House of Commons Hansard #258 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was report.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Conflict of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

Madam Speaker, in my humble opinion, in light of the damning report of the former ethics commissioner, we can unequivocally say in the House that the Prime Minister deliberately tried to be exempt from a federal law and that he abused the system by making taxpayers pay for his family vacation. I humbly believe that the Prime Minister should do the right thing and repay the entire cost of his personal vacation.

Opposition Motion—Conflict of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, I find it rich this discussion of ethical behaviour coming from the opposition party. If I remember correctly, Peter MacKay used a military helicopter for his own personal use at a cost of about $32,000 an hour. I wonder if the member opposite could inform the House how much money Peter MacKay paid back to the government for that use.

Opposition Motion—Conflict of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

Madam Speaker, I understand that my colleague must defend the indefensible, but we are talking about a prime minister's personal vacation. He could have chosen to vacation in Canada. He could have chosen any location that would not have incurred $200,000 in security costs. This was a personal choice because, unfortunately, he has a lavish lifestyle. He has very expensive tastes, and Canadian taxpayers end up footing the bill.

Opposition Motion—Conflict of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

I understand that he thinks the Prime Minister should pay back the expenses and that reparations must be made when there is a mistake. However, I do not think that this amount of money will make a big difference to the lifestyle of a one-percenter.

Should we not be looking at other forms of reparation, such as barring a member from the House or suspending his or her voting privileges for a given period? These measures would be associated with the member's, minister's, or prime minister's political involvement in the House.

Opposition Motion—Conflict of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's question.

All of us here, including the Prime Minister, must be above reproach. We are legislators, and we pass bills to ensure that we can continue our work and avoid conflicts of interest.

Why is the Prime Minister of Canada sitting here in the House after violating his own federal laws?

My colleague's question is a good one, and I have to wonder how the Prime Minister can be here in the House today, even though he violated federal laws.

Opposition Motion—Conflict of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Greg Fergus Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the member for Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas.

We are here today to debate the opposition motion on the Conflict of Interest Act. This topic was of great interest to opposition members before the holidays. Indeed, this is a subject of great interest to all MPs because we must all comply with the act, so we all understand the importance of this debate.

I can assure the House that those of us on this side have the greatest respect for the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, as we do for all officers of Parliament. Their work is essential to our democracy, and they ensure the House functions properly. We co-operate with all officers of Parliament, which is what Canadians expect of us, and that is exactly what the hon. member for Papineau did.

In December, immediately following the release of the commissioner's report, the Prime Minister took responsibility, as any good leader should, and accepted all the commissioner's findings. He also took additional steps to ensure that all of his future personal and family vacations would be cleared in advance by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. He will continue to follow all the commissioner's advice and recommendations on managing his family friendship with the Aga Khan.

As elected officials, we have a very important duty. We represent Canadians in this House. We speak on behalf of Canadians. As an elected official, I make it my duty to stay in touch with my constituents and find out everything I can about their priorities and challenges. How can we, as members of the House, make the most significant contribution to our society?

Obviously, ethical issues are important, and we will always acknowledge that. However, I also have to recognize that the Conservatives are once again out of touch with Canadians' priorities. When I run into my constituents in the street or in a coffee shop and when I meet with them in my office, they tell me that what they want is more good jobs for the middle class and those working hard to join it. That is what our government continues to offer them. Through smart and responsible investments, we are helping to strengthen the middle class and grow the economy.

The results speak for themselves. Nearly 700,000 jobs have been created in Canada since our government took office. What is more, the unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in 40 years. In 2017 alone, 422,000 new jobs were added to Canada's economy. I would like my colleagues opposite to take note of that. That is the best job growth Canada has seen since 2002 and the strongest economic growth in the G7. The unemployment rate is 5.7%, which is practically the lowest it has ever been since I was born.

In Quebec, once again, the economy is doing very well. This is the best situation we have seen since 1976.

I hear from people that they care about their children's future. They want a society where good opportunities are available for all. I am proud to be part of a government that introduced and enhanced the Canada child benefit. It is so important. Right after the election, we raised taxes for the top 1% in order to lower them for the middle class. My colleagues opposite voted against this measure.

