Mr. Speaker, seeing the Liberals tripping over themselves to avoid the real question, it makes me wonder if they even read the motion. Allow me to read it:
That, in the opinion of the House, the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner should be granted the authority to oversee and enforce the directives to Ministers listed in Open and Accountable Government in order to end the current practice of “cash-for-access” by ensuring there is no preferential access to government, or appearance of preferential access, accorded to individuals or organizations because they have made financial contributions to politicians or political parties.
It is quite easy to understand why people want to make this real, because it is one of the things the government promised.
You might recall, Mr. Speaker, because I am sure you went through it like we did, that the Liberals promised real change. Unfortunately now, in their second year and listening to the answers today, we realize that there is nothing real and there has been no change.
Here is the reality. Yesterday I asked a simple question of the Prime Minister, quoting his own document. I will read it, word for word. The Prime Minister wrote in the mandate letter of every one of his ministers the following:
...you must uphold the highest standards of honesty and impartiality.... This is an obligation that is not fully discharged by simply acting within the law.
Now we have just heard the deputy House leader in his 20-minute speech and his 10-minute Q and A, say about 50 times that they are acting within the law, but that is not what the Prime Minister promised Canadians. The deputy House leader talked about openness, accountability, but he was evading the real issue. Are they respecting what the Prime Minister said was the higher standard that his government would be held to?
Those questions remain wholly unanswered. There are other sections in what the Prime Minister published that are worth repeating, such as, “Ministers and parliamentary secretaries must avoid conflict of interest”, which should go without saying, “the appearance of conflict of interest and situations that have the potential to involve conflicts of interest”, or favouritism.
He goes on, “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.” We are talking about big, rich companies like Apotex, and we know Apotex' sad history of being involved in fundraising for the Liberal Party, 1-800-Joe Volpe.
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.
To listened to the Liberals say today that these are things that anybody can pay $5 and just walk into. The problem is that it costs $1,500 and it is being held behind closed doors in an elite law office in downtown Toronto. That is the problem. When I asked the Prime Minister yesterday, when I quoted his own words to him that “you must uphold the highest standards of honesty and impartiality”, and “This is an obligation not fully discharged by simply acting within the law”, I asked a simple, one sentence question: what did he mean by that?
I feel like George Carlin, who used to read the tax act to get laughs. I will read the Prime Minister's answer, which is a masterwork of equivocation and has nothing whatsoever to do with the question I asked him, which was about what he meant by this higher standard. I will read it word for word, because we cannot make this stuff up.
He said, “Mr. Speaker, after 10 years of a government that did not do a good job of living up to Canadians' expectations”. What does that have to do with what he told Canadians? For somebody who said he had a higher standard, he seems to have a lot of trouble explaining it.
He went on,“we know people needed and wanted a government that was more open, transparent,” and this is my favourite part, “and mostly accessible. That is exactly what we have been in terms of pre-budget consultations that the minister has done”. Talk about obfuscation. He is trying to hint that a pay-for-play fundraiser at $1,500 a head in a private law office in downtown Toronto is actually a consultation.
That is amusing, because for the last budget, for the first time in memory, the government failed to include the opposition parties in its pre-budget consultations. I would dare say that if the Conservatives had ever dared exclude the opposition parties from a pre-budget consultation, they would have been up in arms in the Liberal Party, and they would have had half the press gallery piling on with them.
They got away with it. It was amazing. It was the first time in living memory that a government that says it is open and transparent held private consultations heading into the budget. Maybe it means it. Maybe it actually believes that we can have a consultation in an elite law firm behind closed doors. That is not my definition of consultation, and I suspect that it is also not the definition most Canadians have of consultation.
Let us continue with the Prime Minister's non-answer, shall we?
That is exactly what we have been in terms of pre-budget consultations that the minister has done, in terms of consultations that we have done right across the country, and been roundly criticized for for talking too much with Canadians, for listening too much to Canadians.
What does that have to do with anything we were discussing yesterday? We were discussing his own words, that their obligations are “not fully discharged by simply acting within the law”. They were going to be held to a higher standard.
He skated around it:
We have demonstrated a level of openness and accountability that no government up until ours has ever had, and we are proud of that.
I learned in law school that one of the best ways to win an argument is to make concessions. I will make a concession to the Liberal Party. In terms of PR, in terms of coming up with words the Liberals keep repeating that somehow sink in, they are quite good. It is when we spend a little bit of time peeling away—it is like peeling an onion, because we start to cry when we realize just how vapid it is, how vacuous it is—that we realize that this is all it is. It is sloganeering. It is words for the sake of words. It is totally empty.
