Yes, it might start a revolution, Mr. Speaker.
Let us start with a short title proposition for the bill. I think it is a Liberal Party slogan, but I also think it should become a short title for Bill C-50: in God we trust; all others pay cash. It is also a Yiddish proverb, which is why I want it to be introduced as a short title for this bill. It comes down to the logic of what is in this bill, which is that the Liberal Party of Canada has a deep-seated problem with accepting illegal donations from stakeholder groups.
I am not saying that it is individual backbench members of the government caucus. I am saying that government ministers have struggled with this very mightily, and now they are introducing a piece of legislation that will apply only to them. Seemingly, they could have already done this. They could have already applied moral and ethical standards to not do this. Instead, they chose to pass a piece of legislation to tell them not to do something. On this side of the House, we are being told, “Trust us this time”, and perhaps give them some cash, if they accept the short title. “Trust us this time. We will obey this law because we are able to do that.”
The leader of the government, the Prime Minister, has proven that he is completely incapable of living up to the standards contained within the ethical requirements, both in the code and in the law itself. The Ethics Commissioner has sanctioned him and has mentioned that there are ethical violations of four sections of the Conflict of Interest Act. She enumerated them and provided the reasoning on both sides of the issue. Actually, she completely eviscerated every single argument put forward by the Prime Minister and his lawyers excusing the behaviour.
On one side, we have this fiasco the House is now trying to deal with and are demanding that taxpayers be returned the $200,000 he wasted, that he unfairly and unjustly procured for himself. Now we are being told that there will be a new law passed. Cabinet ministers in the government will be expected to live up to the ethical moral standard that will be contained in a law; that is, the disclosure of who attends Liberal Party fundraisers. If that is the goal of this piece of legislation, the logic of it almost demands that the short title become “In God we trust; all others pay cash”, because that is the logic. It is a bill about nothing.
Other members have mentioned this. The member for Edmonton West did so in prior debate. He referenced a Seinfeld episode called “The Pitch”, in season 4, episode 3, in which George comes up with an idea for a show about nothing, absolutely nothing.
There is nothing contained in this bill the government cannot already do. I mentioned to a few members that what I thought could be easily done is to tell a 10-year-old to google “Liberal Party fundraisers”, and that would fulfill the same things contained in this law.
We could google to see where ministers travel. I have my staff do that anyway, because I want to know if Liberal cabinet ministers are travelling to Calgary or other provinces in areas of interest to me so that I know where they are doing fundraisers. There are pictures posted online all the time on Twitter, on Facebook, and on Snapchat.
There is nothing in this law that would bring a modicum of improvement of any sort to the ethical and moral obligations of the government. It cannot live up to them anyway, so why would it force it into a piece of legislation if we know it is incapable of following the Conflict of Interest Act already? Why should the House pass a piece of legislation that will tell the Liberals to do something when we have proof that they are incapable of living up to those established requirements already? It is the Prime Minister himself who cannot live up to the Conflict of Interest Act requirements, and he has been sanctioned for it by the Ethics Commissioner. We know that already, so why do we need laws?
I obviously will not be supporting the bill. I will think about moving an amendment to change the short title. I see the table officer thinking about it. I will think about it and let him know at the end of my speech if that is something I want to do or if I am just kidding.
I notice that the punishment for the strict liability offences is a penalty of $1,000 for violations of this act. Holding a major fundraiser with cabinet ministers would perhaps raise $50,000, $100,000, or $200,000. We do not know.
There are a lot of private sector companies that could be available for purchase by state-owned enterprises owned by the People's Republic of China they could organize fundraisers around. Who knows how much money they could raise? They would then be liable for a $1,000 summary conviction fine.
It does not seem to impact the Liberals. The Prime Minister has been fined $500. This would be double that. A double increase is almost ridiculous. It is a pittance, considering the amount of funds a cabinet minister could potentially raise by travelling to a certain city and holding these with stakeholders. It is not something one is supposed to do.
I speak partially from experience, having been a former exempt staffer here in Ottawa. I was also a staff member in the Edmonton legislature. I knew what the rules were. We were all told what the rules were. It was something that both staff and ministers were responsible for. We had to protect our minister as best we could. It was incumbent on the minister also to know where the line was for an ethical and moral obligation. It did not need to be in legislation for us to know what was right and what was wrong. In this case, the Liberals are saying that they need it in legislation. They need to be told by the House of Commons and the Senate what is wrong and what is right.
In this case, they would continue to take money, potentially money they should not be raising from certain stakeholders, but they would disclose it. They would provide a report, in a nice format, somewhere online. Perhaps they would tweet it out or put it on Snapchat or Instagram. It would be so much easier for us to find. They should not do it in the first place. It is just that easy.
If they are offered a private helicopter ride to a beautiful island somewhere in the Caribbean, they should just not take it. It is just that simple. There is nothing more complicated about it. They do not need to run everything by the Ethics Commissioner. They do not need to check in with the Ethics Commissioner. Can they take a vacation. It is simple. If someone is offering them something that is too good to be true, such as a free paid vacation to an island somewhere, they should not take it.
If cabinet ministers have an opportunity to fundraise large sums of money, and it is coming from stakeholders in their departments, they could be lobbying them by buying these tickets. They should just not do it. They should not take the funds. If they did, they should return the funds. The House in the past has been pretty generous to ministers who have admitted to fault and have paid it back. Ministers have done it. Members of Parliament have done it. The House has been judicious in how it deals with such situations.
We rely on things like the Ethics Commissioner to outline the facts of a case, and then we deal with those facts in the House, which is also why we are asking the Prime Minister to return the money he illegally, unfairly, and unjustly charged to the taxpayer.
This legislation is just window dressing. It is a bill about nothing. There is no content to it. It really should be amended. We could amend almost the whole thing by saying, “In God we trust; others pay cash”, because that is what it seems to be about. They have fundraising targets they need to reach, and they are desperate to do so. In their bid to make it look as if they are ethical and moral and that every single member of the cabinet has splendid integrity, they are saying that they will have a piece of legislation and disclose everything so everyone will know exactly who is fundraising with them and who is attending their meetings.
It does not matter. If they are lobbyists, is it at a lobbyist's home? If these are stakeholders and there is a perception of a conflict of interest in the future, they should just not do it. They should not take their cash.
Mr. Speaker, you have given me an indication that my time is coming to a close, but that is the contribution I wanted to make to this debate. They should just not do it. They should return the money if they have taken it unfairly. Also, they should not pass a piece of legislation that should be just common sense. If it is common sense, it does not need to be in legislation. That is exactly why we call it common sense. That is not the purpose of legislation. Legislation is to provide rules and guidance formally and to make something have actual consequences. Bill C-50 does not do that. It is a Liberal Party of Canada problem. It is not a Government of Canada problem.