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—