As I said, we introduced the Canada child benefit, which has helped 300,000 children across Canada. This is unprecedented. The impact has been tremendous for single-parent families, of which 80% are headed by women. The Canada child benefit has lifted 135,000 women out of poverty. It is a matter of ethics and morality. What we have done is very important. Clearly, it is our responsibility as MPs and as a government, no matter our political party, to support this measure. Unfortunately, the official opposition voted against this initiative.

As I said at the start of my speech, the motion before us is very important. We recognize it. The Prime Minister also recognizes the importance of this motion. Unlike former prime ministers who were not committed to Canadians, the current Prime Minister toured the country to speak to Canadians in public town halls. In these public meetings, he answered Canadians' questions and listened to their concerns.

When some Canadians asked difficult questions, he did not try to hide. He was there to answer their questions directly and candidly. He answered questions about this motion, and he did so very openly and honestly. Like any good leader must, he took responsibility and accepted all the findings of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.

I must point out the irony in what the opposition members are doing. For weeks and months, the opposition called for the Ethics Commissioner’s report to be tabled. Now that it has been tabled, the opposition refuses to accept the commissioner’s findings. This shows that they are not being serious.

The Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner’s work is extremely important. We recognize and have the greatest respect for that role within our institution.

The official opposition’s political games will not distract us from our commitment to Canadians. We will continue to listen to Canadians and take real action to make the middle class even stronger and to help those working so hard to join it.

We promised Canadians a government that will bring real change in terms of what we will do and how we will go about doing it. That is exactly what we are going to do. We promised to make investments that will grow the economy and create jobs and prosperity. That is exactly what we are doing.

We will do this while also meeting our moral and ethical responsibilities to this institution and to all Canadians.

Opposition Motion—Conflict of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. I was a bit taken aback when he said that we do not accept the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner’s findings. We do accept the findings. The conclusion is clear: the Prime Minister broke the law. We believe that if an individual breaks the law, there need to be consequences. That individual must answer for his actions and give back the money to those who pay their taxes.

Why does my colleague think that it is not fair for there to be consequences when someone breaks the law?

Opposition Motion—Conflict of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Greg Fergus Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to expand on my point and thank my colleague for his question. The Prime Minister accepted all the conclusions in the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner’s report. I attended the presentation that the former ethics commissioner gave to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. She was asked what the consequences should be. She answered that everything was in the report. The Prime Minister accepted her findings, and now we all know that he has taken steps to ensure that, in the future, all his actions will be checked by the new Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.

I do not understand why the Conservatives do not accept the conclusions that the commissioner put in her report as well as what she said during her presentation before the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.

Opposition Motion—Conflict of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Madam Speaker, I believe my hon. colleague is sincere about looking for important changes in Parliament and helping parliamentarians perhaps do the right thing.

I respectfully suggest that the Prime Minister's accepting a free vacation from someone who lobbies the government was not only against the law, but I think most of us would understand that it is also extremely poor judgment at the very least, if not some indication that perhaps the Prime Minister is somewhat out of touch. As my hon. colleague mentioned, I think for most of us a little lightbulb would go off in our head when something like that came across our desk.

I believe that the conversation today is getting very partisan and politically charged. I understand that is what happens here; however, I think there is an opportunity to really talk about what needs to be reformed in the act and things that we could do to make it better. One thing that we have suggested is to start to give the act a bit more teeth and to have real consequences, including removing people from the House, and taking some privileges away. That would have some impact.

I would ask my hon. colleague if he agrees with me that there is a need for reform so that there are real consequences for people who breach the conflict of interest rules.

Opposition Motion—Conflict of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Greg Fergus Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Madam Speaker, I think the most important thing in terms of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner is that we want to make sure that we consult beforehand. That is the idea. The commissioner was very clear about this when she came before the standing committee of the House. She said that the role of that job is not to come down and knock people over the head at the end of it. The idea is for us to make sure that we conduct ourselves with the utmost transparency possible, which means doing things beforehand. It is to move toward a standard, and not to try to get around a standard and be knocked on the head.

