House of Commons Hansard #259 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-50.

Topics

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Is that agreed?

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Burlington Ontario

Liberal

Karina Gould LiberalMinister of Democratic Institutions

moved that Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing), be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-50. This bill would amend the Canada Elections Act to create an unprecedented level of openness and transparency for political fundraising events.

Political parties are made up of Canadians from across the country who have different experiences and points of view. Political parties help the public learn more about their leaders and their politicians, as well as their policies and positions of principle. Political parties appoint and train candidates and volunteers, support them before and during elections, and coordinate the logistics for national election campaigns.

Unlike many organizations with mandates that are just as broad and vital, political parties must do their own fundraising to support almost all their activities. Donations pay for all activities, from daily operations to a national election campaign.

The system works. Canadians donate because they believe in our political parties, what they stand for, who leads them, and the candidates they empower to run for office.

A strict regime is in place to ensure fairness in this system. Existing regulations regarding political fundraising in Canada are among the strongest in the world. The existing regulations include strict spending limits, a cap on annual donations, and a ban on corporate and union donations.

Caps on donations have existed for 44 years in Canada, and governments, both Liberal and Conservative, have worked to strengthen our political financing system over this period of time. Bill C-50 would do just that. It would add an additional layer of openness and transparency in political fundraising.

Our government has stated that we must raise the bar for transparency, accountability, and the integrity of our public institutions and the democratic process. We also said loud and clear that we want to encourage Canadians to fully participate in our democracy. It is this last objective that I have been focusing on since the Prime Minister asked me to serve as the Minister of Democratic Institutions one year ago.

Our government has moved on several fronts to ensure a more open and inclusive democracy. We have changed the way we appoint senators and judges. More women have been appointed through our public appointments process. We are making elections more accessible and inclusive. We are taking steps to protect our democracy from cyber-threats and foreign interference. We take these actions seriously, because we know how deeply Canadians value and cherish our democracy.

Former Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci said:

Political parties provide individual citizens with an opportunity to express an opinion on the policy and functioning of government.

Section 3 of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees Canadians the right to vote. This article and the right to freedom of association are intimately connected. Canadian citizens and permanent residents also have the right to donate to a political party of their choice.

Many Canadians make financial contributions to election campaigns or participate in political fundraisers, since that is a way for them to actively participate in our democracy. It is also an important way for people to express their democratic will. We will continue to protect the right of all Canadians to provide financial support to the political party of their choice.

Canadians have been loud and clear. They want to know more about who funds political activities in Canada. Bill C-50 would shine a light on who is attending political fundraisers, where and when these events are taking place, and the amount required to attend them.

This bill would ensure that more information than ever before about political fundraisers was shared with the media and the public. This transparency would allow Canadians to continue to have confidence in our democracy, confidence that they could support a party with which they shared values, ideals, and policy positions and confidence that they, too, could actively participate, should they so choose.

Our laws, when it comes to political financing, are already quite strict in this regard. Bill C-50 would build on these existing strict laws. Specifically, it would see the following rules put in place. First, details about fundraising events involving the Prime Minister, cabinet ministers, party leaders, and leadership contestants of parties with a seat in the House of Commons, when over $200 per person was necessary to participate at the event, would now be required to be made public. Second, these events would be required to be advertised on political parties' websites at least five days before they took place, and political parties would be required to report a list of attendees to Elections Canada within 30 days after the event.

The bill would also make technical amendments, which would bring leadership and nomination campaign expenses in line with the current regime for candidates.

This bill takes into account certain privacy considerations with regard to the disclosure of the names of minors, volunteers, event staff, journalists, and support staff for people with disabilities or for any minister or party leader who participates in the event.

I would like to highlight some quotes from acting Chief Electoral Officer Stéphane Perrault, who said the following at a committee appearance on the subject:

I note that the bill offers a calibrated approach. Not all parties will be subject to the new requirements and I believe that is a good thing. Similarly, the rules will not apply to all fundraising activities, but only those for which a minimum amount is charged to attend and where key decision-makers are also present.

Later in his testimony, he elaborated, saying:

Generally speaking, the bill increases the transparency of political fundraising, which is one of the main goals of the Canada Elections Act. It does so without imposing an unnecessary burden on the smaller parties that are not represented in the House of Commons or for fundraising events that do not involve key decision-makers.

