House of Commons Hansard #256 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was veterans.

Topics

House of Commons

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I would like the House to take note of today's use of the wooden mace.

This mace is a reminder of the fire that claimed seven lives and destroyed the Parliament buildings the night of February 3, 1916.

The original mace was one of the objects destroyed in the fire. The wooden replica you see here today was made after the fire and was used until the United Kingdom gifted us the current mace in 1917.

As the House will not be sitting Saturday, the anniversary of the fire, the wooden mace is being used today to recall what happened 102 years ago.

The House resumed from February 1 consideration of Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing), as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

An hon. members

Where's the transparency.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the initial reaction was that there was no transparency. When the Conservatives were pushed on the issue, they claimed there was a fundraiser—

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I want to remind members, not all members but one in particular, that when he speaks to his colleagues, he has a wonderful voice that carries throughout the building, but the rest of us have to hear it. If he is to make the comments, maybe he could keep his voice down and he could say it to his own colleagues, but not interrupt the actual speaker.

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am trying to help my colleagues across the way in the Conservative Party realize why their speaking notes against the legislation are flawed. They go against what Canadians would want to see the official opposition do with respect to the legislation. If the Conservatives were in touch with their constituents, if they were in touch with Canadians, they would realize the error of their ways and maybe revisit them and consider being more supportive of the legislation and vote in favour of it.

I will go back to my example as to why I believe the Conservative Party opposes the legislation.

The government acknowledged and brought attention to a fundraising event that was hosted with the leader of the Official Opposition attending. Even after the Conservatives' initial denial that the event had not taken place, we persisted and they had no choice but to agree. They admitted to it, after a great deal of pulling. After they admitted they did have it, they said that he was not the same as a prime minister or a minister. It is as if the leader of the official opposition has no authority, power, or influence, that the leader of the opposition does not have to share with Canadians who he or she might receive money from in the future. We are talking about hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars, and the Conservatives still believe they do not have to share that information with Canadians.

As we continue to look at ways to improve our election finances act, the Conservative Party needs to get with the times. It needs to understand and appreciate that there is an obligation to be more transparent with Canadians.

We have seen changes in legislation over the years, modernizing it, with an expectation that we will have a healthier democracy in the long run. The legislation is all about that.

The Conservatives will make accusations of all sorts in regard to the current government and the Ethics Commissioner, and exaggerate things. However, let us be very clear. Our government has consistently worked with the Ethics Commissioner and all independent parliamentary officers of the House in complying, following recommendations, and so forth. The same cannot be said about the Conservative Party, especially when it was in government.

I often make reference to the importance raising of money. It is important that we have the finances in order to campaign in elections. One strong positive is the limits that would be in place so no one could contribute than $1,500 to a campaign. It speaks volumes to our constituents when they realize that members of Parliament cannot receive more than $1,500 from an individual. They also cannot receive anything from unions or corporations. It is a way to assure our constituents that we have rules in place to ensure we will not be influenced by big money.

Once, I had a constituent ask me if someone gave me $1,000 donation, did that influence me. First, if I do find out about it, I appreciate it. I also appreciate the individual who works 20 to 40 hours a week during a campaign period, and often before a campaign period, as a volunteer for me.

When we look at elections, they are about more than just money; they are about people and getting them engaged. We need to recognize that. We need to appreciate the thousands of volunteers who make our democracy work in the first place. However, money is an important component to it. That is one of the reasons why we brought forward this legislation, to ensure there is more transparency, not less, to improve our electoral financing laws.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

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

Does the hon. gentleman even care?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, yes, I do care. That is why I have suggested, not only to the Conservatives but also to my New Democratic friends, that they support the legislation. It is good legislation.

I know some might be offended with respect to incorporating leaders of political parties. However, today's reality is that leaders of political parties, even Jagmeet Singh, have a responsibility to be transparent when they receive money. As the leader of the New Democratic Party, we goes around Canada no doubt, as other leaders do, soliciting contributions, and individuals donate to the New Democrats. Why? I will leave it up to those individuals to explain that rationale.

However, we know the leader of the New Democrats and the leader of the Conservative Party have hosted these events, just like previous leaders of the Liberal Party when it was in opposition. We are arguing, much like the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers, that all of those individuals, because of the positions they hold, have an obligation today, through this legislation if it were to pass, to be more transparent with Canadians as to who attends these events and the cost when it exceeds $200.

I do not quite understand why we are seeing this type of resistance, as if something new has happened in the last two years. We see progressive legislation on a very important file. I would have thought the New Democrats would support progressive legislation.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, a couple of days ago I was talking to a constituent about some unrelated matter. We talked about that for a while, and then she said how nice it was for her MP to get back to her on it. She said that in the last election, her and her husband had engaged their children in it. They went through the party platforms and let their children decide who they should vote for. However, she did not tell me who that was. The policy point of the party platform they decided on was electoral reform, making every vote count. She went on to say how disappointed her children were with the Liberal government, how cynical they were, how they felt disconnected from the political workings of the government, and how they might not vote when they were old enough.

Could the member across the way comment on how the breaking of this promise has made so many Canadians cynical about our whole political process.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have held open town halls specifically on electoral reform. Individuals who have attended those are, as a whole, quite pleased with the government and its performance. The member makes reference to one issue within an election platform, but there are many issues in it.