That is what she said, and that is what I think the Prime Minister has been very clear on, as he has promised Canadians that he is going to be consulting the Ethics Commissioner before taking any family vacation from now on to make sure that everything is done according to the standard that the commissioner has set for us.

Opposition Motion—Conflict of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 6th, 2018 / 1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to this motion regarding the Conflict of Interest Act and the report made by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner with respect to the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons and the Conflict of Interest Act.

The first thing I would like to point out is that the Prime Minister has accepted the findings of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner and has accepted full responsibility. Further, the Prime Minister has also undertaken to consult with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner on all future personal and family vacations to ensure that they always conform to the requirements of both the members' code and the Conflict of Interest Act.

The Prime Minister thanked the former conflict of interest and ethics commissioner for her work and for her advice in managing his relationship with the Aga Khan. There is a good reason for this. The commissioner's work ensures that Canadians can rely on a non-partisan officer of Parliament to make determinations on activities of members of Parliament.

Although the House of Commons is naturally an adversarial chamber where accusations often fly back and forth one side to the other, Canadians know that officers of Parliament, such as the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, investigate allegations and make findings and recommendations which are non-partisan. When the former conflict of interest and ethics commissioner answered questions on this matter before the ethics committee on January 10, 2018, she stated that the act has accomplished what it sets out to do, and that she stands by her report.

The Prime Minister has accepted the findings, and he has made arrangements to ensure that he clears all family and personal vacations with the office of the commissioner on an ongoing basis. The Conservatives are the ones who refuse to accept the fact that the report stands for itself. The former commissioner also found that no preferential treatment was ever given by the Prime Minister throughout this endeavour. In fact, no such preferential treatment was even sought. However, the Prime Minister has put in place measures to better manage his relationship with the Aga Khan moving forward. The fact that the Prime Minister immediately took full responsibility for the commissioner's findings is exactly what Canadians expect from their elected officials and their leaders. Not only has the Prime Minister stood and responded to the concerns in this House, he also has crossed the country engaging with Canadians on matters that are of concern to them.

Let us recap. The Prime Minister immediately took responsibility and answered numerous questions from the media. He answered numerous questions here in the House. He attended a number of public town hall events where Canadians were able to ask him unscripted questions on issues that they judged to be important. In fact, the Prime Minister came to Hamilton, my hometown, for a town hall. I am delighted to report that approximately 2,000 attendees were delighted that the Prime Minister would engage with them on matters that were important to them.

This civic engagement is very important to our government. This is why the Prime Minister is making himself available to connect with Canadians across the country. We are proud of this initiative. I want to thank all those Canadians who are showing up to the town hall events to engage. We appreciate their input and know how important it is for us to govern effectively.

I wish to confirm that at our town hall, as with all the other town halls, none of the questions were vetted, and the Prime Minister answered every question that was put to him. It was a great day for Hamilton. This is what real accountability looks like, and it is very different from what the Conservatives did while they were in power.

I would like to stay positive on this subject, so rather than criticize my Conservative opponents, let me say this. Our Prime Minister believes that engaging with Canadians and hearing from them directly, and truly listening, as our dear friend Arnold Chan asked all of us to do, will make this country better.

Why? That is easy. We believe in Canadians. We know that listening to Canadians will help us serve them more effectively. This is not an approach that former prime minister Stephen Harper took with Canadians or the media. Our Prime Minister's acceptance of the findings and willingness to work with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner is proof of the strength of the protections we currently have for our democratic process and decision-making.

We are currently debating a proposal to put in place additional members to protect our democratic process from undue influence. The Conservatives actually oppose Bill C-50, which would increase the transparency and accountability of our current fundraising regime. New requirements would be in place for how ministers, opposition leaders, and party leadership candidates would advertise their fundraising events, report on how much they charge, and let us know who attended those events. This legislation would give the public the information they need to verify that their ministers and party leaders are acting with an openness and accountability to everyday Canadians, who expect political contributions not to influence the decisions that will be made in their lives.

