Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise to speak inside this wonderful chamber. I truly thank the constituents of Winnipeg North who have allowed me to be here to respond issues, whether it be this issue or what we witnessed earlier with the special tribute for Remembrance Day, for members both past and present of our Canadian Forces, and for the sacrifices they have made.
I would like to echo the many remarks toward our vets that have been put on the record today and, as a government member, express our best wishes in going forward and encouraging people to participate in Remembrance Day on November 11.
I will be very specific on a few points. When we talk about democracy and, in this case, what the Conservative Party has raised over a number of days, it is important for Canadians not to be deceived by the misinformation of the Conservative Party. Therefore, I will hit on some very specific points that need to be reinforced.
First, the federal rules are some of the strongest in the country, and donations and contributions are made in an open and transparent fashion. In fact, in some provinces, individuals can donate in the tens of thousands of dollars, and others do not have any limits on contributions. In addition, some provinces accept donations from unions, trade associations, and corporations. This is not the case in the federal system. We follow all the rules and the laws around fundraising. We are proud that we have one of the strictest regimes around fundraising for political parties.
Our government spends a tremendous amount of time working hard for Canadians across the country, whether it is meeting with crowds, individuals, or listening to consumer groups, small businesses, and the like. We are engaged so we can deliver for Canadians, and Canadians know that.
Our government has embarked on unprecedented levels of public consultations to ensure we respond to the very real challenges that Canadians face. This is why we did things like raise taxes on the wealthiest 1% and lowered them for the middle class. Canadians wanted these things.
There is no preferential access to this government. This government is demonstrating the most open and transparent approach, not just in following the rules but in being more engaged with Canadians than any previous government. We are consulting and we are engaged. The fact is that listening to Canadians is what is allowing us to deliver for Canadians, as we have been doing for the past year and as we will continue to be doing.
For over a year now, the members opposite have been criticizing this government regularly for engaging Canadians too much, for being too open and accessible, for consulting regularly with Canadians and demonstrating the most open and accessible government our country has ever seen. The Conservatives have been critical of that.
We, of course, follow all the rules and ensure we engage with Canadians. We are listening to them in the most positive and respectful way possible. All members of Parliament and all parties fundraise, and we all abide by the exact same rules, rules that were put in place by the previous government. When the rules are followed, no conflicts of interest can exist. We will continue to follow all of the rules.
There are a number of things I would like to share with the House.
Before he became Prime Minister and was the leader of the Liberal Party, the issue of proactive disclosure came up. A number of my colleagues from all parties will recall that particular initiative. The Liberal Party had third-party status and a relatively small caucus. Our leader stood up and asked for the unanimous consent of the House to bring in proactive disclosure. No matter how often he attempted to do it, we could not get unanimous support to make it happen. However, the leader of the Liberal Party did not stop there. He then indicated that if the House were not prepared to go there, the Liberal Party was, and all members of the Liberal caucus were obligated to abide by proactive disclosure. Even at the expense of the party, we went for proactive disclosure. To the credit of the Harper government, the Conservative Party did likewise months after we made that commitment. That party followed the leadership of the Liberal Party. Months afterward and following a Liberal opposition motion, we were able to garner unanimous support for proactive disclosure. New Democrats finally joined with us.
I say this because we do not have to play second fiddle to other parties in the chamber when it comes to public accountability and transparency and making sure that we are doing things right. The leader of the third party at that time clearly demonstrated that, and is clearly demonstrating that as the Prime Minister of Canada now.
No laws have been broken. The Conservatives can try to conspire and make all sorts of accusations, but the bottom line is that Canada has some of the most stringent laws in place to ensure that there is no conflict of interest. Members of the Liberal cabinet and this government are following the laws of our land so that there cannot be any conflict of interest. The members across the way know that. They are just being mischievous and trying to create something that is not there.
I am a strong democrat who believes in the parliamentary system. I am not going to be intimidated by someone who gives me a $1,500 donation, a $1,000 donation, or a $500 donation. I am accessible to my constituents. I am going to advertise what I do at this point. Every Saturday from 10 o'clock to 2 o'clock, I am at the local McDonald's, meeting with constituents. I have been doing this for over 20 years. What influences me personally is when I hear a good case from my constituents. I take that to my caucus colleagues and to the floor of the House. A good example of that is the reunification of families, because that is an area of huge interest to my constituents. Virtually every other week, whether at the local restaurant or by email or phone calls, my constituents get in touch with me or my office. That influences me personally.
Democracy is an important aspect to who we are individually and who we are as a society. I have had donations in excess of $1,000 and I could not tell anyone the names of all of those individuals. I might be able to list one or two. Do I appreciate these donations? Absolutely. I also appreciate the individuals who volunteer for my campaign. Some people are not in a position to give a cash donation but are more than happy to donate their labour or their time, and they do that in a multitude of ways. Some will assist me and the Liberal Party by knocking on doors and putting up signs. I do not feel indebted to them. I do not feel like I have to bring up every one of their issues on the floor of the House of Commons, unless, of course, it is an issue that I concur with. These individuals are just as important as those who donate to my campaign.
What are we going to see next? Are the opposition benches going to say that so-and-so volunteered a lot on a member's campaign and that it is a conflict of interest because he is influencing the member? It would be bizarre to think so. I have dinners in riding on many occasions and people often have to pay for them. Sometimes I will have a social activity and get hundreds of constituents attending at $10 a pop to participate. Other times I will get a $1,000 donation, and other times I will have a $100 dinner and they will participate. It is all about democracy.
Whether people are putting up signs, making telephone calls, going door to door, delivering brochures, or donating because they do not have the time to work directly on a campaign, I respect all of it. I do not give them preferential treatment. As for accessibility, come to my local McDonald's any Saturday and I am there. I might miss one or two Saturdays a year, but I like to think that I am accessible. I am no different from many, if not most, of the members in the chamber. I believe we all appreciate it.
Does the Conservative Party not have fundraisers in which they charge money? Of course they do. Even the New Democrats do. If we want to change or improve some of the laws, let us propose a study in committee and have a debate on how we might want to look at making some changes to the election laws to enhance them. That is something all members are entitled to do. It could also be done in private members' bills, but do not try to give the impression that laws have been broken when they have not been. I have seen election laws broken in the past and seen the party across the way violate those laws. The members sitting on the other side of the House should not point and throw stones at a glass house when they have been in violation of election laws.
What we have witnessed here is a government that is truly open and transparent on a wide variety of issues. If the members opposite want to talk about accessibility and the Minister of Finance having dinners, tell me about any other minister of finance who has been as accessible to input on budgetary matters as the current minister has been? Let me save the work for them, because they will not find another minister of finance who has been so aggressive in wanting to hear what Canadians have to say about the budget and the next budget. Even Mr. Flaherty was nowhere near to being as close to the public as this government has been in its consultations. I can assure members of that.
We are not always talking about thousands, but about tens of thousands, and we are talking about many different ways, not just through the Internet. In fact, we have a Minister of Finance and a parliamentary secretary who go into many different regions of our country to listen to what Canadians have to say.