It is clear from Mr. Perrault's testimony at committee that he feels that Bill C-50 would accomplish the goal outlined in my mandate letter to “significantly enhance transparency for the public at large and media in the political fundraising system for Cabinet members, party leaders and leadership candidates.”

I believe that my hon. colleagues, like our government, want to provide Canadians with more information about political fundraising activities.

If Bill C-50 is passed, it will keep the government's promise to significantly enhance transparency in Canada's political fundraising system for both the public and the media. By improving transparency, we will also help build Canadians' trust in the political system. This is one of many measures that we are taking to improve, strengthen, and protect our democratic institutions.

I am proud to speak to this bill at third reading, as I strongly believe that it is one more step in our efforts to improve our political financing system, one that would strengthen the confidence Canadians have in how parties raise money through events.

I would like to close my remarks by thanking the officials in my department for their hard work in helping to put this bill together, the members of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs for their diligent study of this bill, and the members of this place for their support in getting this bill to the next step in the parliamentary process.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, I first want to thank my hon. colleague, the Minister of Democratic Institutions, for the quality of her French, which is quite impressive. I congratulate her on the quality.

I am sure the member for Winnipeg North will also appreciate the fact that I salute his effort to speak French. Quality will come in time.

I also want to give the minister my best wishes for what is coming in the next few months and say congratulations.

The Conservatives are concerned about this bill, because it would make legal something we consider unethical.

That is what is called cash for access, or paying to get access to decision-makers.

Let us remember that the Minister of Justice organized a fundraiser at a Bay Street law firm with only lawyers in attendance, and that was not a good thing. Let us remember that the Prime Minister held $1,500 fundraisers and that when the public learned of those events he had to come up with a new plan.

My question for the minister is this: why legalize something that is ethically unacceptable?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2018 / 3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his kind words and his best wishes for the coming months.

I would like to clarify one thing: all these fundraising activities are already legal. The activities of those on either side of the House do not break any laws. It is important to make this clear.

I would like to quote Jean-Pierre Kingsley, the former chief electoral officer of Canada, who testified before the committee on October 5, 2017.

He said:

I will admit that the limit of $1,550 right now is a very reasonable one and should not lead one to suspect that an individual is trying to do something wrong by contributing that. There are relationships that are made when firms, or partners of firms, or people working with the same organizations, all participate in an event. This bill will help us to understand those better, so that's good.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to extend my congratulations to my colleague, the minister, on her pregnancy. I wish her much happiness in this wonderful adventure.

I was hoping to see the changes promised by the Liberal Party on electoral reform and the voting system, especially since the experts and the Canadians polled were in favour of a proportional voting system. I have already spoken about this.

I understand Mr. Kingsley's reticence. However, as progressive New Democrats we are concerned about the rich having privileged access to decision-makers and ministers.

Would lowering the political contribution limit not have been the best change to make? We all agree that a middle-class Canadian cannot donate $1,550 a year to a political party. That does not happen in real life. We could have restored public financing for political parties, which would have improved our democracy and reduced the influence of money on the quality of our democratic life.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his kind words and well wishes. I congratulate him on his new role as environment critic. We miss him at Democratic Institutions. I thank him for his question.

I would clarify that there are several ways to make donations regardless of their size. I would like to quote Mary Dawson, the former commissioner of conflict of interest and ethics, when she appeared before the committee.

She said:

I support the direction of this proposed legislation. As I've said on previous occasions, transparency is important for any kind of regime that touches on conflict of interest....The amendments to the Canada Elections Act proposed by Bill C-50 promote transparency with respect to fundraising activities. I think it is a positive measure that would benefit our electoral process. It will also help to apply the Conflict of Interest Act more effectively. The easier access to the names and addresses of participants in these fundraising activities could be useful to the office if it has to investigate an allegation that a participant in such an activity obtained an advantage from a minister.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, one of the things we know that is so important in our democratic system is the idea of openness and transparency. Despite the fact that the Liberal Party is already practising what is being put forward in the legislation, the leader of the Conservative Party is refusing to be open and transparent, as he did with fundraising activities he was having last spring when he was a leadership contestant.