In regard to costs, Canadians expect that the Prime Minister's security is assured, wherever and whenever he travels. This is not just the case for our Prime Minister. This has been the case for previous prime ministers as well. The Prime Minister listens very carefully to the advice of security experts and makes sure their advice is followed. In her testimony before the ethics committee, the former ethics commissioner also pointed out, in response to the questions from the member for Thornhill, that expenses to protect the Prime Minister are costs incurred wherever the Prime Minister happens to be.

Today's motion focuses on the Prime Minister. In fact, this focus has been seized by the opposition for the past number of weeks. However, what the Conservatives fail to understand is that we need to focus on the needs of Canadians. That is what we are doing. We are working hard for Canadians.

Let us look at the results. Unemployment is lower than it has been in 40 years. In fact, some members of the House have never seen as low an unemployment rate as we have today. The Canadian child benefit has lifted over 300,000 children out of poverty. In Hamilton, the Canada child benefit has lifted 89,500 children out of poverty with an investment of $25.7 million. We have lowered taxes for nine million Canadians thanks to the middle-class tax cut. We have strengthened the CPP and increased GIS benefits for the most vulnerable seniors.

While the opposition stays laser-focused on us, we remain focused on Canadians and we will not be distracted from this focus no matter what tactics the opposition implements. We have a strong country and we have a strong democracy. This is thanks, in part, to the work of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, who helps Canadians better trust their institutions.

The Conflict of Interest Act has been applied for the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister has accepted the findings of the report. He has promised to closely work with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner going forward. This is what Canadians expect and this is how democracy works.

Opposition Motion—Conflict of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, I will say, with great respect to the member, that we are seeing some rather common verbiage coming from different members of the government, certain phrases that are repeated over and over again, which is interesting to observe.

I want to probe one aspect of the government's conversation on this, and that is that we repeatedly hear this idea that we should not be talking about ethics, that we should be talking about other things. The subtext is that ethics really are not that important, so why are we not talking about other issues.

There are many other issues that are important, but Canadians are legitimately concerned about being governed by people who set high ethical standards. The biggest reason for that is that if people show a lack of ethics in the things that we do see, then my constituents certainly wonder about the things that they do not see and whether decisions with respect to the economy and foreign policy are actually being made with their best interests at heart.

If we see a government that is profoundly informed by conflicts of interest, whether that is cash for access fundraising or whether that is accepting an illegal vacation, then it leads people to question the broad range of government policies. They can see how perhaps the government's decision-making process is not correctly informed by the public interest, rather it is being inappropriately informed by private interests.

I wonder if the member could just clarify her views on this. Does she think we should be discussing the government's bad ethical behaviour in the House, or does she think Canadians should just shrug and not worry about the ethical foibles of the government?

Opposition Motion—Conflict of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

Madam Speaker, that is a great question. I want to affirm my appreciation in particular for ethics. In fact, I commenced my doctoral studies in that area. I appreciate, deeply, the importance of ethical standards. However, I am surprised because I think it is the exact opposite. I think it is the opposition that is not accepting what the Ethics Commissioner has found here. That is what is making them repetitive and focused on this.

At a meeting the previous Ethics Commissioner attended, and it was the ethics committee that took place on January 10, 2018, there was an exchange between the member of Parliament for Beaches—East York and the Ethics Commissioner. The discussion was about the Prime Minister's full acceptance of the report and of the findings, and whether the act should require more than the Prime Minister's full acceptance of the findings. Her response to that was, “I think that's probably all that the act should require.”

Further to that, the Prime Minister not only accepted the findings of the Ethics Commissioner, he went above and beyond. What he said is that every future vacation that his family takes, that he takes with his wife and his children, he is not only going to consult with his wife and children, but he is going to clear it with the Ethics Commissioner.

Opposition Motion—Conflict of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her comments.

Obviously, she does not seem to accept the essence of the Conservative motion before us today. I would say that when someone comes to me and apologizes and I accept the apology, that is the end of the matter. When someone comes to me and says that they made a mistake and are taking responsibility, that comes with some form of redress.

If our Liberal colleagues do not agree with the Conservatives’ proposed measure, what form of redress do they propose so that there is genuine action taken in line with the fact that the Prime Minister is taking responsibility?

