bit from an article by The Hill Times a few months ago. It talks about a particular event held at a prominent law firm in Toronto where the justice minister was present. The attendance fee was over $1,000 a ticket. The Hill Times wrote, “So [the] Justice Minister...wasn’t breaking any rule by being the guest of honour at the pricey fundraiser organized by a Bay Street law firm. It just smells really bad and violates the spirit of the government’s own code of conduct.”

Canadians think it is illegal, they are surprised to learn it is not illegal, and now, with this process of requiring some reporting, the government can say that it is explicitly legal. We heard it in the minister's response about those sneaky opposition leaders out there who were having their own fundraisers, with the same sort of things occurring. The minister who raised this earlier apparently believes or wants us to believe that leaders of the opposition or of third parties are capable of delivering favours and that people would buy tickets based upon that. Of course that is nonsense. It is a diversion from the fundamental ethical problem, which is that ministers can deliver favours. I am not saying that the ministers have delivered favours. How would I know? However, clearly, some of the people who have been buying tickets believe it is a possibility, and the Canadian public emphatically believes it is a possibility.

Maybe the Canadian public is all wrong and stupid. That is certainly a prominent theme in Liberal policy, or policy adjustments with the current government. I mean the Canadian public was all wrong about electoral reform, for example. Let me tell people what those stupid, poorly-thought-out Canadians think.

I will quote again. The Globe and Mail states:

A Nanos public-opinion survey, conducted for The Globe and Mail from Nov. 26 to 30 [of 2016] shows that 62 per cent of Canadians disapprove of the Liberal Party's practice of charging people $1,500 a ticket to meet in private with...[the Prime Minister] and senior cabinet ministers who oversee major spending or policy-making decisions.

Maybe 60% of Canadians are wrong again, but maybe there is the possibility that people are not wrong, that they are upset, and that this exercise of pulling the wool over their eyes is inappropriate, illegitimate in itself.

Why does this fail the sniff test? Why do Canadians think this is not the right way to do fundraising? The answer to that, I think, is illustrated by a number of examples I can offer of specific Liberal fundraisers. These were the source of the ethical conundrum.

Chinese billionaires, and when I say Chinese, I mean someone who is a citizen of the People's Republic of China, not a citizen of Canada, attended Liberal fundraisers even though they were not allowed to donate. They were not Canadian citizens. One such individual, Zhang Bin, who is also a Communist Party apparatchik, attended a May 19, 2016 event, at which a cabinet minister was present. We were told that Mr. Zhang and a business partner, just to sweeten the deal, donated $200,000 to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, and donated $50,000 to build a statute of the current Prime Minister's father.

Another example was on November 7, 2016, in B.C. B.C. multimillionaire Miaofei Pan hosted a fundraiser at his West Vancouver mansion. This was going on at the same time the federal government was in the process of reviewing the $1 billion bid by China's Anbang Insurance Group to purchase one of British Columbia's largest retirement home nursing care chains, which it did.

The government's behaviour also fails to live up to the highfalutin rhetoric in the mandate letters to all ministers, which say:

To be worthy of Canadians’ trust, we must always act with integrity. This is not merely a matter of adopting the right rules, or of ensuring technical compliance with those rules. As Ministers, you and your staff must uphold the highest standards of honesty and impartiality, and both the performance of your official duties and the arrangement of your private affairs should bear the closest public scrutiny. This is an obligation that is not fully discharged by simply acting within the law.

The mandate letters are publicly available and this can be read in every letter.

Clearly, having these fundraisers does not achieve that target. The Liberals are completely failing to achieve their targets, so they are trying misdirect, saying they have a new set of rules that make it all okay. I do not know, maybe this will work; maybe it will not work. The question is why the Liberals are trying it in the first place.

The answer is that this is the backbone of Liberal fundraising. Attendance figures suggest that the party brings in somewhere between $50,000 and $120,000 per event when the Prime Minister or the Minister of Finance is in attendance. The Liberal Party needs these events to keep its fundraising up. It has not developed successively a mechanism for going after a large number of smaller donations or of getting this size of donation in the absence of this kind of event.

That is a problem for the Liberal Party, I grant that. However, may I suggest for the Liberal Party that developing a grassroots appeal will not be done by holding this kind of event and then trying to cover it up. On the contrary, a populist appeal necessarily involves trying to reach out at the grassroots level. The Liberals are doing better than they did in the past, in all fairness, but that is where they should be concentrating. They should not be concentrating on trying to epitomize pay-for-play or cash for access, something Canadians have spoken against so very strongly.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 5th, 2018 / 1:25 p.m.
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West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country B.C.

Liberal

Pam Goldsmith-Jones LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-50, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act in relation to political financing. This bill proposes to amend the Canada Elections Act to bring unprecedented openness and transparency to federal political fundraising. The legislation is the latest step the Government of Canada is taking to improve upon transparency, accountability, and integrity in our public institutions and toward strengthening the democratic process. I would like to thank the minister and her parliamentary secretary for their work.

In 2017, Canadians celebrated the 35th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The charter is a model for democracies around the world. Section 3 of the charter guarantees every citizen the right to vote and to run in elections. This fundamental democratic right guaranteed to all Canadians is central, obviously, to our democracy. When candidates for a federally elected office engage in raising funds to run a campaign and when donors contribute, it is critical to ensure that the processes are open, transparent, and accountable. The integrity of our political system depends on being vigilant and on continuous improvement in recognition of the fact that the public trust is earned and re-earned every day.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms also enshrines the freedoms of association and expression. Section 2 of the charter has been interpreted to include the right of Canadian citizens and permanent residents to make a donation to a political party and to participate in fundraising activities, subject to reasonable limits. Political parties are a vital part of our democratic system. They unite and mobilize people from different regions and with a variety of different perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences to volunteer, champion policies, have new ideas, and foster and engage in public debate.

Voting in an election for a candidate is one of the ways we play an active role in our society. Volunteering for a political party or campaign is another way. Certainly, making a financial contribution to a political campaign is a way to play a direct role in the democratic process. Upholding and protecting the integrity of the political campaign contribution process is our collective responsibility as members of Parliament. We must continue to ensure that Canadians are free to contribute to political parties and candidates.

Canada is known around the world for the rigour of its political financing regime, and this comes from our constant attention. Donations from corporations and unions are prohibited under existing legislation and there are strict limits on the contributions an individual can make. Canadian citizens and permanent residents can contribute a maximum of $1,575 annually to each registered party. They can donate $1,575, in total, to all leadership contestants in a particular contest, and they can donate a total of $1,575 to contestants for nomination, candidates, and/or riding associations of each registered party. Contributions are reported to Elections Canada, and the names, municipalities, provinces, and postal codes of those who contribute more than $200 are published.

Bill C-50 builds on the existing rules. When a fundraising event requires someone to contribute or pay a ticket price totalling more than $200, the name and partial address of each attendee, with certain exceptions, would be published. The exceptions are young people under 18, volunteers, event staff, media, someone assisting a person with a disability, and support staff for a minister or party leader in attendance.

Canadians take political fundraising seriously. There are significant consequences for disobeying the law, and that is why currently the Canada Elections Act provides tough sanctions for those who break the rules. Though Canadians can be proud of our already strict regulations for political financing, we recognize that they have the right to know even more when it comes to political fundraising events. Bill C-50 would provide Canadians with more information about political fundraising events in order to continue to enhance trust and confidence in our democratic institutions.

If passed, Bill C-50 would allow Canadians to learn when a political fundraiser that has a ticket price or requires a contribution of $200 or more is happening and who attended. This legislation would apply to all fundraising activities attended by cabinet ministers, including the prime minister, party leaders, and leadership contestants who meet the criteria. It would also apply to appreciation events for donors to a political party or contestant. This legislation would only apply to parties with a seat in the House of Commons. It 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 participate and even observe.

Bill C-50 gives 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. 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.

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 and event organizers rather than the senior political leaders invited to the event. We propose a maximum $1,000 fine on summary conviction for offences introduced under Bill C-50.

This new level of transparency recognizes that the public trust is always being built, and delivers on the government's promise to bring greater transparency to Canada's political financing system and thus strengthen our democratic institutions. We are also taking action to increase voter participation and enhance the integrity of elections through Bill C-33. The government is partnered with the Communications Security Establishment to protect Canada's democracy from cyber-threats.

While we know that Canadians have every reason to be proud of our democracy, which together we build every day, we recognize there is always room for improvement. Shining a light on political fundraising activities builds upon our already strong and robust system for political financing in Canada.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 5th, 2018 / 1:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Pam Goldsmith-Jones Liberal West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I certainly can. Today, the Prime Minister's open town halls are open invitations to all Canadians to bring all points of view to him. I have never experienced something as open as this and it is a stark contrast to what we experienced with the previous government.

That is why Bill C-50 is part of also increasing participation, also increasing access, also being available to journalists and questions. I cannot count the number of times with the previous government that I was so let down because of not being able to ask, as a public office holder myself, the former prime minister a question about things that matter so much to Canadians.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 5th, 2018 / 1:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Pat Kelly Conservative Calgary Rocky Ridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, today we are debating Bill C-50. This is a bill that some of my Conservatives colleagues, and I believe the member for Barrie—Innisfil, may have called yet another Seinfeld bill, a bill about nothing.

This is a bill that does not do much other than, from the government's side, try to give some type of legitimacy to their practice of exchanging cash for access. The steps toward transparency, given the existing law, are very minor in nature and do nothing to address what the previous speaker characterized as the elephant in the room, which is the exchange of cash for access.

For the benefit of those who have not followed the debate or are not aware of some of the background, it is necessary to understand the background to grasp how almost meaningless this bill is. The current laws on election finance already limit financial contributions to those from individuals only, and they limit them to just over $1,500 per person. They expressly ban donations from corporations and from unions. They ban anonymous contributions of over $20, and they require public disclosure of any contribution over $200.

All of these transparency pieces that we hear from the government members in debate on this bill, which they congratulate themselves for, exist in the current law. We will just be changing the dates, making reporting happen a little sooner than otherwise would happen. Already, anybody who contributes $200 or more to a political party is subject to disclosure. This transparency piece that the government members speak of already exists. Everyone is already going to disclose if they give over $200 to a political party.

These rules all came into place early in the previous Parliament. The previous Parliament had a mess of ethical scandal to clean up when it came into government, and the new and current electoral fundraising laws are a part of that.

In the previous Parliament under the rules, cash for access was not an issue. It was understood by members of the previous government that their prime minister, Stephen Harper, would not tolerate it. I have spoken to my colleagues on this side who were ministers in the previous government, and they are absolutely appalled by the cash-for-access system that the Liberal Party and its government have, because they know it is wrong. The ministers in the previous government knew they would be cut off at the ankles if they tried to shake down their stakeholders and lobbyists for money by doing cash-for-access fundraising. It was a practice that was not done under the current law, and only began when the Liberal government took office.

This bill purports to be a solution to a problem that only exists for one party, the Liberal Party of Canada. This bill is unworthy of support because it is designed to give cover for a practice that will then be carried on. Liberals will no doubt later congratulate themselves on passing this bill and then claim that there is nothing wrong with cash for access; they changed the date with which the reporting has to happen and compelled themselves to start holding their events more publicly, and to not, for example, use search engine protocols to bury results when people look for Liberal fundraisers.

As has been remarked on in some of the previous speeches, the Liberals ran on a grand platform and promised a number of things, including electoral reform. Some members in the country ran on a pro-pipeline agenda, and others were anti-pipeline, promising different things in different parts of the country. They promised limited deficits and a balanced budget within two years, after running a maximum $10-billion deficit. Liberals promised access to information reform.

Liberals also boldly declared, with the Prime Minister himself promising to lead, that they would have the most open and transparent government in Canadian history. That is now the punchline of a bad joke in the wake of his own conduct, the findings of him having been in conflict of interest and violating four sections of the code on his vacation, as well as the whole cash-for-access system, which took form very quickly after Liberals came into office.

It was through the media that Canadians came to understand the scope and breadth of cash-for-access fundraising that was taking place. We heard about episodes that the member for Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston spoke of earlier, when he talked about how Chinese nationals, who are not allowed under the existing law to contribute to political parties, were meeting privately, in private homes, to lobby the government and the Prime Minister directly. We have heard about the Minister of Justice having a cozy fundraising event at a Bay Street law firm with other lawyers and perhaps future judicial applicants. We have heard about the finance minister and his cash-for-access fundraising, and the industry minister. This is widespread.

This was a central part of the Liberals' fundraising apparatus that only came to a halt, sort of, when it came to light through media reports beginning in the late spring of 2016. Today we have this bill before us, and I am sure the Liberals will congratulate themselves for having dealt with this criticism, but it leaves the elephant in the room. Cash-for-access fundraising is wrong, and this bill would not make it right.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 5th, 2018 / 3:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Pat Kelly Conservative Calgary Rocky Ridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, we certainly would not want to hold up question period, so I was happy to yield at that time.

With the three minutes I have left, I would like to pick up on what I was saying. I was speaking of the background and the history of this legislation, and the issue purported by the Liberals to solve, being that the Liberals are the only party with the problem with fundraising.

The calls to eliminate, to question, and to be concerned about the conflict of interest inherent in cash-for-access fundraising were the reasons for this legislation. The Liberals had to do something. They had to be seen as doing something about a practice that only the Liberal Party party takes part in, so they tabled the bill we are now debating.

As I said before question period, Bill C-50 is not necessary. The government could at any point simply choose not to shake down its own lobbyists and stakeholders for money for the party. It could simply choose to not allow that of members of its own cabinet, who have the power to dispense contracts, to hire people into the public sector, to make judicial appointments, to put out cash to subsidize businesses. A minister of the crown has these powers. Members of the opposition do not have these powers. Leaders of opposition parties do not have these powers. Government backbenchers do not have these powers. A minister of the crown has these powers.

It is the swinging back that we have heard, and I am sure we will hear more in a minute or so, that this is something about anything other than cash-for-access fundraising. It is just silly.

I will conclude by reiterating that I do not intend to support this legislation. To do so would be to lend credibility to a government that is merely seeking cover for a practice that Canadians find odious, that nobody besides members of the opposite party think is okay. I am not going to allow them to use the passage of this legislation to say they have somehow sanitized and legitimized the practice of cash for access.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 5th, 2018 / 3:35 p.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the timing of the introduction of Bill C-50 was interesting in that it fell right as the Liberals were breaking their promise on electoral reform. It is the bait and switch of a party that was looking to get out from underneath the burden of having promised something and then blatantly betraying that promise.

One would wonder where this came from. The bill was born from the allegations, which I think were quite correct, that the Prime Minister and many of his cabinet ministers were finding themselves in an obvious, to everyone else, conflict of interest. We had the justice minister meeting with high-priced Bay Street lawyers, fundraising. We had the finance minister meeting with members of the financial industry, who have interests in his department. These were not just meetings. They were fundraising events. They were $1,500- and $1,200-a-person fundraising events.

If we all remember the Prime Minister's own much-vaunted mandate letters to his cabinet, which applied to him as well, not only could his cabinet ministers not find themselves in a conflict of interest, they could not even place themselves in the appearance of a conflict of interest. It is somewhat ironic now, because the author of those mandate letters broke our conflict of interest rules.

Bill C-50 does what the law already prescribes, which is that we have to make things public, but it does not do anything about cash for access, nor the appearance of or an actual conflict of interest. Is there any hope in the legislation that future fundraising events by the government would not create the same dynamic, the same scenario of ministers being lobbied and donated to by people who have self-serving interests?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 5th, 2018 / 3:40 p.m.
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Bloc

Luc Thériault Bloc Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, if we want to get to the real intentions behind government legislation, it never hurts to consider where it is coming from: its background, its history, and the circumstances surrounding it.

As my great-grandmother would say, “the more things change, the more they stay the same”. The government was caught red-handed holding private events offering privileged access to the Prime Minister. Now, it thinks it can make these events more palatable by advertising them to major lobbies with the means to pay $1,500 to discuss their agendas, but advertising them does not make them any less private. The Prime Minister met with Chinese-Canadian billionaires, for instance, and all of a sudden he got a total of $70,000, in $1,500 increments, for his riding of Papineau, even though the reception was held 5,000 kilometres away in Vancouver.

The government thinks that advertising these events will make them fairer and more palatable, but the morally reprehensible part is that one can pay to get privileged access to the Prime Minister and his cabinet. Citizens, voters, and the 61% of voters who did not vote for the current government, will surely view this so-called change with greater cynicism after hearing today's debate. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

What will cause even more cynicism—and I see my colleague who sat on the committee with me—is that a year ago, on February 1, 2017, the committee tabled a report that it would have liked to see become a bill. Instead, that report was scrapped. I am talking about the report of the Special Committee on Electoral Reform regarding the complete overhaul of the Canada Elections Act that was supposed to take place. The government spent millions of dollars to consult voters across the country, and we thought that the outcome was that Canadians wanted more fairness when it comes to electoral representation and election financing.

Jean-Pierre Kingsley, former chief electoral officer, appeared before the Special Committee on Electoral Reform. In response to one of my questions, he responded without hesitation that, in the interest of fairness, the per-vote subsidy need to be restored. We are very open to that, regardless of the amount. We know that former prime minister Jean Chrétien set up a public funding system under which the parties received $2 per vote. I imagine that he wanted to leave a legacy other than the sponsorship scandal that characterized the Liberals' time in office. Jean-Pierre Kingsley indicated that, in the interest of fairness, that system should be restored as soon as possible.

Why? It is a shame that Bill C-50 does not make any mention of that.

Bill C-50 is just a superficial attempt to make up for getting caught holding cash for access fundraisers. Now everyone has to advertise their little $1,500 fundraising soirées.

Mr. Kingsley said that electoral fairness is part and parcel of living in a democratic society. Even a party that does not have 20 or 60 MPs should have the right to a fair hearing in the democratic debate between elections and from the get-go in an election.

Taxpayers do not have $1,500 to donate to political parties. I would like to know what the average donation to the Liberals and the Conservatives is. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Why is that? When the current governing party was in opposition, it said it would restore fair financing to take big-ticket financing out of the hands of lobby groups. When people meet a prime minister at an exclusive get-together, they are not there for his good looks or his campaign platform.

They are there for a specific purpose, and that purpose is what people are up in arms about. I think $1.75 per ballot would make every voter's democratic participation more meaningful. That is what democratic reform was all about. The whole idea behind changing the electoral system came from the fact that most of the witnesses told us the existing system is not fair and does not promote diversity of representation in the House of Commons. The current system is set up for a bipartisan House, one with two big parties. That is the plain truth. We think every vote should count.

The government broke its promise. It was a year ago to the day, last Thursday, February 1. We marked the occasion, but a broken promise is nothing to celebrate. The government broke its promise and decided to keep the same system, but it is not reinstating the per-vote subsidy. That would have allowed voters to meaningfully vote for any of the parties, the NDP, the Bloc Québécois, the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party, or the Green Party, regardless of how likely that party was to win in the riding. That is the issue, and that is what has voters frustrated. They feel like their vote does not count. Historically, it is always the same party that wins in their ridings. There was also concern about voter turnout.

I know that my vote is not totally wasted, even though this government broke its promise to change the voting system. The minimum of fairness that we can ask of such a system is that it ensure that my vote for the Green Party allows it to continue participating in the democratic debate between elections and that it be allocated, in a fair manner, enough money to have its voice heard in an election. That is a democracy worthy of the name. This is about having a legitimate democracy, rather than seeing alternating governments cater to the interests of people seeking access to it in order to influence its decision-making and then thrust upon us bills that benefit those people. That is what is being debated today.

My colleague from Terrebonne introduced a bill. We would be pleased to see the government include its provisions in Bill C-50, restore the per-vote subsidy, and lower the contribution limit to at least $500. I invite all my colleagues to think about this possibility.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 5th, 2018 / 3:55 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his remarks. I am wondering whether he thinks that expectations were high. Given what the Liberals said during the last election campaign, most Canadians had very high expectations regarding electoral reform and our democratic institutions in general. However, things are done very differently here in Ottawa.

What does my colleague think about the government's record on this issue to date and does he think that the government will be able to do better with regard to democratic institutions between now and 2019? The Liberal Party's only legacy over its four and a half years in office will be Bill C-50.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 5th, 2018 / 4 p.m.
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Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-50. I am deeply concerned with this bill and by the unethical behaviour that is demonstrated by the current government, opposite to me.

The piece of legislation before the House is in fact a poor attempt to appease Canadians after the Liberals were caught and called out for holding numerous so-called town hall meetings, or meet and greets, with the Prime Minister or other members of the cabinet.

These were parties where individuals who wanted to attend were expected to pay upward of $1,500 or more in order to get through the door. These parties were held with elite people, like the finance minister, the Prime Minister, the justice minister, and the list goes on.

I can just imagine the price chart at the door when people walk in: $1,200 for 30 seconds with the Prime Minister; $1,500 for 60 seconds with the Prime Minister. Maybe a group of 10 people who are each willing to pitch in $1,500 would get a whopping two minutes of the Prime Minister's time all to themselves. The selfies are complimentary, of course.

Apparently this is the Liberals' way of consulting in an open, accessible, and transparent manner. These are the types of buzzwords they like to use all the time to describe the work they do. However, I stand here today to use my voice on behalf of millions of Canadians who believe otherwise, Canadians who are actually frustrated with the elitism and the hypocrisy that is demonstrated day in and day out by the current government.

The Liberal government has said that it tabled this legislation in order to make its cash for access events more transparent. What the Liberals fail to understand is that these fundraisers in their very essence are unethical. Changing the rules that surround them does not change the fact that they are altogether wrong.

This legislation does nothing to condemn the use of power and manipulation to draw money out of people for the sake of privileged access. This legislation simply seeks to ensure that the Canadian public is made aware of such elite activities.

Bill C-50 simply proposes that all fundraising events that are attended by ministers, party leaders, or leadership candidates are advertised at least five days in advance. In effect, the Liberals are mandating to themselves that they must advertise their events. That is an interesting measure of accountability. It also requires political parties to report to Elections Canada the names of those who attend. However, anyone who donates over $200 already has to have their name made known.

All in all, this bill does nothing to ensure that ministers and the Prime Minister are accessible to all Canadians equally, which is, in essence, a key component of a democratic system. The Liberals are still granting themselves permission to hold cash for access events that cater to the elite and prevent common Canadians from having a voice.

Justin Trudeau claims that he is listening to everyone, that he is—

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February 5th, 2018 / 4:15 p.m.
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NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is timely, because the heckling we are hearing between the Liberals and Conservatives only serves to reinforce the point I wanted to make.

In the previous Parliament, the Conservative government only generated more cynicism and changed our elections legislation, making it harder for Canadians to vote.

Now the Liberal government is fuelling cynicism with superficial changes that ultimately will do nothing to correct a serious perception problem that the Liberals themselves created. Everyone who has been watching today's debates heard the Liberals say that the leader of the official opposition was just as bad and that he did the same thing. The Conservatives, for their part, said that what they did was less serious because at least when their ministers attended fundraisers, they met people whose areas of business were not directly related to the department.

I have been an MP for almost seven years now, and I am starting to get pretty sick of giving speeches about all the issues that breed cynicism. Others have talked about this today. As my colleague from British Columbia mentioned this morning, when we go door to door and talk to people, that is what is on people's minds. They say they are not interested, they do not want to donate money to political parties, and they do not want to take out memberships. Worse still, some say they do not even want to vote because of the cynical mood fuelled by stories in the news and legislative half-measures. We will support the changes anyway because one step in the right direction is better than nothing, but everyone needs to understand where this is coming from.

Bill C-50 is a first step. Unfortunately, although I have a lot of respect for the minister, it will probably be the only step. The Liberal government is unlikely to leave behind anything else that qualifies as a legacy of democratic reform.

I have to wonder if it is mere coincidence that this bill was introduced right after the Prime Minister broke his lofty electoral reform promise, right after the dismal failure on that front. This is a big problem for our political system as a whole, not just party financing.

We recognize that some of the changes have made things more difficult. My Bloc Québécois colleague and others spoke earlier about the per-subsidy vote, which is money allocated for each vote received by a party or a candidate.

The member for Beaches—East York spoke about similar issues. He even went so far as to speak about making changes to tax credits for donations. I am raising all these issues to point out that it is possible to be open-minded in this type of debate and to find ways to improve political financing.

We can study all the important changes made in Quebec following revelations about the corruption that occurred over several years, as well as all the changes in political financing and the lowering of contribution limits.

These are all legitimate ideas and we could have a healthy debate about how to provide the financing needed, for better or for worse, to run an election campaign. It takes money to print brochures, inform voters about our positions and important issues, obtain telecommunications equipment for campaign offices, communicate with voters, hear their concerns, and share our positions. We recognize that this is the reality, whether we like it or not.

In that sense, it is very important to find a way to work together in a non-partisan manner to fix this system or at least create a system that instills confidence in Canadians. There are many reasons why that is currently not the case. Sometimes it is because of changes that have nothing to do with political donations as such, but have more to do with the electoral system itself and how it works. I am talking about Bill C-23 from the last Parliament, which had to do with electoral reform, or deform, as people jokingly used to refer to it. That is the type of thing that fuels cynicism and makes all of this that much more challenging.

However, we also have to consider the optics of a minister receiving the maximum donation allowed by law to attend an event with people who have a direct stake in his or her portfolio. What we need to understand is that ministers and regular MPs wield a very different level of power. I agree with the Conservatives on that. I would add that we keep reminding the Liberal government of that fact with each new conflict of interest scandal. Everyone knows that party leaders aspire to be Prime Minister one day and that members of the official opposition or another opposition party could easily end up in cabinet with decision-making power within two or three years. Nonetheless, ministers have the power to make extremely important decisions, hire people, award contracts, spend money, and so on. As such, their ear is much more valuable to have than that of a regular MP.

This does not mean that all members of the House are not prepared to follow the conflict of interest rules—political financing rules, specifically. However, when the government denies that things are different when it comes to ministers and claims in the House that everyone should be on a level playing field, it is insulting the intelligence of those who want to participate in this debate and make real change, so that we can have a political financing system that allows us, among other things, to run political campaigns. People want to see candidates on the ground, which costs money, whether we like it or not, but people also want to have confidence in the financing system.

This morning, the member for Beaches—East York talked about how things work south of the border, and he is right. In other countries, such as the United States, money plays such a dominant role in politics that it has become a problem. For example, my campaign spending cap for my riding would buy about one ad for a U.S. Senate hopeful. We have to acknowledge that our system does have merit. Seeing how bad things are elsewhere makes us feel better about how we do things here, but that does not mean we can rest on our laurels.

Whenever a journalist digs up another scandal, we can pretty much count on the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and the Minister of Democratic Institutions to say that our system is a good one, spending is in check, and there are strict caps on how much an individual can donate. That is not enough, though. We cannot compare ourselves to the worst of the bunch, places like the United States, where a Supreme Court ruling made the who and how much of election spending a free-for-all. Corporations, unions, anybody can spend as much as they want. Even so, alarming situations that are bad for democracies elsewhere are no excuse for us to be content with the status quo here.

In closing, as I said earlier, there are too many situations in the House that remind me of the cynicism I have seen among too many voters as I have gone door to door as an MP for almost seven years now, and I know that my colleagues have seen the same thing. If we really want to make Canadians less cynical and put an end to political financing scandals, we need to engage in a real debate. The government needs to do more than introduce a bill that is merely a smokescreen designed to hide its broken promises on electoral reform and to try to make people forget about the scandals it has been caught up in. Let us stop pointing fingers and arguing over which political party was worse than the other when in office. Let us seriously consider this reform and the measures that we could change or even those that we could bring back, in the case of public financing.

There are all kinds of interesting questions. Of course, the NDP's main goal when it comes to bringing in true electoral reform is the implementation of a mixed member proportional system. There are also many other issues that need to be seriously considered. That is not at all what we are seeing from this government, and it is not what we saw from the previous government, either.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 5th, 2018 / 4:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Dane Lloyd Conservative Sturgeon River—Parkland, AB

Mr. Speaker, many years ago during the 2006 election, one of the most important issues of the day was accountability and transparency. The Liberal government at the time had been implicated in the most severe case of political corruption in modern Canadian history. People may remember this as the sponsorship scandal. I know I remember.

For years, Liberals linked advertising firms with government contracts, kept high-profile Liberal organizers on the payroll, and generously financed the Liberal Party of Canada, all in return for little or no work, as was later found in the investigation. This operation can be best characterized as a machine, which infected and controlled agencies across the government. The purpose of this machine was to place the resources of the government at the disposal of the Liberal Party of Canada.

After years of Liberal corruption and independent investigations, Canadians had enough. In 2006, they elected a Conservative government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper to get to the bottom of things and root out the corruption. We introduced the Federal Accountability Act, an act that dismantled the machine built to abuse taxpayer funds and power for the benefit of the Liberal Party. It also helped ensure that future governments, including a Conservative government, would never again abuse the apparatus of government for the benefit of their political party.

This accountability act created measures to protect Canada from political corruption. We created the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, the Commissioner of Lobbying, and others to ensure all future governments were held to account. I find it quite rich to listen to the speeches of my Liberal colleagues who claim they respect the officers of Parliament and Conservatives do not, when it was in fact our previous Conservative government that created these officers of Parliament to clean up the Liberal mess.

Not only did Conservatives implement accountability by creating these new officers, we created stiff new political financing rules that limited political donations to individuals, banned corporate and union donations, and capped those donations at just over $1,000. In fact, if Conservatives had not implemented these tough new rules, the Liberal Party would still be holding cash for access fundraisers for thousands of dollars, and Canadians would not even have the right to know about it.

This brings me to the fundamental point of this debate. On one hand we have the Conservatives' record of holding government to account, even when it is not in the best interest of our own party, and on the other hand we have the Liberals, with Bill C-50, always trying to find ways to avoid playing by the rule and spirit of the law. In fact, this entire bill would be completely unnecessary if Liberals started acting in the way Canadians expect of their representatives.

No sooner had the Liberal Party regained its former place of power than it set about reconstructing that infamous machine. The machine used to leverage taxpayer funds and power for the benefit of the Liberal Party at the expense of the Canadian people. Ministers began holding fundraisers, a perfectly acceptable and necessary activity for politicians. However, these were no ordinary fundraisers, held in church basements or Legion halls across the land. No, these were exclusive fundraisers for the ultra-wealthy to pay the Liberal Party for exclusive access to decision-makers.

Did these ministers break the law? No, but they showed their true colours. They showed that once given power, they will always leverage every angle for the benefit of their own party at the expense of the interests of Canadians. That is exactly why people elected Conservatives in 2006. Conservatives see the opportunity to abuse power and make laws to prevent that abuse. The Liberals, on the other hand, see an opportunity to abuse the spirit of the law, and rather than take real action to eliminate that abuse, they will go to any lengths to justify it. That is simply not acceptable and Canadians deserve better.

Bill C-50 is a joke. It is a public relations stunt designed to fool the Canadian people into believing that the Liberal Party has changed. Conservatives know better and Canadians are not fooled.

Let us take into account what this bill intends to implement. All fundraisers with tickets of $200 or over must be advertised prominently on the party's website, together with a list of those in attendance and how much they are required to pay. This provision is simply unenforceable and goes to the heart of my argument for why this legislation is a public relations exercise designed to make it appear that the Liberals are doing something about cash for access, while giving them a free hand to continue with these tainted fundraisers.

Take, for example, the fact that any political party could host an exclusive fundraiser, a fundraiser for which no funds may be required for people to attend, but one where the expectation and obligation to donate may be very strong. For instance, an exclusive invitation to a group of wealthy business people or lawyers doing work with the Government of Canada would not require the Liberals to disclose the details of the event, including the participants or how much they are required to pay as long as it is less than $200, but at the event it could be easily made known that the Liberal Party would appreciate those in attendance supporting the party through financial donations: wink, wink; nudge, nudge.

The sad fact is that neither the Federal Accountability Act nor Bill C-50 can prevent parties from engaging in this kind of behaviour. No amount of laws, short of having a member of the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner at every political fundraiser, can prevent these activities. The best solution for preventing future abuses of political power for financial gain is for politicians to take a stand and refuse to tolerate cash for access. The public has placed its trust in us, and in turn, expect nothing but the highest standards of personal and professional accountability and for us to make decisions that are in the best interests of the people. I believe Canadians deserve better and I know, as members of Parliament, we can do better.

In fact, there was a time not so long ago that the Prime Minister promised Canadians better. He stated in his “Open and Accountable Government” document, “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 further stated, “Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries must ensure that political fundraising activities or considerations do not affect, or appear to affect, the exercise of their official duties or the access of individuals or organizations to government.”

This is the standard that Canadians want from their representatives, and I am ashamed that the Prime Minister has paid lip service to this and broken yet another promise to Canadians. No longer do we have a government that places priority on ethics when it comes to political financing. We have a government that places priority on the illusion of ethics, and that is exactly what Bill C-50 intends to create: the illusion that the Liberal Party of Canada has changed in any way from the days of bagmen soliciting funds from those in business with government.

It is time to stop the illusion and give Canadians what they really deserve: accountable government.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 5th, 2018 / 4:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Dane Lloyd Conservative Sturgeon River—Parkland, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the only member of the House who is younger than I am for that question, and I am proud to serve with him.

It is very clear that Liberals are desperate to hold these cash for access fundraisers, especially considering that the Conservative Party of Canada, yet again, destroyed them in fundraising this year and we are not even the governing party. We do not need to dangle out our ministers and sell cash for access; we have Canadians who believe in this party and this party's principles. We do not need to engage in this sort of cash for access: pay me something and we will give something. We do not need to engage in that sort of activity.

Bill C-50 is a public relations exercise. The government was caught with these cash for access fundraisers, but it cannot get off of this, so it needs to have the bill to make it appear like it is doing something about it. Canadians are not fooled.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 5th, 2018 / 4:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is always a privilege to rise and speak and contribute to debate in this place on behalf of the people of Portage—Lisgar.

It seems that too often these days I feel I am standing, whether in question period or during debate, and we are talking about ethical lapses that the current government is showing. I find it disappointing. I think that Canadians are disappointed. However, it seems that more frequently we are talking about some of these conflicts of interest and ethical lapses. Sadly, with Bill C-50, there is no exception to this pattern.