We can talk about the middle-class tax breaks, with hundreds of millions of dollars going back into the pockets of Canadians. We can talk about the increase to the GIS, which is lifting literally tens of thousands of seniors out of poverty. We can talk about the Canada child benefit, which lifts children out of poverty. Millions of dollars are going into my constituency every month because of the progressive approach by this Liberal government. This government is doing many things exceptionally well, and I will be informing the constituents of my colleagues across the way about that.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer—Mountain View, AB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

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

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

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

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

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer—Mountain View, AB

Mr. Speaker, just so people understand, there is a lottery system for private members' bills, and amazingly, the very first name that came up was the member for Papineau. The member is absolutely right, the member for Papineau did make a very good first impact, which had more to do with the lottery than anything else, but that is a different story.

The member made the point about the heritage minister, whom I knew very well, and I also know the facts on that point. When it was found out that members were going to be there, she refused to attend and told the constituency association that it was inappropriate. That did not stop the Liberals from attacking, going into attack mode, and bringing the media in. Those are the kinds of things we see.

We should look at the stories of how the Conservatives and the Liberals are different. The $16 orange juice always brings back that point. If anyone was at a hotel some place and was not feeling very well and wanted to order an orange juice from room service, we can be pretty sure that it would be $16. It should not be, but it would be.

These are the kinds of things Conservatives get attacked for, and part of it is because the Conservative base says, “I thought you guys were going to respect taxpayers' dollars”, and we do. We pay it back, and that is what we think Liberals should be doing as well.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, it was the cash-for-access events that resulted in the Ethics Commissioner and the Lobbying Commissioner's launch of an investigation into the Liberals. Is the only reason Bill C-50 is before us today is because the Liberals were caught breaking those rules?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer—Mountain View, AB

Mr. Speaker, I certainly believe that is the case. There is a shell game going on. Liberals have tried to come up with a way of deflecting the discussion. They have some members who are very good at doing such a thing. They say they are just trying to make things better, this is what everyone wants, and everything like that, but that is not the reality. They are looking at how they can deflect all the attention to other political parties.

They have made the same point with regard to the NDP, suggesting that they would expect that if a party goes through a leadership campaign or has candidates coming in, it is going to follow these really strong rules. All that is doing is setting up other people for some sort of failure for something that takes place that is going to affect them. Parties are supposed to say who has attended events. All they need is a selfie of someone who said they were there and did not register, then they can attack those political parties because they have done something wrong. These are the kinds of intrusions that occur when a government believes that the bureaucracy should run everything and it simply cannot do the right thing.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague's great speech, but I do not accept his arguments. I will remind members why we introduced this bill. To this day, we have no idea who donated to former prime minister Stephen Harper's campaign in 2004. That is one reason for introducing this bill. Similarly, we would like to know who donated to Jagmeet Singh's campaign. On the topic of electoral reform, the NDP and Fair Vote Canada were caught red-handed exchanging information. It might be helpful for Canadians to know whether Fair Vote Canada and its members donated to Jagmeet Singh's campaign. That is very important for transparency in our country. As my colleague from Lévis—Lotbinière stated, “what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander”. It is important that Canadians know who donated to the opposition leader's campaign and who donated to Jagmeet Singh's campaign.

Why not be more transparent? Why does he oppose transparency here in Parliament?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, today's discussions are somewhat absurd. The Liberal government has been in office for more than two years. They came to power by making promises they have to keep if they do not want Canadians to become cynical. What did they do when they came to power? They gave people privileged access to the Prime Minister for $1,500. What do these people expect in return? They figure the favour will be returned. The perceived conflict of interest is greater when the Prime Minister takes meetings like that.

When my colleague raised the spectre of Stephen Harper, he forgot that his own prime minister is the one embroiled in this situation. His own government is the one currently in power. It is up to him to make good decisions and to take the necessary action to fix the problem of cash for access to the Prime Minister. It is unacceptable for people to pay for privileged access.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for reminding the House of the anniversary of the Prime Minister and the Liberals breaking a promise they made to Canadians while they were asking Canadians to help them be the next government.

I want to give my colleague an opportunity to talk about why we are so concerned when people in our communities stand up and ask people to support them. Most of us heard repeatedly that 2015 was going to be the last election under first past the post. Why would people think that the Liberal government was actually going to do real democratic reform, which is what we were all hopeful for?

We want to let Canadians know that we will not let the government simply forget about that promise or bring forward bills in response to it that really have nothing to do with it, bills that are about pseudo-democratic reform to make it look like they are doing something. Canadians do not believe that. We owe our constituents and all Canadians much more respect than that.

I ask my hon. colleague to make comments on that.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, the people I spoke to in Drummond told me that they voted for the political parties that promised electoral reform. Sixty-six percent of Canadians voted for a political party that promised electoral reform. This government and the Prime Minister promised, hand on heart, that the last election would be the last one under the first past the post system.

During the extensive cross-country consultation, I spoke to people in Drummond, and the committee travelled across Canada to consult Canadians. Ninety percent of experts and 80% of citizens preferred a proportional voting system for the promised electoral reform. How did the Prime Minister respond? He said that there was no consensus.

Quite frankly, that makes no sense. This is why people now feel betrayed.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola. I want to point out that he will have time to make his discourse and then the questions will follow question period.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

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

Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me explain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The hon. member for Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola will have five minutes of questions coming to him once we resume debate.