Opposition Motion—Conflict of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

Madam Speaker, let us look at what our Prime Minister did after the response by the Ethics Commissioner. What did he do?

He accepted it. He did not go out and run a dialogue about how the Aga Khan was the honorary pallbearer at his father's funeral, a position that I think is only reserved for good friends. He did not talk about his father's relationship with the Aga Khan, and how much his father admired and respected him.

What did the Prime Minister do? The Prime Minister accepted the findings of the Ethics Commissioner and went a step beyond, saying that for any future trips, he would clear them with the Ethics Commissioner. Why? Because this is important to him. The Prime Minister wants the trust of Canadians, and he has obtained that through his response here. He will continue to do that. We are very proud of how our Prime Minister has responded on this issue.

Opposition Motion—Conflict of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, I am proud to say I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Beauport—Limoilou.

We are having a debate today because of truly unparalleled circumstances in our parliamentary democracy. Within two years of forming government, the Liberal government, led by the Prime Minister, is the subject of multiple investigations by officers of Parliament for inappropriate lobbying and conflicts of interest. Canadians who tuned in to the political debate in the fall saw the hon. member for Toronto Centre, the finance minister, plagued by questions of conflict of interest with respect to his dealings and legislation he brought into the chamber that he had lobbied for in the private sector ahead of time without recusing himself from that process. That investigation is still to come.

Within months of forming government, the Prime Minister was engaged in cash for access fundraising events. The Lobbying Commissioner is investigating that. That report is yet to come. Today's debate comes from the report we do have before us and it is the reason we are debating the conflict of interest of the Prime Minister today. That was the report in the name of the Prime Minister released by the Ethics Commissioner just before Christmas last year.

What is unparalleled is that the Prime Minister was found to violate the Conflict of Interest Act in four separate ways. Despite the repeated rhetoric from my friends on the Liberal side of the House saying the Prime Minister has accepted responsibility and is accountable, there is nothing in the report that levies a punishment, an administrative fine, or any type of accountability measure on the Prime Minister. True accountability for a leader would be, at an absolute minimum, to apologize and reimburse Canadians for expenditures that should never have been spent with respect to his trip.

Liberals are suggesting Conservatives are being unreasonable. We are not suggesting the Prime Minister face jail time for this. We are not suggesting that an administrative monetary penalty, a fine, be levied. We are suggesting a basic form of accountability that most parents teach their children when it comes to accepting responsibility for their actions. The Prime Minister is famous for saying sorry, including in this House for several good reasons in the past, but sorry with respect to four ethical violations on his own conduct is unacceptable. He needs to show leadership to show that other members in his caucus need to be accountable for their conduct.

That is why we are here. Liberals do not want to talk about that, but they have yet to provide one example of how the Prime Minister is being accountable. Saying he was found guilty on four counts under the act is one thing. What is the Prime Minister prepared to do to show contrition, to show he understands the severity of the decision of the Ethics Commissioner, and to send a signal that both the Prime Minister and his caucus find that conduct unacceptable?

We all remember, after the lovely stroll up to Rideau Hall, #RealChange, and all of that language, the Prime Minister, to great fanfare, released the mandate letters for his ministers, in which he said their conduct not only needed to be free from conflict of interest but, to the highest standards, needed to be free from perceptions of conflict of interest. Even the appearance that something was inappropriate was the standard he set. He has not met that standard himself, and it is being suggested that Conservatives are being unreasonable by saying the only true way he can show contrition, to show Canadians and the Ethics Commissioner that he understands the message of this report, is to reimburse taxpayers for the cost of a trip that never should have occurred.

I will highlight how ridiculous his defence is. Because there is an exception to receiving gifts from friends, the Prime Minister of Canada has turned himself into a pretzel suggesting that the Aga Khan is a friend.

What did the ethics commissioner say about whether this exception applied? She applied an objective standard, which is, in law, what a reasonable person would take from this defence. I quote from page 36:

The evidence shows that, but for the Aga Khan's attendance at [the Prime Minister's] father's funeral in 2000, [the Prime Minister] had no private or personal interactions with the Aga Khan between 1983 and fall of 2013, a span of 30 years.

