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

Sponsor

Karina Gould  Liberal

Status

Report stage (House), as of Oct. 23, 2017

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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

June 15, 2017 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing)

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 10:20 a.m.
See context

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.

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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.

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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--

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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.

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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.
See context

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?