House of Commons Hansard #257 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-50.

Topics

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, I apologize.

Mr. Trudeau claims that he is—

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4 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

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4 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Prime Minister Trudeau—

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4 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

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4 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

We can certainly use “the Prime Minister”. That is fine. Members do refer to the former Prime Minister Trudeau; that has been inflected in speeches from time to time and provided that a particular clarification is in the midst of the speech, that works. However, certainly for the current Prime Minister, it is either the title or the riding name.

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4 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister claims he is listening to all Canadians and that ultimately he makes decisions based on what is best for Canada as a whole. In fact, what we see is actually very specific attention being given to individuals who have cash in their pockets and are willing to pay for his listening ear. It is not too far of a stretch of the imagination to assume then that the Prime Minister is in fact giving these individuals very key attention and giving their causes and concerns more legitimacy than perhaps the average Canadian who cannot pay for the same access to the Prime Minister. Of course, the Prime Minister and his cabinet will deny that this is the case, but Canadians can put two and two together.

There are lobbyists purchasing extremely overpriced tickets in order to gain access to our government leaders, and I doubt any of them are attending just for the selfie. Furthermore, when lobbyists attend these elite events, they are not required to report it, nor is there any way of monitoring their activity. In all seriousness, it can be assumed that anyone paying such steep prices to attend these events has a certain expectation as to the influence that they are being granted. If their only motivation is in fact just to contribute to the financial well-being of their preferred political party, then why would they not simply do this from the comfort of their own home like everyone else?

Speaking of everyone else, let us talk a little about the average Canadian who is unfairly discriminated against by the allowance of cash for access fundraising. Single moms, small business owners, low-income families, and seniors would all stand to benefit from having a bit of time with the Prime Minister or any one of those on the front bench here. Unfortunately, very few of these Canadians can afford the going rate for a ticket to these elite events and thus are forced to wait outside while those who can pay enjoy their special access.

Within my constituency of Lethbridge, I have the privilege of hosting a youth advisory board. This consists of eight very intelligent, highly engaged young people from my riding. They meet with me monthly in order to share their views on federal pieces of legislation and key events that are taking place in our country and in the world. The aim of this initiative is to empower these young Canadians to use their voices to speak out and to advocate for the issues that matter most to them. It is my goal to impress upon them that no matter their age or background, they have an equal voice in our democratic system.

It is because of the implications for these youth and for all young Canadians that I am especially disappointed with the Liberals on their approach to cash for access fundraising. How can I tell my constituents that they have a voice and an opportunity to impact the decisions of the federal government when the Liberals have actually chosen to take equality out of the equation simply to earn cash for their political initiatives?

Political fundraising in and of itself is a democratic concept. It is allowed. It allows citizens to support their ideological beliefs by contributing to the political party that best represents their values, but cash for access events do not respect democracy and uphold the standard that has been set out in our country. It is wrong to have people pay to be listened to. These events consist of people buying access to government officials who have the power to make influential decisions on matters of policy and funding, and this is profoundly undemocratic.

The bill has been brought forward to appease rightly outraged Canadians. The Liberals got caught, so now they are trying to smooth things over. Their motivation is not to protect Canada's democracy. Their motivation is to offer a lacklustre response to getting caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

Changing the so-called transparency rules, as the hon. member across the way mentioned, that surround this practice does not make it any more acceptable. If legislation were passed tomorrow that made voter fraud legal, members would still take issue with rigging an election, and not because all of a sudden something illegal was now legal, but because of our shared belief that it is morally and ethically wrong. Similarly, even if we change the rules around specifics having to do with political fundraising, it does not change the basic moral fabric of the issue at hand. We cannot legalize our way into moral safety no matter how strong the majority government at hand is.

In the Prime Minister's mandate letter to the Minister of Democratic Institutions he wrote, “Sunshine is the best disinfectant to concerns about our political process”. It is a nice ideal is it not? I wish it were true.

The Prime Minister believes that increasing transparency around these events is the solution. As long as he advertises to the constituency that he is putting his hand in the cookie jar, it should not be a problem, right? Wrong. The events and their underlying principles are the issue, not simply the secrecy around them.