We hear the Liberals portraying themselves as being cloaked in virtue as they discuss the bill on political financing. What Liberals and especially the Prime Minister are very good at is talking a good game. Saying all the right things is the Prime Minister's forte. Doing the right thing, not so much. The Prime Minister, on so many issues around ethics, says one thing with his words and a completely different thing with his actions. Bill C-50 is no different, and the backstory to the proposed legislation is even more telling.

The House will recall how the Liberals were creating for themselves a big ethical crater, because literally the moment they got into government, they began setting up and holding their cash for access fundraisers. Members will remember the Minister of Justice being the guest of honour at a fundraiser held at a Bay Street law firm in Toronto, which was targeting members of the legal community, the very people she was making decisions for and about, including appointing to the bench. She was selling access to herself to these individuals. It was absolutely shocking. Members may also remember the parliamentary secretary, the MP who was the Liberal point man on legalizing pot, as the main attraction who was then lobbied by marijuana advocates and investors at a fundraiser.

Members will remember the Prime Minister himself travelling the land and appearing at more $1,500 fundraisers than any of us can count. These were not just one-offs; there was not just one fundraiser that he went to. The Prime Minister, as we all know, has gone to more fundraisers, and $1,500-a-head fundraisers, than any of us can count. Of course, there was the ultimate cash for access trade-off, where the Prime Minister and his wife called and asked the Aga Khan if they could use his private island for free while, at the same time, he was asking them for public money. Wow, a free island holiday for access to the Prime Minister, and a personal benefit to the Prime Minister. However, I will get to that one a little later.

The Prime Minister has done more cash for access events than any of us care to count, but we all remember the one that came to light where the Prime Minister sold access to himself when he met a wealthy tycoon who was the principal investor in a bank that was seeking federal approval to begin operations. That was a bad idea. He was at another one of these events when the Prime Minister met a Chinese billionaire who also was asking for some government favours. Lo and behold, just weeks later, he made a quarter of a million dollar donation for a statue of the Prime Minister's father, and a donation to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation. It is “You give me this. I'll give you that. You give me cash. I'll give you access. You give me cash. You have my ear.”

On another occasion, a Quebec businessman in the vaping industry bought a ticket to speak to the Prime Minister about Bill S-5. In fact, the gentleman told Global News, “ I saw an open door and I walked through it – and I’ll walk through every open door I see.... I took $250 out of my own pocket to accomplish what I needed to accomplish..”. He got access to the Prime Minister.

What is the problem with Bill C-50? In a nutshell, it would formalize and try to legitimize these cash for access fundraisers. As I said, it attempts to confer a veneer of legitimacy upon them. What Bill C-50 would not do is make these fundraisers legally ethical. They are unethical. Changing the rules to allow deep-pocket individuals to meet the Prime Minister to bend his ear on government business is still wrong.

If the Prime Minister would like to shut down his cash for access fundraisers for the Liberal Party, he would stop doing them. He could tell his cabinet the same thing, to stop doing these fundraisers. He could maybe follow his own guidelines.

Let me read from the Prime Minister's own “Open and Accountable Government” document. He told his ministers, under “Fundraising and Dealing with Lobbyists: Best Practices for Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries, the following: “Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries must ensure that political fundraising activities or considerations do not affect, or appear to affect, the exercise of their official duties or the access of individuals or organizations to government.” Wow, everything I just described moments ago is contrary to what this “Open and Accountable Government” code does.

This does not require legislation; it needs conviction and integrity. It needs men and women and a government that is authentic and genuine and does not just say the right words but does the right thing. That is not what the Liberals and the Prime Minister seem to do.

Why could the Prime Minister not have said he would follow the rules like everyone else? Why could the Prime Minister not have just said this: “I put this out. It makes sense. I have asked my ministers to follow these guidelines. We're going to follow them.” Obviously, it is because the Prime Minister thinks that rules do not apply to him. We have seen this over and over with the Prime Minister. He thinks there is one set of rules for one group of people and another set of rules for him.

That brings me to another point, and it is with regard to a provision in Bill C-50 that I want to highlight for the House. Clause 2 in the bill would, among other things, enact a new section, 384.4, of the Canada Elections Act. I am going to summarize briefly what this would do.

Section 384.4 would basically put into legislation that if a registered party received a contribution that does not comply with the act, that party would have 30 days to either return that contribution to the donor or pay it to the Receiver General of Canada. The principle behind this is that in the event of a breach of the fundraising rules, the message is clear and the law is clear that the money must be paid back. That is in the bill we are currently discussing. If a party receives money that it is not entitled to, that party cannot just apologize and then smile. It has to pay that money back. That is not a revolutionary idea. Although we have some concerns with Bill C-50, this provision makes sense.

This is not revolutionary. If people are caught taking something that does not belong to them, they give it back, pay it back; they make restitution. We teach our children that when they take something that does not belong to them, they have to make amends, and that includes saying sorry. More importantly, and maybe the toughest part of saying sorry, is actually making it right.

These are rules and lessons that we as parents, as society, and certainly as leaders in this place should be adhering to. However, we are seeing a stunningly hypocritical exception to this principle, and that is with the Prime Minister.

When the former Ethics Commissioner handed down her report which determined that the Prime Minister had violated the Conflict of Interest Act, the House will recall that what he did cost taxpayers over $200,000. If the Prime Minister is truly sorry and wants to be transparent, if he truly wants to put action behind his words, then he needs to right the wrong he has committed. He needs to pay back the taxpayer. He also should look seriously at making the wrong right. He should make the wrong right by paying back the value of that holiday. That is one of the principles of making restitution. If somebody takes a painting that does not belong to that individual, then he or she has to give that painting back or pay back the value of that painting.

It is one thing to talk about legislation like this, but the Liberals are still having their cash for access events. This legislation would do nothing to stop it. We have good rules in place. All we need are men and women of integrity and honour to follow those rules and then show leadership. When they have done something wrong, stop doing it and make it right. That is what we are asking the Prime Minister to do. I would think that all Liberals would agree, as would everyone in the House. We are asking the Prime Minister to not only be sorry but to make right the wrong that he has done.

I expect that the Liberals will not be asking me questions about that, but I would ask them to think about that. In their own meetings with the Prime Minister, ask him to do the right thing: make this right.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 5th, 2018 / 5:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and join the debate today. I have 10 minutes to talk about the government's ethical challenges, which is far too little time for a topic like this, but I will do my best.

We are talking about the issue of political fundraising. Of course, this is a sensitive subject for the Liberals after the fourth quarter of 2017 results. It is surprising that they want to have a discussion about political fundraising, because the Conservative Party has done so much better despite being in opposition than the Liberal Party has in fundraising.

The Conservative Party benefits from fundraising that relies on smaller, individual donors, and people who believe in what our party stands for. Obviously, we are in opposition, so there is no conceivable benefit that they could get in terms of a quid pro quo type of thing. People donate to our party and, generally, people should be donating to political parties because they believe in what those parties stand for and want to express their support for the ideas that those parties represent. However, Liberal ideas are not so popular right now. Therefore, the government has had to rely on other ways of fundraising, and here we come to their dubious cash for access fundraising program.

What appears to have happened, and there has been a great deal of criticism about this, is that we have had ministers and the Prime Minister meeting with people, in the context of fundraising, who have done business or are looking to do business or to get some kind of benefit from the government at these very high-dollar fundraising events. In some cases, the maximum is $1,500. People pay this money presumably in the hope of being able to talk to a minister or to the Prime Minister about the specific issues that they are dealing with the government on.

This is very different from what was done under the previous government. I know the guidelines, because I was a candidate at that time. We had very strict guidelines in terms of how and to whom we could advertise any fundraising event. We could not even highlight the area that a minister was working. We had to simply advertise him as an MP. They were events that were not dealing at all with the specific subject matter of their ministry. Yes, we had fundraising events where ministers spoke, but they were open, low-dollar events, and provided opportunities for anyone to come. Specifically, they were not about trying to bring in people that were potential clients or people who had some kind of special economic relationship with the government.

As I recall, there was one exception, and it is the exception that proves the rule. There was one minister who made a mistake. Actually, it was not even the minister but somebody else who organized an event for, I believe, the heritage minister. As soon as the mistake was identified, an apology was given and the money was reimbursed. This was the only case, and it was immediately rectified. It was something the Conservatives recognized should not happen.

On the other hand, we have the current government that thinks this practice is acceptable. The Liberals think it is acceptable for, hypothetically, the justice minister to have a $1,500-a-person event where the minister is speaking about how to get a judicial appointment. “Come and pay $1,500 and hear the Minister of Justice speak about how to get a judicial appointment” or “Come to this $1,500 event with the heritage minister where we will talk about how to access art grants,” and it is only advertised to people who are in the artistic community. There are myriad other possible examples. The Minister of National Defence could speak to those involved in making defence equipment, and one has to pay $1,500. These are hypothetical examples, but the government does not see anything wrong with the idea of explicitly fundraising to people who are involved in doing business and want to pay for that preferential access.

Very clearly, it is legitimate for government to be meeting with industry, to be sharing information with key stakeholders, but it needs to do that outside of the context of party fundraisers. These things have to be separate. This is the position that we have taken. It is what the Conservatives did when we were in government. As I have mentioned, we were able to have a very strong fundraising program, because we asked people to donate not because they were getting something in return, but because they believed in the ideas that we were standing for. However, the Liberal Party has a different approach to how they have done this, and I think we have seen time and time again that they have a lack of concern for conflict of interest.

Whenever issues of conflict of interest are raised, they will say, “Do you not trust the Ethics Commissioner? Let us leave it for the Ethics Commissioner.” Then when the Ethics Commissioner ruled that the Prime Minister broke the law, when the Ethics Commissioner ruled that the finance minister had to pay a $200 fine because of his failure in terms of his disclosure, when those things happen, they say, “Let us just move on, and by the way, trust the Ethics Commissioner.”

However, voters of this country are going to hold the Prime Minister, the finance minister, and other members of the government accountable for the choices they have made in those cases where the Ethics Commissioner has shown in reports that they have behaved inappropriately.

The government, in response to its problems with ethics, came forward with Bill C-50, the political fundraising bill. This is an insubstantial public relations exercise, and I might add, not a very effective public relations exercise. Conservatives and New Democrats have spent all day speaking about and highlighting the government's ethical problems. Next time the Liberals try to devise a public relations exercise to cover their lack of ethics, maybe they should go back to the drawing board.

Nonetheless, this is a public relations exercise, a very insubstantial bill that aims to deal with cash for access fundraisers, but it does not in any way prevent the government from continuing with the practice it has been doing. Instead, it requires some greater degree of financial disclosure in the context of these things, but it still allows them to happen. It still allows for situations where the Prime Minister or ministers can charge $1,500 to people that are directly dealing with the government, with their department, and then discuss issues related to the business of government in the context of fundraisers. There is nothing in this law that in any way changes that. It just requires some marginally greater degree of the release of information.

The government has been saying that there has been criticism of its practices, so it will continue with those practices but it will pass a law that does not in any way materially change those practices and hope people will think that something has changed. I have a suggestion for the Liberals. Rather than put forward this public relations bill that does not substantively change anything, why not focus on changing their behaviour to bring it in line with the standards that Canadians would expect when it comes to conflict of interest? That is the problem. The problem is not the law. The problem is the actions of the Prime Minister and members of his cabinet.

If the government members are going to try to respond to their own ethical failures with new legislation, frankly, they can do a lot better. Here is a proposal that I would have for a change in the law to deal with ethics. Why do they not introduce meaningful sanctions for people who break the law? That is the biggest question I get from Canadians with respect to the Prime Minister's behaviour. They say if they drive too fast, if they park illegally, they have to pay a fine. However, the Prime Minister cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in security costs that should not have been incurred, as a result of an illegal vacation that the Ethics Commissioner found to be illegal, yet there are no sanctions.

Most of my constituents think that if we are going to change the law with respect to the government's ethics in response to these issues, let us have a law that introduces meaningful sanctions for those who break the law, especially for the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers. For his troubles, the finance minister was fined $200 which, not to delve too deeply into his personal finances, does not seem like a lot of money. It does not seem like it is going to have a big deterrent effect in terms of future behaviour. Maybe that is something that the government should consider in future legislation.

Certainly with respect to the problems around the fundraising, the government's cash for access program, the bill absolutely changes nothing. It does not address the fundamental problems and the government has clearly indicated that it does not think there is a problem, that it will persist with the kind of behaviour it has undertaken until now. This is completely different from what we saw under the previous government and it begs the question, why does the government not think that people who are not paying for access would be willing to donate? Why do people think it is necessary to engage in these shady types of practices?

We had one suggestion at least from an NDP member musing about the possibility of a return to the per-vote subsidy. I want to say that, on this side of the House, we certainly do not support having taxpayers subsidize political parties.

Let us be very clear. It was the Conservatives who lowered the contribution limit substantially and eliminated corporate and union contributions. We did that as part of the Federal Accountability Act, one of the first pieces of legislation that was brought forward by Stephen Harper. Also, we eliminated the per-vote subsidy. Our democracy is doing fine. We are well-served by the present system and there is no need to return to taxpayers giving money to political parties.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 5th, 2018 / 5:30 p.m.
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NDP

Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have to admit that when the topic of political financing reform comes up, many Canadians' eyes glaze over. It is not the most exciting subject in front of this Parliament, and yet we have heard about 18 or 19 speakers on this topic pointing out both the strengths and the weaknesses of the bill.

I wish the House rules permitted the same level of debate on some of the very important private members' bills that come before the House. Perhaps we could work together to see that happen in the future.

Bill C-50 is important. We only have to look south of the border to see what happens when there are no controls over who donates to elected representatives or how much they can donate.

During the recent U.S. debate over net neutrality, another exciting subject, companies and groups on both sides of the issue lobbied with their wallets. According to OpenSecrets.org of the 535 members of Congress, 495 received campaign contributions from groups who lobbied the Federal Communications Commission on net neutrality. The telecoms, opposed to net neutrality, donated millions and the Republicans fell in line. The result will be a more limited, more expensive Internet experience for Americans. Thankfully, here in Canada we have largely constrained such obvious vote buying, but that has not always been the case.

In advance of the1872 election, Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald and his colleagues sought out campaign contributions from a Montreal shipping magnate named Hugh Allan. Allan donated what would have been a fortune back in 1872, $350,000, to Macdonald's Conservative government and he was rewarded for that donation. The Canadian Encyclopedia says:

After the election, a railway syndicate organized by Allan was rewarded with the lucrative contract to build the Canadian Pacific Railway — the trans-continental railroad promised to British Columbia when it joined Confederation.

More recently, former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was implicated in a scandal that became known as the Airbus affair.

My own province of British Columbia used to be the case study for what happens when there are insufficient campaign financing laws. In fact, a year ago The New York Times called British Columbia the “wild west” of Canadian political cash, citing the former provincial Liberal government for its many conflicts of interest and describing the “unabashedly cozy relationship between private interests and government officials in the province”. It cited B.C. for having no limits on political donations, and repeated criticisms that under the Christy Clark regime, the provincial government “has been transformed into a lucrative business, dominated by special interests that trade donations for political favours, undermining Canada’s reputation for functional, consensus-driven democracy.”

Thankfully, the new NDP government under Premier John Horgan immediately brought in political finance reforms, including bans on corporate and union donations and limiting individual donations to $1,200 per year. It is good to see civil reforms brought to the wild west.

Meanwhile, with the current federal Liberal government we have seen the cash for access scandal, where lobbyists were sold exclusive access to the Prime Minister by simply buying high-priced tickets to Liberal fundraising events. During the last election, the Liberal Party made a promise to "close political financing loopholes altogether”.

As we look at Bill C-50, the legislation before us today, we see only a timid attempt in that direction. This bill would force some party fundraising events to be advertised five days in advance, and it would ensure that the names of those attending the function are published.

The new rules apply to events attended by cabinet ministers, party leaders, and some leadership candidates. The NDP offered amendments at committee to include parliamentary secretaries and senior political staff but the Liberal members voted down those amendments.

Observers should note that the Liberal government's parliamentary secretaries are subject to the Conflict of Interest Act, but with Bill C-50, they are exempt from the transparency rules aimed at cash for access events. At the end of the day, cash for access events will still go ahead; we will just know a little more about them.

Is the government closing political financing loopholes and meeting its campaign promise? Not at all. What should this bill contain? A 2016 Globe and Mail editorial titled, “Money and politics: How to end the corruption and conflict of interest” said:

Individual donation limits should be low – possibly as low as $100. These rules should apply at all times, including election years and during party leadership campaigns.

While I am not sure about the amount, lowering the limit would absolutely take big money out of the political picture. No longer could wealthier Canadians expect to meet with cabinet ministers or the Prime Minister because only they could afford the steep price tag.

On another issue, a 2017 Senate report titled, “Controlling Foreign Influence in Canadian Elections” found that current law “does not sufficiently protect Canadian elections from being influenced by foreign entities, whether through direct interference or by providing funding to third parties.” Its recommendations, well worth the consideration of this chamber, include a “provision that more clearly states that any attempt made by foreign entities to induce Canadian electors to vote in a particular way is prohibited”, removal of the “six month limitation on the requirement to report contributions made to third parties for the purposes of election advertising”, and “require that Elections Canada perform random audits of third parties’ election advertising expenses and any contributions they have received”. These are provisions I would like to see examined further.

Currently in my riding of Kootenay—Columbia, I am often asked about issues that constituents have learned about through media websites. Unfortunately, in many cases, these news websites turn out to be politically prejudiced, are often racist, and in some cases are heavily influenced by foreign elements. They mislead, scaremonger, and prevent fact-based political discourse.

Finally, I would like to point to Bill C-364, introduced by the member for Terrebonne. His bill would sharply restrict individual donations while bringing back a formula for public subsidies to campaigns. While Bill C-364 has not yet had a rigorous review by this House, it is certainly raising some excellent issues that I would like to have seen considered within Bill C-50.

Too often money equals power, but in this place, money should have no influence. While I will be supporting this bill as at least a first baby step in the right direction, I am disappointed that the Liberal government has missed this opportunity to truly strengthen Canada's political financing laws to truly prevent influence peddling and cash for access.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 5th, 2018 / 5:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-50, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act.

Last Friday, my office got a call from a constituent who was unhappy about the government's lacklustre action on the TransCanada pipeline expansion. She wondered how she could get hold of the Prime Minister. She had some other things to say as well, such as that members opposite should remember that their sunny ways just are not cutting it for many Canadians. She was not interested in paying $1,500 to meet the Prime Minister, though.

Ralph Klein could have been describing the Liberal government's attitude when he joked, “Edmonton isn't really the end of the world—although you can see it from there.” It might seem like the end of the world from Ottawa, but we in Alberta are hurting, as is Canada, with the resource industry and no pipeline to tidewater. When the energy industry is suffering needlessly, that is Canadian jobs and prosperity out the window. My constituent still wants to know who she can talk to and how she can get to the Prime Minister.

The pipeline not getting to tidewater means that in the U.S., they build a hospital a week and a school every day. It means that in Ontario, they build a car for $30,000, but there is only one market, which takes it for $15,000 then sells it back to us for $30,000. It is why the U.S. can buy cheap oil at a 50% discount, haul it back to New Brunswick, and sell it to us at 100%. However, I digress just a little.

My constituent wanted to know how to get hold of the Prime Minister. We all know that it is a tall order. The leader of a G7 country cannot sit by his phone all day and take calls. However he might want to do that, he cannot. What is the answer? How does she get hold of the Prime Minister or a senior cabinet minister? The answer could be that it might take a while, but she will get a response if she writes a letter or an email. It will come in time, but that is just too long. In Canada, one must get an answer without having to shell out $1,500.

This bill is supposed to make sure that no pay-to-play takes place in this country. That is important. Canadians expect that. Anyone who believes in the integrity of democracy should demand no less.

I have a friend named George who sees the world as black and white, not grey. He understands what right and wrong is, so he has a real problem with politicians. He is a friend of mine, and he has a problem with me. He says, “Don't you guys understand what is right and wrong?” To him, this is a black and white issue, and it is wrong. Making one's case to elected officials is not a privilege only available to those who can afford to do so.

Last year, Maclean's ran a story about what the Prime Minister learned from watching The West Wing growing up. Apparently, the show was a formative influence. Maybe he remembers season one, episode five, when President Bartlet's chief of staff invited various fringe interest groups to meet with senior officials. He called it the “big block of cheese day”. The idea was that everyone has a right to appeal to their government, not just the well connected or the wealthy and not just people who own helicopters and private islands. That is an aspirational example. Maybe the Prime Minister skipped that episode.

Frankly, it is alarming that we even need a bill like this in Canada. Why does the government need legislation to remind itself to act ethically?

I have a friend named Karen who I have worked with for many years. She sees the world as black and white when it comes to ethics. She is a strong, ethical person. She has been involved in politics but cannot understand why we do not get why this is unethical. Can the government not tell right from wrong? It is troubling that it needs Parliament to pass legislation to remind it of such a basic standard, but it seems to think it does.

I have been troubled by some of the headlines on this bill over the last few months. A headline in The Globe and Mail, on May 31, 2017, said, “Liberals’ fundraising bill fails to quell cash-for-access charges”. A headline on iPolitics, on October 3, 2017, said, “Liberals’ fundraising bill needs teeth, says official”. A headline on the CBC, on October 17, 2017, said, “Cash for access fundraising law should be widened, says ethics commissioner”. What, the Ethics Commissioner?

The bill, which should not be necessary in the first place, does not stop cash for access. It is an ethics bill that the Ethics Commissioner has misgivings about. An event needs to be advertised before it is held and then a report on the event has to be submitted afterward. Cash for access could continue; this legislation would not stop it. The bill gives this practice an air of legitimacy. As the member for Calgary Shepard mentioned in his speech on the bill, it is window dressing.

We need more than window dressing; we need a real commitment to ethical behaviour. The Prime Minister is the first Canadian prime minister to break a federal law while in office. He violated multiple sections of the Conflict of Interest Act, and he refuses to pay back the expenses he charged taxpayers for his illegal vacation.

The member for Red Deer—Mountain View made a good point in his speech. The member noted that when the Prime Minister was the member for Papineau, he was forced to repay money that had been inappropriately charged to his member's operational budget. Why is this situation any different? When one breaks the rules, one makes amends. That is what is expected of normal Canadians. The Prime Minister needs to show that he does not think he is above playing by the same rules as the rest of us. He needs to pay that money back.

Needless to say, Canadians expect a higher ethical standard from their prime minister. They expect the standard that the Prime Minister outlined for his cabinet in their mandate letters. Those read, “you must uphold the highest standards of honesty and impartiality, and both the performance of your official duties and the arrangement of your private affairs should bear the closest public scrutiny. This is an obligation that is not fully discharged by simply acting within the law.”

The key points here are that a minister's actions are expected to bear the closest public scrutiny, and they need to go above and beyond just following the law. The reasoning should be obvious: following the law is not enough when it comes to ethical behaviour. If one behaves unethically, one cannot just use the law to cover up for one's actions. Therefore, what happened? A few cash for access scandals, an illegal vacation later, and we have new laws being drafted to make up for these ethical lapses.

I have a friend named Sue. I worked with her, a colleague in a leadership position. To her, ethical behaviour was the foremost thing we needed to practice in our professional lives. It was black and white. We had to understand ethics and make our decisions that way. She was very much respected for her leadership.

When I use public transportation, there are signs indicating that some seats are reserved for those who might have trouble standing. What if those signs were not there? It would not suddenly become ethical to remain seated while someone holding an infant struggled to stand. We would not say, “Sorry, but I won't give up my seat to you unless they pass a law forcing me to do so.” However, that is what the government is doing here. Rather than relying on their own integrity to do the right thing, the Liberals are passing a law.

That is why this legislation will not make any difference. Being required to advertise an event and report on it afterwards would not deter those who are determined to practice cash for access. One has to have moral guidelines and principles. It is right or wrong. Cash for access is morally wrong. The best way to stop cash for access is to stop doing it. It is that simple. There is no law that is needed. As with giving up one's seat on the bus, it is basic ethical behaviour.

If we look at rankings of professions in our country, we will see nurses and farmers at the top of that list. They are believed to be acting ethically. Who is at the bottom of that list? Politicians are at the bottom, because the average Canadian does not think we act ethically, and this is an example of why.

I must emphasize again that the issues my colleagues and I are raising today are fundamental to a strong democracy. Canadians are the inheritors of a great democratic tradition, a centuries-old Westminster parliamentary system with its roots in Great Britain. In some respects, we MPs are the guardians of this proud democratic legacy. Canadians trust us to live up to the highest democratic principles. When the government is caught practising cash for access, that trust is broken. It must be regained. I am sorry to say that for the many reasons I have tried to outline today, this legislation is not the way to do that.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 5th, 2018 / 5:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-50 is another effort by the Liberal government to simply pull the wool over the eyes of Canadians. Bill C-50 brings nothing to the table at all on political financing that was not already laid out.

The Liberals like to use the word “transparency”. In fact, it is included in almost everything they produce, including the famous mandate letters. Let us look at the meaning of the word “transparency” in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, which states it is “the quality of being transparent”, such as “(a) the quality that makes it possible to see through something”, for example, “the transparency of a piece of glass”; and “(b) the quality that makes something obvious or easy to understand”, for example, “the transparency of their motives. He says that there needs to be more transparency in the way the government operates.”

Whoever “he” is, I agree. However, let us go to the next definition, which states, “a piece of thin, clear plastic with pictures or words printed on it that can be viewed on a large screen by shining light through it”.

Therefore, while the rest of Canada has been interpreting the word “transparent” as clear and easy to understand, the Liberals have been putting their own words on a “transparency”, which one will need to shine a light on just to see them. Therefore, let us get the light out and shine it on them.

Let me first, in my own effort to be transparent, say at the outset that I have relied heavily on the remarks of my colleague, the member for Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, that were made in this place on June 8 of last year on Bill C-50. It is hard to improve on his remarks. However, I think they are worth repeating here tonight.

For instance, he noted that on November 7, 2016, B.C. multimillionaire Miaofei Pan hosted a fundraiser right at his West Vancouver mansion, and he made the case to the Prime Minister, at this event that he had to pay to get into and that he had to host, to allow Chinese investment in seniors care and real estate developments and ease the rules for rich immigrants from China. What better way to get preferential access than to have it right in one's own house? This took place as the federal government had been reviewing a $1 billion bid by China's Anbang Insurance Group to buy one of B.C.'s largest retirement home nursing care chains.

An article published in The Globe and Mail on December 2, 2016, states:

The Liberal Party has repeatedly told The Globe and Mail “individuals wishing to discuss government business at party events are immediately redirected to instead make an appointment with the appropriate office.”

The host of this fundraiser, Mr. Pan, told The Globe and Mail in an interview that the Prime Minister was “approachable and friendly” when he raised the issues, including Chinese companies' keen interest to invest in Canadian health care for seniors.

This is a long, convoluted story, which is readily available on the Internet. However, the end result, as reported again in The Globe and Mail of February 21, 2017, is that the Liberal government has green-lighted the sale of one of B.C.'s biggest retirement home chains to a Beijing-based insurance titan with a murky ownership structure in a deal that gives China certainly a big foothold in Canada's health care sector. It states:

On paper, a majority stake in Vancouver-based Retirement Concepts—believed to exceed $1-billion in value—is being sold to a Chinese-owned company called Cedar Tree Investment Canada. That is the deal that federal officials in Ottawa announced they had approved.... However, Cedar Tree is the company that China's Anbang Insurance is using to make the acquisition.

Therefore, shining a light on it becomes that much clearer.

Business people are not going to pay $1,500-plus in return for a glass of wine and a piece of cheese, only to be redirected to make an appointment with the appropriate office. They could do that without forking over $1,500-plus and achieve the same result.

However, the goal of Bill C-50 is to legitimize pay-to-play or cash for access events. The Liberals have a majority of government in the House and the bill will pass, but will it pass the smell test with Canadian taxpayers? The Liberals can say that it was the express will of Parliament that this practice be continued, but let me assure members that it is not the express will of this Conservative member of Parliament here. It is only the will of the Liberal Party, because Liberals are the only ones who have the Prime Minister and cabinet in power. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, stay tuned for the Liberal outcry when this changes and they can no longer benefit from this smoke-and-mirrors bill.

There have been over 100 of these cash for access events in the country in the last year. There soirees are not limited to traditional fundraising either. For example, Chinese billionaires have been attending Liberal fundraisers, even though they are not allowed to donate because they are not Canadian citizens. One of these individuals, by the name of Zhang Bin, is a member of the Communist Party. He attended a fundraiser on May 19, 2016 at the Toronto home of the Chinese Business Chamber of Commerce chairperson, Benson Wong. Again, this is according to the The Globe and Mail.

A few weeks later, as we have noted in this discussion throughout the day in the House, Mr. Zhang and a business partner donated $200,000 to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, with $50,000 to build a statue of the current Prime Minister's father. It was a pretty good meeting that he had. I am sure that these donations were made out of the goodness of their hearts, with thanks for the glass of wine and the piece of cheese.

There is another example of pay to play, which was pointed out by my colleague from Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston. The finance minister was scheduled to attend a fundraiser in Calgary on November 2, at a cost of $1,500 to get in the door. It was at the home of Shaw Communications president, Jay Mehr. The telecom firm has directly lobbied the finance department eight times. Is there a conflict here? It appears that making an appointment with the appropriate office was not working. Would hosting a Liberal fundraiser prove to be more profitable for the telecom firm? As they say in the movies, Mr. Speaker, stay tuned.

Let me echo this sentiment. The system that is designed to give the incumbent party an ongoing, perpetual systemic advantage is inherently morally wrong, leaving aside the fact that it is giving preferential access to cabinet ministers when the average Canadian does not get the chance. It is absolutely contemptible.

In closing, I would like to say that Canadians deserve better than a Prime Minister who believes that there is one set of rules for him and another set of rules for everyone else. We all deserve to live with the confidence that we do not have to shine a light on every word uttered by the government of the day to get the true meaning of its remarks. We all deserve better than the current government.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 5th, 2018 / 6:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Alupa Clarke Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, many people from Beauport—Limoilou are listening to us this evening, and I would like to say hello to them. It is a pleasure to represent them, especially this evening as we debate Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing) an act to amend the Canada Elections Act. This bill basically seeks to legitimize and formalize a palpable and tangible form of corruption in Canada. We first saw this system in the 1990s and 2000s, under the successive governments of Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne. However, the federal Liberals have also used this system over 100 times since 2015. They are now trying to formalize and legitimize it by introducing a bill in the House.

What was the system established by Ontario's Liberal government in the 1990s? Two people were responsible for its implementation, namely Mr. Butts and Ms. Telford. Mr. Butts is currently the Prime Minister principal secretary. He works in the Langevin Block. I will always call it by this name because I am very proud of it. Mr. Langevin is a French Canadian who spent his entire career fighting for Quebec's right to have a seat at the cabinet table so that Quebeckers and French Canadians would be heard at the start of the 20th century. Mr. Langevin was also a great source of pride for Macdonald's government. Thus, it is an affront to me that his name was removed from the Langevin Block. I now will return to the matter at hand.

Mr. Butts is principal secretary to the Prime Minister, and Ms. Telford is, or at least I think she still is, the Prime Minister's chief of staff. Incidentally, the Prime Minister's Office is another institution that should be shut down immediately. What did those two individuals do when they introduced this system in Ontario? They made sure that ministers—as well as any backbenchers like myself and other members here who want to advance their career and perhaps become a minister to do great things for this country—would have to conform to a system that would relegate the issues that matter to them to the back burner, issues like the Constitution, the development of francophone communities, their ridings, their constituents, and community groups. The members are told that what matters is filling the party's coffers so that they can win elections, not with well-reasoned arguments, but rather by spending billions of dollars.

This system involved quotas for each minister and anyone who wanted to become a minister. For example, the finance minister and the Ontario health minister each had to raise half a million dollars a year. In this tightly organized system, the cocktail parties and fundraisers hosted by ministers had to be linked somehow to their portfolios. Another thing that surprised me about the Liberal members' speeches is that they do not want to talk about the very clear distinction between partisan fundraising events and cash for access events like the ones the Liberals held over 100 times between 2015 and 2017.

Just like every MP in Canada, I have fundraised with members of my own party, the Conservative Party, or with people who were interested in meeting Conservatives in order to better understand our political philosophy, what we can do for Canada, where we are coming from, and where we are going. In short, they wanted to know our ideas for this great country. However, I have never attended a fundraiser where there were 30 people from the same organization or the same profession who had an existing contract, business project, or other interest to bring to the attention of some federal department.

Every time that I participate in a fundraiser, many Canadians who are interested in politics come to meet the Conservatives to find out more about our political party. However, cash for access fundraisers stem from considerable pressure from the Prime Minister's Office. The justice and finance ministers, for example, are required to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Under this system, every minister purposely and carefully comes up with detailed guest lists that include organizations or individuals that lobby the government on files related to his or her portfolio.

Here are two real-life examples. As recently as 2016, the Minister of Justice organized an event in Toronto. I do not remember the exact date, but this event has been discussed at length today. Most of the people who attended were lobbying the government to make changes to the Criminal Code and the Canadian judiciary, or even to become judges. I would like to know if there was even one Liberal MP at that event or whether even one ordinary Toronto resident was there to learn more about the Liberals' political philosophy—if they have one, other than a desire to be in power. In short, the Minister of Justice had to apologize for organizing this event, since it was so blatant.

It was the same thing when the Minister of Finance met with port authority representatives in Halifax. That event was also attended by businessmen who had very important things they wanted to talk to the Minister of Finance about. Here again, they were not card-carrying members of the Liberal Party who wanted to know more about his vision for the country, and nor were they Haligonians interested in finding out what their 35 or 36 Liberal MPs are doing for Atlantic Canada. They were lobbyists with specific interests who knew full well that paying $1,500—that is now $1,575—would give them direct access to the minister and a chance to voice their concerns or make specific requests.

Those are two of the more egregious examples. Luckily, editors-in-chief at Canada's major daily papers got wind of them. Journalists tend to be pretty lenient with this government, but these two typical cash for access functions stank so badly of corruption that the media ran the stories.