I think it is hard to suggest that one has a lifelong friendship with a person because one met that person once or twice when young. When trying to pin a legal and ethical defence on a friendship, a person will bend over backwards to suggest that this is a lifetime friend. The Prime Minister certainly did not maintain that friendship very well, if three decades passed with no interaction.

The report goes on to say that on several visits the Aga Khan made to Canada, there was no attempt on either's part to connect. There was no correspondence.

This was a Hail Mary pass defence to suggest that this was a friendship with Uncle K. It is not befitting the Prime Minister of Canada to make ridiculous defences when he should be accepting responsibility.

The Prime Minister had his health minister, when she was in that role, accept responsibility for some inappropriate expenditures. I respect her for that. I think she got the respect of the House for taking responsibility. The Prime Minister has not. To say he accepts the findings is not enough.

This is an administrative law, a parliamentary matter. We are not talking about criminal law. We are not talking about imposing sanctions or monetary penalties on the Prime Minister. In the civil context or the administrative context, reimbursement is the appropriate measure. A press conference held days before Christmas, when the Prime Minister stumbled through an apology in the most embarrassing fashion possible, does not cut it.

I was a cabinet minister at the tail end of the Harper government, which lasted for almost a decade. There are no reports entitled the Harper report. This is occurring within months of the Prime Minister forming government.

As I said the other day, it took over a decade for entitlement, helping friends, and avoiding responsibility to creep in under the Chrétien Liberals. It took a decade for that government to become tired and in conflict. It has taken the present Liberal government mere months.

Would I today like to be talking about the Prime Minister's trip to China, where he secretly promised a free trade deal before being sent home with his tail between his legs by the Chinese? Would I prefer to be talking about NAFTA? Would I prefer to be talking about the shameful display the Prime Minister made in front of veterans in Edmonton last week, when he suggested that despite his extravagant spending, hundreds of thousands of dollars on tweets alone, veterans are asking for too much? I would prefer to have an opposition day debate on that.

The Prime Minister needs to show accountability for his ethics breaches. Leadership by example should mean that the Prime Minister holds himself to an even higher standard than he expects from his team. That is leadership by example. We saw the Minister of Health do that. The Prime Minister should take some lessons from her on accountability. Certainly the amounts are slightly larger than the minister repaid, but then again, it is hard to take a limousine to a private island in the Caribbean.

What was even more inappropriate was the fact that later on, the Prime Minister's family asked for additional trips. This is the level of entitlement and expectation they have.

At a time when we have debated the difficult circumstances families in Alberta have faced and the threat and imposition on Sears employees, Canadians do not accept this high-wheeling, high-flying Prime Minister who will not accept responsibility for his actions. We are here today to ask for it, and I only hope that his own members of caucus will pressure him to lead by example and repay the amount of money.

Opposition Motion—Conflict of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Fredericton New Brunswick

Liberal

Matt DeCourcey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Madam Speaker, my colleague rose today on an opposition motion day, a day on which the opposition gets to set the agenda in this House. Instead of talking about the economy, the $10-billion worth of investments we have made for veterans, or foreign affairs matters, when the member is the critic for foreign affairs, and it is clear that the opposition has no developing policy on foreign affairs, opposition members have decided to talk about an issue that has been dealt with in the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner's report. The Prime Minister has said that he accepted the findings.

Instead of talking about economic growth across this country, about the 700,000 new jobs created by Canadians across this country, about a new pension-for-life option that will provide veterans with the financial security they need, or about of a number of foreign affairs issues, on which Canada is leading the world, they decided to focus on an issue that does not deal with the very real concerns Canadians have. Why?

Opposition Motion—Conflict of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my friend from Fredericton for his remarks, which are a continued diversion from responsibility that the Liberals are playing for the Prime Minister.

I would invite him to read the document from the Conflict of Interest Commissioner with her findings. As I have said, her objective standard is a reasonable-person test.