Sunshine does not all of a sudden make unethical behaviour ethical. Being forced to pay money in order to speak with an influential government official is wrong. It is wrong if it is done at a private event or a public one. It is wrong whether those in attendance pay $200 or $1,550. It is wrong whether it is advertised two weeks in advance or not advertised at all. It is simply unethical and undemocratic, and therefore, wrong.

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4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague's intervention and see her passion for the need to be transparent. That is what this entire place is built upon. That is what our democratic institutions are built upon, the concept of being transparent and open. That is exactly what the bill does. It puts into the rules that we currently have a level of transparency with respect to the events and how they are handled, how they are advertised, with respect to providing a report of the attendees. That is what we are seeking to accomplish here.

The irony is that the Leader of the Opposition will not even disclose who was at his fundraising events during his leadership campaign. In fact, in the spring it was not until The Globe and Mail was able to bring it out that there had been a fundraiser for real estate and business executives. It was later on that it was discovered that this event actually did happen.

How can the member stand in the House and purport so much need for transparency when her own leader will not provide that information? Will she encourage her leader to provide that information so that the House can scrutinize it in the same way that we are allowing others to scrutinize our activities?

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4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, there is a very significant and glaring difference here and let me point it out. That side of the House is in government and this side of the House is in opposition. That side of the House makes decisions that govern Canada. This side of the House asks questions of the government members and the decisions they are making in order to hold them accountable.

The government side puts policies in place and creates legislation. That legislation can facilitate the well-being of individuals, groups, and lobbyists across this country. That side has the power to do that. This side does not have that ability. We ask the questions; they give the answers. They make the mistakes; we hold them accountable. That is how this works.

That side is the one to which people are going to pay thousands of dollars to bend its members' ears in order to influence the policy they are making, the legislation they are putting in place. That is undemocratic. That is unethical. That lacks morality.

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4:10 p.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, based on what my colleague just said, one would assume that she is completely against the concept of cash in exchange for access to ministers, for example. Considering the answer she just gave, it would seem that she opposes the entire concept.

I wonder if she can explain why these fundraisers granting privileged access to people were allowed even before the Liberals were elected.

Why are the Conservatives suddenly now saying that they completely oppose this practice when they could have simply banned it a long time ago?

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4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, the legislation before the House has one purpose and one purpose only. It is meant to be used as a guise for the Liberals to cover up a problem they have. No one else in the House has this problem, just them, just that side over there. Therefore, they have created the bill in order to get away with this problem. The Liberals thought that if they made it transparent, if they used words like “open” and “honest”, and said, “Look at us, we're doing such a good job, Canada. Pat us on the back for putting our hand in the cookie jar”, they would surely get away with this.

Canadians have seen past that. They have watched the Prime Minister make one unethical decision after another, steal one tax dollar after another, thousands of tax dollars after other thousands of dollars, hundreds of thousands of tax dollars after hundreds of thousands have already been taken. That is what the Prime Minister is up to. He has been caught and now he is trying to get away with his unethical behaviour by putting legislation in place that says that the government is open, that it is transparent, that it is so good. No, they are not good. Canadians can see past it and now the Liberals are being called out on their unethical behaviour and illegitimate legislation.

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4:15 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his welcome. It is interesting to see that in the House, because the exchanges that were taking place during my speech—

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4:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

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4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. We have resumed debate.

The hon. member for Beloeil—Chambly has been recognized and now has the floor.

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4:15 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is timely, because the heckling we are hearing between the Liberals and Conservatives only serves to reinforce the point I wanted to make.

In the previous Parliament, the Conservative government only generated more cynicism and changed our elections legislation, making it harder for Canadians to vote.

Now the Liberal government is fuelling cynicism with superficial changes that ultimately will do nothing to correct a serious perception problem that the Liberals themselves created. Everyone who has been watching today's debates heard the Liberals say that the leader of the official opposition was just as bad and that he did the same thing. The Conservatives, for their part, said that what they did was less serious because at least when their ministers attended fundraisers, they met people whose areas of business were not directly related to the department.