The Prime Minister himself said that this practice lacked transparency and that it likely should not be condoned in Canadian politics because it would only make Canadians more cynical and less likely to want to take part in democracy when they see that it takes $1,500 to gain access to the Minister of Finance. When the media reported that and the Prime Minister and the government acknowledged that it was unfortunate for Canadian democracy, the Liberals decided to fix the problem by introducing Bill C-50, which, as I said from the outset, seeks to formalize and legitimize fundraising activities that provide special access.

What questions were raised in the House by my colleague from York—Simcoe, “Let us go back and see what happens. Is there anything in the bill that would stop the exact same thing from happening again?” The answer is no.

He went on, “Is there anything that would discourage it, because that maximum donation to the party is publicly disclosed anyhow?”

No, this will not prevent cash for access fundraisers from happening again. This is a smokescreen. There is absolutely nothing in this bill that will prevent this type of corruption in Canada. On the contrary, the Liberal government is merely legitimizing and formalizing rampant corruption and giving itself a leg up when it comes to fundraising in Canada.

We must condemn this. It is absolutely shameful.

As the member for Beauport—Limoilou, I strongly oppose this bill.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

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

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech on this bill. My colleague talked about the fact that journalists picked up the story and covered it for quite a while, since there were so many cash for access fundraising events.

Does my colleague think the Liberals decided to take this approach only because they were caught red-handed? There was a bit of a public outcry. Canadians were not happy that their government could more or less be bought off and that it had no scruples about holding this kind of fundraising activity. Does my colleague think that if the government's practices had not come to light there would be no Bill C-50? Does my colleague think the government would have continued doing what it was doing in secret?

This is an easy response to a problem exposed by the media and the public, who were very upset by this.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 5th, 2018 / 6:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, my friend from Beauport—Limoilou is quite right that the underlying objective of Bill C-50 is to sanitize the Liberals' sorted cash for access racket. Even though this bill does virtually nothing substantively to improve political financing laws, the Ethics Commissioner did recommend some very modest amendments to the bill. For example, she recommended including parliamentary secretaries, as well as including staff, which would include the likes of Gerald Butts, who headlined a fundraiser for the hon. member for Charlottetown.

If the Liberal government was truly interested in strengthening political financing laws, why would it have rejected amendments recommended by the Ethics Commissioner?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 2nd, 2018 / 10:05 a.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to speak to another important piece of legislation that the government has brought forward.

I am a bit surprised with the number of amendments and the objections coming forward from the Conservative Party, in particular, with regard to the legislation. I believe Canadians in all regions of our wonderful country would support it because it is about transparency.

Members of the opposition often talk about elections and about looking at ways we can improve them. They often want to talk about ensuring there is more transparency in government. However, when it comes to an opportunity to vote in favour of legislation that would make election financing more transparent, it appears they will vote against it, particularly the Conservative Party. I am somewhat disappointed in that. I thought those members would recognize, as other stakeholders have, the value of passing it.

Nowadays, the Conservatives like to quote the former ethics commissioner excessively. Mary Dawson has been clear that the legislation would ensure more transparency. Even though stakeholders such as Mary Dawson clearly indicate that it is good legislation moving forward, the official opposition objects to it. It does not make sense, unless we get a better understanding as to why the Conservatives might be a bit nervous about it.

We on this side of the House recognize what the legislation proposes to do, and maybe that is a good starting point for me.

What would Bill C-50 do that would offend so many Conservative members across the way? The bill would make fundraising events more transparent. It would apply to all fundraising events involving cabinet ministers, including the Prime Minister. I think the Conservatives object to that. The proposed bill also includes transparency by party leaders and leadership candidates when there is a leadership race.

The bill would require events to be advertised on the website of political parties at least five days before they would take place. Political parties would be required to provide a report of attendees at these events to Elections Canada within 30 days after the event.

The bill also proposes some technical changes. It will bring leadership and nomination campaign expenses in line with the current regime for candidates.

In 2017, a Conservative fundraiser was held at which the current Conservative leader was the all-star candidate, not Stephen Harper but his replacement. Many people confuse the two as the same, and I can appreciate why. No one was to know about it. It was a secret fundraiser. When we initially inquired about it, we were told there was no fundraiser.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 2nd, 2018 / 10:15 a.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, it was a pleasure listening to the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader today. The word that often is used in these circumstances is “hutzpa”. The hon. gentleman rises to talk about the glories of Liberal electoral reform a year and a day after the Prime Minister broke the most sacred promise made during on campaign trail, which was the last first past the post, etc. Today, he would like us to believe that somehow making fundraising events more transparent is a substitute for getting rid of cash for access programs. I think he believes we can fool Canadians with these cosmetic changes in Bill C-50 and make them forget that all the Liberals are doing is normalizing cash for access programs.

Does the hon. gentleman even care?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 2nd, 2018 / 10:20 a.m.
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Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer—Mountain View, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to talk about Bill C-50, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act, specifically on the issue of political financing.

Like the member opposite who just spoke, I have a great sense of pride when it comes to speaking about Canada's political financing and its corresponding election laws, which have kept big business and unions out of government decision-making. Of course, individual donors were the bedrock of Canadian politics.

I had the opportunity a number of years ago, in Panama City, during a Summit of the Americas, with ParlAmericas, to do a presentation having to do with transparency in politics. In that particular discussion, one of the things I spoke of was the lack of dollars from business and the lack of dollars from the unions and that the reality is that anyone can come into the House of Commons without having a lot of money behind them. When we go into Central America and talk about election financing there, we realize that most people are looking at how many dollars are spent on U.S. elections and the constant campaigning that takes place there.

The difference between how Canada conducts itself and how some of the other countries conduct themselves is something they felt was rather intriguing. I was a former teacher, and the amount of money we could spend would probably be about the same amount as my salary for the year. That put it in perspective so that people could understand exactly how much involvement there is and how the community could stay associated with what is done in a political campaign. For that I felt that as Canadians, we could be extremely proud.

However, here we are today specifically debating the bill before us, because Liberal elites got caught organizing unethical activities, which proved that their promise of openness and accountability to Canadians was just a sham. The Prime Minister, throughout his campaign, said that the Liberals were going to do things differently; that they would govern with openness and transparency; and that, after a juvenile statement that budgets would balance themselves, they would grow our economy from the heart out. They made a campaign promise of small, temporary, $10-billion deficits and a return to balanced budgets in a few years. We now see what that heart is made of. We are specifically debating Bill C-50 today because the Liberals could not keep their promise of openness and accountability to Canadians.

The member for Papineau was elected in 2008, at the same time I was, and sat way back on the Liberal benches. Very few people heard much of him in those days. Some perhaps thought him a bit aloof, with maybe his head in the clouds as a young guy just trying to find himself. However, the reality was that he was often out on the road, similar to what he is doing in his present position, but on a professional, paid speaking circuit. That in itself is of no concern to me, but the media report from January 16, 2014, in the Ottawa Citizen indicated that he was forced to repay money that had been inappropriately charged to his member's operational budget during his off time as an MP. This went way back to 2009 and 2010.

I know that such expenses arise for many of us on reimbursed expenses. I remember a situation of my own where a community advertisement of an event happened to include a commentary later thanking all the sponsors for the event. Well, we know what the word “sponsor” means to everyone. Therefore, when it was looked at, the answer was no, we are not paying for that. There was one person who ended up paying for that, and it was me, because I wrote the cheque. It happens, and it happens to everyone. When they realize that there is a problem, they go back and correct it.

It was also the case for the member for Papineau. He had received $217,000 in speaking fees as an opposition MP, which is a number curiously familiar to a number we use right now. A mistake was made, and he repaid the expenses that were associated with that type of activity. This is the same type of thing that many of his cabinet ministers have had to do as they have reached into their pockets to make things right.

Now the Prime Minister, after two years, has broken federal ethics laws; has a Minister of Finance embroiled in transparency and ethics scandals; and is touting economic progress, which is solely related to a buoyant U.S. economy and is poised, due to our regulatory burdens and unwise policies, to come crashing back down. This is even before the generational malaise that will affect us all because of the Liberal culture of uncontrolled deficit spending.

Again, we are here today talking about integrity and respect for the Canadian taxpayer and opening up the reality of the Liberals' promise of openness and transparency.

After the election, fresh from their sunny-ways glow, the Prime Minister publicly displayed the mandate letters to his ministers in which he clearly said that his cabinet ministers should hold themselves to a higher standard and that there should be no undue influence and no perception, real or otherwise, of any political interference. Not even halfway through their mandate, the Liberals were caught organizing cash-for-access events for Liberal insiders and deep-pocketed lobbyists. The Prime Minister and his senior ministers were effectively raising millions dollars for the Liberal coffers at private fundraisers where donors had access to government ministers.

This is not what Canadians see as ethical. The Liberals' favourite defence seems to be, “What could be wrong with that? It is what we Liberals have always done.”

We need to establish some very clear distinctions. Political fundraising is part of our political process. Everyday Canadians donate to political parties or political candidates because they believe in what those parties or candidates stand for. Donating to the party or candidates of their choice is their way of supporting the activities of those parties or those candidates, and they are doing so out of pure conviction. On the campaign trail, political party leaders and candidates are expected to hold fundraisers, and people buy tickets to come to those fundraisers. That is part of what makes our great democratic system so good here in Canada.

Here is the thing. As the government, the Liberals are going to rewrite legislation with the pretence of openness and transparency. They hope it will deflect from their bad behaviour and put the onus on other politicians that have followed the normal rules, with the hope that they will trip up, so that these types of negative stories about them will be deflected somewhere else. This is very, very sneaky. This, at its very core, is unethical influence. Then again, what else can we expect from a Prime Minister who holds the record of being the first Prime Minister in Canadian history to violate federal ethics laws? Caught red-handed, the Liberals are now trying to save face.

The question many people have with respect to this bill is whether Bill C-50 would change anything. Unfortunately, it would not. This bill would not stop the cash-for-access fundraisers. In fact, it would mandate that the Liberals publicize such events ahead of time, but reporting such events ahead of time would not make them transparent. Bill C-50, despite making the events public knowledge, would not stop cash for access. The Prime Minister and his ministers could still be at events. The staff of cabinet ministers could be at events without it even being disclosed under Bill C-50. There would be no transparency about a senior government official being at an event, only people who were candidates or party leaders or cabinet ministers.

The bill would not stop cash for access. It would not stop the influence of big money in Canadian politics. What this bill would do is formalize and institute a system in which the richest, most connected individuals would have undue influence on the reins of power in Canadian politics.

The Liberals are legitimizing their unethical schemes. This bill would not address the Prime Minister's promise of openness and accountability, and it would not deter undue influence over government decision-making.

My final thoughts are that Canadians believe that a prime minister should not need a bill to tell him what is right or wrong. The Prime Minister himself can stop this practice of letting the richest and most connected Canadians influence government. If the Prime Minister wanted to end cash for access, all he ever had to do was stop having these fundraisers. It does not take legislation to do what is right.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 2nd, 2018 / 10:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

Mr. Speaker, I sat quite close to the member for Papineau when he first came here. I can honestly say that to suggest that he was not involved in this place at the beginning is not exactly correct, considering the fact that he was one of the first ones to pass a motion regarding youth, one that was long overdue, and he did a very good job doing that. He worked very hard on that. That was when he first got here.

I want to go back to what the member said. It is obvious that he does not want to support Bill C-50, which is a long time coming. This proposed legislation is certainly refreshing. It is almost like we have forgotten the facts. He said himself that political fundraising is part of our political process. I was present in the House during the tenure of the former Conservative government. It almost seems like a minister never showed up to a fundraising event in those years. That is entirely not true, if that is what the member believes. The former minister of heritage, the former minister of finance, when they were in the Conservative government, went to these fundraising events.

Instead of talking about Bill C-50, because I know how the member feels about Bill C-50 now, I want him to tell me exactly why it was so wrong for those Conservative ministers to go to those events and what he did to make sure that it did not happen.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 2nd, 2018 / 10:35 a.m.
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NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House in 2018. This year, I will be as optimistic as ever, and I will keep working tirelessly for the people of greater Drummond. Today we are talking about Bill C-50, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act with respect to political financing, which is at report stage.

If this bill becomes law, all political parties will be required to report to Elections Canada the names and addresses of individuals attending a fundraising event within 30 days of the event taking place. The information will be available to the public. This concerns mainly members of cabinet, including the Prime Minister, party leaders, and leadership candidates.

This amendment was introduced in response to all the scandals involving the current Liberal Prime Minister. The people of greater Drummond have talked to me about all the meetings the Prime Minister has held behind the closed doors of wealthy people's homes at which guests paid $1,500 for privileged access to him or almost $1,000 to meet ministers. This creates the appearance of conflict of interest and is known as cash for access.

The current government was thrown into turmoil by the scandal, so it decided to introduce this bill. However, the bill will not make political fundraising by cabinet ministers and party leaders significantly more transparent to the public. Unfortunately, it will not fix the problem of cash for access, so these fundraisers will continue to be held.

This bill comes just one year after the Liberal Prime Minister announced he was breaking his promise to ensure that the 2015 election would be the last one held under the first past the post system. Many voters in Drummond had believed that promise. This reform had been backed by three major political parties, including the NDP, and more than 60% of voters voted for those parties. I myself held consultations in Drummond, and the many residents who attended said they believed this change would be made. Sadly, yesterday was the one-year anniversary of the day this promise was broken, despite 90% of experts and 80% of Canadians unanimously supporting a proportional voting system.

The reform before us today does nothing to fix this problem. On the contrary, the Liberals have swept that reform under the rug, and Canadians have become even more cynical about politics, because this promise had been repeated ad nauseam by politicians. Even the Prime Minister, hand on his heart, had promised this change on multiple occasions. Unbelievably, he backed down from that promise.

What Bill C-50 wants to do is put an end to cash for access, but it does not manage to do that.

Bill C-50 seeks to put an end to cash for access, but unfortunately, it does not. Clearly, there is a lot money floating around the Liberal government right now. To give just one example, the people interested in projects funded through the Infrastructure Bank are millionaires. They want a private infrastructure bank in order to make a profit on the backs of Canadian taxpayers, including the people of Drummond. Frustrations are growing because people do not want increased user fees, the privatization of our assets, and a loss of control.

Greater Drummond has a number of infrastructure projects, and the Liberal government promised to invest in infrastructure. To date, the riding of Drummond has not received a single investment in that area. As a result, several projects have not been able to get off the ground, specifically because of a lack of federal support.

Drummondville has plans for a multi-sport centre that would include a soccer field, an indoor football field, and a running track. We really need this indoor soccer field. We asked the federal government for help. The project could cost up to $15 million. We have yet to receive a response from the government regarding funding for the project.

That is unacceptable, given that this government promised to invest in infrastructure. So far, there has been no such investment in the riding of Drummond.

We have another major project, the Promenade des Voltigeurs. This infrastructure project includes plans for a bike path that would also be an ideal walking path winding along the Saint-François River. The price tag for the project is $6.2 million. We have applied to the federal government for assistance, but have not heard back yet.

When will the federal government invest in infrastructure in Drummond? We are looking to receive investments soon.

Hockey is a big deal in Drummond. Our team, the Voltigeurs, is having a good season. Things are going well for the team this year. We would like to modernize our main arena, the Marcel-Dionne Centre. That project will cost $26 million. What is the federal government promising for that investment? Once again, nothing, unfortunately.

The Liberal government is not living up to its promise to invest in infrastructure. More than two years after it was elected, it has invested nothing.

I could go on. There is the high-frequency rail project in the riding of Drummond. The train would travel from Quebec City to Windsor, passing through Drummondville and Montreal along the way. This is a major project that would enable the greater Drummond area to grow both socially and economically. My riding is a real transportation hub. It is a wonderful area for transportation because it is so well located. Unfortunately, we are still waiting for answers from the federal government on this project, which has been in the works for a long time. The Liberals took office two years ago and they are still doing studies. It is time for them to announce investments. It is time for them to invest in public transit and this wonderful major project. The Liberals have still not made any announcements in this regard.

All of these examples show that this government was elected because it made certain promises. The Liberals made a big promise, and the people of Drummond and other Canadians believed them. They believed the Liberals when they said that the 2015 election would be the last first past the post election. The Prime Minister broke that promise.

What did the Prime Minister do? He set up a system of cash for access, which has caused numerous scandals. He held meetings at private residences and charged $1,500 a plate. That is why this government, in the wake of those scandals, introduced a bill, which, when it comes right down to it, will not even solve that basic problem.

I am calling on the Liberal government to go back to the drawing board and redo its homework because this bill does not resolve the problem of cash for access fundraisers.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 2nd, 2018 / 10:50 a.m.
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Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Thank you for making me aware of that, Mr. Speaker.

It is an honour to rise today and to join the debate on Bill C-50. The Liberals call this the “making political fundraising events more open and transparent” act, but from my read it should really be called the “protecting Liberals from their fundraising practices” bill, because that is what this bill proposes to do.

How did we get here? We know that the Liberal Party, in particular the Prime Minister, was caught and exposed on numerous occasions in what media called “cash for access fundraising”. This is a practice where typically someone of significant wealth hosts a private event where people of similar wealth pay large sums of money to have special access to the Prime Minister or to a minister.

Obviously this is a concern, but let me explain exactly why.

As one example, we know that extremely wealthy Chinese nationals played a role in some of the cash for access fundraising activities with the Prime Minister. Likewise, we also know that the Liberal cabinet has signed off on some very questionable acquisitions of Canadian companies by Chinese interests. That is troubling for many Canadians, much more so when one considers that the lobbying activities under the Liberal government have literally exploded.

I suspect this is the most lobbied government in Canadian history, and why is that? Why are so many lobbyists often found at these private cash for access fundraisers? Even in this proposed Liberal legislation, registered lobbyists are indeed still welcome to attend cash for access fundraisers, because at the end of the day, this legislation in no way seeks to curtail or otherwise discourage cash for access fundraising events. It basically seeks to legitimize them and I would argue, by extension, encourage more of them.

To summarize the bill, basically it says that selling access in exchange for political donations of money is totally okay, so long as the event is advertised less than one week in advance, I might add. If they tell us who is on the guest list, including the address and how much the access fee is, basically, they are good to go.

Can anyone attend? Pretty much, yes. Does what actually happens at the event have to be disclosed? Heck, no. Can lobbyists attend? Absolutely. Can they actively lobby while there? Absolutely, yes, but they are required to report that. Does the legislation require someone to be there to monitor it? Heck, no. What exactly does “lobby the government” mean under this proposed bill? We do not know. It does not specifically say.

Seriously, does anyone see a problem here? I can imagine the discussions that must have went on behind the scenes when the Liberals created the bill: “We need a bill that totally makes cash for access fundraising legal to avoid these nasty media stories, but the bill cannot in any way stop the fundraising from occurring.” In this regard, the bill is perfect, legitimizing that which should not be legitimized, at least in my view.

The really interesting thing is that the Liberals think we need the bill at all.

Let me explain.

We all know the reason we are debating the bill is due to the fact the Prime Minister was caught multiple times in cash for access fundraisers, and being a Prime Minister who is all about his brand, that uncomfortable fact did not sit well with him. The Liberals could have simply stopped doing these kinds of cash for access fundraisers or at the very least there was nothing stopping the Liberal Party of Canada from adopting these policies they are now imposing in the bill. Of course, because it is all about the brand, instead we are essentially legislating into law what should not be occurring in the first place. This should be the Liberal Party of Canada's policy because hopefully the next leader of the Liberal Party will put an end to this unethical practice.

However, making cash for access fundraisers legal with certain guidelines is more brand friendly, and who does not support the brand? I wonder if the Liberals will next legislate regulations on how they can accept a free luxury vacation to a private island.

I would also like to point out that, from my own political experience at least, I have never observed any of these federal political parties aside from the Liberals using these kinds of tactics. When I brought the previous prime minister to my riding, we held a barbeque where the entry fee was well under $100 and that was only to cover the cost of the venue, food, and the logistics such as staging. I know that when the former leader of the NDP was in my riding, the event that he hosted was free to attend.

This is why I refer to this bill as the Liberals' “protect us from ourselves” bill, because it is only the Liberals, from my experience, who use these kinds of engagements for cash for access fundraising.

I wonder if this bill is open to an amendment. As an example, we learned recently that incumbent Liberal MPs are now protected from the threat of democracy provided they have a healthy war chest back at home in their electoral district association. Given that, in the past, the current Prime Minister said he would not intervene in candidate nomination processes, only to break his word and intervene, we know that the Prime Minister cannot be trusted.

Therefore, possibly we could amend the bill to suggest democracy should prevail and that no candidate should be excluded from the opportunity to run for public office because an incumbent could use cash for access fundraisers to buy immunity with the Liberal Party. Because we all know that this Prime Minister plays favourites within his own caucus, some Liberal MPs would get the help and others would not. That is something to think about.

Before I close, I will simply add this thought. Recently it was pointed out that the current Liberal government has the slowest legislative activity record in almost two decades. I am not here to praise the official opposition for that fact or to criticize the Liberals for the lack of it, but when there is less legislation on the table, so to speak, it does speak volumes as to what bills the Liberals see as a priority to advance through the House. The fact that a bill that seeks to legitimize cash for access fundraisers is a Liberal priority speaks volumes about the priorities of the Prime Minister.

We all know this bill would do nothing for the middle class and those seeking to join it, because of course they cannot afford to attend the Prime Minister's cash for access fundraisers. This bill would do nothing for people with disabilities. It would do nothing for citizens looking for affordable housing. It would not help single mothers who have been unfairly cut off from the Canada child benefit support payments, nor would the bill help federal public servants not getting paid by the Phoenix payroll system.

This bill would only help the Prime Minister with his brand when he does cash for access fundraising. That is exactly why I will be voting against the bill.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 2nd, 2018 / 12:10 p.m.
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Halifax Nova Scotia

Liberal

Andy Fillmore LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions

Mr. Speaker, picking up where we left off before question period, as I listened to the member's high moral judging, I was reminded of another great work of fiction.

What we have here is really a tale of two leaders, in which what is the best of times for the leader on this side of the House is perhaps the worst of times for the leader on the opposite side. We have one leader, the Leader of the Opposition, attacking the other other, the Prime Minister, for holding fundraisers. At the same time, the Leader of the Opposition first denies having secret fundraisers and then, when presented with proof, in a plot twist worthy of Dickens, says that it is okay for him to do those things. Then we have the other leader, the Prime Minister, proposing a bill to increase transparency in fundraising, and who is indeed already voluntarily following the rules proposed in Bill C-50.

Could the member tell the House why, in the winter of the Conservative despair, the antagonist in this tale, his leader, will not take his party's fundraising activities out of the season of darkness and into the season of light?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 2nd, 2018 / 12:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have eagerly awaited my turn to speak on Bill C-50 on behalf of the Bloc Québécois.

This bill claims it will make political party financing more transparent. The problem is that it completely misses the root of the problem, and sadly, I suspect that was the intention. I wish to remind the members that we are all here to represent the people who chose us, not to represent the political party that we chose. We are here to speak on behalf of the people and defend their interests. We are here to make sure that the people in our ridings are protected against powerful interests.

Interest groups and elites have lobbies to push their causes, but for the Canadian people, we are their lobbies, in a way. However, the public is losing faith in us. Nowadays, it has become commonplace to say that politicians are corrupt, that they are in the pockets of big money, that they are up for sale. Like the weather and the usual gripes, distrust of Canada's political class is now a topic for small talk. The relationship between us and the people who elected us is the backbone of democracy. If we let that relationship crumble, we will have no purpose anymore.

The government claims to want to make the funding of political parties more transparent with Bill C-50. From now on, when governing parties want to organize $1,500 per person cocktail parties, they will have to advertise them in advance and report the names of those who attend.

However, the fact that these events were not advertised has never been the problem. Even if these $1,500 per person evenings were to make the front page of the newspaper, my constituents in Joliette would not attend. They cannot afford to spend that kind of money to meet politicians. In fact, most of them would simply like to have that kind of money.

The fact that we did not know who attended these parties has never been the problem. The Chief Electoral Officer releases a yearly report on political contributions. One need only check his website to get all the information.

The problem has nothing to do with the publicity surrounding the great Canadian tango between the two main federal parties, or with the guest list. The problem lies with the events themselves. The problem is that by selling privileged access to the prime minister, cabinet, and aspiring opposition ministers, when polls are good, that sends Canadians the message that access to our decision-makers can be bought. In this case, the fee is $1,500.

This makes people feel as though there is one democracy for them and another democracy for special interests. There is a democracy for ordinary folks and a democracy for folks who can pay. Everyone knows that this type of fundraising is wrong except for the politicians who benefit from it. Commentators often talk about a cynical public, but that is not at all true. The public has a moral compass. The public can tell between what is good and what is bad. In the people's eyes, we are the cynical ones, driven by our own interests.

The most precious thing a politician has is his or her reputation. This problem had been fixed. The Liberals themselves, under Jean Chrétien, brought forward a solution with the per-vote subsidy. With public financing, the parties' election funds are directly tied to the public's democratic choice. For each vote, the political parties receive a small amount of money, or the equivalent of a medium coffee at a roadside cafe.

Public funding goes hand in hand with lower caps on donations to parties and public office holders. There has to be a reasonable, decent limit. Together, these two measures will send people two messages. First, they will know their vote counts because, even if their party loses the election, they will help fund the political party that best reflects their ideals. This is one way to encourage people to vote for the party that best represents them rather than force them to put an X next to the name of the least bad candidate for the job of prime minister or the person who is most likely to beat the worst candidate. This would also promote diversity in politics by ensuring stable, predictable, recurring funding for all political parties including the small ones, as well as a healthy exchange of ideas in the House of Commons, something there can certainly never be too much of in a democracy.

Second, public funding combined with lower donation caps will send voters the message that all votes are equal because parties will not raise funds by courting the elite during pricey exclusive dinners.

Bill C-50 does nothing to address that problem. It is just hot air.

That is why we are going to vote against this bill, not because it is detrimental, but because it is completely useless. I would also add that it is dishonest to claim that this bill is going to clean up democracy. Real solutions do exist, and we could be taking strong action, but this bill offers nothing but half measures.

This bill is a snake oil cure. Its primary purpose is to distract us from the current government's ethical problems, which bear a remarkable resemblance to those of the previous government, I must say. Bill C-50 will do nothing to stop the scandals that caused so much embarrassment for the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Justice, and so on from happening again.

In closing, I would ask my colleagues to think about their constituents. We all know our constituents. We live beside them. They are our neighbours, our friends, our relatives, members of our community, people who get involved, our volunteers. We know their values, their needs and their wishes. We also know what they expect of us. I therefore ask my colleagues to take action and do something meaningful to strengthen and perhaps to restore the relationship of trust between us and the public.

There is an easy solution. I just spelled it out. I did not make it up. It is currently on the table. My colleague from Terrebonne proposed it in another bill we are debating in the House these days. His bill restores public financing for political parties and lowers donation limits.

I can assure my colleagues across the way that my colleague from Terrebonne is not petty or selfish. He would not hold it against the government if it were to adopt the solution proposed in his bill and include it in the budget. He would be totally open to that, as would I.

He would even commend the government on having the courage to do the right thing. The current system is simply costing us too much. How much? It is costing the federal Parliament its democratic legitimacy, no more no less.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 2nd, 2018 / 12:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Yes, it might start a revolution, Mr. Speaker.

Let us start with a short title proposition for the bill. I think it is a Liberal Party slogan, but I also think it should become a short title for Bill C-50: in God we trust; all others pay cash. It is also a Yiddish proverb, which is why I want it to be introduced as a short title for this bill. It comes down to the logic of what is in this bill, which is that the Liberal Party of Canada has a deep-seated problem with accepting illegal donations from stakeholder groups.

I am not saying that it is individual backbench members of the government caucus. I am saying that government ministers have struggled with this very mightily, and now they are introducing a piece of legislation that will apply only to them. Seemingly, they could have already done this. They could have already applied moral and ethical standards to not do this. Instead, they chose to pass a piece of legislation to tell them not to do something. On this side of the House, we are being told, “Trust us this time”, and perhaps give them some cash, if they accept the short title. “Trust us this time. We will obey this law because we are able to do that.”

The leader of the government, the Prime Minister, has proven that he is completely incapable of living up to the standards contained within the ethical requirements, both in the code and in the law itself. The Ethics Commissioner has sanctioned him and has mentioned that there are ethical violations of four sections of the Conflict of Interest Act. She enumerated them and provided the reasoning on both sides of the issue. Actually, she completely eviscerated every single argument put forward by the Prime Minister and his lawyers excusing the behaviour.

On one side, we have this fiasco the House is now trying to deal with and are demanding that taxpayers be returned the $200,000 he wasted, that he unfairly and unjustly procured for himself. Now we are being told that there will be a new law passed. Cabinet ministers in the government will be expected to live up to the ethical moral standard that will be contained in a law; that is, the disclosure of who attends Liberal Party fundraisers. If that is the goal of this piece of legislation, the logic of it almost demands that the short title become “In God we trust; all others pay cash”, because that is the logic. It is a bill about nothing.

Other members have mentioned this. The member for Edmonton West did so in prior debate. He referenced a Seinfeld episode called “The Pitch”, in season 4, episode 3, in which George comes up with an idea for a show about nothing, absolutely nothing.

There is nothing contained in this bill the government cannot already do. I mentioned to a few members that what I thought could be easily done is to tell a 10-year-old to google “Liberal Party fundraisers”, and that would fulfill the same things contained in this law.

We could google to see where ministers travel. I have my staff do that anyway, because I want to know if Liberal cabinet ministers are travelling to Calgary or other provinces in areas of interest to me so that I know where they are doing fundraisers. There are pictures posted online all the time on Twitter, on Facebook, and on Snapchat.

There is nothing in this law that would bring a modicum of improvement of any sort to the ethical and moral obligations of the government. It cannot live up to them anyway, so why would it force it into a piece of legislation if we know it is incapable of following the Conflict of Interest Act already? Why should the House pass a piece of legislation that will tell the Liberals to do something when we have proof that they are incapable of living up to those established requirements already? It is the Prime Minister himself who cannot live up to the Conflict of Interest Act requirements, and he has been sanctioned for it by the Ethics Commissioner. We know that already, so why do we need laws?

I obviously will not be supporting the bill. I will think about moving an amendment to change the short title. I see the table officer thinking about it. I will think about it and let him know at the end of my speech if that is something I want to do or if I am just kidding.

I notice that the punishment for the strict liability offences is a penalty of $1,000 for violations of this act. Holding a major fundraiser with cabinet ministers would perhaps raise $50,000, $100,000, or $200,000. We do not know.

There are a lot of private sector companies that could be available for purchase by state-owned enterprises owned by the People's Republic of China they could organize fundraisers around. Who knows how much money they could raise? They would then be liable for a $1,000 summary conviction fine.

It does not seem to impact the Liberals. The Prime Minister has been fined $500. This would be double that. A double increase is almost ridiculous. It is a pittance, considering the amount of funds a cabinet minister could potentially raise by travelling to a certain city and holding these with stakeholders. It is not something one is supposed to do.

I speak partially from experience, having been a former exempt staffer here in Ottawa. I was also a staff member in the Edmonton legislature. I knew what the rules were. We were all told what the rules were. It was something that both staff and ministers were responsible for. We had to protect our minister as best we could. It was incumbent on the minister also to know where the line was for an ethical and moral obligation. It did not need to be in legislation for us to know what was right and what was wrong. In this case, the Liberals are saying that they need it in legislation. They need to be told by the House of Commons and the Senate what is wrong and what is right.

In this case, they would continue to take money, potentially money they should not be raising from certain stakeholders, but they would disclose it. They would provide a report, in a nice format, somewhere online. Perhaps they would tweet it out or put it on Snapchat or Instagram. It would be so much easier for us to find. They should not do it in the first place. It is just that easy.

If they are offered a private helicopter ride to a beautiful island somewhere in the Caribbean, they should just not take it. It is just that simple. There is nothing more complicated about it. They do not need to run everything by the Ethics Commissioner. They do not need to check in with the Ethics Commissioner. Can they take a vacation. It is simple. If someone is offering them something that is too good to be true, such as a free paid vacation to an island somewhere, they should not take it.

If cabinet ministers have an opportunity to fundraise large sums of money, and it is coming from stakeholders in their departments, they could be lobbying them by buying these tickets. They should just not do it. They should not take the funds. If they did, they should return the funds. The House in the past has been pretty generous to ministers who have admitted to fault and have paid it back. Ministers have done it. Members of Parliament have done it. The House has been judicious in how it deals with such situations.

We rely on things like the Ethics Commissioner to outline the facts of a case, and then we deal with those facts in the House, which is also why we are asking the Prime Minister to return the money he illegally, unfairly, and unjustly charged to the taxpayer.

This legislation is just window dressing. It is a bill about nothing. There is no content to it. It really should be amended. We could amend almost the whole thing by saying, “In God we trust; others pay cash”, because that is what it seems to be about. They have fundraising targets they need to reach, and they are desperate to do so. In their bid to make it look as if they are ethical and moral and that every single member of the cabinet has splendid integrity, they are saying that they will have a piece of legislation and disclose everything so everyone will know exactly who is fundraising with them and who is attending their meetings.

It does not matter. If they are lobbyists, is it at a lobbyist's home? If these are stakeholders and there is a perception of a conflict of interest in the future, they should just not do it. They should not take their cash.

Mr. Speaker, you have given me an indication that my time is coming to a close, but that is the contribution I wanted to make to this debate. They should just not do it. They should return the money if they have taken it unfairly. Also, they should not pass a piece of legislation that should be just common sense. If it is common sense, it does not need to be in legislation. That is exactly why we call it common sense. That is not the purpose of legislation. Legislation is to provide rules and guidance formally and to make something have actual consequences. Bill C-50 does not do that. It is a Liberal Party of Canada problem. It is not a Government of Canada problem.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 2nd, 2018 / 12:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

Mr. Speaker, I have known the member for a while now, and I know he is new. I saw him in action at the Procedure and House Affairs Committee, and I have a great deal of respect for him, both as a member and as part of the exempt staff he pointed out.

This is probably more about me speaking about Bill C-50 itself as opposed to going through the list of his arguments or assertions. In this case, transparency is key. In my 14 years' experience here, everyone asks for transparency in light of the fact that we are not trying to eliminate something that exists, as in the case of fundraising. We all know there are certainties in life. There is death, taxes, and of course fundraising, because we all have to do it, which was acknowledged by the other side. I appreciate that.