I like a lot of those Liberal members. I would suggest that most of them are reasonable people. Therefore, they have to agree that the Prime Minister violated the act. What the Ethics Commissioner did not provide, because as an officer of Parliament it was not her mandate, was an appropriate sanction or penalty. That was left to the members of this place.

If the Prime Minister wants to lead by example, he should send the message that a finding on four counts of violations should be met, at an absolute minimum, with a reimbursement of inappropriate expenditures of taxpayers' money. That is what Canadians expect. That is why we are here today.

Opposition Motion—Conflict of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, the opposition members make it sound as if the Prime Minister turns to the RCMP and says, “I'm going on vacation. I want you, you, and you. Let's go.” It does not work like that. They know that there is a whole apparatus, a whole structure, behind it. They follow him wherever he goes, just as they have for every other prime minister.

I would like to ask the member a question I asked one of his colleagues earlier today and did not get an answer to. Can the member tell me this? He was around when Peter MacKay was the defence minister. Peter MacKay used a military helicopter for personal use to go to a fishing resort, at a cost of $32,000 an hour. Can the member tell me how many times he insisted that Peter MacKay repay that cost?

Opposition Motion—Conflict of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Kingston and the Islands for that great question, because he set it up with the premise that the Prime Minister would say, “You, you, you, let's go.” He did not pick the member. He picked the veterans minister to go.

How did this trip originate? I would invite the member to read page 19 of the report. Out of respect, I will leave the name out. It says that in mid-July 2016, the Prime Minister's spouse contacted the Aga Khan's daughter and inquired whether her family could come for Christmas. In that finding of fact, the Ethics Commissioner said that later on, she called to see if they could invite friends. That is how this trip originated. It was inappropriate from day one. Who were those friends? They were the veterans minister and the president of the Liberal Party. They should be hanging their heads in shame. It was a Liberal gala and junket. They should all go to their ridings this weekend and apologize to their constituents.

Opposition Motion—Conflict of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Alupa Clarke Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Durham for his excellent speech.

This matter involving the Prime Minister and the Aga Khan’s island is very unfortunate, but something positive has come of it. It has allowed us to see through the government and all of its Liberal MPs who have been claiming to have a monopoly on virtue since 2015. They have been playing games with Canadians for the past two years, claiming day after day, year after year, in a disgusting and apolitical manner, that we Conservatives are not working for the well-being of all Canadians.

The Prime Minister’s 2016 vacation on the Aga Khan’s island is so troubling for Canadians that the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner found four violations of the law. It is now obvious, after this trip, that the Liberals no longer have the monopoly on virtue.

All Canadians can now see the Liberals’ true colours: a political, post-modern and radical left made up of social engineers who want to change our beautiful country’s customs and traditions merely for the sake of change.

Thank God for opposition day. Thank God, because when he was found guilty of four violations of the Conflict of Interest Act, the Prime Minister merely apologized, saying that he would not do it again.

If the Liberals were in opposition, they would do exactly what we are doing right now. Incidentally, this is not a tactic to divert attention from the country’s finances, which are regrettable on several levels. We are doing our democratic and parliamentary duty. We must enlighten the many Canadians and citizens of Beauport—Limoilou who are listening. We must explain that this is the first time in the history of Canada, since its creation in 1867, that a prime minister has broken a federal law.

How did he break the law? The Ethics Commissioner explained it very simply by referring to the four sections violated. She wrote, “I [also] found that...he contravened section 5 for failing to arrange his private affairs to avoid such an opportunity.” She also said that she found him “in contravention of section 11 of the Act when members of his family accepted the Aga Khan’s gift of hospitality and the use of his private island in March 2016 and when he and his family accepted the Aga Khan’s gift of hospitality in December 2016.” She concluded by saying that “[the Prime Minister] contravened section 21 of the Act when he did not recuse himself from discussions that provided an opportunity to improperly further the private interest associated with one of the institutions of the Aga Khan....”

The Canadian government gave the Aga Khan tens of millions of dollars, my friends, and your political leader went gallivanting around on his billionaire’s island.

Opposition Motion—Conflict of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Order. I remind the member that he must address the Speaker and not the other members.