I have been an MP for almost seven years now, and I am starting to get pretty sick of giving speeches about all the issues that breed cynicism. Others have talked about this today. As my colleague from British Columbia mentioned this morning, when we go door to door and talk to people, that is what is on people's minds. They say they are not interested, they do not want to donate money to political parties, and they do not want to take out memberships. Worse still, some say they do not even want to vote because of the cynical mood fuelled by stories in the news and legislative half-measures. We will support the changes anyway because one step in the right direction is better than nothing, but everyone needs to understand where this is coming from.

Bill C-50 is a first step. Unfortunately, although I have a lot of respect for the minister, it will probably be the only step. The Liberal government is unlikely to leave behind anything else that qualifies as a legacy of democratic reform.

I have to wonder if it is mere coincidence that this bill was introduced right after the Prime Minister broke his lofty electoral reform promise, right after the dismal failure on that front. This is a big problem for our political system as a whole, not just party financing.

We recognize that some of the changes have made things more difficult. My Bloc Québécois colleague and others spoke earlier about the per-subsidy vote, which is money allocated for each vote received by a party or a candidate.

The member for Beaches—East York spoke about similar issues. He even went so far as to speak about making changes to tax credits for donations. I am raising all these issues to point out that it is possible to be open-minded in this type of debate and to find ways to improve political financing.

We can study all the important changes made in Quebec following revelations about the corruption that occurred over several years, as well as all the changes in political financing and the lowering of contribution limits.

These are all legitimate ideas and we could have a healthy debate about how to provide the financing needed, for better or for worse, to run an election campaign. It takes money to print brochures, inform voters about our positions and important issues, obtain telecommunications equipment for campaign offices, communicate with voters, hear their concerns, and share our positions. We recognize that this is the reality, whether we like it or not.

In that sense, it is very important to find a way to work together in a non-partisan manner to fix this system or at least create a system that instills confidence in Canadians. There are many reasons why that is currently not the case. Sometimes it is because of changes that have nothing to do with political donations as such, but have more to do with the electoral system itself and how it works. I am talking about Bill C-23 from the last Parliament, which had to do with electoral reform, or deform, as people jokingly used to refer to it. That is the type of thing that fuels cynicism and makes all of this that much more challenging.

However, we also have to consider the optics of a minister receiving the maximum donation allowed by law to attend an event with people who have a direct stake in his or her portfolio. What we need to understand is that ministers and regular MPs wield a very different level of power. I agree with the Conservatives on that. I would add that we keep reminding the Liberal government of that fact with each new conflict of interest scandal. Everyone knows that party leaders aspire to be Prime Minister one day and that members of the official opposition or another opposition party could easily end up in cabinet with decision-making power within two or three years. Nonetheless, ministers have the power to make extremely important decisions, hire people, award contracts, spend money, and so on. As such, their ear is much more valuable to have than that of a regular MP.

This does not mean that all members of the House are not prepared to follow the conflict of interest rules—political financing rules, specifically. However, when the government denies that things are different when it comes to ministers and claims in the House that everyone should be on a level playing field, it is insulting the intelligence of those who want to participate in this debate and make real change, so that we can have a political financing system that allows us, among other things, to run political campaigns. People want to see candidates on the ground, which costs money, whether we like it or not, but people also want to have confidence in the financing system.

This morning, the member for Beaches—East York talked about how things work south of the border, and he is right. In other countries, such as the United States, money plays such a dominant role in politics that it has become a problem. For example, my campaign spending cap for my riding would buy about one ad for a U.S. Senate hopeful. We have to acknowledge that our system does have merit. Seeing how bad things are elsewhere makes us feel better about how we do things here, but that does not mean we can rest on our laurels.

Whenever a journalist digs up another scandal, we can pretty much count on the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and the Minister of Democratic Institutions to say that our system is a good one, spending is in check, and there are strict caps on how much an individual can donate. That is not enough, though. We cannot compare ourselves to the worst of the bunch, places like the United States, where a Supreme Court ruling made the who and how much of election spending a free-for-all. Corporations, unions, anybody can spend as much as they want. Even so, alarming situations that are bad for democracies elsewhere are no excuse for us to be content with the status quo here.