What Bill C-50 does, just the bill alone, is that it provides an amount of transparency for those who want to attend for the sake of their party or their own electoral district. The rules are in place to allow transparency so that everybody can see this, and it allows them to participate in what is a function of democracy.

With some people, like in the United States, it goes very far in what fundraising is meant to do. I am glad we have the laws that we do. The member pointed out what Jean Chrétien did many years ago, banning the donations from either corporations or unions, and I agree with that as well. That is truly a great step in the right direction. This is part of that step as well in terms of transparency.

If the member does not support Bill C-50, what is the answer?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 2nd, 2018 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-50, and to lament what I think is a significant lost opportunity to improve fundraising practices in Canada in a meaningful way. It is very disappointing. Of course we will support the bill. However, it does so little it is hardly worth it.

What the Liberals are trying to do, and I heard this when listening to the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader this morning, is what I would call “bait and switch”. They would like us to think that by somehow being aware that they are having these cash for access fundraisers, we should all be content: “There is nothing going on here, nothing to watch here, so just move on.”

However, that misses the whole point. They pretend this great transparency that they talk about is going to make a critical difference in the understanding of that, forgetting all the while that people can still come and give their money to the party at these private homes in West Vancouver or on Bay Street, and the like, and somehow Canadians should be tickled pink that we now have the ability to know a couple of days in advance, to find out who is there, and so on, missing the point that cash for access is alive and well and just fine. I know a particular individual has paid a lot of money to be there and talk to the finance minister or the Prime Minister. They are on the back porch at that House in West Vancouver.

At one point, the Liberal Party said it was doing that to have fun and help the party. Then the Prime Minister acknowledged that sometimes they do talk about things at these fundraisers, like who gets the contract, which law firm is going to get the fisheries prosecution contract this year, who is going to get the bridge construction contract, and so on. It exacerbates the cynicism that Canadians have about the current government and our democracy in general. It demonstrates the continuing inequality, because not everybody from rural Canada or impoverished communities are able to go there, spend the money, and buttonhole the Prime Minister about their favourite project. However, if one has lots of money, apparently one can, and we should forget that is a problem. We should just assume that because we know it is happening somehow that makes it all fine.

It is not fine. It undermines our democracy.

This bill is a travesty. It could have been so much more. The Liberals ignored all the recommendations of the conflict of interest commissioner in producing this. They think if they change the channel and pivot away, if they bait and switch, somehow Canadians will forget.

Speaking of bait and switch, I heard the hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader use another bait and switch technique. It goes like this, “Mr. Jagmeet Singh, who is the leader of the NDP, has to be transparent too so we will know what the opposition fundraisers are about as well.” There is a tiny problem with that. Members will agree with me I hope that Mr. Jagmeet Singh is not giving out bridge contracts, contracts to law firms, contracts to do whatever people are lobbying the government to do. That is the shame of this bill.

The Liberals think they can persuade Canadians that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, that we are all the same here, forgetting that the government controls billions of dollars in expenditures every year, has patronage positions by the thousands, and somehow we have to make sure that the opposition parties are treated just like the Prime Minister and the cabinet. What a joke. I hope Canadians are not hoodwinked by this rhetoric.

I pointed out earlier in my remarks to the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader that yesterday marked a very sad anniversary. The current government got elected in large measure, certainly among young people in my riding I can confirm without a hesitation at all, on the basis that the election laws would be changed. The Liberal Party got 39.5% of the vote, ends up with 100% of the power, and that is supposed to be just fine. People said, “No, no, the Prime Minister came to my riding, and I think dozens of other ridings, and said that those days are over.” Yesterday marks an exact year since the Prime Minister decided that he was just kidding. I can say that the level of cynicism that has engendered saddens me as a Canadian. It saddens me as a person who believes in our parliamentary democracy.

I do not usually quote the Canadian Press, but to give them credit, on December 1 of last year they had something that members may be familiar with. They call it the “baloney meter”. It talked about the first response by the Liberals about why they were not proceeding with electoral reform. The Liberals said they would only do it with “broad support”. Did they ever say that during the campaign?

However, the Canadian Press, which is hardly a radical NDP organ, said that this merits the full of baloney award. I think it is good that the press, at least, is watching and understands that.

Then just this last Saturday morning, the Prime Minister went on “The House”, the CBC program. He said that proportional representation, which is the choice of most Canadians, every poll would say, would divide Canadians and “exacerbate the small differences in the electorate”. I guess that is why we are not proceeding. Then there was another one where it was his preferred ranked ballot system that was the reason why we could not proceed. People did not like his little options, so he was taking his marbles and going home.

I have to say that I know I am making light of this. I know it is easy to do, and I know it is a standing joke among Canadians what this government has done, breaking promises on fundamental reform, which were repeated like a mantra at every election stop across the land to get young people engaged.

My colleague from the Okanagan talked about constituents of his who said, as I recall, that they were going to do what their children wanted them to do in voting. They got them all engaged in the electoral promise. Essentially, because of the promise the Prime Minister made about electoral reform, we do not know who they voted for but one can guess, now they are not going to vote anymore. Now they are like many people in my riding who say, “What is the point?”, and will be indifferent when the actual election comes.

This also could be the despair for lobbyists act. I know I called it the bait and switch act, but I do not know if I should give it that title. Now I am going to call it the lobbyists despair act, because why get expensive lobbyists in Ottawa when one can pay 1,000 bucks or so, go meet the finance minister, and talk on the back lawn of a West Vancouver billionaire's house or at a Bay Street party somewhere in Rosedale about what one wants?

Who needs a lobbyist anymore? I kind of feel sorry for the lobbyist industry because cash for access is just so much more effective. I know who I am talking to. I am not dealing with some parliamentary secretary. Oh, by the way, they are not covered by this act. I am not dealing with the chief of staff or anything. I am going to go straight to the finance minister and talk about pension reform like Morneau Shepell.

I am going to say as well that the level of cynicism and the level of the inequality that this bill represents is really quite shocking. I would like to read what a journalist, Paul Willcocks, has said about this:

Cash-for-access fundraisers undermine democracy and put Canada’s political inequality on display. The rich and powerful pay to advance their interests behind closed doors, while the rest of us stand outside. They let the party in power sell access—to the prime minister, cabinet ministers, senior officials—in a way that entrenches its political dominance.

This is wrong. Its cosmetic changes are nice and we will support them. However, I end where I began. This is a missed opportunity. This is a bait and switch bill. This does not address the problem, except to put a happy face on a practice that has gone on far too long and undermines our democracy.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 2nd, 2018 / 1 p.m.
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Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise on Friday in a lively debate here on Bill C-50, which would make changes to Canada's Election Act and is premised on political fundraising.

As my good friend and colleague from Calgary Shepard phrased it, this really is a Seinfeldian bill about nothing. It came as a result of inappropriate conduct by the government with respect to cash for access fundraisers, literally within minutes of forming government. I will speak for a few minutes on why that may seem astonishing to many people, since the Liberals had been out of a power for a decade. However, if we look at the people involved, we will see this is their modus operandi, cash for access. No wonder the Prime Minister and many minister hit the ground running after their election on #realchange.

Essentially, a read of the bill would result in the question of what the changes are. I guess it means that before hosting an event, somewhere in a prominent place on the Internet, the event must be published. Is that truly earth shattering? There are few other elements about what needs to be reported and what is disclosed. However, the main thrust is that now, buried on page 8 of the #realchange website, there is information on the event.

Clearly, the way the Prime Minister structured his affairs was that these fundraisers were happening almost right away. We have seen pictures of them, where the Prime Minister of Canada was helping to host or even preparing a meal for Chinese billionaires. It really caused some questions to be asked very early in this Parliament. Some of the same interests that helped organize or attend those fundraisers were also part of the Trudeau Foundation, named after the late prime minister.

There was some suggestion, because the Liberal government at first cancelled the monument to the Afghanistan war, that because of that Chinese support for the Trudeau Foundation, a statue Pierre Trudeau would be built before a monument to our Afghanistan veterans. It is shameful. I am glad the government then, after outrage, came forward with some sort of proposal, but it cancelled something I had announced as veterans minister, the location, as well as another monument to our Victoria Cross winners.

That was a series of events the Prime Minister and other ministers had replicating this cash for access for insiders, including some that had links with groups like Canada 2020. I am sure there are wonderful people in that organization. I like to describe it as, “What do the students from Queen's who are on the Queen's Liberal campus club do when they graduate? They join Canada 2020.” Now they run events in conjunction with the Prime Minister's office and have exclusive access. There is an inappropriate connection between the Prime Minister and that front group. We also see influence being extended through a number of these intimate cash for access dinners in which the Prime Minister engages.

Why are we not surprised by this conduct, despite language about being open and accountable in the Liberal election platform and in the Prime Minister's note to his ministers on accountability and being clear from even the perception of conflict of interest? The people running the Prime Minister's office, during their years at Queen's Park, in and around Ontario politics, set up the most elaborate cash for access scheme that Canadian politics had ever seen. Throughout the governments of Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne, there was a machine providing access for cash.

I will quote a few details contained in a great Globe and Mail article that I would suggest some members of the Liberal caucus peruse. I know they already are having concerns about the direction some of the minds in the PMO are forging.

The Globe and Mail reports that there were 159 intimate cash for access fundraisers with Premier Wynne just in a few years, with no disclosure or confirmation of who attended. Three of them were for $10,000 a ticket. In that period, the Liberals raised $20 million from the cash for access machine.

As we know from the first few weeks of debate in the House, Canadian taxpayers paid to move that machine from Toronto to Ottawa to run the Prime Minister's Office, and within weeks, he was attending these same-styled intimate cash for access dinners. It really took outrage from the House of Commons and Canadians for him to stop that, put a note on the website or advertise it, and those elements of their public relations campaign led to Bill C-50.

We have to look at what is expected when we talk about transparency and accountability. The government tosses those words around so cavalierly, but let us look at the record.

There is a report from the former ethics commissioner in the name of the Prime Minister. Her report reveals that the Prime Minister accepted a luxury gift from someone he casually knew 30 years prior. He describes him now as a friend. I am 45 and if I had not talked to a friend in 30 years, I might say I went to school with that person, but we were not BFFs. I am not sure if the Prime Minister is Facebook friends with the Aga Khan, but I do not see that a 30-year casual interaction at a funeral justifies a family friendship.

What was more scary in that report was the fact that the Prime Minister did not feel it was important because he was almost a ceremonial figure for the country. That is ludicrous. At the same time, the good organization run by the owner of that private island was lobbying the government for continued support for its programs. They are good programs, but that is in direct violation of the act, which the Ethics Commissioner said, four times. That is the first report in the Prime Minister's name. Another one is coming on lobbying from the cash for access dinners that I referenced at the beginning of my speech.

With respect to conflict of interest, for Canadians following this debate, there can be a real conflict of interest or the perception of one, which is why the Prime Minister, in his mandate letters, which he made great fanfare about releasing but now ignores routinely, says that ministers are supposed to be beyond even the appearance of conflict.

The finance minister, prior to running, was making advocacy speeches publicly to change pension legislation in Canada, while he had a large interest in a company that advises on making those changes. Then he introduced a bill in Parliament to do that, knowing full well that, at the very least, there would be a perception of a conflict of interest maybe. Am I being unreasonable? No, I am not.

I know the finance minister is an honourable man. He made a big mistake. He should express that and likely stay back. He should probably, as an hon. member of the House, step aside until the report on that bill is complete. That would live up to the lofty goals contained in the mandate letters of the Prime Minister. However, why should he do that when the Prime Minister has more investigations about him and refuses to account for the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on an illegal trip. He is sending quite a signal to his caucus. He is saying that he wrote this in the ministers' mandate letters, but if they are following leadership by example, his example is to not be accountable.

We can have Bill C-50, we can have a ton of bills in the House, but if Liberals are not making decisions in the nation's interest that are showing they are clear from even the perception of conflict of interest, if they are not showing they are willing to take leadership and own up to mistakes, repay money, and step away from important portfolios while investigations are pending, the language in mandate letters is useless. It is just words.

I want to hear some accountability from these members. We do not want Canadians to see the cash for access scheme that led to 15 years of corruption and incompetence in Ontario.

Motions in amendmentCanada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2018 / 1:35 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

moved:

Motion No. 5

That Bill C-50 be amended by deleting Clause 5.

Motion No. 6

That Bill C-50 be amended by deleting Clause 6.

Motion No. 7

That Bill C-50 be amended by deleting Clause 7.

Motion No. 8

That Bill C-50 be amended by deleting Clause 8.

Motion No. 9

That Bill C-50 be amended by deleting Clause 9.

Motion No. 10

Bill C-50 be amended by deleting Clause 10.

Motion No. 11

That Bill C-50 be amended by deleting Clause 11.

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise to speak to this bill and these amendments. As a member of a political party and a member of Parliament, I certainly understand the importance of fundraising for our ability to campaign. Without it, we certainly could not carry out the activities that we do for our campaigns and our political parties.

However, there is certainly a difference between fundraising by asking supporters or friends to chip in $10 or $20, $50 maybe, to help buy some lawn signs or pamphlets to distribute door to door, and, for example, a swanky $500-a-plate dinner at a law firm attended by top Bay Street lawyers, with the Minister of Justice as the special guest. I cannot imagine how the Liberals cannot see the issue of lawyers being able to buy access to the Minister of Justice, for example.

That is exactly what was happening before the Liberals hastily introduced this bill. They were caught with their hands in the cookie jar and had to scramble to come up with an excuse. Bill C-50, or as I have called it in the past, the “got caught with my hand in the cookie jar so I am blaming the cookie jar” act, is their excuse. This is what they are using as their cover. They have broken their own pledge of having an open and accountable government. The legislation that has been introduced is certainly incredibly underwhelming.

In a document entitled “Open and Accountable Government”, one of the general principles listed for ministers and parliamentary secretaries when fundraising and dealing with lobbyists states, “There should be no preferential access to government, or appearance of preferential access, accorded to individuals or organizations because they have made financial contributions to politicians and political parties.” That is a pretty clear statement. Who was that document signed by? It was signed by none other than the Prime Minister himself. This is hardly shocking to Canadians, as this government is well known for being all talk with, at best, very little action.

Apart from explicitly stating that there is to be no preferential access to government by people who have made financial contributions to politicians and political parties, the document also clearly states that there should be no appearance of that. “Appearance” is a word that I am sure the Liberal government is quite familiar with. Does having a $500-a-plate fundraiser at a Bay Street law firm, attended by the justice minister, pass the appearance test? I would say it does not.

Does having Chinese nationals with business interests in Canada attend a Liberal fundraiser with the Prime Minister and then provide six-figure donations to the Trudeau Foundation pass the appearance test? I would say no.

Does the Prime Minister vacationing on a billionaire's private island in the Bahamas, a billionaire who heads an organization that actively lobbies the government, pass the appearance test? I think I know the answer to that one, too, and it is no. It did not just fail the appearance test; it also failed the Ethics Commissioner's test, and the Prime Minister became the first one to have broken ethics laws. For the record, there are many ways to have a vacation on a private island that do not require selling access to the government. By all means, if that is the lifestyle that the Prime Minister likes to enjoy, I can certainly connect him with a number of travel agents across the country who could help him with his next trip.

However, let us get back to the serious issue at hand, which is simply this. How can Canadians trust a government that pledges to take accountability seriously and then fails its own appearance test at every single turn?

In an attempt to change the channel, Bill C-50 was introduced. It is like letting the foxes guard the henhouse. The Prime Minister is supposed to lead by example, but if his cabinet ministers see him enjoying a vacation on the private island of someone who lobbies the government, they probably think to themselves that there is nothing wrong with fundraisers attended by people who are going to lobby them. Therefore, it is no surprise that this bill was introduced.

There is only one thing this bill would do. It would bring these fundraisers into the open. The bill would not end the question about how appropriate it is for ministers of the crown or even the Prime Minister himself to attend fundraisers where they are being lobbied. No, it would not do that at all. The bill would simply move it into the public eye. Again, it is about appearance.

At least the bill would fulfill one aspect of the “Open and Accountable Government” document. The Liberals think that if the public can see it, everything is just fine. That is the logic they are going on. However, let us be clear. Cash for access does not become ethical simply because it is conducted in public. The Liberals should not need rules or laws to know that cash for access is unethical. That should simply be clear. There should not be a need for any rules or laws to make it clear.

Special interest groups and lobbyists should not have preferential access to very powerful figures simply because they can afford $1,500 for a fundraiser ticket. To the Liberals, bringing these fundraisers into the public eye is enough, but is it really? Have we come to expect so little of our government that simply doing the bare minimum, simply having the appearance of doing the right thing, is acceptable?

Someone once said this:

Most of all, we defeated the idea that Canadians should be satisfied with less, that good enough is good enough and that better just isn’t possible. Well, my friends, this is Canada, and in Canada better is always possible.

Who said that? It was none other than the Prime Minister himself, on election night in 2015.

Well, if better is always possible, according to the Prime Minister, then we need to do better than this bill, to be more accountable to Canadians. Certainly the Liberals need to do better.

Better does not mean a PR stunt where the actual issue is not addressed. Again, that is what Canadians have come to expect from this Liberal government: PR stunts that give the appearance of something being done, but in reality nothing changes. In this case, which is one of many examples, wealthy lobbyists will still be able to gain access to the Prime Minister and to senior cabinet ministers by simply buying a ticket for a fundraiser. That is what they have to do, put out a little cash and get some access. The Liberal government has missed a great opportunity to address this issue. Instead, the Liberals have chosen to duck and hide.

There is a very simple solution to this. If the Liberals would just take a moment to listen to the opposition, we can fix this. The Liberals should simply follow their own guidelines and stop attending these fundraisers, and that includes the Prime Minister. That is all it would take. We do not need a piece of legislation to figure that out. It is common sense.

By attempting to pass this underwhelming legislation, all the Liberals are doing is ensuring that the Prime Minister gets to continue to charge $1,500 for wealthy and connected insiders to meet him and discuss government business. Perhaps they meet him and then make big donations to the Prime Minister's family foundation.

At this point, one thing is clear. The Prime Minister does not believe that the rules should apply to him. A new law would not make the Prime Minister's cash for access fundraisers ethical. He does not respect even the laws we have now. What in the world would make us think that he would respect this law?

The Prime Minister knew that the vacation he took was not allowed, yet he did it anyway. Then he just apologized because he was caught. Clearly, the Prime Minister believes that these laws are meant only for regular Canadians and not for him. That is why we have an issue with this bill. It is simply a PR stunt designed to cover up the fact that the Liberals are engaged in unethical behaviour, and it does not do anything to actually address the problem.

Motions in amendmentCanada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2018 / 1:50 p.m.
See context

Halifax Nova Scotia

Liberal

Andy Fillmore LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions

I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-50, a piece of legislation introduced by our government to amend the Canada Elections Act and improve the transparency of political financing.

As all colleagues in the House can agree, political fundraising is a key element in our Canadian democratic process. Political parties must fundraise for nearly all aspects of their operations, everything from basic day-to-day functioning to political campaigns during elections. I would like to respectfully remind the House that the existing regulations around fundraising in Canada are among the strongest in the world. These existing regulations include strict spending limits, a cap on annual donations, and an outright banning of corporate and union donations.

However, our government wants to ensure that transparency is at the heart of this new legislation, which is why Bill C-50, if passed, would legislate the following. It would make public all fundraising events involving the Prime Minister, cabinet ministers, party leaders, and leadership contestants of parties with a seat in the House of Commons, when over $200 a person is necessary to attend an event.

Information about such activities will have to be posted on the political party's website at least five days before the event.

It would also require political parties to report a list of attendees to Elections Canada within 30 days after the event.

Finally, technical amendments will be made in order to harmonize the rules applicable to nomination and leadership race expenses and those related to candidates' election expenses.

This legislation would account for certain privacy considerations involving the disclosure of the names of youth under 18, volunteers, event staff, media, support staff for those with a disability, and those supporting a minister or a party leader in attendance such as security personnel. These would all be exceptions to the requirement to disclose their names on party websites.

Before I discuss Bill C-50 in detail, I would like to address the motion of the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley that is at report stage. The member's motion asked the House to delete clause 4 of the bill. I was disappointed to see this motion put forward because clause 4 enacts a direct recommendation made by the Chief Electoral Officer in his report after the last election.

In his report, the former Chief electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand, noted that:

...the definitions of “leadership campaign expense” and “nomination campaign expense” are problematic in that they do not include expenses incurred outside the contest period, even if the goods or services are used during the contest. Nor do these expenses include non-monetary contributions or transfers. This has consequences for the coherence of the political financing regime applicable to leadership and nomination contestants.

It is the implementation of this recommendation, recommendation A36 of the CEO report, that the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley would like to see eliminated from Bill C-50. That recommendation is to “make leadership and nomination financial transactions fully transparent and the political financing regime applicable to contestants more coherent.”

What is even more confusing is that this recommendation from the former Chief Electoral Officer received all-party support at the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, leaving us all wondering whether the member checked with his NDP colleague on that committee before putting his curious motion forward.

Our government has set forth legislation that would increase transparency in fundraising in a balanced and efficient manner, and that is Bill C-50.

I would like to turn to the evidence that we heard at committee.

During his appearance before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, the current acting Chief Electoral Officer, Stéphane Perrault, stated:

...I note that the bill offers a calibrated approach. Not all parties will be subject to the new requirements and I believe that is a good thing. Similarly, the rules will not apply to all fundraising activities, but only those for which a minimum amount is charged to attend and where key decision-makers are also present.

Mr. Perrault went on to say:

There is also an important exception for party conventions, including leadership conventions, except where a fundraising activity takes place within the convention. The convention itself is exempted, but if there's a fundraiser that meets all the conditions within the convention, then that is caught by the new rules. Again, this reflects a concern to achieve a proper balance and I think it is wise.

Later in his testimony, Mr. Perrault stated:

Generally speaking, the bill increases the transparency of political fundraising, which is one of the main goals of the Canada Elections Act. It does so without imposing an unnecessary burden on the smaller parties that are not represented in the House of Commons or for fundraising events that do not involve key decision-makers.

When asked if he felt that Bill C-50 captured the right political entities for disclosure, Mr. Perrault said, “It captures a number of key decision-makers, and it doesn't capture, by contrast...people who are not key decision-makers”.

He went on to say:

This bill is carefully drafted. It avoids some of the traps we've seen elsewhere.... I would say only that it increases transparency, that it's calibrated, and that I can administer this piece of legislation, with some improvements.

Democratic ReformOral Questions

February 1st, 2018 / 2:40 p.m.
See context

Burlington Ontario

Liberal

Karina Gould LiberalMinister of Democratic Institutions

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to strengthening our democracy, Canadians want us to focus on what unites us, not on what divides us. We listened to Canadians. They expect us to protect the integrity of our democracy.

My job is to strengthen and protect our democratic institutions and ensure they represent the values of Canadians. Through the introduction of Bill C-33 and Bill C-50, we are moving to accomplish that mandate.

I know every member of the House shares the deep affection Canadians have for our democracy. Canadians want us to work together on priorities that unite us, and that is where our focus will remain.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2018 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

Halifax Nova Scotia

Liberal

Andy Fillmore LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions

Mr. Speaker, when we left off before the welcome and scintillating interruption of question period, I was talking about the comments of acting Chief Electoral Officer Stéphane Perrault at the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs meeting on Bill C-50. It is quite clear from Mr. Perrault's testimony at committee that he felt Bill C-50 is accomplishing the goal that it set out to do, which is to make political financing more transparent for Canadians.

Last fall, I wrote a letter to the Leader of the Opposition, the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle, regarding his own fundraising activities. I wrote to him after reports surfaced that he was refusing to disclose his own fundraisers and keeping his fundraising activities hidden from Canadians. What was deeply concerning was that his party's senior spokesperson initially denied that the Leader of the Opposition had attended a private fundraiser, but after being presented with evidence to the contrary, the Conservative Party of Canada finally acknowledged that its leader had in fact held a private fundraiser.

It was, frankly, astounding that his initial defence to this was to state that he does not believe he should be held to the same standard as the Prime Minister. I felt obliged, in the letter, to remind him that he is also a public office holder and aspires to be Prime Minister and, as the leader of a party, he has the responsibility to uphold the highest of standards. To date, I have not received a reply to my letter. No pen pal is he. On this side of the House, we are deeply disappointed that the official opposition does not feel the need to support this legislation, when it claims to value openness and transparency in political fundraising.

Regrettably, it is not just the Conservatives who are refusing to be open and transparent about their fundraising. The new NDP leader is also refusing to disclose higher-value fundraisers that he attends. We know that he attended such fundraisers when he was a candidate for leadership, but now will not follow the Liberal Party's open and transparent example.

In addition to Bill C-50, the Minister of Democratic Institutions is working diligently to ensure that more Canadians have the ability to exercise their right to vote. We are expanding the voting franchise to more Canadians by reversing elements of the previous government's so-called Fair Elections Act, which actually made voting more difficult and resulted in fewer Canadians getting to the polls.

If passed, this bill will enable Canadians to vote more easily and in greater numbers while strengthening the integrity of our electoral system and people’s trust in that system.

The issue of cybersecurity has never been more important. In accordance with her mandate letter from the Prime Minister, the Minister of Democratic Institutions presented a threat assessment from the Communications Security Establishment, or CSE, to analyze the risks to Canada's political and electoral activities from hackers.

The Minister of Democratic Institutions also has a mandate to bring forward options to create an independent commission or commissioner to organize political party leaders' debates during future federal elections. The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs is currently studying this and has gathered valuable feedback from witnesses and stakeholders with interest and expertise in this aspect of Canadian democracy. The Minister of Democratic Institutions shared her own views on this important issue with the committee last fall. Additionally, the minister and I recently completed a cross-Canada tour to meet with stakeholders to hear their thoughts on how a commission or commissioner could be established to organize federal leaders' debates.

We also invite all Canadians to share their views on the future of leaders' debates in Canada by visiting the Democratic Institutions website by February 9, 2018.

Be assured that our government, this minister, and I will never stop working to further protect, strengthen, and improve our democracy, which I hope will be with the help of all members of the House, and to acknowledge that better is always possible.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2018 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure my friend heard the previous question, which is strange because I thought it was pretty straightforward.

When a minister of the crown, justice minister or finance minister, holds a fundraiser and people who have business with the government attend that fundraiser, people who have certain aspirations with that particular minister and that minister's office, while Bill C-50 has improvements on transparency, it would do nothing to prevent that activity. Therefore, the finance minister could continue to meet with Bay Street executives and raise money from them. The justice minister could continue to meet with lawyers who are seeking appointment to the bench and raise money from them. The Prime Minister can meet with people, or vacation on their islands from time to time, who have direct dealings with the government under this proposed legislation. That stays perfectly fine.

The member might wish to address that. If he is comfortable with it, then he should just simply say so. If he is not, then why did the Liberals not address it in the bill?

My specific question is on clause 4 of the proposed legislation, which has a loophole that would allow anyone who is donating to any of the parties to show up at conventions, drop $1,550 at the convention, and simply not be reported publicly. It seems like a loophole the Liberals would want to close. We tried to. We are trying to do it now at report stage.

Does my friend not agree that, first, ministers should not have that conflict of interest through their fundraising activities; and second, that this glaring limo-loophole that the Liberals baked into this proposed legislation should be closed?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2018 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Andy Fillmore Liberal Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, my friend for Skeena—Bulkley Valley described in his question the state of political fundraisers as they have been for many successive governments over many years. It is important that with Bill C-50 we are improving on that. We are making it much better. We are taking concrete action to improve our already strong and robust rules around political fundraising. However, as I said before, contributing to political parties and attending fundraising events is an important part of democratic expression for Canadians.

With regard to the proposed amendment at report stage to delete clause 4, that is actually the implementation of one of the Chief Electoral Officer's recommendations, A36 I believe, which would increase transparency and openness in our fundraising regime.

I welcome the member's comments and hard work, and I look forward to working with him as we pass Bill C-50.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2018 / 3:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I enjoy this debate because a lot of Canadians look toward elected office, toward politics, and sometimes they have to then look away again, because some of the activities, both in reality and that portrayed through movies and such, do not accurately reflect what many of us are trying to do in politics, which is to simply represent people to the best of our ability.

The timing of Bill C-50 was interesting. It landed just after the Liberals broke their promise on electoral reform. We all remember it well because the Prime Minister repeated it so often before, during, and after the last election that 2015 was going to be the last election under first past the post.

Just a few days ago, he gave an interview here in the Library of Parliament to the CBC where he said, “Nobody was able to convince me”. Not all of the experts, not the tens of thousands of Canadians were able to personally convince him that what all the evidence pointed toward was a good thing for Canada. In his not humble opinion of himself, he needed that convincing that none of the evidence was enough on changing our system and evolving it into the 21st century. The timing of the bill was interesting.

We also see within Bill C-50, which is broadly-speaking supported by my colleagues, myself, and the New Democrats in terms of the listing of donors beyond $200. It is subjecting the Prime Minister, cabinet ministers, party leaders, and those aspiring to become party leaders to a higher level of disclosure.

Of course, all of this comes about because of Liberal fundraisers. The idea of the bill was borne out of the crisis of Liberal cabinet ministers and the Prime Minister himself holding secret fundraisers in private homes of billionaires and millionaires, where there was no accountability at all. The justice minister and finance minister were actually holding meetings that were fundraisers, $1,000, $1,500 to get in the door, and the people being invited to these meetings had direct dealings with these cabinet minister's departments. Just screaming conflict of interest all over the place.

The fact that the Prime Minister was then later found to have broken four of our ethical rules of Parliament by accepting a trip with the Aga Khan, who the Government of Canada has had long dealings with, showed a moral and ethical code that was completely warped within the Liberal leadership. My grandmother used to say, “Don't ever waste a good crisis”. If there is a problem, do not just simply have the crisis and then forget about it, and Bill C-50 is the result of Liberals going through the very public and political exposure of their ethical compass being totally off from what most ordinary Canadians would see as right behaviour.

The Minister of Justice should never, ever be accepting donations of any kind from lawyers who are also on the list of joining the bench. Why? Because it is the Justice Minister who is ultimately going to approve their ascension to that bench and become a judge. It seems obvious to me and to most people who have that kind of ethical core, but it was not obvious to the Liberals.

The finance minister should not be meeting with Bay Street executives, and accepting large donations from the very same people over which he is the regulator. He is the ref. He is the one who is supposed to be making it fair for everyone, not just those who can pay the $1,500 and get into his private fundraiser. However, Liberals did not see a problem with this.

The Prime Minister was holding private fundraisers in the homes of wealthy billionaires, so that millionaires could show up and give him $1,550, and then have dealings with some of their very specific issues that went ahead.

All of this was borne out of the Liberals, and this is not easy to do all the time. They were embarrassed. It is not always easy to embarrass a Liberal, but it happened. The result of this is Bill C-50, which says we now have to publicly declare who is showing up. Wait, the Liberals wanted to leave themselves a loophole, the Laurier Club loophole. If people donate to the Liberal Party to the maximum amount, particularly at a convention, under the bill their names do not appear. How fortunate is that, that the five-day declaration that exists under Bill C-50, if the maximum donation to the Liberal Party is made at the convention, then people do not have to worry about it.

The only filings that come out are the filings that come out right now which is when end of the year reporting happens. All of this transparency stops right at the door of the Laurier Club, this special donor elite club that the Liberals have set up to make sure the money keeps coming in from their top donors. We tried to close it. As New Democrats, we do not just want to oppose, we want to propose.

We asked why they put this loophole in. It accomplishes nothing. It does not help in terms of transparency, and it seems to be almost handwritten by the chief Liberal fundraiser to say, “Do not embarrass anybody by having to put them on a public list when they show up at our conventions as Liberals, and donate the maximum amounts.” We said to fix this.

We also said to allow the Chief Electoral Officer investigative powers. It seems about right that the person who guides our elections, and tries to make sure our elections are done fairly should have investigative powers. We moved amendments to allow that to happen.

In fact, we heard from a former Chief Electoral Officer about the $1,000 penalty that exists within this bill that was done away in the nineties. It was seen as a non-deterrent, because there are large incentives to do these sketchy fundraisers, as the Liberals have proven. A person can make a lot of money. If there were a penalty on it, one would think the penalty would be more than $1,000, which is far less than the maximum donation someone could make at these potentially illegal fundraising events.

Through all of this, we see the intention of the government. We see that the Liberals want to bring more openness to these private, very exclusive fundraisers, where people in some cases are giving a great deal of money. We welcome that.

We would like the Liberals to show a little of that contrition that is so hard to find around here, and to acknowledge that it was borne out of the controversy surrounding the Prime Minister and members of his cabinet who were engaging in fundraisers that were suspicious, at best, if not unethical. We would also like the Liberals to acknowledge the central problem.

What Canadians, and specifically the people who I represent in northern British Columbia, say is that there should not be privileged access for those who have money. The wealthy and the well-connected should not simply get FaceTime with the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers, who have so much power under our system, simply because they are rich. Yet, this bill maintains all of that.

Nothing is actually done about the elephant in the room walking around, which is if someone is loaded, he or she can get personal one-on-one time with the Prime Minister, and virtually anyone in his cabinet, to move agendas forward, to say he or she knows the person, and use that for their own personal advantage. That is all maintained. None of that so-called tradition is threatened at all by this. We wondered just how far the Liberals were willing to go, and we found out.

Bill C-50 aims to address certain aspects of the problem of rather unethical donations. The Liberals have made an effort. We will support most of the elements of this bill, but there are some things that need improvement, going by the testimony we heard in committee. The Liberals, however, have ignored and rejected every amendment proposed by the NDP to improve their bill. That is that party’s new attitude, now that they are in government. When they were in opposition, it was different.

In conclusion, the aspects of Bill C-50, on the whole, accomplish a stepping up of transparency. The concern we have is with regard to cash for access, that tradition where if one has a lot of money, one will get personal time with the Prime Minister. The Liberals will now jump up and say, “Oh, but he does town halls.” Congratulations. We all do town halls. Good for him. There is nothing wrong with that.

However, the Liberals still have the tendency where if someone has a lot of money, he or she does not have to line up for a town hall to sit in the crowd, and maybe ask a question. If one has $1,550 to donate to the Liberal Party, then the Liberals will get that person FaceTime and that sacred selfie, and make sure he or she has time with whichever minister is chosen, right up to the Prime Minister.