Could the minister comment on how important it is for the institutions we have, for faith and trust from the public, and why it is so important that be embedded upon this idea of openness and transparency, as it relates to political financing?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, I encourage all parties to act already in the spirit of the legislation, to post their fundraising events online five days in advance at a minimum, to report who attended these events, how much the tickets cost, and where these events took place. I would certainly encourage the leader of the official opposition to lead by example as well, and undertake some of these initiatives.

I want to again quote Mary Dawson, the former conflict of interest commissioner. At her PROC appearance on October 17, 2017, she said:

It goes quite a good way, I think, because it puts things in the public domain. It allows me to have access to some information if I'm dealing with some kind of a problem. I use the lobbying register a lot for that purpose as well. There are interfaces in all of these public reports, so I think it's a good initiative.

That goes specifically to your point about openness and transparency, so Canadians know who is trying to access their leaders.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I would remind the minister that she should be addressing the question to the Speaker.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I could be wrong, but I understand the Minister of Democratic Institutions had some experience and expertise in democratic reform and looking at different kinds of electoral systems prior to getting into politics.

One of the things that has struck me about Bill C-50 is its lack of ambition in changing the landscape of Canadian elections. We are doing some tinkering at the margins with respect to transparency around political financing reform. However, prior to getting into politics, had she known she would have the opportunity to reform the Canadian electoral system, whether political financing or the way we vote, is this the extent of her ambition for changing Canada's electoral laws? If it is not, what does she think we should do in addition to this and why is it not in the bill?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, as I mentioned in my speech, I am very proud of the bill. This is an important step and it opens up fundraising activities in a way that we have not had before in Canada. It is yet to be determined what kind of impact it will have. However, the fact that the official opposition does not want to pursue it demonstrates that it has a significant impact on how we raise money as politicians, something all of us absolutely need to do.

With regard to the other elements of my mandate that were mentioned, I am very proud of Bill C-33. It is a really important bill that will reverse some of the elements of the previous government's so-called fair elections act.

With regard to cybersecurity and protecting our democratic institutions, it is absolutely vital for our next election.

I look forward to continuing to work with members in this place to do what we can to protect, strengthen, and improve our electoral system and democratic institutions.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to commend the minister as a woman minister who is also, in pregnancy, fulfilling all of her duties. I commend and congratulate her.

We will always have problems while political parties are dependent on having a hand out, constantly needing to fundraise. Will the government reconsider bringing back in the reforms brought in by Jean Chrétien to have public support, as indicated by the way people vote, even a token amount per year?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague and friend for her lovely comments.

Very briefly, one of the things I mentioned was with regard to the charter and the right of Canadians to make contributions to political parties and the important element of democratic participation that this encourages. We are looking forward to debating the bill on public financing, but we also have to recognize that political parties also receive a substantial subsidy following an election based on the amount they have spent.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Madam Speaker, the Prime Minister of Canada, the chairman of cabinet, the head of government is a very powerful position, one that only 23 people in the history of our country have had the distinct privilege of holding. While constitutionally this position serves at the pleasure of Her Majesty, it is Canadians who the Prime Minister ultimately is to serve.

Therefore, we have to ask ourselves, when we have newspaper headlines like, “[Prime Minister] defends cash-for-access fundraising”, or articles that state, “Prime Minister...says financial donation limits in federal politics are too low for wealthy donors to buy influence with his cabinet ministers”, are Canadians really being well-served and, specifically, are they being well-served by this legislation?

Today, as we debate Bill C-50, those are the questions we have to answer. Perhaps this headline speaks to that, “Liberals’ fundraising bill fails to quell cash-for-access charges.”

Let us be perfectly clear why the Liberals introduced the legislation. It was because they got caught with their hands in the cookie jar, and now they are trying to blame the cookie jar.

Bill C-50 came to fruition because the Liberal Party was selling cash for access to the Prime Minister at events where tickets cost up to $1,525 a person. What is worse, in the Prime Minister's own “Open and Accountable Government” guide, under the fundraising section it states:

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.

The document goes on further to state:

There should be no preferential access to government, or appearance of preferential access, accorded to individuals or organizations because they have made financial contributions to politicians and political parties.