In closing, as I said earlier, there are too many situations in the House that remind me of the cynicism I have seen among too many voters as I have gone door to door as an MP for almost seven years now, and I know that my colleagues have seen the same thing. If we really want to make Canadians less cynical and put an end to political financing scandals, we need to engage in a real debate. The government needs to do more than introduce a bill that is merely a smokescreen designed to hide its broken promises on electoral reform and to try to make people forget about the scandals it has been caught up in. Let us stop pointing fingers and arguing over which political party was worse than the other when in office. Let us seriously consider this reform and the measures that we could change or even those that we could bring back, in the case of public financing.

There are all kinds of interesting questions. Of course, the NDP's main goal when it comes to bringing in true electoral reform is the implementation of a mixed member proportional system. There are also many other issues that need to be seriously considered. That is not at all what we are seeing from this government, and it is not what we saw from the previous government, either.

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4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question really builds off of my question for the previous member where in her response she stated that she saw a different level of accountability between one side of the House and the other. This bill attempts to extend that accountability to leaders of the opposition parties as well. Her rationale was that the member does not have the influence the members on this side have. If it is up to us, he will never have that influence she talks about. Nonetheless, there is always the possibility that one day he would have that influence.

Therefore, I am wondering if the member could provide his insight as to whether or not he thinks it is a good idea to extend these provisions so that they do include the leaders of the opposing parties among the others indicated in the bill.

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4:25 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, perhaps my colleague was too busy heckling the previous speaker to have heard what I said in my speech.

I specifically mentioned that I recognized that we all have an obligation in this place as candidates and certainly as members of Parliament to have the strictest laws and rules in place to ensure that we are not finding ourselves in positions of conflict of interest, or “cash for access”, which is the term that is used. We cannot pretend there is not a difference between an opposition MP, regardless of whether he or she may one day be in cabinet or even in the Prime Minister's seat, and the the immediacy of a minister who within weeks or months of having participated in said fundraiser will have the power to give out contracts, to hire people, to spend money, to make all kinds of regulatory and political decisions that are completely different from any decision that I may make after an election two years' down the road, in the event that there is an NDP government and I should be so honoured as to be part of that cabinet.

The point is to acknowledge that when one is in government there is a constant and immediate power that exists.

To my colleague's question, I recognize that extending that to party leaders and others who are in slightly more influential positions than a simple opposition critic is understandable. We are not going to disagree on that point. However, this notion that the government keeps putting forward, as it has with every conflict of interest issue that has marred it since it has been in power, that somehow we are all equal in this place and that it does not recognize the power it holds, is quite disconcerting for me.

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4:25 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I would beg to differ with my colleague from across the way. Leaders of opposition parties carry a great deal of weight. They do hirings. These are individuals who want to become prime ministers. If we go to a leaders' debate or anything of that nature in the future, are the NDP and the Conservatives jointly arguing that Canadians do not need to be concerned, that they do not have to worry about who is paying $250 to be able to meet with the leader of their political party? Why would they want to hide that information?

What this legislation does is ensure there is transparency for the Prime Minister, ministers, and leaders of political parties. Those are individuals who have a great deal of influence today and who want to become prime ministers. Why would they not support that level of transparency? This is something I believe Canadians would want to see.

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4:25 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, if the member thinks so little of the power that he has in cabinet, we would certainly like to do the job for him. Basically, he is saying that opposition MPs stand on the same footing. He is not wrong in the sense that we meet with stakeholders. However, when the Minister of Justice attends a fundraiser at $1,500 a head with people who are in the law profession who are directly engaged as stakeholders with the issues that she has legal, regulatory, political, and financial power over within days, weeks, months, and years of that fundraiser taking place, to not understand that notion, as opposed to me as the public safety critic meeting with stakeholders who are concerned about the government's policies and what direction we should be going in, is absolutely crazy to me.

Let us be clear. To simply divulge even the fact that these cash for access things are taking place is at best a cosmetic change. We will support the baby steps. However, at the end of the day, the public already knows that these things are happening anyway. If the Liberals are really serious about fixing it, then they should be doing more and that is not what we are seeing here.