The Liberals maintain that practice, and they allow a loophole in this bill, which they are well aware of, that will make these very large donations not be transparent if they take place at a Liberal convention. That is a missed opportunity. However, like so many opportunities when it comes to ethical behaviour, the Liberals are only too happy to sit on their hands and miss them.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2018 / 3:30 p.m.
See context

Halifax Nova Scotia

Liberal

Andy Fillmore LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions

Mr. Speaker, members will recall that after the last election in 2015, then Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand produced a report. That report was characterized by a number of recommendations on how we might do better in this place.

One recommendation, A36, of the report said we should “make leadership and nomination financial transactions fully transparent and the political financing regime applicable to contestants more coherent.” That recommendation, A36, is implemented in Bill C-50 in clause 4.

However, in a puzzling motion that the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley put on the floor, the implementation of recommendation A36 would be deleted. What is even more puzzling is that members from all parties of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs unanimously supported the recommendation from CEO Marc Mayrand.

Could the member help us understand why he would like to eliminate from Bill C-50 the implementation of the CEO's recommendation around transparency?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2018 / 3:30 p.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley for his speech, and for reminding us of this horrific, for me particularly and for many Canadians, anniversary of the February 1 breaking of the promise on electoral reform. I will have an opportunity to speak to Bill C-50 in a few moments, so forgive me for asking a question on electoral reform of my colleague.

The Prime Minister says that no one was able to convince him. I have been racking my brains. I know this issue well, and I know the Prime Minister well. I do not know of a single person who was ever given the opportunity to try to convince him, an opportunity to sit down and listen to the evidence, have it presented to him.

Does my hon. colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley know of any opportunities that were afforded either to members of his party or any other experts, or anyone at all? If we failed to convince him, I would like to have thought we had a chance.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2018 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise at report stage to deal with Bill C-50, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act in dealing with fundraising.

I had the opportunity before committee to attempt to make amendments to the bill. Certainly there was excellent testimony from many expert witnesses, particularly from our former chief electoral officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley, of ways in which the bill could be strengthened.

The bill generally makes improvements. It is not that it is a bad bill; it is that there are lost opportunities here, particularly lost opportunities in closing those loopholes around what is now known as cash for access.

Let me speak to the bill, and then I will turn my attention to the fundamental problem we have in Canada when we talk about political fundraising. That is a more general conversation.

On Bill C-50, I put forward Green Party amendments and had them voted on, but unfortunately they were all defeated. They may be seen by some as relatively minor, but they matter. For example, one was mentioned by my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley. I attempted to increase substantially the punishment for violating any of the provisions around notice, publicity, reporting, and so on. Section 500 of the act would be amended to create a penalty of not more than $1,000.

The evidence from Jean-Pierre Kingsley, our former chief electoral officer, was:

The $1,000 penalty for a summary conviction, I found to be low. The entities that would be charged are entities...that effectively have money or should pay more for that. I don't think there's anything left that's a penalty of $1,000 under the statute...we're certainly not talking about a deterrent. The deterrent of course is the summary conviction, but still there should be a penalty.

In the amendment I put forward, I hoped to see that if the party broke the rules, that it would be dealing with a penalty of twice the amount of what the party raised at that event. That would become a significant deterrent because it would undo all the damage of its event. The party would have to pay twice as much as was raised as a penalty.

I also, like the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, agree that it is a loophole in section 4 of the act. One does not have to report at all on fundraising and donations made in the course of a national convention. We know a lot of fundraising goes there and should be reported.

The bill certainly does not make things any worse. The problem with this, the notion of cash for access and the way it is described, is that until someone dubbed it cash for access and ascribed to it a label nobody would want, this is how political parties of all stripes have always raised money. The star performer, the leader of the party or someone else who is well-known in the party is is someone people want to meet, comes to an event. That is the draw to get other people to show up and spend a lot of money. I usually like to joke that in the Green Party it is not so much that we have cash for access, it is that I show up in people's homes for potluck suppers, so our provisions are basically tofu for access.

The situation of political party financing makes setting up a series of rules that cover all eventuality, sort of a mug's game. I would rather attack this directly. When will we take the leap other countries have and eliminate private financing for political parties? I know that goes contrary to the direction of the previous government, which said it was getting rid of taxpayer funding for political parties but really did not. Taxpayers fund political parties to a great extent in our country. It is just not sufficient to meet the perceived needs of the parties, which is why they go forward and do all these other kinds of fundraising.

Our system of democracy would be cleaner and everything would be much more above board if it were a fair, impartial system of public financing. For those who might not know how taxpayers fund political parties, certainly everyone in this chamber knows, there are very generous rebates for the amount of money spent during an election campaign. If the party gets more than 10% per riding, it gets back 50% of what it spent. Nationally it gets back 60%.

For the party that spends the most on attack ads, for instance, in other words the party that annoys the Canadian public the most with attack ads during the Super Bowl, its rebate is the largest just because it spent the most. The biggest-spending parties get the most back from the Canadian public because that is our Elections Canada rebate rule.

What if we do not do that anymore? What if we say we will just provide a pot of money based on what we have seen on average over the last five elections that the Canadian public has spent on having those elections, what we actually gave to political parties, and develop a fair system of sharing that out? What if we did what England does, what Brazil does, and what many countries do and ban electronic advertising, radio and T.V. for political parties? That is the biggest ticket item in the spending budgets of most political parties during elections, to have money in the bank to run all those ads. What if television ads from political parties were not allowed, but every party was given non-profit, public broadcasting time on a fair and equal basis?

One thing about attack ads that we will never see is someone running for office doing his or her own ominous voice overs. The attack ad bread and butter is that so and so plans to steal babies, that it has been heard here, or so and so beats kittens or something loathsome like that. When people are on-screen, looking at the Canadian public, they do not say things like that. They say that they are standing there because they want to serve the people or their platforms are about people's lives, their families, and communities. They want to say the positive things when it is their own face.

Public funding and public provision of public interest broadcasting for political parties instead of paid advertisements would save the taxpayers a bundle because we would not be paying back for all that ad time in the proportions that political parties now receive under the Elections Act. We then could also look back at what the provisions were before former prime minister Stephen Harper reversed them.

The fairest and the least cost support of political parties from the public purse was always Jean Chrétien's innovation of the per vote subsidy. It is an incentive to vote, by the way. I have had people say to me over the years, when this existed, that they lived in a safe riding for the Grits or Tories, a party they did not want. Therefore, the only reason they voted was because they knew the $1.75 would go to the party for which they had voted. That amount changed eventually when the Harper administration killed it. I think it had gone up to $2 a vote, but it was $2 a year to the party that individuals voted for, directed by their votes.

We do not get to direct at all other taxpayer funding of political parties. The biggest one is the rebates for election spending. The second-biggest one is the rebate for the income tax deduction people get, which is so much more generous than donating to Oxfam, or Sierra Club or a church. All of their charitable giving to other organizations is never rebated at the highest level, but to give $400 to a political party costs people $100. Of course, it is obvious why the rules benefit political parties. They were written by people in this place to assist their parties.

Is it not time we pulled the plug on all of it, and not worry about whether someone is meeting with donors in someone's fancy house or meeting with people at a potluck supper? All of this is driven because we are not willing to bite the bullet and do for our democracy what is really required, which is to take the money out of it and allow the Canadian public, based of what we are already spending, to have election campaigns and funding for political parties directed by a fair and equitable formula.

Bill C-50 can only go as far as it can go. There is always going to be a loophole. We are always going to find out that somebody is a big enough draw that he or she will get donors in the room. Let us not forget that was why Senator Mike Duffy was appointed. He was a good fundraiser because people wanted to write the big cheques to go into the room to meet him. We need to think about what motivates our democracy and get the money out of it by going to the real root of the problem.

I ask my colleagues on that side of the House to bring back the per vote subsidy. It was fair and directed by the voter. Take big money out of politics.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2018 / 3:45 p.m.
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Halifax Nova Scotia

Liberal

Andy Fillmore LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend, the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, for her ongoing care and attention to democratic institutions in Canada.

I would like to dwell on the section of her remarks regarding conventions. Any fundraiser within a convention for which a person walks through a door and pays over $200 to spend time with the class of folks we already have identified would be captured by the new rules. Therefore, that kind of event is not exempt at a convention. What would be exempt under Bill C-50 is the kind of appreciation event for folks who have already paid a convention fee and will be present there.

To that, our acting chief electoral officer Stéphane Perrault said at PROC committee:

There is also an important exception for party conventions, including leadership conventions, except where a fundraising activity takes place within the convention. The convention itself is exempted, but if there's a fundraiser that meets all the conditions within the convention, then that is caught by the new rules. Again, this reflects a concern to achieve a proper balance and I think it is wise.

Could the member reflect on the CEO's statement that it does actually capture a good balance?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2018 / 3:45 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have read proposed section 4 over and over again. Perhaps it is bad drafting, which is a terrible thing to say at the point where we are at report stage. However, despite proposed subsection 3, a regulated fundraising event does not include any event that is part of a convention and is organized to express appreciation. Therefore, it could be organized to express appreciation, but that kind of event does indeed give access to key decision makers, which does not end up getting reported and is not open to the media.

Even after hearing the explanation from the acting chief electoral officer, which I have heard before, I am baffled by his position. Of course, I respect him, but in the context of what Bill C-50 is trying to deal with, special access for people with lots of money to key decision makers, the exemption for conventions does not sit right with me. I am hearing what my hon. colleague is saying, but I am not persuaded.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2018 / 3:50 p.m.
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Conservative

John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

My colleague is telling me to get a life.

It is an excellent piece of work. I am thankful to all those involved. It will stand the test of time as an important document.

Let us go to the subject at hand, Bill C-50.

The member for Saanich—Gulf Islands briefly mentioned in her comments Bill C-33, and I was intrigued today in question period when the Minister of Democratic Institutions mentioned Bill C-33. In fact, I will quote her from the blues. She said, “My job is to strengthen and protect our democratic institutions and ensure they represent the values of Canadians. Through the introduction of Bill C-33 and Bill C-50, we are moving to accomplish that mandate.”

How important is Bill C-33 to the government? It received first reading on November 24, 2016, 14 months ago. Where is that bill today? It still sits at first reading, having never been brought forward for second reading. This is reflective of the entire government's legislative agenda. It introduces certain pieces of legislation to great fanfare, yet there they sit 14 months later, unmoved, at the same stage as they were when they were first introduced. This is reflective of the entire government's agenda, but most particularly of the democratic institutions' agenda.

Let us contrast that with our former Conservative government's agenda. The very first piece of legislation introduced in 2006 was Bill C-2, the Federal Accountability Act. What did that do? It banned corporate donations and union donations, and placed a hard cap on the maximum that an individual could donate.

The Liberal government, in the introduction of Bill C-50, is simply trying to legitimize its cash for access events. It is trying to legitimize its pay-to-play events. It is trying to legitimize that which it should not have been doing in the first place, by its own rules and its own document “Open and Accountable Government”.

I would like to quote from this document. The prelude states:

Open and Accountable Government sets out core principles regarding the roles and responsibilities of Ministers in Canada’s system of responsible parliamentary government.

Under Annex B, “Fundraising and Dealing with Lobbyists: Best Practices for Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries”, the very first paragraph 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.

This legislation would not have been needed had the Prime Minister accepted his own words, and had he and his ministers followed their own document and simply done what they were asked to do.

It goes on to state:

Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries must ensure that political fundraising activities or considerations do not affect, or appear to affect, the exercise of their official duties or the access of individuals or organizations to government.

On this specific point, the Liberal government, the Prime Minister, and his cabinet have failed to live up to the standards that the Prime Minister himself set in “Open and Accountable Government”. The Prime Minister laid out his vision. He promised to be open and transparent, and then the Liberals broke their own rules.

This is not the first time we have seen this. We have seen it time and time again over the two years this government has been in office. The Liberals are constantly placing themselves in the appearance or potential of conflict of interest. All week in this House we have heard questions asking the Prime Minister and the government House leader about the Prime Minister's unethical trip to the Aga Khan's island, for which he was found guilty on four separate counts under the Conflict of Interest Act.

The government, in only two short years, is achieving a level of ethics lapses that took the Chrétien-Martin Liberals a full 13 years to get to. It has accomplished that in two years.

Let us talk about this piece of legislation and some of the exemptions and exceptions that the government has brought forward in Bill C-50. There is one particular exception, what I like to call the Laurier Club loophole. This legislation applies to donor appreciation events, except when those events take place at conventions.

People may be wondering, what exactly is the Laurier Club? I have an answer. I went on the Liberal Party's website and found a little information about it. For the low price of $1,500 a year, anyone can become a member of the Laurier Club.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2018 / 4:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Nick Whalen Liberal St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-50, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing). This bill proposes amending the Canada Elections Act to bring an unprecedented level of openness and transparency to federal political fundraisers. The legislation is just one of many steps that we are taking as a government to raise the bar on transparency, accountability, and integrity of our public institutions and the democratic process.

The year 2017 marked the 35th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which was signed on a blustery day in April on the front lawn of Parliament just a few steps from where we are right now. Canadians cherish our charter and rightly so. It is a model for democracies around the world.

Section 3 of the charter guarantees every citizen the right to vote and to run in an election. This fundamental democratic right, guaranteed to all Canadians, is one of our most cherished civic rights. The simple act of voting is an exercise of democratic freedom that unites all of us as Canadians. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms also enshrines the freedoms of association and expression. Section 2 of the charter has been interpreted to include the right of Canadian citizens and permanent residents to make a donation to a party and to participate in fundraising activities. Of course, these rights are both subject to the reasonable limitations that might be imposed in a free and democratic society.

Political parties represent a vital part of our democratic system. They unite people from different parts of the country with a variety of different perspectives and backgrounds and experiences. Parties mobilize ordinary citizens to champion policies and ideas and they foster the kind of vigorous public debate about ideas that is at the heart of our healthy democracy. Voting in an election for a candidate is one of the ways Canadians play an active and engaged role in this society. We see this as an opportunity to make our country a better place for our children and our grandchildren. Some Canadians even choose to work or volunteer in a political party or a candidate's campaign, and for many of us here in this room, we probably know few people who do not. We engage all of our friends and family to help us in our political activities, and many of the people whom we meet are either our volunteers or people who work against us in campaigns.

It is true that it is a broad expanse of the Canadian population that participates in political activity at the municipal and provincial levels, and also here at the federal level, but not everyone has the time or inclination to become involved in politics in that respect. Still, people may want to have their voices heard, so for many Canadians, making a financial contribution to a political campaign is a meaningful way for them to play a direct role in our democracy. It is an important forum of democratic expression. Choosing to support a political party or a candidate is something we must continue to uphold and protect. Everyone in this place knows that donations given by people who believe in us, who believe in what we stand for and what our parties stand for, help make our work possible, and we must continue to ensure that Canadians are free to contribute to political parties and candidates openly and transparently.

It bears noting that Canada is known around the world for the rigour of its political financing regime. Donations from corporations and from unions are prohibited under the existing legislation. To further level the playing field, there are strict limits on the contributions an individual can make. Canadian citizens and permanent residents can each contribute a maximum this year of $1,575 to each registered party. They can donate a total of $1,575 to the leadership contestants in a particular contest. In addition, they can donate a total of $1,575 to contestants for nomination, candidates, and/or riding associations of each registered party. Contributions are reported to Elections Canada and the name, municipality, province, and postal code of those who contribute more than $200 are posted online.

Bill C-50 would build on this existing regime so that when a fundraising event requires an attendee to contribute or pay a ticket price totalling more than $200, 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, someone assisting a person with a disability, and support staff for a minister or party leader in attendance.

Canadians take political financing seriously. There are significant consequences for disobeying the law, and that is why currently the Canada Elections Act provides tough sanctions for those who break the rules. Although Canadians can be proud of our already strict regulations for political financing, we recognize that they have a right to know even more and perhaps in a more timely fashion when it comes to political fundraising events. Bill C-50 aims to provide Canadians with more information quicker about political financing events in order to continue to enhance trust and confidence in our democratic institutions.

If passed, Bill C-50 would allow Canadians to learn when a political fundraiser has a ticket price or requires contributions above $200, that it is happening, and who attended. The legislation would apply to all fundraising activities attended by cabinet ministers, including the Prime Minister, party leaders, and leadership contestants who meet these criteria.

This provision also applies to appreciation events for donors to a political party or contestant. This legislation would apply only to parties with a seat in the House of Commons. It 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, which would give them the opportunity to inquire about a ticket if they so choose.

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. 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 in a much more timely fashion than currently is the case.

The bill would also introduce new offences under 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 and event organizers rather than the senior political leaders invited to the events.

We propose a maximum $1,000 fine on summary conviction for offences introduced under Bill C-50. Of course, this is in addition to returning the funds raised. This new level of transparency would further enhance Canadians' trust in government, and that is good for everyone.

If passed, Bill C-50 would deliver on the government's promise to bring greater transparency to Canada's political financing system and thus strengthen our democratic institutions. As I have said, this is just one of the efforts that we are putting into place. The government is also taking action to increase voter participation and enhance the integrity of elections through Bill C-33, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act, and the government has partnered with the Communications Security Establishment to protect democracy from cyber-threats.

While we know that Canadians have confidence in our democracy, we recognize that there is always room for improvement. Shining a light on political fundraising activities as and when they happen builds upon our already strong and robust system for political financing in Canada. It should be welcomed by everyone in the House.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2018 / 4:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, the member for St. John's East, for his speech. I have served on committee with him and he is a fine chap who should be the senior minister from Newfoundland.

I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-50 on political financing, also known as “we got caught with our hands in the cookie jar, but let us pretend that we have changed and not worry about it”. However, that is just the working title of the bill.

The Liberals seem to enjoy making a mockery of their responsibility to this place by pretending to abide by and respect this institution, while acting to undermine our democracy and ethical standards. They claim to be transparent, but then introduce laws that lessen transparency. They claim to go above the spirit of the law, but refuse to follow the letter of the law. When caught, they make excuses, blame others, and accuse critics of mudslinging.

The Prime Minister wrote and signed the mandate letters. I have referred to them often in speeches and I feel like I am plagiarizing my old speeches by repeating what the Prime Minister stated, but it is important to set the stage for how this cynical bill came about. If the Liberals want to raise money, they could copyright that handbook and charge us every time we refer to it in the House to point out how they are breaking their own promises. It would probably surpass the Conservatives in fundraising.

In the mandate letters, the Prime Minister said, “you must uphold the highest standards of honesty and impartiality, and both the performance of your official duties and the arrangement of your private affairs should bear the closest public scrutiny. This is an obligation that is not fully discharged by simply acting within the law.”

The mandate letters specifically and repeatedly reference the Prime Minister's much-touted “Open and Accountable Government” document, so I will refresh members in the House on exactly what it says. It states, “A public office holder should not participate in a political activity that is, or that may reasonably be seen, to be incompatible with the public office holder’s duties, or reasonably seen to impair his or her ability to discharge his or her public duties in a politically impartial fashion, or would cast doubt on the integrity or impartiality of the office.” The document is clear. In order to act ethically, one must choose to act ethically. There is no law that can prevent any instance of corruption from happening. It comes from behaviour and the tone set by the leader.

Let us see what the Liberals did to honour this pledge. We have the justice minister's exclusive Liberal fundraiser with Bay Street lawyers at over $500 a head. The Liberals tried to excuse this by saying that the minister was not appearing as a justice minister, but rather, just a simple MP from Vancouver. Why a bunch of Bay Street lawyers would want to shell out $500 a head to meet with just a simple MP from Vancouver is beyond me. We all know why the minister was there, and the Liberals know. They just do not care. Their excuse reminds me of the quote by the previous Prime Minister Trudeau about MPs being nobodies 50 yards off the Hill. I am surprised so many Bay Street lawyers would pay $500 for a nobody.

Do not forget about the former immigration minister doing his duty as minister of the crown by attending a Liberal fundraiser at a private residence in Ontario at $400 a ticket. Never fear, the former minister was roundly punished for this completely unethical sale of access to the highest confines of cabinet with a lowly ambassadorship to China. Thank Heaven the Liberal recourse mechanisms for breaking trust, ethics, and crossing boundaries are so severe.

Of course, we have the finance minister, who spent the entire fall dodging and ducking questions about his own lack of ethics. We should have seen this coming. Less than a year after being appointed to be the finance minister, he paid homage to the Liberal Party by selling access to himself for a whopping $1,500 a ticket to an elite group of Halifax business people. Someone across the way can correct me if I am wrong, but I think one of those attendees was later rewarded with a plum patronage appointment. However, it might have been a different one. There have been so many that we cannot keep track.

The law-abiding, rule-following, precedent-setting Prime Minister, to whom all ministers look for ethical guidance, attended a fundraiser with wealthy Chinese billionaires. One was a Chinese businessman linked to the Communist Party in China, who donated over $1 million to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation. He just happened to be lobbying the Liberal government at the time for a banking licence, and guess what, he got the licence. Here we have it: donate to the Liberals or the Prime Minister's dad's foundation, lobby, and one gets a bank. That is a great deal.

My favourite of all of the cash for access fundraisers is the famous hash for access. The Prime Minister's point person on legalizing recreational pot was the prize guest at a Liberal fundraising party attended by a marijuana lobbying group at a Toronto law office that advises clients in the cannabis business.

Remember the Prime Minister's orders: avoid the appearance of preferential access. However, the person leading the pot charge for the Liberal government was the head draw at a fundraiser at the law firm advising on the pot business, and it was attended by the Cannabis Friendly Business Association, CFBA, which represents dispensary owners and cannabis farmers who want the government to allow storefront pot shops. To avoid the appearance of preferential access, we have pot sellers donating to the Liberal Party and getting face time with the parliamentary secretary in charge of rolling out the pot laws.

In an article in The Globe and Mail, here is the Liberal's response:

The individuals associated with the organization you reference appear to have only registered with the lobbying commissioner on or after the date of the event itself, and therefore the party would not have been aware in advance of their activities.

Therefore, the Liberals did not do anything bad. However, in the same article, here is what a pot lobbyist said:

CFBA organizers Abi Roach and Jon Liedtke, a co-owner of the Higher Limits Cannabis Lounge in Windsor, Ont., lobbied and were photographed with [the parliamentary secretary], a former Toronto police chief, at the $150-per-person fundraiser.

“I got 10 minutes of his time...It was worth it....”

Ms. Roach told The Globe and Mail that she:

“gets e-mails all the time” from the Liberals asking her to come to fundraisers, and no one vetted her for the April 28 event.

“They took our money happily without question,” Ms. Roach said. “If it was easier for people to speak to politicians, to explain their points of views without having to pay—I mean, there was no way to sit at this event, I was on my feet for four hours—I would rather to speak to a politician one-on-one in an office than have to pay.”

Here is a lobbyist saying that if only there was a way she could talk to the Liberal ministers without having to donate to the Liberal Party she would do it. Heavens.

The Liberals further allowed registered lobbyists into fundraisers in Montreal and Vancouver. They blamed this on a clerical error. Perhaps the same person making this clerical error forgot to note the finance minister's massive villa in France as a clerical error.

Who else is to blame for this? The Prime Minister in his year-end interview with CTV News said that all laws were followed and that it was the media and opposition causing concerns. Therefore, they break all ethical standards, accept money from registered lobbyists, but it is the media and the opposition's fault.

This brings me back to Bill C-50. On the heels of the cash for access fundraising scandal, the Liberals promised to make political fundraising more transparent. They came up with a bill that tried to legitimize unethical behaviour. When she introduced the bill, the minister stated, “Our government told Canadians we would set a higher bar on the transparency, accountability, and integrity”.

I read the speech a few times. When I first glanced at it, I thought it was satire, but no, the minister was serious. The only reason Bill C-50 includes provisions on political financing is that the Liberals were plainly unable to keep their hands clean. In fact, they did over 100 cash for access fundraisers in 2016.

The National Post says, quoting The Globe and Mail, that:

A set of emails...show just how blatantly the party sells the opportunities offered by events featuring [the Prime Minister]. A gathering held at the home of a veteran [Liberal] fundraiser was promoted as a chance to “form relationships and open dialogues with our government.”

When one puts a price on attendance, one is, by definition, selling. When one sets the incentive as being the opportunity to hobnob with the Liberal powerful elite, one is, by definition, selling access. The Liberals promised to act above and beyond the spirit of the law, as is their responsibility as leaders of the country. However, last fall's session demonstrated that the Liberals are not even capable of following the letter of the law.

This is a cynical bill merely set up because the government got caught, and more, on ethical behaviour. What is the easiest solution to avoid the implication that one is selling access? Just do not sell access to ministers. The Liberals could just not hold fundraisers with tickets sold to the highest bidders so that they can interact with the Prime Minister or a minister. It is much like not breaking the ethics laws to go to a billionaire's island. We do not need a law to prevent the Prime Minister from breaking the law. Just do not break the law. There is no rule change required to do this. All the Liberals need to do is change their behaviour.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2018 / 4:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-50, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act with respect to political financing.

Last spring, the Liberal government tabled a bill that would require political parties with seats in the House of Commons to publicize in advance fundraising events with a ticket price above $200 involving party leaders, ministers, or leadership contestants, and submit a report to Elections Canada afterward with details of who organized and attended the event, as well as the total amount of contributions made to attend that event.

The bill would impose a modest, perhaps too strong a word, trivial penalty of up to $1,000 on every person who fails to publish information about a fundraiser in a prominent location online five days in advance of the event, to file a report within 30 days following the event, or to provide certain information in that report. The bill would not apply to parliamentary secretaries and ministerial staff, including chiefs of staff and senior staffers, and staff at the Prime Minister's Office.

The Minister of Democratic Institutions tabled Bill C-50 last spring, following months of public outrage over the Liberal Party's cash for access fundraisers featuring key ministers. My friend, the member for Edmonton West, touched on a few of those circumstances in his speech.

The Liberal government has billed the proposed legislation as something that would increase openness and transparency in political fundraising. The pretence of the bill's authors, that Bill C-50 would do anything to change the policy of cash for access fundraisers by the government, is, quite frankly, ludicrous. That it in some way limits influence on ministers or the prime minister is kind of tenuous at best.

That is the issue. Bill C-50 appears, on the surface, like an important piece of legislation, meant to provide clarity and assure the public that nothing nefarious is going on here in Ottawa; that foreign billionaires are not greasing the wheel to get access to our housing market, or buying up our tech companies, and potentially putting our national security at risk. However, in fact, the government and its Prime Minister are simply attempting to gain credit for solving a problem they created. Bill C-50 is nothing more than an attempt to legitimize the act of pay-to-play through legislation.

It was not long ago that the Prime Minister stood on a stage during the last campaign, and told Canadians that the Liberals were going to do things differently. They were going to be more open and transparent. After the election, the Prime Minister gave mandate letters to his ministers, where he said, unequivocally, that there should be no undue influence, no perception, real or otherwise, of any political interference, and that he expected his ministers to be held to a high standard when it comes to political interference and influence.

It was not long after that that the media started publicizing cash for access fundraisers involving high profile ministers and the Prime Minister himself. Lawyers were paying to see the Minister of Justice, and foreign billionaires were hobnobbing with the Prime Minister. These are just two of the examples. Many followed in the weeks after the stories broke in the media. It was quite the spectacle, and a sad state of affairs for the government. People who attended these fundraisers were more than happy to tell the media about who they talked to and on what they had lobbied.

Worse, the National Post reported that gifts to the Trudeau foundation had increased significantly since the member for Papineau's April 2013 election as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. The National Post alleged that the $2 million surplus maintained at that foundation is through large foreign donations and sponsorships with businesses that are actively lobbying the federal government. It should also be noted that since April 2013, donations went from $172,000 to $731,000 in 2016. Here is where it gets interesting. Foreign donations went from zero in 2007 to over a $500,000 in 2016. One cannot blame Canadians for their cynicism of Ottawa.

My colleague, the member for Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, who sits on the procedure and House affairs committee, from where Bill C-50 recently returned, said that the problem was that these events were happening, not that they were not being reported. He went on to say that now we have a report, and that is nice, but that is not the issue.

The member is correct. Bill C-50 does not stop cash for access, it simply legitimizes it.

The committee heard from a number of witnesses who felt Bill C-50 was a nice idea, but it lacked teeth. Ms. Dawson, the then Ethics Commissioner, indicated that the bill should be amended to include parliamentary secretaries, which the bill does not.

Canada's former Chief Electoral Officer, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, was surprised to see a penalty as low as $1,000. He encouraged the fines to be increased to $5,000, which the bill does not. Mr. Kingsley also made recommendations to capture key political staff in ministers' offices and the PMO, which the bill does not. The Liberals voted all of the amendments down, and ignored the recommendations of key witnesses. The truth is amendments to Bill C-50 missed the point.

If the Prime Minister were serious, he would simply ban the practice, not introduce a piece of legislation that amounts to nothing more than an accounting event, like a receipt that so many of us ignore after paying our groceries every week.

The Prime Minister was unequivocal when he said that no one should be given preferential access to government, or the appearance of preferential access, because they made financial contributions to political parties. Yet, this very day the Prime Minister is in Edmonton, where this evening he will attend a Liberal Party donor reception at the Fairmont.

Recently, the Lobbying Commissioner released a report indicating lobbying has risen significantly with the Liberal government. The blatant hypocrisy of the government knows no bounds.

Bill C-50 would not change the issue of fundraising in private residences and media access is still in question. Little would change with this piece of legislation, because cash for access would still exist.

This is not about Canadians donating a few hundred dollars to their political party of choice. What this is about is ensuring that Canadians are treated fairly, that one organization is not out-bidding another behind closed doors, that foreign entities are not influencing our government and democratic institutions, and putting our national security at risk, and that the very foundation of our nation, our fundamental freedoms, are not placed in peril.

Under Bill C-50, these cash for access fundraisers with ministers and the Prime Minister can still go on, albeit with a report, and even where nothing discreditable or immoral is taking place, the perception that something might or is will still haunt our political institutions. This simply must stop.

Canadians deserve a prime minister who does not say one thing and then do another. They deserve a government that does not have one set of rules for Canadians, and another for itself and its friends.

A new law will not make the Prime Minister's cash for access fundraisers ethical. If the Prime Minister wanted to end cash for access, all he had to do was just stop doing these fundraisers. He did not have to create this legislation using House time. It does not take legislation.

Bending the rules, so the Prime Minister can keep charging $1,500 for wealthy individuals to meet him and discuss government business is simply wrong. The rules are very clear. Why does the Prime Minister not just follow the rules like everyone else? On this side of the House, we will continue to follow the law as we always have.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2018 / 4:45 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak officially to Bill C-50, which we have been discussing for a few hours already, clearly without reaching consensus. There is considerable resistance on this side of the House. While the bill contains some positive elements, it is very disappointing.

Indeed, today is a sad anniversary. One year ago, the Prime Minister announced that there would be no electoral reform, that the 2015 election would not be the last one under the current electoral system, and that the status quo would be maintained for the 2019 election.

During the last election, in 2015, the Liberals created much hope because the Prime Minister and his candidates in all ridings across Canada had solemnly promised electoral reform. They promised to change the voting system in Canada to make it similar to other countries, mostly advanced democracies, who have an electoral system with one form or another of proportional representation. The announcement last year was therefore a major disappointment. As I said, people had trusted the Liberals and placed their faith in the Liberal Party.

In the end, the Prime Minister decided that this was not a good idea. He said that there was not enough of a consensus. However, over 80% of the witnesses who appeared before the parliamentary committee tasked with studying the issue supported a proportional voting system, or, at the very least, electoral reform. I think that there was a consensus. Furthermore, a large majority of the experts, if not all of them, supported a proportional voting system.

However, the Prime Minister said last year that there was no consensus, and that not enough people agreed on one type of electoral system to implement an electoral reform.

Today, the cat is out of the bag. One year after this announcement, he is starting to show his true colours on the question of electoral reform. Perhaps, he never believed in electoral reform, or never wanted to implement it. Perhaps, cynically speaking, today in 2018, he promised electoral reform just to get elected. Perhaps he never intended to proceed with electoral reform in Canada during his political career.

Earlier this week, the Prime Minister told CBC that he had no plans to move forward with electoral reform. He added something pretty revealing. He said that if people still want to talk about electoral reform or a system that would be good for Canadians, he is ready to talk about it, especially if they want to discuss a preferential system. That says a lot about the true intention behind his promise to Canadians to reform the electoral system.

That is the context surrounding Bill C-50. It is such a minor measure, a measure that does very little other than provide slightly more transparency, which I am sure nobody here would object to. The current electoral system has another big problem that this bill does not address. The problem was there when the Conservatives were in power. It was also there when the Liberals were in power before that. They all engaged in the same cash for access practices.

The problem is still there and has again come to light under the current Prime Minister's Liberal government. We have seen him go to private, affluent homes owned by people who have an interest in the affairs of the Government of Canada, people he hosted at these $1,500 events. Some of them had interests in the infrastructure bank while others, such as the Chinese, wanted to buy Canadian telecommunication companies in B.C. Some also had interests in cannabis. We are well aware that those people have influence among the Liberals. They have infiltrated the Liberal Party and taken part in fundraisers to gain access to ministers. The Prime Minister himself attended these cash for access events. He cannot claim that it was just a mistake made by one of his cabinet colleagues who should not have done that. He himself actively participated in the Liberal scheme of selling access to ministers and decision makers at those events.

We know that the Minister of Justice was involved, but I do not want to repeat all the examples given by other members. Still, this is a glaring problem. Certain lawyers seeking judicial appointments to courts across Canada will pay substantial amounts to attend a private reception with the Minister of Justice in a city that is not even in her riding. It does not take an advanced degree in ethics to see that this is a problem. However, no member in the front row of the Liberal government is sounding the alarm. They take part in these events as if it there was nothing wrong.

Given the series of incidents that garnered a lot of media attention, it seemed reasonable to expect today that the Liberals would use Bill C-50 to solve the problem. We would have thought that maybe a cabinet member, perhaps the Minister of Democratic Institutions, would have woken up and told herself that it was time to take action. The government may have reviewed its internal practices, but it likely would have been better to change the law. The government should have acknowledged that privileged access to cabinet is not the right way to do politics in Canada, and then addressed the problem for this and future governments. Instead, with Bill C-50, the government is insinuating that this practice is acceptable and can continue as long as it is more transparent.