That is what the Prime Minister showed when he could not answer in his own words yesterday. What did he mean when he said that it is not enough to obey the law? I just read his answer word for word. As I said, we cannot make this stuff up. That is exactly what the Prime Minister said.
This is what we have been seeing with the Liberal government since it got here.
I know that a lot of young people voted for the Liberals because they promised that they were going to legalize pot once they were elected.
We said that there was one thing they could do right away, which was decriminalize it, because nobody, given the fact that we are heading in that direction, should ever have a criminal record that will affect the rest of their lives for possession of a small amount of pot for personal use.
The Liberals are now in their second year. Do members know what the answer has been from the former chief of police of Toronto? No action. Thousands upon thousands of mostly young Canadians will have criminal records that will hobble them for the rest of their careers in terms of travel, in terms of job opportunities. That is a broken promise that is going to affect lives. Pigheadedly, they still will not say whether they will accept having a full pardon for people who were convicted for that alone.
It is the same sort of thing. On fundraising, they said they were going to do better.
The Liberals promised that they would be beyond reproach when it comes to political financing. They drafted stricter rules, which I just read. It is not enough to obey the law, they must uphold a higher standard. However, we heard the complete opposite from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. In his speech, he said about 50 times that they were acting according to the letter of the law. That is not what the Prime Minister promised. This ambiguity is a way to dodge the promises they made to Canadians in this area. There are many more promises, however, and I think it is worth going over them.
On electoral reform, they promised that they would listen to Canadians. Ninety per cent of the Canadian experts they heard from said that they wanted a system based on proportional representation.
In an article by Hélène Buzzetti that appeared in Le Devoir, the Prime Minister said that he believed it was necessary to reform our electoral system because it had resulted in the Harper government. Now that “Mr. Sunshine” is in power, he thinks that it may no longer be necessary to reform our electoral system. If this system elected him, why on earth would we have to change a thing?
It is mind-boggling that a government has the gall to present itself as an agent of change and then, when elected, starts breaking such important promises.
On climate change, who would have thought it? I was there in Paris at the climate conference almost exactly a year ago. I saw our newly minted Prime Minister throw his arms wide open and say, “Canada is back”, to thundering silence in a room of people scratching their heads thinking they did not know we had ever left. He said that everything was going to be different from now on, different until the day he reappeared to say that now that he thought about it, Stephen Harper's climate change plan was all he had. It is the same plan, the same targets, the same timelines.
It is interesting, because yesterday, out of nowhere, the head of the Treasury Board stood up and said that we have a new target. It is 40% for 2030. Really? Can we see the economy-wide plan, which is precisely what article 4, paragraph 4 of the Paris Agreement says we have to have? Nothing.
I was there in Montreal in 2005 when the former Liberal minister, today the international affairs minister, said he had a plan. The plan was called the one-tonne challenge.
Why did the Liberals at the time have to say that it was up to individual Canadians to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by one tonne? The main poster for the whole thing was someone turning off the lights, as if that could eliminate one tonne per person in Canada. The Liberals were about 40 million tonnes off what they had promised to do, and that corresponded roughly to about a tonne per Canadian. Therefore, it was not the government's fault, the Liberals' fault, that they had done nothing on climate change. It had to be the fault of Canadians. It was extraordinary as an exercise in public relations.
After the Liberals were defeated, and I will never forget, Eddie Goldenberg, Jean Chrétien's former chief of staff, made an interesting admission, the best form of evidence. He admitted that the Liberals had no plan and no intention of respecting Kyoto. They had signed Kyoto “to galvanize public opinion”. What was he saying? It was an exercise in public relations to have signed Kyoto.
Now, I will never agree with the Conservatives for having made us the only country in the world to withdraw from Kyoto, but I will say that at least the Conservatives were telling Canadians that they did not believe in climate change and that they were going to withdraw from Kyoto. The Liberals, on the other hand, were going to fake it. When they could not do it, because they did not have a plan and did not do it, they were going to say it was the fault of Canadians and that it was up to Canadians to come up with a solution. This time it is the exact same thing.
We will increase our greenhouse gases every year of this first and last mandate of the current Liberal government. The reason we will do that is that they still have no plan. They promised a carbon tax for 2018 knowing full well that the statistics for greenhouse gas production for 2018 will only be published in 2020. It will never be measured at the time of the next election. Does this sound familiar? It is a little bit like our economic update this week. They will let us know in 11 years how we are doing. Really?