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4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Sherbrooke,Taxation; the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, Health; the hon. member for Chilliwack—Hope, Ethics.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 5th, 2018 / 4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Dane Lloyd Conservative Sturgeon River—Parkland, AB

Mr. Speaker, many years ago during the 2006 election, one of the most important issues of the day was accountability and transparency. The Liberal government at the time had been implicated in the most severe case of political corruption in modern Canadian history. People may remember this as the sponsorship scandal. I know I remember.

For years, Liberals linked advertising firms with government contracts, kept high-profile Liberal organizers on the payroll, and generously financed the Liberal Party of Canada, all in return for little or no work, as was later found in the investigation. This operation can be best characterized as a machine, which infected and controlled agencies across the government. The purpose of this machine was to place the resources of the government at the disposal of the Liberal Party of Canada.

After years of Liberal corruption and independent investigations, Canadians had enough. In 2006, they elected a Conservative government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper to get to the bottom of things and root out the corruption. We introduced the Federal Accountability Act, an act that dismantled the machine built to abuse taxpayer funds and power for the benefit of the Liberal Party. It also helped ensure that future governments, including a Conservative government, would never again abuse the apparatus of government for the benefit of their political party.

This accountability act created measures to protect Canada from political corruption. We created the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, the Commissioner of Lobbying, and others to ensure all future governments were held to account. I find it quite rich to listen to the speeches of my Liberal colleagues who claim they respect the officers of Parliament and Conservatives do not, when it was in fact our previous Conservative government that created these officers of Parliament to clean up the Liberal mess.

Not only did Conservatives implement accountability by creating these new officers, we created stiff new political financing rules that limited political donations to individuals, banned corporate and union donations, and capped those donations at just over $1,000. In fact, if Conservatives had not implemented these tough new rules, the Liberal Party would still be holding cash for access fundraisers for thousands of dollars, and Canadians would not even have the right to know about it.

This brings me to the fundamental point of this debate. On one hand we have the Conservatives' record of holding government to account, even when it is not in the best interest of our own party, and on the other hand we have the Liberals, with Bill C-50, always trying to find ways to avoid playing by the rule and spirit of the law. In fact, this entire bill would be completely unnecessary if Liberals started acting in the way Canadians expect of their representatives.

No sooner had the Liberal Party regained its former place of power than it set about reconstructing that infamous machine. The machine used to leverage taxpayer funds and power for the benefit of the Liberal Party at the expense of the Canadian people. Ministers began holding fundraisers, a perfectly acceptable and necessary activity for politicians. However, these were no ordinary fundraisers, held in church basements or Legion halls across the land. No, these were exclusive fundraisers for the ultra-wealthy to pay the Liberal Party for exclusive access to decision-makers.

Did these ministers break the law? No, but they showed their true colours. They showed that once given power, they will always leverage every angle for the benefit of their own party at the expense of the interests of Canadians. That is exactly why people elected Conservatives in 2006. Conservatives see the opportunity to abuse power and make laws to prevent that abuse. The Liberals, on the other hand, see an opportunity to abuse the spirit of the law, and rather than take real action to eliminate that abuse, they will go to any lengths to justify it. That is simply not acceptable and Canadians deserve better.

Bill C-50 is a joke. It is a public relations stunt designed to fool the Canadian people into believing that the Liberal Party has changed. Conservatives know better and Canadians are not fooled.

Let us take into account what this bill intends to implement. All fundraisers with tickets of $200 or over must be advertised prominently on the party's website, together with a list of those in attendance and how much they are required to pay. This provision is simply unenforceable and goes to the heart of my argument for why this legislation is a public relations exercise designed to make it appear that the Liberals are doing something about cash for access, while giving them a free hand to continue with these tainted fundraisers.

Take, for example, the fact that any political party could host an exclusive fundraiser, a fundraiser for which no funds may be required for people to attend, but one where the expectation and obligation to donate may be very strong. For instance, an exclusive invitation to a group of wealthy business people or lawyers doing work with the Government of Canada would not require the Liberals to disclose the details of the event, including the participants or how much they are required to pay as long as it is less than $200, but at the event it could be easily made known that the Liberal Party would appreciate those in attendance supporting the party through financial donations: wink, wink; nudge, nudge.