People in my home riding of Sherbrooke who have trouble contacting a public servant about the guaranteed income supplement, resolving EI issues with Service Canada, or reaching someone by phone at the Canada Revenue Agency will then see, because it will be transparent, rich investors pay $1,500 to have privileged access not only to a minister, but to the Prime Minister, if they want. All this bill does is formalize or legalize this practice, at a time when our constituents are struggling to receive services from their government. Rich millionaires, for their part, will have a direct line, not to public servants, but to elected officials. The Liberals, however, seem to be saying that there is no problem.

Happily, there is still hope for the people of Sherbrooke, who find this type of privileged access shameful. There are parties in the House, including mine, that are proposing something different.

When my leader, Jagmeet Singh, promises electoral reform, he sincerely means it, unlike the Liberals who say things to get elected, and then do exactly the opposite once they are in power. Happily, there is hope, and I am certain that Canadians can trust our leader, Jagmeet Singh, and get results.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2018 / 4:55 p.m.
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Halifax Nova Scotia

Liberal

Andy Fillmore LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for his comments and his dedication to this file.

At its heart, Bill C-50 is about ensuring that prime ministers, leadership candidates, ministers, and opposition leaders are accountable to Canadians when they attend fundraisers that cost over $200 to attend. This is fundamentally about openness and transparency.

What we seem to have are two opposition parties whose leaders both attended high-value fundraisers. The leader of the official opposition originally denied that he had attended one and later admitted it, and the new leader of the NDP attended high-value fundraisers during his leadership candidacy but is now refusing to follow the leader of the Liberal Party in openness and transparency.

I am at a loss. Perhaps the member could help me understand why it is that we have one party on this side of the House that has embraced this new era of openness and transparency, and we have two parties opposite that are fighting tooth and nail to prevent the passage of a bill that will create more openness and transparency.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2018 / 5:10 p.m.
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Halifax Nova Scotia

Liberal

Andy Fillmore LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions

Mr. Speaker, the member, along with his colleagues across the way, have a new-found esteem for the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner and have been very interested lately in what she had to say about a number of topics. I wonder if the member would tell me how he feels about what she said about Bill C-50, which is:

I support the direction of this proposed legislation.... The amendments to the Canada Elections Act proposed by Bill C-50 promote transparency with respect to fundraising activities. I think it is a positive measure.... It goes quite a good way, I think, because it puts things in the public domain. It allows me to have access to some information if I'm dealing with some kind of a problem.

Does the member agree with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2018 / 5:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be taking part in this evening's debate on Bill C-50, which I consider a highly superficial solution to a problem the Liberal Party itself created.

In 2016, from the summer through to the end of the year, the Liberal Party of Canada organized a number of $1,500-a-ticket fundraisers. They were held across Canada, in major centres and in the regions, and were attended by 30, 40, 50 or 60 guests at a time. People had to organize the fundraisers to provide special access to the Prime Minister and various ministers. No doubt the orders came from the Liberal Party itself, putting the Prime Minister and a number of Liberal ministers in the awkward position of probably having to make a few speeches, drink some good wine, and eat some little crackers. That is all well and good. Unfortunately, there were some less than pleasant discussions about the whole situation, discussions involving ministers and the Prime Minister about a problem the Liberals created.

During the election campaign, the Liberals peddled hope. They said they would put all kinds of money into infrastructure, but they were very evasive about how it would be done and where the money would go. People wanted to know how to get some of that money. As a result, in order to boost their own party funding, the Liberals created a monster during the election campaign that caused some ethical problems. How sad.

Canadians can donate to political parties. We, on this side of the House, look for values and direction. We give Canadians the option of donating money to the Conservative Party or to Conservative Party associations, because we want to provide all Canadians with vital leadership that is fair and equitable.

Unfortunately, the Liberal Party gets its funding based on the private interests of organizations and companies that want preferential treatment or information on how to get what they want, such as access to programs or appointments. We have seen that in the past, and I have no doubt we will see it again in the future.

Sooner or later, this whole thing will become a scandal and really blow up. The scandal will undermine Canadians' confidence in our democracy, all because of the old Liberal ways when it comes to party financing.

I can confirm that the more time goes by, the more opportunities we will have to ask the new Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner to enforce and monitor the directives established in the document entitled “Open and Accountable Government”, provided by the Prime Minister himself, who made some changes here in the House.

This evening I have the opportunity to talk about values and ethics and to reiterate our concerns on this side of the House for the new Liberal MPs who are being immersed in the old Liberal Party culture by the old guard, perhaps, or the upper echelons of the party.

Ethics are clearly a value lacking from this Liberal government's judgment. I believe that the Liberals like to get dangerously close to the borderline and step on either side. They always push the boundaries of conflict of interest or the appearance of conflict of interest.

Under the Conflict of Interest Act, we must not put ourselves in conflict of interest or in apparent conflict of interest. It is truly unacceptable in our democracy.

The goal of this evening's debate is specifically to ensure that no preferential access or appearance of preferential access in exchange for donations is granted to individuals or organizations that may have contributed to the Liberal Party through its fundraising activities. That is why I stated that in the last six months of 2016, the Liberal Party organized a series of $1,500-a-ticket events for 25, 30, 40 or 50 people, raking in $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 or $70,000 per evening.

I want to confirm that, since the Liberals came to power, scandals involving the Liberals' dubious fundraising activities have continued to emerge. There are always new events that outrage honest citizens, hence this evening's debate on a government initiative to put in place superficial measures related to its own conduct.

It is very shocking, because not all Canadians can afford to pay $1,500 for privileged access to a minister or the Prime Minister. Ethical lapses continue to pile up. It began when the Prime Minister's friends moved to Ottawa from Toronto or other cities, claiming $200,000 in moving expenses. Personally, when I move, I pay for it myself, and that is also the case for Canadians.

I would like to go back to a story we hear a lot about these days. I had the opportunity to ask several questions about the famous trip taken by the Prime Minister to the Aga Khan's private island. The Prime Minister apologized for that mistake, but he said it had to do with the trip itself, which ended in January 2017. It is hard to imagine that the Prime Minister did not plan the trip with his family and that it was just a mistake. Come on. During her 11-month investigation, the previous conflict of interest and ethics commissioner learned that the trip first started being planned in the summer of 2016. People in the Prime Minister's Office, the RCMP, and the Prime Minister's family, among others, already knew that he would be visiting the Aga Khan's island. This therefore is not a simple mistake. The trip was planned, and they had the opportunity, right from the start, to ask the commissioner if precautions should be taken to avoid any conflict of interest. Unfortunately, we learned from the report that no such inquiry was submitted to the commissioner.

In addition, the Prime Minister's family so thoroughly enjoyed the trip to the Aga Khan's island, which cost Canadian taxpayers more than $200,000, that they were ready to go back there two months later, after being invited again. The family then packed up their bags and flew once more to the island, again at taxpayers' expense.

Canadians were not fooled and they are shocked. They like travelling, but they pay for their trips out of their own pockets when they choose to travel to such sunny destinations. The Prime Minister, however, chooses not to pay and to just apologize. When something is stolen, apologies are not enough. One must be accountable to society. All this leads us to believe that this bill is just a cosmetic exercise for a problem created by the Liberals. In my view, the old Liberal culture will keep rearing its ugly head, and we will be pleased to denounce it.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 10:20 a.m.
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Conservative

John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in this House today to speak on Bill C-50, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act with respect to political financing.

I will just provide a little background on what the bill represents. It provides that fundraisers requiring a contribution of over $200, at which party leaders, ministers, or leadership contestants will be in attendance, must be advertised online by the party five days in advance, regardless of which party or non-party entity is hosting or is benefiting from the event.

It requires a report on each individual fundraiser. Fundraisers inside an election period are not subject to pre-reporting; conventions or leadership debates are not considered fundraising events for this bill's purpose; donor appreciation events are caught within the bill's provisions, except appreciation events that are held at conventions; fundraisers at conventions are caught within the bill's provisions; penalties for contravening these new rules include returning or paying to the Receiver General all contributions received in respect of a regulated fundraising event, and a fine of up to $1,000.

The definitions of leadership campaign expense and nomination campaign expense have been harmonized with those already in force respecting election campaign expenses of candidates.

On the surface, these may seem like honourable and noble changes to the Canada Elections Act. The reality is that this is an attempt by the Prime Minister and the Liberals to gain credit for solving a problem that they created. It is as simple as that. It is effectively smoke and mirrors, a red herring to try to provide some cover for something in a situation that they created. That situation is cash for access events and fundraisers.

Members will recall how we got here. The Prime Minister, throughout his campaign, spoke about the fact that the Liberals were going to do things differently. He said that they were going to be more open and more transparent. As I have said in this House many times, he held his hand over his heart, which makes it so, makes it sincere, and said he was going to do this.

The reality is that shortly after the election he gave mandate letters to his ministers, where he said unequivocally that there should be no undue influence, no perception, real or otherwise, of any political interference, and that ministers of the crown, and in fact he himself, should be held to a high standard when it comes to political interference, political influence, cash for access.

The words were very clear, when the Prime Minister wrote those mandate letters, that they were not going to do it. We found out, not long after the fact, that indeed cash for access fundraisers were occurring. Some of the highly publicized ones included the Minister of Justice showing up to a law firm on Bay Street in Toronto, where presumably there was a bunch lawyers who paid a certain amount of money to be there, to have the justice minister there, which was a complete contradiction and complete contravention of what the Prime Minister had stated in his mandate letters, in that appendix talking about perception, real or otherwise, of undue influence. It became known publicly.

The media picked up on it. Certainly the opposition parties picked up on it. Again, the House dealt with this issue for several weeks. It became a bad issue for the Liberals. The public perception of what they were doing with respect to cash for access was not playing well for them in the media, publicly, or in the House.

There were others that were publicly highlighted, only because people who had attended these fundraisers were talking to the media. They were actually saying that they were talking about government business with the Prime Minister. There were several that were held in Toronto and Vancouver that we are aware of. It became a bit of a cash cow for the Liberals. They actually did very well at these cash for access fundraisers, these private events where people could bend the Prime Minister's ear or bend the ears of ministers of the crown.

Presumably if people had business in front of the government, they could, for the price of upwards of $1,500—and I suspect they probably took the max—talk to ministers, talk to the Prime Minister about the business that was in front of the government.

Why is this important? Oftentimes during debate, we will hear members say that the opposition side did this. From my understanding, the opposition did not do anything similar to this, but it is important because ministers of the crown in one fell swoop can allocate millions of dollars in a direction or to an area where a lot of this influence may be going on. That is why this is important.

I think the Prime Minister probably understood that when he wrote those words in his mandate letters to his ministers, but the words were hollow, meaning nothing. We saw by the action of the ministers and the Prime Minister that they continued to do something that they said they were not going to do.

I can go through a list of things that the Liberals promised to do that they have not done, such as electoral reform, but I certainly do not want to get my colleagues in the NDP worked up on that. However, there are many things that the Prime Minister said he was going to do differently, which in fact the Liberals are not doing differently.

It is no surprise to any of us from Ontario why this is going on here in Ottawa. For years, the Ontario Liberals have been doing cash for access fundraisers, and it has worked out really well for them. In fact, ministers were provided with quotas. There were certain amounts of money that they were expected to raise through these cash for access fundraisers. In some cases, it was a quarter of a million dollars throughout the year, in others it was $500,000, and for the premier I am sure it was more.

I remember one time there was a cash for access event in Barrie. There were 12 people there. Each one of them paid $5,000 to sit around and have dinner with former premier Dalton McGuinty, and that night the Liberals raised $60,000. That is $60,000 in one evening. That is what cash for access meant in Ontario. Why is it no surprise that this is going on here in Ottawa? We have heard those names many times in the House: Gerald Butts and Katie Telford. It was the same situation that went on in Ontario, just like the moving van that came here to Ottawa, that same playbook that the Ontario Liberals used for all those years until again there was public backlash and the opposition highlighted this situation. It ended up with Ontario changing the rules.

It is no surprise to any of us in Ontario that this is happening, because that same failed playbook—not just cash for access, but other failed policies like debt and deficit that have handcuffed the economy of Ontario—is the same thing that is going on here. There is a common denominator throughout this whole thing, and that is Gerald Butts and Katie Telford.

What would this legislation do? In effect, in spite of the Liberal assertion that it would bring it out of the shadows and somehow legitimize and formalize this process of cash for access, it actually would change nothing because cash for access events can still go on. It would do nothing in terms of addressing issues of private fundraisers in houses. It would do nothing in terms of what the government committed to as far as holding these in public spaces. It would not formalize that at all, so what we would see is more of the same, more of these cash for access events where the Prime Minister and the ministers would be the stars of the show, where for $1,500 people would get to bend the Prime Minister's ear presumably because they have business in front of the government.

A quick search of the Liberal Party website shows that there is a cash for access event that is happening next Thursday. I apologize to my colleagues that I was searching the Liberal Party website, but it is important that we stay on top of this stuff. When we look at what is happening next Thursday, an evening with the Right Honourable Prime Minister, we see the price of the event is $1,500. If one is a youth aged 25 or under, it is $250. Nothing has changed. The Liberals are still having these cash for access events.

The government purports to be all about the middle class and those working hard to join it, but how many middle-class Canadians would be able to afford $1,500 at this cash for access event? I suggest not many. I can say that my friends cannot afford $1,500. If they could afford it, they would be giving it to our local EDA so that we can be a lot more powerful heading into the next election against the Liberals. They give what they can afford: $250, $300, $200, or $50 sometimes. Here is the Right Honourable Prime Minister in Mississauga a week from tonight asking for $1,500 at this event, and a youth would have to pay $250 to be there. That is a lot of money, and nothing has changed.

My hon. colleague from York—Simcoe said it best last week. What this would do is provide the Liberals cover for something they are already doing. It would be legitimized and formalized by these changes in law. If we look at the mandate letter provided to the new Minister of Democratic Institutions, we see the Prime Minister said, “Sunshine is the best disinfectant to concerns about our political process”. If that is the case, the Liberals better have SPF 100 available, because there is a lot of sunshine being put on the government.

This piece of legislation would not do anything to change the issue of fundraising in private residences. This would continue to go on. Adding publicly accessible spaces, which the Liberals said they would do, would not change anything. Also, media access is still in question. Little would change with this piece of legislation, because cash for access would still exist. Cash for access, what people pay to bend the ear of the Minister of Justice or other ministers of the crown because they have business in front of them, or the Prime Minister himself, will still go into Liberal Party coffers.

Some people must be sitting at home wondering why we are arguing about $1,500 because it seems like a little amount, and questioning how anyone could be influenced by $1,500. I would suggest that it is not just the $1,500 but the potential for multiples of $1,500 being paid by stakeholders, perhaps with one organization, or with a Chinese investment firm looking to invest in retirement homes, looking for approval from the government for retirement homes in B.C. As we have heard recently, that is not working out very well. Perhaps it is for the sale of Canadian technology, which could impact our national security. Perhaps it is multiples of those $1,500 amounts that can make a difference with respect to the decision-making of our government and the ministers. With one swipe of the pen, they can allocate millions and billions of dollars into stakeholder interests, and also sell some of our assets by approval mechanisms, which they are doing.

The $1,500 is one thing, but I think the Minister of Democratic Institutions had a real opportunity here to deal with not just this issue but also the issue of third-party electoral financing. That is not addressed in this piece of legislation.

It is a shame it is not. The single biggest threat to democracies around the world and the principle of democratic institutions is that these third parties tend to influence, outside the scope of Elections Canada, rules on fundraising and financing. Many raise their eyebrows on this issue, raising the issue publicly.

Recently a new report alleged significant outside influence in Canada's 2015 federal election. Reading from a newspaper account, in the 2015 annual report of the California-based Online Progressive Engagement Network, OPEN, Ben Brandzel, one of Leadnow's founders, said, “We ended the year with...a Canadian campaign that moved the needle during the national election, contributing greatly to the ousting of the conservative Harper government.”

That is the elephant in the room. The fact that there is outside influence from other countries and organizations that can directly impact our democratic process needs to be addressed by the minister.

The Senate is dealing with this issue. Senator Frum introduced a private member's bill to look at the third party financing. I was also proud of my colleague, the member for St. Albert—Edmonton, who recently wrote a letter to the chief of Elections Canada in which he talked about the issue subsequent to that report coming out.

I will give an example of the impact third party influence can have: the Council of Canadians donated $67,000, money that came from the Tides Foundation; the Dogwood Initiative, $238,000; Ecology Ottawa $36,000; Équiterre, $97,000; Greenpeace Canada, $174,000; Toronto 350, $9,800; West Coast Environmental Law Association, $53,000; and the West Coast Environmental Law Research Foundation, $15,000, for a total of $693,000. Under election rules and laws, that money did not need to be noted by these campaigns. That money could be targeted directly against individual candidates and in a broader degree, against parties as well. There is nothing in the legislation to address that problem.

The legislation would fix a problem and provide cover. It would legitimize and formalize what the Liberals have been doing. It would give them an opportunity to do it legally, but that still does not make it right.

One of the issues my colleague from St. Albert—Edmonton put forth in his letter, and several facts taken together, with respect to third party influence on elections, was that together the third parties received a substantial amount of foreign money from the Tides Foundation in 2015, and none of those funds were reported to Elections Canada. This is a real threat to western democracies and to our democratic institution and processes.

The legislation will not change anything. It is quite mind-boggling that we are dealing with this. The Liberals created another problem for themselves, so they are trying to provide some cover by legitimizing the process through legislation.

What used to be brown envelopes that influenced in the past, and there is certainly a history on that side of this having happened, yesterday's brown envelopes are today's cash for access events, where significant influence can be borne on ministers and the Prime Minister to make decisions that are in the best interests of special interest groups, not in the best interests of Canadians.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 10:40 a.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, ah, the good old days when brown bags of cash would be handed over, sometimes to former prime ministers, by shady businessmen.

When the current Prime Minister was merely a candidate for the job, he said:

There should be no preferential access to government, or appearance of preferential access, accorded to individuals or organizations because they have made financial contributions to politicians and political parties.

This is the rule the current Prime Minister set out for himself and for his cabinet, that there should be no preferential access to government or even the appearance of preferential access based on donations. My friend outlined that in a week the Prime Minister will be giving preferential access to those who can afford to pay $1,500 to have some time with him. This is incredible.

The bill, by the way, would do nothing to affect that. All the names that donate to political parties are published. This would change the timing of the publication. Therefore, pay to play continues, cash for access continues. This is just going to speed up when we tell people about how the government was bought and sold. We are going to inform the public online quicker as to how preferential access was given.

Just on this one rule, if we took nothing else about the Prime Minister's credibility, if his word means anything at all, does Bill C-50 do anything to help implement the Prime Minister's own promise to Canadians that no preferential access to government or appearance of preferential access would be given, based on financial contributions?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 10:50 a.m.
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Halifax Nova Scotia

Liberal

Andy Fillmore LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today to speak to the bill to continue this government's important work to strengthen Canadian democracy. Bill C-50, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing), would foster a new era of openness in Canada's political parties. I would like to thank my hon. colleagues for sharing their thoughts on how we can strengthen our political financing laws here in Canada, and I look forward to moving ahead with this legislation so we can create an unprecedented level of openness and transparency for political fundraising events.

When I look across our country, I am deeply impressed by the millions of Canadians who are contributing to our democracy every day. Their creativity, collaboration, and commitment are a testament to the vibrant civic culture that thrives across our country. In Canada we are very proud of our diversity, and this is equally true when it comes to civic engagement. Canadians engage with their communities, the political system, and the country as a whole in diverse ways. They may be volunteering at their local community centres. They may be teaching a class about how a bill becomes a law. They may be running the local scouts group. They may be volunteering in their municipal, provincial, or federal elections. Whatever the form of civic engagement may be, they are furthering Canada's democracy, and I thank them all for that valuable contribution to our country.

During my own time in this House, I have had the privilege of speaking with and learning from many citizens who are behind these everyday acts of democracy. These many kinds of civic engagement help make our democracy the amazing, lively, and diverse place it is today.

One of the most common ways Canadians can get involved in our democracy is through political parties. Political parties are a key feature of Canada's political landscape. They encourage new people to enter the political arena, they bring important conversations into the political discourse, and they foster a healthy and rigorous dialogue. Whether joining a political party, making a donation, or attending a political fundraiser, people are participating in Canada's democracy. Canadians have the right to volunteer, to speak up, and to choose to financially support a political party. In fact, many Canadians see contributing to a political party or attending a fundraising event as a significant avenue for them to participate in our democracy. Our desire is to enhance openness and transparency in Canada's political fundraising. It is grounded in respect for all Canadians' right to democratic expression.

Political parties work with others in the public sphere to create an important forum for dialogue. One organization that is working to enhance political openness in Canada is openparliament.ca. As many will know, this website makes Canadian politics accessible by publishing votes, speeches, and other communications from the hon. members of this House. When looking at openparliament.ca, I was pleased, but not surprised, to find that my own favourite word to use in the House of Commons is “change”. This government has demonstrated its commitment to positive change in our democratic institutions. It has been an honour for me to work with the Minister of Democratic Institutions, who brings her incredible commitment to democracy to all her work. In my role as parliamentary secretary to the minister, I am proud to assist her in improving, strengthening, and protecting our democratic institutions.

The minister's mandate letter captures the scope and breadth of the positive change this government is bringing to our Parliament. We have transformed the process to appoint senators and judges. We are bringing back measures such as vouching to make our elections more accessible and inclusive. We are moving to better inform Canadians and to protect our democracy from the challenge of cyber-threats. Now it is time to update our political financing laws to create the level of openness and transparency Canadians expect from the political parties that represent them in the House of Commons.

Currently, the Canada Elections Act lays out the legal framework that governs fundraising and campaign financing. This is a framework that applies to all registered federal political parties, no matter what side of the House they may sit on. Under the current regime, donations can only be made by Canadian citizens and permanent residents. A strict upper limit exists for these individual contributions. Every year an individual can donate up to $1,550 to a national political party. In addition, that individual can also donate up to $1,550, in total, to riding associations, candidates, or nomination contestants in a party. In the case of an individual's preferred party having a leadership contest, he or she can donate up to $1,550, combined, to all the leadership contestants in the leadership race. In addition, we have robust rules that prevent corporations, industry associations, and trade unions from funding any political party or politician, period.

The current regime also outlines clear obligations for the recipients of these donations. Political parties, electoral district associations, candidates, leadership contestants, and others are required to report their fundraising activities. Through Elections Canada, all Canadians have the opportunity to view these financial reports. What is more, Elections Canada also publishes the identity and postal codes of those individuals who donate more than $200. All that information is available on the Elections Canada website, which is an important facet of the openness and transparency we seek to advance.

In Canada, it is clear that we prioritize the strict scrutiny of political fundraising. That is why, under the Canada Elections Act, there are penalties for any violation of these political financing rules. Penalties can include fines of up to $50,000, up to five years in prison, or both. This is one of the strongest political financing regimes in the world.

Part of the democratic process is looking critically at our own institutions and asking how we can make them even better. How can we make them even more open and transparent to Canadians? In answer to this question, our government has introduced Bill C-50. This bill truly is an opportunity to continue making positive change in our political process.

In Bill C-50, the government has proposed rules that would contribute to the culture of transparency here in Canada. Under these new rules, Canadians would have even more information about political fundraising events. Making this information accessible would enable Canadians to have trust in our system, a foundation of any healthy democracy.

The importance of openness and transparency in governance is widely recognized. Mr. Angel Gurría, long-time Secretary-General of the OECD, explains that “Openness and transparency are key ingredients to build accountability and trust, which are necessary for the functioning of democracies and market economies.”

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 10:55 a.m.
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Liberal

Andy Fillmore Liberal Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, another key pillar of our democracy is an active media. I truly appreciate the work the Canadian press does every day to keep our democracy accountable. We respect the role journalists play informing and educating Canadians about their leaders, and we respect their role in holding us to account. Openness and transparency enable the press to do its important work in our democracy. Bill C-50 recognizes this and emphasizes providing journalists with the information they need to do this important work.

Bill C-50 would usher in a new approach to fundraising events for all parties represented in the House of Commons. It would apply to fundraising events with a ticket price of over $200 where cabinet members, party leaders, and leadership candidates were in attendance. These events would need to be advertized at least five days in advance, making them more accessible by providing all interested Canadians, including the media, with information to enquire further into the details of an event. Following the event, parties would have to report the event details, such as the names of all attendees, to Elections Canada within 30 days.

This legislation comes in a landmark year, when we celebrate 35 years of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. At this unique juncture, we can look back on 35 years in which Canadians did not have to stop to ask whether they had the right to vote, whether they could run in a federal election, or whether they could associate freely. Those rights were enshrined in section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau 35 years ago.

Canadians and permanent residents have the right to participate in the political process. Being able to contribute financially to a political party is an important form of political expression. It is our responsibility to ensure that these rights are protected for future generations of Canadians.

Canadians expect us to work together to find opportunities to strengthen our democratic institutions. By introducing Bill C-50, we are continuing this work with a focus on strengthening the openness and transparency of our political parties.

Political parties are a celebration of the diversity and political expression that make Canada great. As Canadians, we all have the cherished freedom to support the political party we believe in. We may hold different beliefs, but we all have the right to participate in the political process.

I am honoured to be part of this House, where I see my colleagues working diligently to uphold their diverse political beliefs. It is this important work that allows us to continue to strengthen our democracy.

Bill C-50 would provide Canadians with more information than ever before about political fundraising events, providing them with the openness and transparency they need to have confidence in our democratic process. I look forward to hearing the opinions of all hon. members in this House on how we can further strengthen our democratic institutions.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 11:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Andy Fillmore Liberal Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, the member is quite right. This is about standards that would apply to all members of this House and all parties. The standards that are being put forth in Bill C-50 would ensure that fundraising events would be advertised ahead of time, that those who attend would have their names and postal codes reported, that the dollar amounts would be reported, and so on. I am very pleased that the Liberal Party has already voluntarily taken it upon itself to follow these rules. We would welcome all parties in this House to similarly take on these standards, even before they become law.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 11:10 a.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today.

I just checked the stock market ticker, and there is a run on red Kool-Aid going on right now. The amount being drunk by the other side, believing their own noise, is exceptional. When it comes to fundraising and clearly broken promises to the Canadian people, it is most remarkable that Liberals say this makes it transparent. It makes it more transparent that the Prime Minister is breaking his promise to Canadians and makes it more transparent that people can buy access to the Liberal Party of Canada, directly to the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers.

I have a long list of all the various special access programs and all the various ministers. I hope I have the opportunity to read it.

Of course, it is not only the Prime Minister that people can buy access to—no, no. People can pay to play with virtually any minister on the front bench about an issue that they are engaged in if they have the money to do it.

Here we are with Bill C-50. This is an unusual moment for me, because this may be the most tepid and conditional support for a bill that I have ever given in my parliamentary career. That is because it does so little. In its vagueness and the cloud that it seeks to create, it borders on nothing, and sometimes it is hard to vote against nothing.

There is this bit of noise that says Liberals are going to follow the law. That is basically what the bill says. The law in Canada requires that the names of people who make donations to political parties eventually be made public, along with how much they have donated, so now they are going to follow the law. Wow. It is breathtaking. Oh, are they are going to do it a bit quicker? Congratulations.

It reminds me a bit of asking kids to clean up their rooms, which are total disasters. There are toys and clothes everywhere. They walk in, pick up one sock, put it in the laundry hamper, and say they are done. The Liberals have made an entire mess—of their own creation, by the way—of these cash-for-access events. They were invented, designed, and executed by the Liberal Party once it formed government. Liberals made the mess and then said they were going to fix it.

They even made the great mistake of over-promising and under-delivering, because they leaked this bill to The Globe and Mail before it came out. The Globe and Mail had a breathless headline saying that the Liberals were going to end cash-for-access fundraisers. I thought, “Great. That would be a good thing”, because being able to buy access to the government is not only unseemly but also breaks a bunch of laws if those people happen to have any business with the government, which again, as we will see when I get to the list of all of the cash-for-access fundraisers, is happening with the justice minister, the natural resources minister, the finance minister, and the Prime Minister.

The Liberals were going to end it, said The Globe and Mail, as per a report of a Liberal insider, and then, lo and behold, we get Bill C-50. It is 16 pages that manage to do virtually nothing. Wow.

We are going to go through this exercise today and other days debating this most virtuous act that is all sizzle and no steak, as they say back home, and attempts to do something that I would suggest is quite cynical. As my colleague from Edmonton pointed out earlier, the timing of this bill was most suspicious.

In the wake of breaking yet another promise to Canadians—that 2015 was going to be the last election under first past the post—suddenly the Liberals said they were going to attempt to change the channel over to cash for access, because they did not want us to pay any more attention to the fact that when Liberals campaigned in the last election, they swore hand on heart that 2015 would be the last first-past-the-post election and that they would bring in a more fair and equitable voting system.

They were going to move it over. I thought if they were going to change the channel, they would have to change it to a better station. They decided to change the channel over to cash for access, this practice and culture within the Liberal Party that enables people who have a lot of money to speak directly, personally, intimately to ministers of the crown.

Let us clear up one thing. My friend from Saanich—Gulf Islands attempted to get the Liberals to say something about this. Liberals say that all members of Parliament fundraise. They are trying to say apples are oranges and night is day and there is no distinction between someone paying to go to a fundraiser for a minister of the crown, who is, pen in hand, writing laws as we speak, or to the Prime Minister himself, who under the political system we have has extraordinary powers, and a backbench member of the House of Commons holding a fundraiser. The Liberals are trying to say that the expectation of influence is the same for those who participate in those fundraisers.

What planet do the Liberals occupy? They know full well that the access they are selling is influence. People do not pay $1,500 to sit down with the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Natural Resources, or the Minister of Finance with the expectation that their words will have no effect on the laws, bills, or programs that emanate from the government.

There is a great quote by the Prime Minister from December 13 of last year. He admits that lobbyists are showing up to his fundraisers, which probably breaks another law, but okay. Lobbyists are showing up to the Prime Minister's fundraisers. It is a natural question to ask why a lobbyist would pay $1,500 to see the Prime Minister. I wonder what a lobbyist would want to do.

They would probably want to lobby on behalf of their clients, who pay their salaries. Industry, big banks, and pharmaceuticals hire lobbyists. The lobbyists attend the fundraisers, pay the money to the Liberal Party, and then get a little one-on-one time with the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister explains it away this way:

Any time I meet anyone, you know, they will have questions for me or they will take the opportunity to talk to the prime minister about things that are important to them.

I love it when he uses the third person. It so impresses me when someone uses the third person to talk about himself.

He went on:

And I can say that in various Liberal party events, I listen to people as I will in any given situation, but the decisions I take in government are ones based on what is right for Canadians and not on what an individual in a fundraiser might say.

That is weird, because if we talk to these lobbyists about why they attended a certain event, they tell us they were lobbying the government on behalf of their clients, and that it was effective because they got some very good, close, personal time with the Prime Minister or various ministers, and it felt very effective.

Business is in the business of business, of advocating and encouraging the policies that work for it. This is not a charitable exercise for a lobbyist. My friend said earlier, it is “the grandness of democracy”. I got a little wispy there for a moment. When someone who works for an industry drops $1,500 on the table to lobby the Minister of Natural Resources, he or she is participating in the grandness of democracy. “Here is my $1,500, on behalf of the mining companies that I represent, to spend time with the natural resource minister.” The minister had promised the Winnipeg Free Press that he would never attend a cash-for-access event. Where was the Minister of Natural Resources two weeks later? He was at a cash-for-access event with people from the natural resources industry.

These dots are not hard to connect, yet for Liberals it seems that they are, because they just produced a bill that will enshrine the status quo. It will say that cash for access will continue. It even falls short of their promise that these events could not be held in private homes, because the bill allows for that to continue.

They said they were to be held in public spaces. That was in their speaking notes at the press conference, The Liberals said they would ensure that fundraisers would be held in public spaces that the public can attend. First of all, there is that slight little hitch: the public can attend if they happen to have $1,500. When I see a sign for public skating, I know what that means. A public swim at two o'clock would mean it was probably a couple of bucks or $4.00, and I can take my kids swimming or skating. If it says that there is public skating at four o'clock and it is $1,500 to get in, it does not feel so much like a public space anymore. Rather, it feels very much like a private space, a Boulevard Club or Granite Club sort of public space, which is a Liberal interpretation of what a public space is.

The bill also has a convenient loophole that has been deemed the Laurier Club loophole. if someone makes the $1,550 maximum donation at a Liberal convention, this law does not apply. Is that not convenient? Where do many people who attain status at the Laurier Club make their donation? It is at a Liberal convention. In fact, according to Liberal records, a quarter of the Liberal donations came from just 4% of their donors. Twenty-five per cent came from 4%. That is according to Liberal records.

If the Liberals scowl and tut-tut, then it must mean the Liberal Party of Canada is lying, which I would never suggest. That has never happened, even with all that sponsorship scandal. In any case, the Liberal Party has reported that this is where its money comes from.

The list of what the bill does not do is so much longer than what the bill does. It says we are going to report who attends cash for access quicker. We are going to notify the public a few days in advance that the event is happening, and the public is welcome to attend if they have $1,500. There is a special rate for youth, those under 25, because a lot of people I know under 25 have $250 burning a hole in their pockets. I speak with many people in high schools and universities, and I chat with the pages. I am always amazed how they are constantly leaving hundreds of dollars lying around at the coffee shop, the bar, of wherever we are having our chat. It is a funny thing.

Someone just triggered a name, which reminded me that I made an unfortunate comment about a former colleague during question period. Joe Volpe, a former Liberal, served many years in the House. I got a note from his family suggesting that was an unkind comment that caused them some pain. It is only fair for me, certainly because my former colleague is no longer here to defend himself in the way that we do, to apologize for making that comment about Mr. Volpe, and by extension, to his family.

There are two versions of how the Liberals operate. There are the ones who make the promises in the campaign. Sometimes they repeat the promises, even when they form government. Then there is the version of what the Liberals do when they are in government. We need to bring this into some sort of psychological disorder, because Liberals are able to countenance these two alternative realities at the same time.

In November 2015, the Prime Minister said:

There should be no preferential access to government, or appearance of preferential access, accorded to individuals or organizations because they have made financial contributions to politicians and political parties.