Some $15 billion is taken away from what was promised to municipalities and put into a privatization bank. I heard a lot of words from the Prime Minister during the election campaign. Funny, we actually did a scour of everything that was said, but we cannot find the word “privatization” in there anywhere. The Liberals said they were going to build public infrastructure. They never said they were going to sell public infrastructure.
On health care, it is the same thing. There is a reduction from a 6% escalator to 3%. That will gravely affect the provinces' ability to deliver health care. The Liberals pretend that they are going to dictate to the provinces precisely what areas they are going to concentrate in. However, the government delivers health care in three areas: in penitentiaries, to the Armed Forces, and on first nation reserves. With a track record like that, it should be a little bit more modest before it pretends that it can dictate to the provinces what they are doing right and wrong in health care.
On labour rights, my favourite part, the Liberals have new buddies in the labour movement. They stand there and emote with them. We saw last week some young people turning their backs, with good reason.
We presented anti-scab legislation. My colleague, the member of Parliament for Jonquière, stood up and presented anti-scab legislation, which is the basic underpinning of any real system of negotiation of collective agreements. The Liberals stood up and voted against it. That is the real Liberal track record on labour rights, and we have to debunk that one as well.
Oh, but can they emote. They can emote about human rights and Canada's role in the world. What we see them actually doing is selling thousands of armoured personnel carriers to one of the most gruesome, repressive regimes on the planet earth, Saudi Arabia. We have films of Saudi Arabia using exactly that type of equipment on civilian populations. We know that military equipment that came from Canada is being used against civilians. We know that Raif Badawi's family, his wife and three children, are in Sherbrooke at the same time the same Saudi government is going to recommence torturing that man, because he dares have an opinion on anything. That is Saudi Arabia. That is the best friend of the current government that claims to be all about human rights around the world.
It is the same government that is negotiating an extradition treaty with China, where there is no rule of law and no independent tribunal and where people are executed and tortured, according to the world's most credible groups, like Democracy Watch and Amnesty International. That is the reality of the Liberals with regard to human rights. Forget about the talking points. Forget about the public relations. That is who they are.
Regarding first nations, there is money missing from the budget, of course, for first nations education. This week, we put forth a motion calling on the Liberals to come up with the $155 million that was ordered by the courts. There are three compliance orders by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. We are not talking about our opinion versus their opinion. This is the courts ordering them to spend it.
I will never forget the Liberal member of Parliament for Spadina—Fort York standing up here in the House of Commons and attacking us for coming up with that motion to put that money into those health and social services for first nations children, and then he voted for it. Go figure.
Maybe the House leader is actually going to stand up and vote for our motion. That would be a problem in and of itself, because that would mean that this motion is going to be like all the other things they have talked about. It is going to get flushed into this bottomless Liberal pit of broken promises.
With regard to gender equality, it is the same thing. They will get to it. It has only been 25 years since the courts ordered the government to provide real gender equity for women in this country, but the Liberals always have a talking point on that. They will talk about what they did when they named the government last year. That has nothing to do with how women who actually work in the federal government are treated. The Liberals voted with the Conservatives to impose penalties on any union that would defend gender equality in this country. That is the real track record of the Liberals.
Directly related to what we are living this week, with the police surveillance of journalists, is Bill C-51. During the campaign, the Liberal leader swore up and down that it would be a top priority to fix Bill C-51, which is an egregious, unprecedented assault on the individual privacy rights and freedoms of Canadians. So far, the Liberals have done sweet nothing.
Is it the most transparent government in the history of Canada? We asked the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness how many journalists are under surveillance by the RCMP or CSIS. He did not answer. In Quebec, there is a royal commission of inquiry, because it has been found out that not only did the Montreal police spy on journalists but the SQ did the same thing. The Quebec government immediately ordered a royal commission of inquiry.
There is preening, posing, pretending, and no action. However, the Liberals get the title. They say that the Prime Minister is thinking about it, hoping that this will go away like everything else. That is the reality of the Liberals. As for real change, that is malarky. It is the same old Liberals on fundraising, which is what we are discussing today, and on all these other issues we have talked about.
The Liberals talk about having reduced taxes for some Canadians and having increased them for the one per cent. In fact, the Liberals are taking the money from the one per cent and giving it to the Liberal Party, because every single one of those donations gets a tax return. Whenever Apotex and all those bigwigs stand behind closed doors in an elite law firm, know one thing. It is not just their money; it is taxpayers' money, and that is why the government has to respect its undertaking to be clear with the public.