Opposition Motion—Conflict of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Alupa Clarke Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Madam Speaker, my colleagues on the other side of the House are laughing, and meanwhile their leader has violated four sections of the Conflict of Interest Act. They are laughing, and meanwhile their government has entered talks involving tens of millions of dollars. In fact, it has already given tens of millions of dollars to the Aga Khan's causes. Whether or not these causes are worthy matters little. In the meantime, the Prime Minister was gallivanting around his private island.

Lastly, the commissioner found that “Mr. Trudeau contravened section 12 of the Act when his family travelled on non-commercial aircraft chartered by the Aga Khan”. I am pleased that Ms. Dawson, the Ethics Commissioner, had the courage to write this incriminating report which says, in black and white, just how the Prime Minister violated four sections of the act.

This is all terrible, but there is something else that bothers me even more and that makes me sad. I do not say this lightly, and I rarely say this in politics, but I am sad, as all Canadians should be. I genuinely do not understand how a prime minister of our great federation could not only decide to take his Christmas vacation outside Canada, which is already a shameful and dishonourable thing for a prime minister to do, but also to travel to a billionaire's island.

I knocked on doors throughout the Christmas break. I met one constituent who lives in affordable housing. He had tears in his eyes as he told me that he had almost no teeth left. He has had toothaches for years, he needs dentures, and he has a very low income, but his honour prevents him from requesting social assistance. However, he still cannot afford dentures and cannot afford to replace his teeth. He spoke to me about his teeth for 15 minutes, because it was such a big part of his life. What he is going through is terrible.

Across the country, Canadians are living in poverty. People are starving and freezing to death in Toronto, in Montreal, and in Vancouver. They are not dying because they have mental health issues or addictions. They are dying because of sociological problems such as lack of education. Poverty is a real issue in Canadian society, but not only is the Prime Minister not encouraging Canadians to stay here, he himself is spending time on a billionaire's tropical island.

Seriously, people are dying of hunger in Canada, but our shameless Prime Minister had the nerve to take a vacation that cost taxpayers $200,000. The worst part is his total contempt for Canadians. He should never have done that. As Prime Minister, he should at the very least avoid vacations like that during his four-year term. Four years is not a long time in the life of a man who could live to the age of 90. He could not wait four years to go gallivanting around on a tropical beach while people here at home in eastern and Atlantic Canada are dying of hunger because of the employment insurance spring gap, not to mention the indigenous peoples on every reserve in the country.

The Prime Minister says that his most important relationship is the nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples. This is ridiculous, since his most important relationship should be with all Canadians and not with any one group in particular. He is constantly spouting his lofty ideals, saying that he works for the middle class and for Indigenous people on reserve, and that he will make investments for Canadians, and then he vacations on a billionaire's private island. Talk about setting a good example. This just makes me sad.

Since 1867, and I think it is written in the Constitution, all governments are required to operate in accordance with the notion of peace, order, and good government. However, so far, the Liberals have been unable to form a good government. They continue to run deficits, when there is no war and no economic crisis.

They keep breaking promises. I will conclude by saying that, yesterday, the Minister of International Trade proudly announced that his program was huge in comparison with free trade. They have done absolutely nothing for free trade. That is why we introduced the TPP. The President of the United States is the one who began renegotiating NAFTA. Were is this Liberal free trade agreement I have heard so much about? It does not exist. We must denounce the Prime Minister’s attitude and behaviour, and that is what we are doing today.

Opposition Motion—Conflict of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Vaudreuil—Soulanges Québec

Liberal

Peter Schiefke LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Youth)

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his speech. I have a number of questions for him. First, he mentioned someone in his riding with health problems. I would like to know what his government did to solve these problems from 2006 on. He spoke of indigenous people and that fact that there is a problem with drinking water on reserves. He acts as though this all started in 2015. What did his government do to solve the problem from 2006 on? I want to know.

What did you do in your 10 years in power to solve all the problems you mentioned?

Opposition Motion—Conflict of InterestBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

First, I would like to remind the parliamentary secretary that he is to address the Speaker. Also, all questions, comments and speeches should address the subject of the opposition’s motion.

I will give the member for Beauport—Limoilou an opportunity to respond.