That was a promise. He said one does not get access to the Liberal government simply by making a donation, even the appearance of access. That is a very high bar. I thought that was great and I wondered if they could attain it. Then we found out the justice minister, in April 2016, attended a Liberal fundraiser at a Bay Street law firm, Torys LLP, which is registered to lobby the justice minister. There is no problem there, right? We have the justice minister attending a fundraiser by a registered lobbyist with lawyers.

Then the finance minister held a private Liberal Party fundraiser for business executives at the waterfront mansion of a Halifax mining tycoon, and he was pleased to suggest that it was really just a way of holding pre-budget consultations. I have attended pre-budget consultations as part of the finance committee. In my own riding, we held a town hall and welcomed people to come talk to us about what they thought should be in the budget. What did we charge? It was nothing. In fact, I bought the coffee, because I thought that was appropriate. If we want to invite the public to inform how the government should construct the federal budget, which is their money anyway, we should not charge them for the privilege of the conversation.

The finance minister thought that was appropriate. Here is what he said:

I am pleased to say that we have taken on a consultation process for our budget that allows us to listen to all Canadians. ...We have the most open process ever put in place, and we will continue to listen to Canadians as we craft the next budget on their behalf.

He just walked out of a millionaire's mansion, where people paid $1,500 to have that bit of time with him to inform him. That is the “their” he is talking about.

For the middle class, and those struggling to join it, unless people have the $1,500, they do not get to talk to the finance minister the same way.

On October 21, 2016, the finance minister assured us that these events are “open to the public”. Like every member of Parliament, I am actively involved in fundraising activities for my party. Invitations are sent out to hundreds of people, and they are in fact open. Trying to say that access to the finance minister, who is writing the federal budget, is the same as access to any other member of Parliament, muddies the water.

We looked at the email the Liberals sent out inviting people to this event. I do not know a lot about the Internet, but I did learn that when one uses robots.txt that makes the invitation non-searchable.

Why would they send out an invitation that was not searchable? Do they not want people to know about their event? Usually, I do. I would never use a sneaky backdoor way to make sure that nobody could actually find it. Now we find that the government House leader—this is interesting—had a fundraising event held by a pharmaceutical billionaire who has a lawsuit challenging the federal government's ban on importing two of his company's drugs into Canada. He held a fundraiser for the Liberal House leader. She argued that this event is an example of “lawful and ethical fundraising”. That is her quote.

A billionaire pharmaceutical-company owner who is fighting the federal government trying to get his drugs into Canada held an event for the government House leader and she said that it is an example of ethical and lawful fundraising.

A week later, the natural resources minister told his local paper in Winnipeg that he would never attend a cash for access event. He called it a pay for play. Later, he attended a fundraiser by a major law firm that actively lobbies on issues relating to permits regulating the mining and gas sector. Why would they want to talk to the natural resources minister? After attending the event, the minister's spokesperson claimed that these fundraisers were entirely correct because the term, “pay to play” implies a connection to government business and party fundraising. My God, how thick do they have to be? Why would a law firm that lobbies on behalf of mining and natural resources want to have a special fundraiser for the Minister of Natural Resources? This wilful blindness continues, and it goes on and on.

The Prime Minister held a secret Liberal fundraiser, which is what the Liberals are trying to improve, with Chinese Canadian billionaires. This fundraiser was in Canada's national interest, for engaging positively with the world to draw in investment. A headline in The Globe and Mail editorial just this week asked why the current government is doing Beijing's work. This is the radical left-wing newspaper, The Globe and Mail, wondering out loud why the Liberal government is doing Beijing's work. Then we find out that there are fundraisers connected to investors in Canada by Chinese Canadians and others.

The list is too long. I am going to run out of time. This is unfortunate. It is unfortunate that the list is so long. The Prime Minister himself set the bar initially, saying that there was going to be no preferential access. He said this loud and clear, in black and white on Liberal.ca, and repeated it a bunch of times and then set the example for his ministers, which they dutifully followed and held their own fundraisers and special access events with people directly connected to their ministries. It is unfortunate that they see no problem in this. What did they not do?

They did not give Elections Canada the investigative powers that Elections Canada has been asking for to go after illegal fundraising. That is weird, is it not? They were going to try to clean up fundraising in Canada and the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada said, “I need this tool over here to do my job properly.” Then when the government introduced its bill to clean up fundraising, they neglected to put it in.

Liberals sit on the ethics committee and recommended proposals to the government. Not a single recommendation from that made its way into Bill C-50. Therefore, we must pull back and look at this smokescreen attempt by the government and ask what pattern the government has when it comes to how it treats Parliament. Chantal Hébert, of all people, wrote a column yesterday wondering out loud again, who this government is because it looks so much like Stephen Harper's approach to Parliament. We see that the Liberals cannot properly name watchdogs of Parliament. When we offer them a solution they say, “We don't like it, change this”, and when we change that one aspect of our proposal, they still vote against us. They have a nominations problem. They have performance anxiety.

When the Prime Minister, eight months ago, promised to clean up nominations and get rid of the backlog, the backlog went up 60% for nominating important positions around this country, including watchdogs of Parliament and judges on the bench. We now have Jordan's law, and cases, maybe thousands of them, are about to be thrown out because the government cannot be competent enough to do its job.

We say to the government with respect to Bill C-50, this is an opportunity to make things better, to give Canadians more confidence not less. This is an opportunity to follow through on the Prime Minister's own promise. Let us not miss this opportunity. We will amend the legislation at committee. We will see where Liberal ethics truly lie.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 11:40 a.m.
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Conservative

Dianne Lynn Watts Conservative South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Battle River—Crowfoot.

I rise to speak to Bill C-50, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act, political financing.

I want to talk about integrity, openness, and transparency.

Several members this morning have talked about what that means and the ethical aspect of all of those elements that are intrinsic, or should be intrinsic, in each one of us, and that therefore we would not have to introduce legislation, if we merely had a moral compass.

This bill would not stop the cash for access fundraisers. The bill is about formalizing and instituting a system for cash for access fundraisers. When we look at the bill, it is silent on the very issues that the Liberals promised to address. As well, it is silent on third party financing. None of that is addressed.

When we talk about integrity and our moral compass as elected officials or as people in our society, it really behooves us to understand where that moral compass lies.

People attending these fundraisers have clearly stated on numerous occasions that they have discussed and lobbied the ministers and the Prime Minister, that they have had business before the government, and they were proud to speak openly about doing so.

As my colleague so eloquently laid out, it is the rationalization around why these fundraisers are taking place. It is the rationalization that the ministers and the Prime Minister believe this is the normal course of business. However, the $1,500 gets people in the door and then they have access to discuss business with the Prime Minister and the ministers. Clearly, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that this is wrong.

It is wrong on so many fronts. It is wrong because the Prime Minister was very clear in his comments, and I will it read them out, that this practice would not be undertaken, that this was sunny ways, that things would change, that the Liberals would have the most open and accountable government in history. They were going to ensure they would kept their word and promises, and Canadians would be proud of the work that was undertaken. That sounded really great.

During the election, the Prime Minister went around the country, and that was his message on behalf of the party. The government was going to be open, transparent, and ensure Canadians had access to the government. What he did not say was that lobbyists would have access to government and ministers for $1,500.

The Prime Minister stated general principles. I will read them so we can grasp the context here. He said:

Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries must ensure that political fundraising activities or considerations do not affect, or appear to affect, the exercise of their official duties or the access of individuals or organizations to government.

There should be no preferential access to government, or appearance of preferential access, accorded to individuals or organizations because they have made financial contributions to politicians and political parties.

There should be no singling out, or appearance of singling out, of individuals or organizations as targets of political fundraising because they have official dealings with Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries, or their staff or departments.

As we have heard over and over again, there is a litany of events where that precisely took place, not only for the ministers and parliamentary secretaries but also for the Prime Minister. When a statement is issued publicly, is reported on, and is distributed among the Liberal members of Parliament, that should be the defining moment where people have their moral compass intact and do not go to these events. However, that did not happen. Those events took place. The Prime Minister and ministers went, and business was discussed. It was quite astonishing because they were very proud of undertaking that practice.

When we talk about openness and transparency, which the government had said it would be, at every turn the language continues to be about openness and transparency. If we look at any of our freedom of information requests, the majority of it is redacted. Public servants are not permitted to speak publicly for life. The Liberals refuse to answer questions in question period, which I find astonishing because it is question period. Reports are not forthcoming to the House. The Auditor General has raised concerns regarding the lack of financial information. There was an actual refusal to give the AG documents and it impeded officials from doing their job.

We can look at the appointments process. The Liberals say it is open, transparent, and merit-based, which is further from the truth.

The Liberals promise one thing during the election and another when they are in government. The general public deserves better than that. This is about integrity and ethical behaviour, and it starts at the top. If the Prime Minister sees nothing wrong with cash for access fundraising, how possibly can that translate to the Liberal members of Parliament? I would suggest it does not.

Producing this legislation, which really now covers the Liberals to continue this behaviour, speaks to the ethical void in the Prime Minister. If there were an actual willingness to address this issue, then the bill certainly would be more comprehensive. Furthermore, it is around following the rules. Not every situation can be legislated, but surely I would think the Prime Minister would know that when there is business before the House and when lobbyists pay $1,500 to go to a fundraiser, it is wrong. The Liberals cannot justify it. They cannot rationalize it. Plain and simply, it is wrong. Canadians deserve far better.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 11:50 a.m.
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NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech. I would like to come back to something that has been mentioned several times in this debate, and that is the fact that Bill C-50 is completely pointless.

This bill seeks to publish the names of people who participated in events where they paid $1,500 to get access to ministers and the Prime Minister, when their names will be published one day or another anyway. As my colleagues are well aware, the names of people who donate over $200 are already published on the Elections Canada website.

Could my colleague comment on the fact that this bill seems to be just a smokescreen to give the Liberals talking points since it seeks to do something that is already being done, namely, publish the names of people who donated over $200?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 11:55 a.m.
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Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in this place to speak to Bill C-50. When I arrived this morning, I had no intention of speaking to this, but the topic we are discussing is relevant and of major concern to most Canadians. For those who are not certain whether it should be a major concern, I suggest that it should be. I will give a couple of examples as to why.

Before I get into the examples of why it should be, let me say that this has always been a question we have battled with in Canada. I recall, between 2000 and 2004, the Liberal Party got into problems much the same as today, with cash for access and monies rolling in. Out of part of that came the sponsorship scandal and the Gomery inquiry. Much of it was access to Liberal fundraisers, at which huge amounts of money would be raised. Indeed, even after the audits and the Gomery inquiry, there were $40 million left unaccounted for.

I remember LaVar Payne from Medicine Hat asking where the $40 million was. Out of that, Conservatives made some changes to political fundraising. The way the Liberal government responded was not, in the Conservatives' opinion, the right way either. It said there would no longer be an ability to give massive amounts of money to the federal government for lobbying and influence, but it would be done through the public purse. For every vote cast for the Conservative Party, it would receive a certain amount of funding, as well as the Liberal Party, the NDP, and the Green Party. We realize that just going to the public purse is not the way to raise funds for political parties, so Parliament said it is up to political parties to raise their own funds. It is up to political parties to call on their membership and people who want to support them and raise funds. That is exactly what we have seen: fundraising letters to membership, saying there is an election coming and asking the membership to help out. That is certainly what the Conservative Party has done.

The Liberal Party has fallen back into the trap of saying it now has something that it did not have for 10 years. It has influence. There is a Prime Minister who makes decisions of what is coming in legislation and what may come to Canada. There are cabinet ministers in all of the different portfolios who go out and speak to their stakeholders. They are money-making machines to the Liberal Party of Canada. We have seen some of it happen already, and it has been mentioned a number of times.

We have seen it with the justice minister from British Columbia. There are hundreds of openings for appointments to the bench, and she met with a group of lawyers whose goals would be to some day be a judge on the bench, and they were the ones invited to the fundraiser at a law firm in downtown Toronto. These were the ones who paid $1,500 to rub shoulders with, speak with, and get their pictures taken with the justice minister of Canada.

It was brought up about the finance minister, who in budget consultations made the rounds to all the different groups of stakeholders who want to invest in jobs, businesses, or such and such. We saw it with the Prime Minister, which was brought up, who attended a meeting in Vancouver with billionaire Chinese investors, who paid $1,500 to attend the meeting. One wanted to be involved in a financial institution and gave $1,500 to the Liberal Party of Canada. Then one of the attendees at the same meeting, who paid the $1,500 at that Liberal fundraiser, also wanted to give $1 million to the Trudeau Foundation. It is not the Prime Minister's foundation but the Prime Minister's father's foundation. How convenient. It is cash for access to cabinet ministers and prime ministers.

I had the privilege of serving in the government in the last Parliament as a minister. I worked closely with Jim Flaherty, Joe Oliver, and with our former prime minister, in budget consultations, as other cabinet members did. Before we went to events, if there was even any thought of speaking to the membership, we were not even allowed to advertise that we were ministers. I would go out as the member of Parliament for Crowfoot, as it was called at that time. If there was any publication, I would not be able to say that I was a minister, because we wanted to be above reproach.

I appreciated a question that came earlier. The Prime Minister meets with all these people. He meets in my small town. He meets with these individuals. That is exactly what we are expected to do. However, when lobbyists show up and say they are willing to give us $1,000 to be at a meeting, and wink-wink, nudge-nudge—that absolutely did not happen. The government is now trying to put cover on what is its common practice. That is not being accepted by the Canadian public.

I also want to say something that may not exactly illustrate the point of what we need here, but we have two problems. Another problem that we have in this country, and it has been dealt with in Parliaments past, and Elections Canada deals with it, is how we bring young people into this whole idea of becoming involved politically. How do we engage them?

This past week I had a board meeting. I had met young James from Three Hills at an event; he was a grade 11 student, going into grade 12. He asked how he could get involved in politics. He was not sure if he was a Conservative or what. We invited him out to our board meeting. He was involved in the discussion, and he really started to enjoy the discussion.

The way we engage Canadians, and especially our youth, is not by saying, wink-wink, nudge-nudge, “If you want access to the Prime Minister, $1,500 is the going rate.” It is unethical and, as my former colleague says, it is immoral. It is immoral to say, “We will listen and you will have our ear if you provide the $1,500 to the Liberal Party of Canada.”

One member on the other side says it is up to all parties to decide how they fundraise. This is giving the Liberal Party of Canada an avenue of fundraising that no other party in Parliament has. That is why the Liberals are attracted to it. They are attracted to the fact that they have one up on every other political party, because they have ministers making decisions.

When I leave this place, I want to be able to say that in my opinion there has been nothing that I have done that has in any way infringed on the rules of how conduct should be for an honourable member of Parliament. I believe with everything I have that the average Canadian says that this is not honourable behaviour, and that this is the way we expect things to be done in third world countries, or other countries, but not our Canada.

Our democracy is worth protecting. Our democracy tells us that even the smallest, the most uninfluential, whoever that may be, has the same right as the most wealthy. That is what this country stands for. The government is going out and setting a very serious, sad practice of how it is going to conduct and fight the next election.

We have a problem. This bill is to solve the problem. It is really an admission by the Liberal Party that it has a scandal called “cash for access”, or “your cash for access to our cabinet minister or our Prime Minister”. The Liberals promised they would deal with this problem, and Bill C-50 is coming along and that is their response to the problem. The Liberals have already said that there are rules set for themselves, and that is what the description of this bill is all about.

I could go on, but I will say this. The member for Barrie—Innisfil and the member for York—Simcoe gave two speeches that were amazing, with great stories of the history of fundraising problems and scandals the Liberal Party has had. I would encourage people to read those and to call their members of Parliament about what they believe is—

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 12:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is not the former government that was selling cash for access; it is the current government. It is the current Minister of Finance. It is the current Minister of Justice. It is the current Prime Minister. We can go right down the front row here. It is the very same in Queen's Park with the Liberal Party in Ontario, where Gerry Butts and Katie Telford brought the fundraising machine to Ontario. They have now brought that very same fundraising machine to Ottawa. It is unethical.

Bill C-50 would only be put in place to cover the practices that are common practice in the Liberal Party of Canada. If we go to the website and look at the political parties that receive money, not just publicly funded money but money from fundraising within the membership, we find that the Conservative Party of Canada can fundraise with 50% more membership giving to it. The average amount of money given by the average member in my riding is about $75, and the average amount to our Conservative Party is around $100 or $200. Those are the facts.

The Liberal Party does not have that grassroots. It has the elite groups that say they will give $1,500 at the fundraiser and then a million dollars to the Trudeau Foundation if it gives them the bank, the commissioner, or the position.

The member for South Surrey—White Rock was right. It is immoral. It is unethical. It is a practice the Liberal government has been caught at, and it needs to stop.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 12:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Tony Clement Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to participate in the debate on Bill C-50. I will not be sharing my time, so I will be taking the full 20 minutes.

Let me start by making a comment about the debate as I have heard it this morning so far. The gist of the defence of the bill by the Liberal side appears to be, “Everyone's been doing it, so what's wrong with us doing it?”

That is actually not accurate. Everyone is not doing it. What the Liberals in government have done is create a whole system, a racket, of shaking down lobbyists and stakeholders to gain access. I want to be absolutely clear and on the record on this. The previous Harper government did not do that. Stephen Harper, as prime minister, did not attend these events. Full stop. Period.

When I was in cabinet, which I was for the duration of the Harper years, it was absolutely required and understood that if we were to attend a fundraising event, people who were lobbying our department were not allowed to attend. They were forbidden from attending. It was the practice in my office, and I dare say this was the common practice throughout Stephen Harper's ministry, to have a vetting process to go through the names of the attendees who were signed up to attend an event, who had bought a ticket. If there was any hint that a particular individual, or the individual's organization, was registered to lobby me, as a minister, the money was refunded before the event and the person was not allowed to attend the event. That was the practice under the previous Conservative government.

As we have learned through the past months, that is not the practice that has been exhibited by the current Liberal government. Indeed, when I use the word “racket”, I am not trying to convey a criminal enterprise. I want to make that clear. The racket I am trying to convey is a systematic approach to shake down these stakeholders and lobbyists to enrich the coffers of the Liberal Party of Canada and to thereby help fund their pre-election and election activities.

How did this come about? Where did this come from? As my colleagues have already mentioned and as my colleague from the NDP has already mentioned, this came about because this was the practice in Dalton McGuinty's and Kathleen Wynne's Liberal Ontario.

I was an Ontario PC cabinet minister. We were given a nominal target. For example, a cabinet minister could perhaps find a way to raise $10,000 for the PC Party of Ontario during the course of a year. What did Wynne, and Dalton McGuinty before her, do? They made it $500,000. The target for Dwight Duncan, the Liberal finance minister, was $1 million.

By the way, if I did not meet my $10,000 target as a PC minister, there was no sanction. Nobody said anything. It was, “If you're raising money for your own riding, you might want to make sure you give a little bit to the central party.” That was the suggestion.

In Dalton McGuinty's and Kathleen Wynne's Ontario, if a Liberal cabinet minister did not make the target, he or she would be drummed out of cabinet. It was made explicitly clear to these individuals. Dwight Duncan wrote in his memoir or in his commentaries that one of the reasons he left provincial politics was that he was sick and tired, as a finance minister, of the obligation to fundraise for the Liberal Party of Ontario. That is how pervasive it was in Liberal Ontario until finally, the public became fed up and the media trained its attention on this, and the laws were changed.

Eric Hoskins, a successor of mine as provincial minister of health, had a target of $500,000. From my contacts in the health sphere in Ontario, I know that hospital presidents, deliverers of other health care services, and retirement homes all felt pressure. The only way they could talk to the minister about a public policy issue was to pony up dough. That is how pervasive the system was in Ontario.

As my colleagues have already outlined, the people who helped set up that system in McGuinty-Wynne Ontario set it up for the federal Liberal government once it obtained power across this country.

If people watching today are wondering how this came to be, it came to be because that rot that was part of the McGuinty-Wynne era, which hopefully is drawing to a close, which will be up to the voters of Ontario to decide, was transferred holus-bolus to--

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 12:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Tony Clement Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member has hit the nail on the head. That is what is so bizarre about this debate. First we had multiple scandals involving Liberal governments across the land and their cash for access regimes. We had a scandal here, and the answer to the scandal was supposed to be this bill, Bill C-50, which would actually just rinse and repeat what was going on before, under the sheen of political legitimacy through an act of Parliament. I would suggest for my friends and hon. members around this House that we not buy into that logic, because what it actually does is offend the nature of democracy and parliamentary democracy and, indeed, means that this kind of behaviour will be sanctified and repeated in the future.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 12:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Tony Clement Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Mr. Speaker, I live in Port Sydney; that is the port I know best. I do not know anything about the Toronto port.

I can say that I never had an $1,100 fundraiser. Maybe the member is referring to the time when I was minister of transportation. That was in 1997, so I am not sure how relevant that is to the previous PC government. If the hon. member wants to dredge that up, he can be my guest, but we are talking about Bill C-50 and the fact that the Liberal government is trying to say everyone is as bad as the Liberals are. Their number one argument for passing the bill is that everyone is as bad as they are, which patently we are not.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 12:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to participate in this important debate. We are debating Bill C-50, a government bill, which in my judgment aims to whitewash the government's record when it comes to what we have been calling cash for access fundraising, and to put in place a system that sort of regularizes and normalizes this process.

Obviously we in the opposition are very concerned about that. We are very opposed to the government's record on cash for access fundraising and the continuing inclination that it has to do this. I am proud of our team for repeatedly raising this in question period and for helping to drive the public discussion on it. The public has responded with significant concerns, which is why we now see this legislative effort on the part of the government to whitewash its record.

The idea of cash for access is quite simple to understand. It is the idea that people who do business with the government or who have specific interest in lobbying the government would pay to attend a party fundraiser in order to gain access to a minister or the prime minister, whom they are directly involved in lobbying.

It is important that we make clear distinctions here. Fundraising is a part of our political process, but in principle the expectation is that people donate to political parties or political candidates because they believe in what those parties or candidates stand for. They wish to support the activities of those parties or those candidates, and they are doing so out of conviction aligned with the objectives of the party, not out of a calculation of personal interest that involves their private lobbying activities and involves their getting access to a minister or a prime minister, so that they can lobby with the implication that they are going to have a greater influence than a member of the public would.

When Conservatives were in government, we did fundraise. We had ministers involved in fundraising, but we were very clear about the fact that ministers should not have fundraisers that include those who are directly involved in lobbying them. That was a distinction that we made, and we were consistent. There was one case, and I want to actually talk about this case because I think it is quite revealing. There was one case in which there was a problem with a Conservative fundraiser. I will read some of the article. This is from CBC, published on January 18, 2014. It involved Shelley Glover, the then-heritage minister. Here is what happened:

The federal Heritage Minister attended an event in her Saint Boniface riding on Thursday evening.

But when she got there, she learned that many of the attendees were members of Winnipeg's arts community, who have dealt with her department.

Everyone at the event made a $50 donation to attend, and one person made a $500 donation.

The problem is, under federal conflict of interest rules, cabinet ministers cannot solicit donations from anyone who has asked for money or who may ask for money from her department.

In a statement released late Friday, Mike Storeshaw, Glover's director of communications, said the minister wasn't personally involved in organizing the event.

Storeshaw said Glover has refunded the money and has written the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.

He said she's instructed her electoral district association which organized the fundraiser not to hold similar events.

Here is what happened. Accidentally, somebody else organized a fundraiser for the then-heritage minister in which there ended up being members of the arts community who had lobbied her department. It was $50 to get in, and immediately the minister acknowledged the problem and refunded every single dollar. These were $50 donations. This is the one time that this happened, and immediately the error was recognized and the money was refunded.

Contrast that with the Liberal Party approach: consistent $1,500 events with people who are involved in lobbying the government, and no apologies, no refund. In fact there is consistent defence of those activities.

If we compare the record when it comes to the nature of the fundraising activities undertaken under the previous government and under the current government, there really is no comparison. In 10 years, there was one case where a mistake was made. The minister was not involved in organizing the event, and the money was refunded. It was a $50 price of admission. With the Liberal government, there are consistently $1,500 events, where people are buying access to the Prime Minister and to the ministers.

What is striking is that these are always defended. It is not a matter of something happening and people saying they recognize that this should not have happened, they will pay the money back, and they will not do it again. No, these things are being defended. That is what cash for access is, that is what the government is trying to do, and Conservatives take the position that it is not acceptable. The government should go back to something that existed under the Conservatives, which was a real clarity in the guidelines. Yes, parties can fundraise. Yes, ministers and prime ministers can attend fundraising events for which people pay to attend, but those people cannot be lobbyists or people who receive money from the government, who are paying for access to a minister whom they directly lobby. That is a very clear and easy distinction to make, and it is not one being made by this legislation.

Interestingly, this legislation completely excludes, even from reporting, events where the cost is less than $200. That would completely cut out the one event under the Conservative government, about which members of the then opposition were absolutely apoplectic and called it the end of the world as we know it.

Having explained the context, what cash for access is all about, I want to delve a little into what I think is an underlying philosophical problem with how we often approach these questions of ethics in politics. We are talking about the questions of corruption, ethics, and morality in politics. Very often we approach these discussions from the assumption of what I would call a sort of rule-based moral framework, the idea that we have to define rules that deal with every possible contingency and that is the solution, that it comes down to the rules. This bill, purportedly, was introduced because people were upset about what the Liberals did, so they have to twist and tighten the rules a bit.

This comes out of a rule-based assumption about the way morality works, and I want to posit that there is a better alternative. I think that generally a virtue-based framework for thinking about ethics is a better one and would give us the tool kit we need to effectively address some of these issues. I will provide some definition and context for this.

This idea of rule-based morality is most often associated with the enlightenment philosophical project, which is the idea that, although we recognize that we may have certain aspects of ethics and morality that are part of our culture that may come from different kinds of texts and authority, actually we need to come up with a way to codify and specifically rationalize in a narrow sense of pure reason, disconnected from authority or sentiment, come up with the basis for morality and the rules we have. This was the precursor of various moral philosophers who came out of that period, who were trying to define these very specific, narrowly reason-based concepts of moral. The big debate one will often encounter in philosophical discussions that come out of this tradition is a debate between a utilitarian school, which is all about adding up the impacts on people, and a more deontological approach to ethics or morality, which says that it is more about certain lines that we cannot cross and things we cannot do, explained in whatever way. It is not about just adding up to good or bad effects, but saying there are certain things one ought never do or ought to do in general.

In any event, these distinctions all exist within a larger framework, which is that basically it is all about the rules. Through that discussion, finer and finer distinctions are made, asking what one philosophical lens tells us about a situation. Very often, for those who have studied philosophy, we get into what are often called hard cases, the frequent discussion of a narrowing set of hard cases. It is the idea that if we do not have a clear rule to answer a hard case, then we have to invent new rules that help us explain it. One of the classic ways in which these are adjudicated are so-called trolley problems. If there is a trolley coming down a hill that could go on one of two tracks and we have to decide whether to flip the switch, knowing it would impact different people depending on where it goes, how do we make that decision, depending on the situation?

Through all of this, it is this idea that the sum total of ethical and moral conduct can and should be defined in rule form, and it can be done by anyone looking at the details in a purely rational sense without reference to sentiment or authority and then following the rules, as defined.

There are a number of problems that I think are evident with a purely rule-based approach to ethics or morality.

Fairly obvious is that if the rules are the sole basis of morals or ethics, then what is the basis for the rules? If following the rules is all that matters, then what justifies the rules as they exist? Also, a purely rule-based morality does not provide a sufficient basis for understanding the roots of moral motivation or for a discussion of moral competency—

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 1:25 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her contribution to the debate. I thank her especially for drawing a comparison between federal and provincial fundraising.

Some provinces are much more liberal, if I may use that word, while Quebec is much stricter. I think that the point of the recent financing reform was clear. There was an effort to remove money from politics, and some compelling results were achieved, as the member said in her speech. That is certainly something parliamentarians should consider when trying to take the influence of money out of public policy as much as possible. It goes without saying, but I think that all the members of the House share the same goal. Nobody can be against this principle.

We thought this was what the Prime Minister had in mind when he said he would attempt to eliminate the practice of granting special access in exchange for donations as well as all appearance of preferential access. When the Prime Minister said that, we believed that he was heading toward that kind of political financing reform for federal parties.

I would like to ask my colleague whether, in light of what the Prime Minister said, Bill C-50 meets her expectations regarding changes to political financing. Does the bill also meet her expectations with respect to special access? Is it really what we were expecting when we heard the government say that it wanted to correct this situation? We really thought it would fix it. Can the member say whether her expectations were met by Bill C-50?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 1:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, the mandate letter to the Minister of Democratic Institutions, which is connected to Bill C-50 on political financing, says to set up an independent commissioner to oversee future debate forums held between leaders of major political parties.

We saw what happened with the failed appointment of Madam Meilleur to the official languages commissioner role. The New Democratic Party is trying to move a reasonable motion in this House to make sure that all these officers of Parliament are appointed in an independent, open, and transparent fashion.

I do not see this part of the minister's mandate letter in Bill C-50. It is deeply troubling that the government is not moving ahead with this important part of the minister's mandate letter. Could I have the member's comments and observations on that?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

June 8th, 2017 / 3:25 p.m.
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Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon, we will continue the debate we began this morning on the NDP opposition day motion.

This evening, we will return to Bill C-24, an act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act. Following that, we will begin second reading of Bill C-50 on political financing.

Tomorrow will be dedicated to debating Bill C-44 on the budget.

As for next week, our hope is to make progress on a number of bills, including Bill C-6 concerning citizenship; Bill C-50 respecting political financing; Bill C-49, transportation modernization; and Bill S-3, amendments to the Indian Act.

Finally, next Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday shall be allotted days.

As the member very well knows, I always look forward to working with all members. I look forward to continuing our conversation.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

June 8th, 2017 / 8:45 p.m.
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Burlington Ontario

Liberal

Karina Gould LiberalMinister of Democratic Institutions

moved that Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, it is a great pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill C-50, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act, regarding political financing, which would amend the Canada Elections Act to create an unprecedented level of openness and transparency for political fundraising events.

I first want to recognize my officials for their extraordinary effort in developing, drafting, and refining this important legislation. I thank them for their hard work over the past few months. They are a credit to our public service.

Our government told Canadians we would set a higher bar on the transparency, accountability, and integrity of our public institutions and the democratic process. We have also sent a clear message that we want to encourage Canadians to embrace our democracy.

I have been focused, in particular, on this latter objective since the Prime Minister asked me to be Canada's Minister of Democratic Institutions. This is why our government has moved on several fronts to enshrine a more open and inclusive democracy. We have changed the way we appoint senators and judges, we are making our elections more accessible and inclusive, and we are taking steps to protect our democracy from cyber-threats. We take these actions because we know how deeply Canadians value and cherish our democracy.

As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation this year, we can reflect on the work of past generations that have improved, strengthened, and protected Canadian democracy. The challenge facing us is how we, as parliamentarians, can continue to lead this work and fulfill the promise of a strong, stable, vibrant democracy.

The simple but important act of voting is a central part of this discussion. Casting a ballot is a rite of passage in this country. I am sure that many hon. members recall going with their parents to a polling station. Many members will recall bringing their own children with them to vote at their local school, church, community centre, or in one of the many other locations where voting takes place.

In many respects, election day is one of the last true civic rituals that Canadians take part in. It is a day on which we all come together to take part in the democratic process. We wait in the same lines, we follow the same rules, and we exercise the same rights and freedoms.

Today, as Minister of Democratic Institutions, I have a mandate to protect and improve one of the greatest democracies on earth. It is an honour to talk about this in one of the most respected democratic institutions in the world. We know that democracy does not just happen on its own. We all need to contribute to it, and that means more than just voting every four years. Democracy requires our constant attention.

There are many different ways Canadians choose to make a valuable contribution to our democracy. It could be as simple as engaging in a public policy discussion with a friend, joining a community group, participating in a demonstration, or volunteering with a charity. It could also include joining a political party, making a donation to a party, or attending a political fundraiser. Democratic participation and civic engagement are critical to a healthy democracy.

While we believe that we could always do more to raise the bar on openness and transparency in political fundraising, we also respect the right of all Canadians to choose to financially support a party of their choice.

We are celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms this year. Section 3 of that Charter guarantees every citizen the right to vote and to run in a federal election. Section 3 is closely linked to the protection of the freedom of association, which is also provided for in the Charter.

Today in Canada, Canadians and permanent residents have the legitimate right to make a donation to a party and to participate in fundraising activities. All parties of the House receive support for the honest work that they do through the donations and contributions of individuals who believe in and support their work.

It is important to take a step back and look at Canada's political fundraising system as it now stands, even before the changes we are discussing. The Canada Elections Act sets out the legal framework that governs fundraising and campaign financing, and all registered federal political parties are subject to it.

According to Elections Canada, disclosure requirements have existed for candidates since the beginning of the 20th century, but the current regime was essentially laid out with the introduction of political party registration in 1970 and the Election Expenses Act in 1974. Essentially, there have been limits on contribution amounts and on the people through whom Canadians can make donations to federal political parties for the past 43 years.

Today, only individual Canadians and permanent residents can donate. Companies, industry associations, and trade unions cannot give funds to any politician or political party. There is a strict limit on individual contributions. Annually, individuals can donate up to $1,550 to a national political party. They can also donate up to $1,550, combined, to all the riding associations, candidates, or nomination contestants of a party. Finally, if their preferred party is in a leadership contest, an individual can donate up to $1,550, combined, to all the leadership contestants in a leadership race.

Today, there are already a number of different reports and requirements that parties, electoral district associations, candidates, leadership contestants, and others must complete. Elections Canada publishes all financial reports, as well as the identity and postal codes of those donating more than $200 on its website.

It is also important to note that there are strict penalties under the Canada Elections Act to punish anyone violating political financing rules. The penalties could include fines of up to $50,000, or up to five years in jail, or both. Canadians take political fundraising seriously. There are serious consequences for breaking these rules.

It is important to point out that 2% of Canadians are currently members of a party or have made a campaign donation. Not everyone wants to join a political party, but everyone can celebrate the contribution that political parties make to our democracy. These institutions bring together people from across the country, people with diverse perspectives, opinions, backgrounds, and experiences. Some parties might focus on specific issues or concerns, while others might seek to cover a broad range of opinions.