The sad fact is that neither the Federal Accountability Act nor Bill C-50 can prevent parties from engaging in this kind of behaviour. No amount of laws, short of having a member of the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner at every political fundraiser, can prevent these activities. The best solution for preventing future abuses of political power for financial gain is for politicians to take a stand and refuse to tolerate cash for access. The public has placed its trust in us, and in turn, expect nothing but the highest standards of personal and professional accountability and for us to make decisions that are in the best interests of the people. I believe Canadians deserve better and I know, as members of Parliament, we can do better.

In fact, there was a time not so long ago that the Prime Minister promised Canadians better. He stated in his “Open and Accountable Government” document, “Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries must avoid conflict of interest, the appearance of conflict of interest and situations that have the potential to involve conflicts of interest.” It further stated, “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.”

This is the standard that Canadians want from their representatives, and I am ashamed that the Prime Minister has paid lip service to this and broken yet another promise to Canadians. No longer do we have a government that places priority on ethics when it comes to political financing. We have a government that places priority on the illusion of ethics, and that is exactly what Bill C-50 intends to create: the illusion that the Liberal Party of Canada has changed in any way from the days of bagmen soliciting funds from those in business with government.

It is time to stop the illusion and give Canadians what they really deserve: accountable government.

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4:35 p.m.

Fredericton New Brunswick

Liberal

Matt DeCourcey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague started by harkening back to 2006. I too can remember 2006. In 2006, we had just signed the Kelowna accord, which would have led to a much better relationship with indigenous Canadians across this country. In 2006, we still had the Kyoto accord, which would have led to greater environmental standards in this country and tackling climate change around the world. In 2006, we had just signed early learning and child care agreements with the provinces. In 2006, we had a government that was focused on economic growth in this country.

Finally, we have that again after 10 dark years under the Conservative government. In addition to having all those things and a government that is focused on the economy, we have a government that is focused on fundraising in transparent and methodical ways that allow communities to understand the process that political parties undergo to receive funds in order to fight campaigns.

It is absolutely ridiculous to me to listen to the Conservatives talk about transparency and not support this bill. Why will they not support it?

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4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Dane Lloyd Conservative Sturgeon River—Parkland, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is eminently clear to me that the Liberal Party would like to do anything else than talk about its ethical violations or its cash for access fundraisers. My party does not dangle out its members and say, “For $1,500, you can access these top decision-makers.” That is not what the Conservative Party stands for, not now, not in 2006, and not ever.

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4:40 p.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to ask a question of my colleague who has not been in the House for a long time. I would like to know what he thinks the government's real intentions are on this issue.

The Liberals decided to make a very small change to the system in order to make it more transparent because the political financing system consists of organizing cash for access events. However, the government decided to continue to give people access to government members in exchange for substantial donations to the Liberal Party.

Was it impossible for the government to even consider completely doing away with this system of political financing because it is working so well for senior members of the Liberal Party and bringing in so much money for the party?

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4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Dane Lloyd Conservative Sturgeon River—Parkland, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the only member of the House who is younger than I am for that question, and I am proud to serve with him.

It is very clear that Liberals are desperate to hold these cash for access fundraisers, especially considering that the Conservative Party of Canada, yet again, destroyed them in fundraising this year and we are not even the governing party. We do not need to dangle out our ministers and sell cash for access; we have Canadians who believe in this party and this party's principles. We do not need to engage in this sort of cash for access: pay me something and we will give something. We do not need to engage in that sort of activity.

Bill C-50 is a public relations exercise. The government was caught with these cash for access fundraisers, but it cannot get off of this, so it needs to have the bill to make it appear like it is doing something about it. Canadians are not fooled.

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4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my hon. colleague's comments, although I do not want to hear more about his referral to age.

Could my hon. colleague comment on what is going on currently whereby the Prime Minister has breached and broken four parts of the Conflict of Interest Act, said sorry, but refused to make right the wrong that he has done?

When we think about ethics and honourable behaviour in this place, could my hon. colleague talk about how the Prime Minister is disrespecting Canada and Canadian taxpayer dollars by what he has done?