At best, parties can mobilize many people and encourage them to take action on important causes, champion certain ideas, and work hard to convince other people to join them.

Political parties are vital to the discourse that we have in Canada about our democracy. To quote former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci:

Political parties provide individual citizens with an opportunity to express an opinion on the policy and functioning of government.

They are capable of introducing unique concerns into the political discourse. In order to participate in political discourse, parties require funding to operate. As Canadians, we have the right to contribute to a political party that shares our ideals and our aspirations. For many, contributing to a political party and attending a fundraising event is a valued form of democratic expression, and I know all hon. members agree that this is an important right we must continue to respect and uphold.

I believe that a strong democracy does not merely tolerate the exchange of ideas, but rather encourages it. A healthy democracy fosters lively partisan debate that offers ideas and clear choices to people. Canadians can choose to donate to a political party to show their support for that kind of democratic debate. In Bill C-50, we are proposing that people continue to make donations to political parties and do so in a way that is more open and transparent than ever.

If passed, Bill C-50 would provide Canadians with more information about political fundraising events than ever before. It would make our already strong and robust system for political financing even more open and transparent, so that Canadians can continue to have confidence in our democratic institutions. It would ensure that Canadians know who is going to fundraisers, when and where they are happening, and the amount required to attend.

If passed, Bill C-50 will apply to all fundraising activities that cabinet members, party leaders, and leadership candidates take part in when the ticket price is over $200. This will apply only to parties sitting in the House of Commons. The bill will therefore apply to all of Canada's political leaders, across party lines. These are the people who are leading our country and aspire to become prime minister themselves.

Fundraising events involving these individuals would be advertised at least five days in advance. Canadians would know about them before these events take place, giving them an opportunity to inquire about a ticket, if they wish. They would know exactly where and when a fundraiser is happening, who is organizing the event, and which senior political leader or leaders will attend.

Further improving openness and transparency for our political leaders will enhance the trust that Canadians have in our democracy across the political spectrum, and we believe this is a good thing.

Public disclosure of fundraising details offers the added benefit of providing that information to the media, leaving it up to the press whether to cover it or not. I believe, and our government believes, that a free press is essential to our democracy and that a healthy media landscape is necessary for a healthy democracy. Our approach in Bill C-50 is to provide journalists the information they need to choose whether to cover an activity or not and give the political parties the flexibility to set their own rules for providing media access and accreditation.

Political parties would also be required to report the names and addresses of those who attended the fundraiser, within 30 days, to Elections Canada. This information would be published online. Canadians and the media would know who attended a fundraiser, and could hold politicians and attendees more accountable for their actions.

Elections Canada, as the recipient and publisher of so much fundraising information already, is the natural place to collect this new information. Publishing all the information in one non-partisan place would make it easier for Canadians to search for this information. I should add that certain individuals, such as minors, service staff, and volunteers, would be exempt.

The bill would also create a new Elections Act offence for not respecting these rules. Any penalties would be borne by political parties, not the senior political leaders invited to attend the events. The maximum fine we propose for violating the provisions would be $1,000 on summary conviction, and any party that breaks the rules would also have to return the contributions collected at the events.

If passed, Bill C-50 will fulfill our government's promise to make Canada's political financing system much more transparent to the public and the media. This is one of many ways our government is improving, enhancing, and protecting our democratic institutions.

Members of the House know that we also introduced Bill C-33, which, if passed, would repeal undemocratic aspects of what the previous government called the Fair Elections Act. Bill C-33 would make it easier for Canadians to exercise their right to vote. It would also encourage voter turnout, and enhance the public's trust in our electoral system as well as its integrity.

To that end, significant measures will be taken, such as allowing the Chief Electoral Officer to accept voter cards as identification and re-establishing vouching so that eligible voters without identification can prove their identity and place of residence by asking another voter to vouch for them.

Moreover, under the bill, Elections Canada could register young Canadians 14 to 17 to include them in the electoral process at a younger age.

Those are just some examples of the measures our government is taking to ensure that we continue to enhance democratic institutions.

We have also introduced a new merit-based Senate appointments process, as I mentioned. To meet the expectations of Canadians, we developed a process to appoint senators that is more open and transparent than ever before. We established an advisory board for Senate appointments and launched a new, open, non-partisan application process. Now any Canadian can directly apply to become a senator, and since spring 2016, we have appointed 27 senators through this new process. The Senate is an important institution in our democratic system, and our government remains committed to building a more effective and less partisan Senate in partnership with hon. senators and all parliamentarians.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of the procedure and House affairs committee, as well as the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee. Both of these committees have been studying the Chief Electoral Officer's report on the 2015 election and will be reporting their recommendations to their respective chambers. Their guidance will be incredibly helpful, as I work with all of our colleagues to continue the important work of improving, strengthening, and protecting our democratic institutions. Bill C-50 is an important example of how we can continue to raise the bar when it comes to our democracy.

Samara Canada recently released a report entitled, “Democracy 360: The Second Report Card on How Canadians Communicate, Participate and Lead in Politics.” The report measures the health of Canada's democracy across 19 different indicators. According to Samara, 71% of Canadians said they are fairly satisfied or very satisfied with how democracy works in Canada. This is six percentage points higher than the first report card in 2015.

Although this report suggests that Canadians have confidence in their democracy, we realize that there is always room for improvement. We therefore introduced Bill C-50 for more open and transparent fundraising activities.

We are shining a light on these types of activities so that Canadians can know and understand what is happening. We are providing them with information on who attends these fundraisers, when and where they are taking place, and how much it costs to participate.

Political fundraising is an important form of democratic expression. Fundraisers are an opportunity for groups of like-minded Canadians to come together and discuss values, opinions, and policy ideas. They also provide Canadians with the opportunity to support a party or individual with whom they share similar perspectives and ideas. We believe it is important to clarify what happens at these fundraising events. Bill C-50 would do so by shining a light on who is attending political fundraisers, where and when they are taking place, and the amount required to attend them. For the first time in Canadian history, our government is legislating and requiring political parties to disclose this information, because Canadians have a right to know even more than they do now about political fundraising events. I think all members of this House can agree that political parties do not have anything to hide. Bill C-50 would ensure that more information than ever before about political fundraisers is shared with the media and the public at large, so that Canadians can continue to have confidence in our democracy.

I am eager to hear the opinions from other members of this House about the bill itself. This is important legislation that affects all of us in this chamber, and I am confident that the hon. members share my desire to provide Canadians with more information about political fundraising events. I look forward to the debate ahead.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

June 8th, 2017 / 9:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Mr. Speaker, this legislation could be understood in three steps. Step number one, the Liberals come up with a fundraising system that is profoundly profitable. Step number two, the public finds out about it and it becomes profoundly unpopular. Step number three, the Liberals attempt to develop a piece of legislation that would provide ethical cover for continuing this unpopular practice because it is so darned profitable.

This legislation is the Liberal Party's attempt to legitimize and normalize the practice that is sometimes referred to as pay to play, and sometimes referred to as cash for access. Either of those two descriptions makes a point. If one wants to play in this game, if one wants to have access to ministers, then pay up, and one can have access to the cabinet minister of choice, in particular, the Prime Minister himself or the finance minister, although every minister is a part of this game.

The goal of Bill C-50 is to legitimize this process. The Liberals are getting attacked. They can say it was the expressed will of Parliament that this practice be continued, because they will publicize some information about these enormously profitable events in which only the Liberal government can participate.

This is an issue here. It was a huge scandal for the Liberal government in Ontario, which has quotas for ministers to seek out great events at which access would be provided only to those who paid up to the Liberal Party of Ontario. This has been a huge issue in British Columbia. It may very well have been the issue that will cause the Liberal government out there to ultimately lose power, but that remains to be seen. There is a hung parliament in British Columbia, but this is a big scandal out there.

I want to give some examples of what the federal Liberals are doing, not the provincial Liberals in B.C., or the Liberals in Ontario. I want to give some examples of how this works and what it is about. I am going to give some examples of actual pay to play or cash for access events over the course of the past year or so.

Chinese billionaires have been attending Liberal fundraisers even though they are not allowed to donate because they are not Canadian citizens. One of these individuals Zhang Bin, who is also a Communist Party apparatchik, attended a May 19, 2016 fundraiser at the Toronto home of Chinese Business Chamber of Canada chairperson Benson Wong according to this report in The Globe and Mail. A few weeks later Mr. Zhang and a business partner donated $200,000 to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, and $50,000 to build a statute of the current Prime Minister's father.

Here is a second example. On November 7, B.C. multimillionaire Miaofei Pan hosted a fundraiser at his West Vancouver mansion, and made the case to the Prime Minister, at this event that he had to pay to get into and that he also hosted, to allow Chinese investment in seniors care and real estate developments, and ease rules for rich immigrants from China. What better way to get preferential access than to have it in your own home? This took place as the federal government had been reviewing a $1 billion bid by China's Anbang Insurance Group to buy one of British Columbia's largest retirement home nursing care chains.

Here is another example. An event scheduled for September 29 was actually cancelled, but was organized by senior business executive Geoff Smith, CEO of the giant construction firm EllisDon, which was involved in a scandal in Ontario over very similar events, and Linda Hasenfratz, CEO of Linamar, Canada's second largest automotive parts company. Both companies could benefit from government decisions concerning infrastructure and automobile policy.

Here is another example of pay to play as exercised by the Liberal government. The finance minister was scheduled to attend a fundraiser that cost $1,500 to get in the door in Calgary on November 2 at the home of Shaw Communications Inc. President Jay Mehr. The telecom firm has directly lobbied the finance department eight times. Is there a conflict there?

Here is an example of an exclusive event. On November 7, the finance minister attended an event in Calgary, and the Prime Minister attended an event in Toronto. This was an exclusive event held at the Toronto condominium of philanthropist Nancy Pencer and funeral home executive, Michael Benjamin. Helping to sell tickets were Barry Sherman, the chairman of generic drug manufacturer Apotex and Joel Reitman, who runs global venture firm Jillcy Capital. Apotex is the company whose executives had civic-minded children, I believe under the age of 10, who decided to make contributions to the leadership campaign of Joe Volpe, when he was running for the Liberal leadership. That is the kind of company the cabinet over there runs with.

Another event is a corporate law firm in Toronto with interests in Ottawa lobbying the federal government, hosting an event where the justice minister was the guest of honour, for goodness' sake. The finance minister was the star attraction at a $1,500 per person Liberal Party fundraiser in the home of a wealthy Halifax developer. Another event was $500 per person. That is a bargain price for the finance minister.

Members get the idea. This is a sample of the kinds of activities the cash for access activities in which the federal cabinet members have all been involved. The Prime Minister, the finance minister, the justice minister, and the whole crew met with people who do business with the federal government, and who now get to speak face-to-face with these ministers, when no one else gets that kind of access.

Pay to play is the backbone of Liberal fundraising. To make this point, I want to say how much the Liberals raise when they have these kinds of events. In this report, they would not actually say, but attendance figures had suggested that the party brings in between $50,000 and $120,000 per event, when either the Prime Minister or the finance minister is the star attraction, and the ticket price is $1,500. That is how much they bring in at an event in an evening. There are paying very special attention, and it has had a big impact on their bottom line. This is the backbone of their financing.

The pay to play process for raising funds started early last year, but it really took off in the final quarter of last year. Liberal Party finances went from $4 million, substantially behind the Conservative Party in the first quarter of 2016, to $5.8 million, well over $1 million ahead of the Conservative Party in the final quarter of 2016.

This was going to be the ace in the hole for the Liberals. This was how they were going to finance the next election. Let us be clear about this. When our party was in government, we did not do this stuff, but even if there were no ethical considerations holding back other parties in this place, only one party can deliver cabinet ministers, people who can, with the stroke of a pen, make someone's company tens of millions or hundreds of millions of dollars richer, at the expense of the Canadian people. Only the government can do that. There is an inbuilt incumbency advantage. This is an inbuilt way of ensuring that the governing party can raise funds in a way that is simply impossible for other parties.

That in itself is an outrage. Any system that is designed to give the incumbent party an ongoing, perpetual systemic advantage is inherently morally wrong. That is leaving aside the fact that giving preferential access to cabinet ministers, when the average Canadian does not get this chance, is absolutely contemptible.

This is not actually illegal right now. It is not unlawful, but it is a violation of the Prime Minister's ethics code, his open and accountable government code, put in place in 2015. Let me read the fine words the Prime Minister put at the front of this code. I do not know if he writes his own stuff, but there is a unique sanctimonious tone to whatever he puts on paper.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

June 8th, 2017 / 9:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Mr. Speaker, last November, the Nanos polling organization asked Canadians what they thought of cash for access or pay to play. I will just read from The Globe and Mail coverage, what the answer was. It says:

A Nanos public-opinion survey, conducted for The Globe and Mail from Nov. 26 to 30, shows that 62 per cent of Canadians disapprove of the Liberal Party’s practice of charging people $1,500 a ticket to meet in private with Mr. Trudeau and senior cabinet ministers who oversee major spending or policy-making decisions.

Canadians strongly do not approve. There we go. Number one, it is a profitable way of raising money. Number two, Canadians strongly do not approve. Sixty-two per cent were against this and 33% approved, so 2:1 Canadians think this is a bad idea. Therefore, the Liberals need cover and their cover is to say, “We have this legislation that is going to still allow all these things to happen, but there will be public notice that the events are occurring”. Of course, there is public notice anyway. They are selling tickets, so that is not a change or an innovation.

It would be on a website now, which is nice. They would not be in a private residence. That was their promise that they subsequently backed off from. Members will notice how many of those that I cited were in private residences. I think the reason they took that out is that this is a key component. The really special access to the PM, to the finance minister, and to others comes from being the host.

As well, there would be a reporting afterward. The fact is that everything gets reported anyway, because donations are reported in Canada. They get put up on the Elections Canada website. We could go back and track every single donor who contributed more than a relatively paltry sum to my riding association or my campaign or any of the leadership campaigns we had going on for the Conservative Party. There is simply no new meat here.

This is simply a way of having it so that the next time someone like John Ivison thinks of writing a story, he will say, “Wait a minute, they passed a law about this; I guess it is now okay”. The next time the Ethics Commissioner has something to raise, she could say, “After the issue came up, Parliament passed a law, so it is the expressed will of Parliament that this sort of practice be permitted”. This is all about regularizing this practice. The legislation is all about legitimizing this practice. This is all about saying, “Yes, influence peddling is okay. Influence peddling is just the way we do business here in Canada.”

If there is a theme other than sanctimoniousness about the current government, a theme other than finding ways of violating the spirit of the law over and over again, a theme other than abandoning conventions of behaviour, whether it is about unilateral changes to the Standing Orders in the House of Commons or the unilateral breach of the practices that we have all had regarding fundraising, if there is a theme beyond those it is this: that we need to go back to the good old days. I do not mean the good old days of Trudeau senior. I mean the good old days of the 19th century, with no restrictions at all on the practice of power. Far from moving ahead to a new age or a new era, the current government is the most retrograde government.

I have been here since Jean Chrétien's day, and I was not the biggest fan of Jean Chrétien but the current Prime Minister is so much worse. In fact, I think it was a surprise to him that our prime minister, despite his vast powers, is not actually an elected dictator. There are in fact careful restrictions in this place and out there in public, some of them in law, many of them simply in conventions and practices and usages.

The Prime Minister frankly regards all of these as an impediment and would like to see them swept away. He is not our elected dictator, but it is my belief that he thinks he should be our elected dictator. Every four years we will go back and the people will decide whether they want to keep him on, but that is not what the Prime Minister of Canada is. He needs to learn that, and I can assure members that the Conservatives will be voting against Bill C-50.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

June 8th, 2017 / 9:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think this is one of these situations where the Liberals were saying, “We're not claiming we're ethical. We're just saying you're as bad as us.”

First, nobody buys tickets for appreciation events. The way an appreciation event works is that the people have already paid, typically, the maximum donation and the appreciation event is then held for the Laurier club in the Liberal Party and for the leaders' circle in the Conservative Party at a convention, and they get to have wine and cheese and hobnob with some cabinet ministers, for sure, when they are on the government side.

I will just make this point. If those are as bad as the parliamentary secretary is implying, and I think he was saying that we are hypocrites for not opposing them, then I have to ask why there is a specific exemption for those events in Bill C-50, so that those events can continue. The leaders' circle events will continue, and so will Laurier club events. I am mystified why he even brought that up at all.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

June 8th, 2017 / 9:45 p.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to say it is a pleasure to be rising, but at this time of night, that would be a lie, and I do not wish to mislead the House. I am, however, very pleased to be standing to talk about this charade called the election reform legislation. I want to put it in context in the time that is available.

The Liberals released their famous “Open and Accountable Government” guide to much fanfare, but none of it is legally binding, as the Prime Minister demonstrated, of course, by ignoring it altogether.

Canadians have become deeply concerned about the government's fundraising practices. My friend from Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston used the expressions Canadians have come to know with the government: “cash for access” and “pay to play”. I had not heard those terms before the government was elected, I concede, but now, of course, we hear them all the time.

Because of that practice, there was a concern about conflicts of interest at these various events. This bill is purporting to be the reform to address Canadians' concerns. Of course, it does nothing of the sort. It is, sadly, a half-baked measure that does not stop the cash for access events from happening whatsoever. It just makes it easier for Canadians to hear about them. I am not sure what that accomplishes.

We know they are happening. I guess we are supposed to feel better as Canadians that now it is out in the open. We can still have private parties where we invite friends of the party to come, and now we will know who the people are on the list. The Prime Minister will be there, or the Minister of Finance. I want to know what this is going to do to the lobbyist business. I know how many of my colleagues are concerned about the lobbying industry and how it is not doing very well. Frankly, why would I want to hire a lobbyist, when I could go myself, pay a few bucks, go and talk to the Minister of Finance, and maybe get the deal? Why spend thousands on a lobbyist? I am pretty persuasive. I will just go and talk him up. That is, of course, regularized by this legislation. I want this to perhaps be subtitled the lobbyists' despair act, because that may be what is going to happen as a consequence.

Not a single recommendation from the ethics committee, which studied the law on political fundraisers, found its way into this mishmash legislation. It is surprising to my colleagues that a committee would not have its recommendations addressed by the government, but I am sad to report that this appears to be the case.

I want to be clear from the outset, because of the way politics is played, that the NDP will of course be supporting this bill so we can refer it to the committee and tear it apart, as it deserves to be torn apart, and so we can actually have a meaningful response to Canadians' concerns about cash for access events.

I have to give credit where credit is due. The hon. member for Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston did an excellent job of reminding Canadians why we are here tonight at this late hour talking about this little fig leaf the Liberals are proposing to address the cash for access dilemma. He talked about Chinese billionaires attending Liberal fundraisers and making donations to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, and maybe a statue here and there as well, or West Van billionaires having people over for dinner and talking about how the Chinese could buy a nursing care chain and so forth. Again, where were the lobbyists? I guess they did not need to come, because that was discussed at that meeting. Do not take my word for it. The individual who wanted that was actually bragging about his access to the Prime Minister that night.

I also want to salute the member for pointing out another anomaly. Frankly, this law applies to other parties as well as the governing party of the day. It applies to an electoral district association the leader of a party or an aspiring leader would attend. Somehow we are supposed to think that is fair. It is sauce for the goose. It is supposed to be tit for tat. Frankly, I am not sure who wants to go talk to an opposition party. Surely only one party can deliver a cabinet minister. That is the dripping roast lobbyists tend to want.

Good news, we are going to have them in private homes. I asked the minister, when she spoke, if that was covered, because that was in the mandate letter in January the Prime Minister gave the hon. Minister of Democratic Institutions. I do not think I got the answer to that question, but I can tell Canadians that the law says they can still have these fundraisers in that West Vancouver billionaire's private mansion, and the Prime Minister will come, and there will be a discussion about hockey games, I guess, or perhaps the events of the day in some foreign land. Far be it to talk about things that might involve cash for access or issues of that sort. I am sure they would never come up.

I have another example. When the Minister of Finance had billions of dollars to invest in infrastructure and other initiatives, such as a new container terminal and the development of federal harbour land in Halifax, what did he do? He had a private Liberal Party fundraiser at the home of a gentleman named Fred George. Fred George is a mining tycoon turned land developer in that city. According to a Globe and Mail article, about 15 people attended the $1,500 per person Liberal Laurier Club event. Among the people who were there was Jim Spatz, a federal director on the Halifax Port Authority board of directors and a land developer. These are exactly the types of cozy coincidences that cause concern to Canadians and give rise to the perception of undue influence, whether a direct conflict of interest exists or not.

One might ask why that is so important. It is because the Prime Minister said it is important. In Annex B of his famous “Open and Accountable Government” document, 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.

Am I stretching it to think this event might just have a tad of potential conflict of interest? That is what the Prime Minister told us would not happen anymore under the enlightened regime before Canadians today that asks us to accept this initiative as addressing that problem. It does not.

What else did the Prime Minister say in his “Open and Accountable Government” document? He said something much more specific.

It states:

There should be no preferential access to government, or appearance of preferential access, accorded to individuals or organizations because they have made financial contributions to politicians and political parties.

I do not know about other members, but when I spend $1,500 to go to an event with a large number of Liberal donors and the Prime Minister or the Minister of Finance, I have a feeling that there might be the potential for conflict of interest. Some cynics might even think preferential access is available.

It is disappointing that the government did not respond to the concerns of Canadians with a genuine and robust effort to actually clean up its fundraising scandals.

I come from the province of British Columbia, where it took a New York Times journalist at a bar in Whistler to call it what it is: the wild west of fundraising. In our province, I am ashamed to tell members, there are absolutely no limits to how much money one can spend. We love preferential access. We think it is great. Contrast that to the province of Quebec, where two or three years ago, after some scandals there, a political decision was made to restrict the maximum donation for a party or an individual to $100. Quebec should be proud of leading the way for this kind of reform. Did the Liberals go anywhere near that? No. They decided that they would have these fundraising parties. Not to worry, because it would all be on the website so people could see who attended. That is not reform. That is a joke. I will come back to that in a moment.

I want to come back to a point I made when I was addressing the Minister of Democratic Institutions. I am sure it was inadvertent, but I believe that people would agree that she left the impression that somehow events that happen in private homes are off limits. They are entirely consistent. In other words, one can still have these cozy events in private homes.

In the mandate letter the Prime Minister gave to that minister, it very clearly said that the law would make fundraisers involving ministers, party leaders, and leadership candidates more transparent, including requiring them to be conducted “in publicly-available spaces”. This is not that law. One can still meet in someone's private home in West Vancouver and talk about transactions with government leaders, and that is just fine. This time they just have to tell us who is there, and that seems to be it. They just have to put it on the website.

That is a very modern solution, but it does not go anywhere near addressing the problem. I would not want anyone to think that somehow these cozy little deals in private homes are off limits. They are not. They are very much alive and well in Canada under this law.

According to media analysis, the Liberal Party scheduled more than 100 cash-for-access events in the year 2016 alone. They are enormously profitable, as we know. We are not just talking about transparency; we are talking about the principle of cash for access itself. As the government once recognized, it is not just about undue influence but about the perception of that undue influence.

If Canadians are watching at this late hour, I need to remind them that the bill does not in any way, shape, or form address the cash-for-access events. They are alive and well and continue to be profitable. A prime minister or a finance minister will be coming to a private residence nearby, but this time people are going to know who is there.

Bill C-50 creates a new class of what are called “regulated fundraising events”, subject to special reporting requirements. In theory, these requirements would apply to a broad range of events with ticket prices over $200. It would require public notice in the days leading up to the event and the public release of the attendees' names within 30 days following the event. In practice, there are glaring gaps, most notably, as my colleague earlier commented, the exclusion for what are called “contributor appreciation events” at party conventions. In other words, the bill as written appears to subject to its reporting requirements an event that requires a $250 donation to attend, but not one organized to express appreciation for individuals who have donated $250. I do not understand that, but that is what the bill says.

For example, the bill would continue to allow donors at the Laurier Club, the high-donor Liberal organization, to contribute $1,500 at party conventions and then gain access to the exclusive events with cabinet ministers and the prime minister. They do not seem to think that is a problem at all. It is too bad the Prime Minister did when he wrote a non-binding document that was celebrated not that long ago, called “Open and Accountable Government”.

If anyone doubts that donors really do expect access in return for their cash, let me quote the website of the Liberal Party's Leaders Circle, an elite tier of donors who not only max out their donation limits set by existing political finance laws but also bundle together at least 10 others. These donors, who brought at least $16,500 to the Liberal Party, are promised a variety of recognition opportunities, including an annual dinner with the leader and invitations to events and discussions with leaders within the party.

What is that? I would call it unique access to the Prime Minister of Canada and members of his cabinet. It just costs a little more. Apparently the ministers attended 31 such appreciation events last year alone. Under this bill, what would change about those? Zero, so it is deeply disappointing that the government did not respond to the concerns of Canadians with a genuine and robust effort to actually clean up political fundraising. It could have followed the lead of other governments that have actually banned politicians and candidates from attending such events. Instead we have a fig leaf and we are supposed to be happy about it.

I have another concern I promised I would come back to. It is that the bill does not just apply to what we would think it would, such as having access to cabinet ministers and the like, because that is what Canadians call cash for access. Somehow it has to cover opposition leaders and their parties as well, which is a bit odd. The thing that worries me is these people are going to have their names on an easily accessible website. Everyone who would come to a Liberal fundraising event would be known, and it would be the same for a Conservative or an NDP fundraising event in similar circumstances.

Let us say a public servant in the current government attended a Conservative fundraising event, or an individual who had aspirations to be appointed to a federal agency or something of that sort attended. It is their public right, their right as Canadians, whether public servants or otherwise, to attend a fundraising event for the Conservative Party, an opposition party.

Somebody in the Liberal Party or apparatchiks in the government would be able to cross-reference the list of donors, the list of people who gave money to the Conservatives, and then know who was not a supporter of the government of the day. What would happen then? What they would be able to find out by cross-referencing is people who will not be appointed to a federal agency because they are the wrong political stripe. A public servant might suddenly see that their best new opportunity is in Iqaluit, because that is where they might send people who are outed as donors to another party.

As the Liberals say, and they may say, that is not something we would do. We are not like that.

However, we are making this law for a long, long time until it is changed, so it is not an excuse to say, “We would not do that”, because in the hands of another, less generous party, that could happen. Therefore I would ask, as this gets to committee, that we consider that possibility.

Frankly, are there privacy concerns with this? In the zeal to have transparency and actually not do anything about cash for access, but let everybody know who comes to these events, are there issues of privacy? I would ask the Privacy Commissioner to opine on that.

Yes, indeed, we all have a right to attend political events. The lifeblood of our democracy is those people who wish to get involved, and we salute those who participate, but it seems there may be a high price to pay, both in the loss of an individual's privacy as well as the potential impact on their career aspirations as a consequence of doing so. I think that is something that at least is worth consideration.

I want to suggest that the bill is deeply flawed. It is flawed in principle and it is flawed in drafting. It does not do what Canadians expected it to do. It ignores committee recommendations on ethics that could have made a difference. Instead it is providing more information, perhaps to the detriment of individual Canadians, so I ask the government to be open to suggestions at committee.

It is not often that suggestions that come from opposition parties are accepted, but perhaps this is an exception. I would welcome the opportunity to have a serious conversation about what the Liberals are trying to do.

Cash for access will continue. We can still buy access to the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers if we have the money to pay. In press releases and commentary, the Minister of Democratic Institutions told reporters that what happens at the cabinet table is not influenced by what happens at fundraising events. That is a direct quote. Even if that is true for this government, which I severely doubt, a lot of Canadians do not expect it to be true. They think that there is an appearance of problems here, and as the Prime Minister himself argued, that ought not to be the case, but it is the case and it will continue to be the case. I ask the Liberals what they think they are achieving by such a hollow exercise.

Having these events in private homes where the media are not required to come to tell us who is there and what they are doing and what they are talking about is just ridiculous. It is just a complete travesty. It will not achieve what Canadians expected would happen here. We all expressed outrage at these cash-for-access events. We all expected meaningful reform, and this is what we were given. It is not even consistent with the open and accountable government document that the Prime Minister talked about.

We will have to support the bill so we can get it to committee. Then let us fix it. Let us roll up our sleeves and make it better for Canadians.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

June 8th, 2017 / 10:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Nick Whalen Liberal St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on Bill C-50, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act, political financing, which we feel will help to raise the bar that we, as parliamentarians, are held to when it comes to the important issue of openness and accountability in political fundraising.

We know Canadians value our democracy. While Canada already has one of the strictest electoral finance systems in the world, we recognize we can do even more to increase the transparency in the way that political parties finance. That is why Bill C-50 would contribute to enhance trust in our democratic institutions by providing Canadians with more information than ever before.

Canadians will know who is going to fundraisers, when they are going to be held, and the amount required to attend. Canadians deserve to know that their elected representatives are playing fair. Bill C-50 would not only help achieve this goal by implementing new rules to make political financing even more open and transparent, but it would also allow those across our country to know more about how the political fundraising that the parties conduct is undertaken so they can continue to have confidence in our important and valued democratic process. It will also allow them to make up their minds about who they will vote for in elections and how they can be better informed for that purpose.

As my hon. colleagues know, key regulations, such as spending limits, a cap on annual donations, and a ban on corporate and union donations, are already in place when it comes to political financing in Canada. At the national level, all Canadian citizens and permanent residents have the ability to contribute up to a maximum of, this year, $1,550 annually to the registered party and then of course an equivalent amount to the riding association for the local candidate.

Additionally, contributions to a federal political party are reported to elections Canada and donations of over $200 are already published online with the information, including the contributor's name and address.

Canadians elected our government on a promise of openness and transparency. Canadians have a right to know even more than they do now when it comes to political fundraising. It is our responsibility, as parliamentarians, to serve those we represent. By taking action to make our political fundraising system more open and transparent, we are raising the bar on an informed choice in our political process.

Our government understands that many actions, such as attending a fundraising event, play a very important role in our democratic expression. Choosing to financially support a political party is not only a recognized right, protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but also accounts for a valuable form of civic engagement. As a society that values democratic engagement, we must continue to uphold and protect this essential right.

Furthermore, our government knows that Canada's current political party system plays an important part in our democracy. It has contributed to our status as a model for many other democracies around the world, it is a key attribute of our democratic process, and it allows like-minded Canadians from all across the country, from diverse regions, social classes, religions, ethnic groups, and gender identities, to work together on a common purpose.

With this in mind, we must remember that political parties require funding to operate. We must continue to respect the right of all Canadians to choose how to financially support the party of their choice, while ensuring we are providing Canadians with open and transparent information about how this is done. This means taking significant steps to ensure that those across the country can view and understand how political fundraising works and plays a role in our democratic process.

Canadians will be able to determine, as a result of this law, when a political fundraiser is happening, who attended the fundraiser, and how much a person contributed or paid to get into it. Under the proposed measures of Bill C-50, all political parties that currently have seats in the House of Commons will have 30 days to report to Elections Canada the names and addresses of those who attend any fundraiser covered by the legislation.

Who is covered? Any fundraiser attended by the Prime Minister, cabinet ministers, party leaders, or party leadership contestants with a seat in the House of Commons where over $200 is required to attend will be subject to these rules. This is commensurate with our current disclosure requirement.

Furthermore, under the proposed legislation, these events will be advertised at least five days in advance, with the date, time, and location of the event. This will all be made clear on the party's website. This information, along with the names and addresses of those attending and the cost of event, will be published online.

As a former volunteer with a political party, as someone who has served as a treasurer of a provincial part, and a treasurer of a riding association, if somebody attended a political fundraising event but someone else had purchased a ticket or he or she attended as a guest, for free, the information might not appear online, whereas for someone who paid the full $200 cost, it did appear online.

This information was obscured, and this has come up in debate in the House. This legislation addresses that gap and makes the event reporting more transparent and open for Canadians so they can make a decision about whether there is some perception of undue influence.

Political parties will be responsible for ensuring this information is properly reported within the necessary time frame. If these rules are not followed, the party or candidate in question will be required to return all contributions from the event and there could also be a fine to a maximum of $1,000.

When it comes to our democracy, we know that balance is important. Under the measures brought forward by the legislation, we are successfully balancing the important charter right of democratic expression, while increasing openness and creating even more transparency in political fundraising. We are doing this to allow the electorate to make more informed decisions.

These measures will not only help strengthen and improve our democratic institutions; they will provide Canadians with more information than ever before when it comes to political fundraising events.

I believe all my hon. colleagues will see the value and importance of improving the openness and transparency of our political institutions. As a result, I encourage all members of the House to welcome the legislation so we can raise the bar when it comes to accountability for political events and to strengthen our continued democracy.

It was interesting to listen to some of the other comments. I want to talk a bit about some of the things my colleagues from Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston and Victoria raised with respect to some of the objectives of the act, what was covered, and what was not.

One section in the act states:

at least one person who, in order to attend it, is required...to have made a contribution or contributions of a total amount of more than $200 to the registered party or any of its registered associations, nomination, contestants, candidates...

It is not just events where a ticket price is included. Events like an appreciation event are covered under this act. There is another opportunity to close a loophole where some parties may have held events and said if people made their donations to the party three months ago, they would not report that they attended the event. We will close the loophole to ensure people are on an even footing when they attend events as to whether and how their information is recorded and made public to Canadians.

There are some interests in the background. Again, we already have very strict limits. I do not think anyone believes that a colleague in the House is going to be unduly influenced by the low levels of donations made by the limits set forth in our existing Canada Elections Act. Donating $1,550 among donations in the tens of millions of dollars to parties is not material. It does not go to affect and influence anyone. I do not believe Canadians feel that a de minimis amount of money in the overall scheme of things will affect public officials. I believe they have confidence in them. I do not believe they felt that $1,500 donations to the Conservative Party unduly influenced the Conservative Party, or that $1,500-a-year donations to the NDP unduly influenced the NDP. I also do not believe they feel that $1,550-a-year donations to the Liberal Party unduly influenced the Liberals. These are de minimis in the grand scheme of things when compared to the overall amount that parties fundraise.

However, there have been gaps, and we have seen that with respect to certain types of donations and certain types of political participation. We would not see in the record what clearly happened. At times, this leads to a perception that something is wrong.

I remember reading about events with Dean Del Mastro, a former member of the House, who held fundraising event