One wonders if Orwell's 1984 Ministry of Truth may have produced that document, given the actions we have seen from the Liberal members and the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister simply got caught for breaking the very ethics guidelines that he himself created. Now we get this legislation as a mandate, as an attempt to try to fix this self-inflicted Liberal wound.

Even after introducing Bill C-50 and promising to abide by these new rules, the June 19, 2017, Liberal fundraising event took place. This event featured the Prime Minister speaking at a Liberal so-called donor appreciation night for Laurier Club members. In order to join such a club, members must donate at least $1,500 annually to be a member. Just to get in the door, one needs to donate $1,500 to see the Prime Minister speak.

This is after the Liberals promised to abide by the rules of Bill C-50, the legislation they had just introduced, and promised to be open to the media. However, instead, the following took place. Liberal Party staff restricted media access to Ottawa bureau chief at the Huffington Post, Althia Raj, as well as to Joan Bryden from the Canadian Press. Then, after a lot of representations on its own behalf, the media was actually allowed inside, cordoned off into one little area, and not allowed to mingle with any of the guests. Giuseppe Valiante, a Montreal reporter with the Canadian Press, was told to leave after the Prime Minister gave his speech.

Therefore, it is not quite clear why the Liberal government bothers to put these so-called rules in place when it is quite evident it just intends to break them anyway.

Legislation is not supposed to be about a PR exercise, legislating is not about a pair of the Prime Minister's socks that BuzzFeed can write a kitschy article about. Legislation is supposed to be about making good policy that changes Canada for the better.

Legislation should not be a way for the PMO to try to spin out of the bad headlines the Prime Minister created through his bad behaviour. Some of those bad headlines include, from the National Post, “Ethics watchdog says [Prime Minister] vacation on private island broke conflict rules”; from CTV, “[Prime Minister] broke ethics rules, watchdog finds”; and from the Toronto Star, “[Prime Minister] violated conflict-of-interest rules with vacation to Aga Khan's island: ethics commissioner”. It is kind of like a greatest hits album for the Prime Minister, but it is not one he should be proud of.

In 2006, when our previous Conservative government came to power, we came in to clean up the corruption culture, the corruption that had taken hold in Ottawa after 13 years of Liberal rule. One of our government's top priorities then was passing the Federal Accountability Act. In that legislation, our Conservative government banned all corporate and union donations to political parties. If political parties wanted the ability to be heard and operate, they would be forced to go to ordinary Canadians on main street and make their case. That is a promise Canadians were and are on board with.

Clearly, that is not a concern for the Liberal Party or for the Prime Minister. Regular Canadians do not have billionaire friends who invite them to vacation on private islands. Regular Canadians usually cannot afford $1,500 for the privilege of bending the Prime Minister's ear. After all, the Prime Minister should be equally accessible to all Canadians. However, we know that is not the case.

If this is something the Prime Minister actually believes in, then he should do the right thing and stop attending cash for access fundraisers. The ethical issue surrounding cash for access fundraisers is not solved because the event is apparently open to the public. At the end of the day, is the event really open to the public? Does publishing the list of attendees on some website a month and a half later make the event transparent? No, it certainly does not. For the Liberal government, it is apparent that it is “do as I say and not as I do”. Apparently, the Prime Minister thinks the law does not apply to him.

If the Liberals really wanted to end these sorts of practices, all they had to do was simply follow their own guidelines to stop attending cash for access fundraisers. It is really quite simple. If one is the justice minister, this means not attending the fundraiser with lawyers who are lobbying the government. If one is the parliamentary secretary who has been tasked with coming up with a plan for marijuana legalization, do not attend fundraisers with representatives from the cannabis industry, and if one is the Prime Minister, do not attend fundraisers with stakeholders who regularly and actively conduct business with the government. Those are very simple measures that even the Liberal Party should be able to follow, if it cared to bother following the rules.

Ethics is not a tricky thing, but I guess for a Prime Minister who views his role as merely ceremonial, there is really no reason for him to be worried about a conflict of interest. I have bad news for him. The office of the Prime Minister is not ceremonial. It requires more than selfies and signing autographs. As the head of cabinet and the head of government, the Prime Minister should go above and beyond what is stated in the law. He should follow his own guidelines.

The Prime Minister is most certainly not above the law, no matter how much he thinks he is, so he should lead by example. As public figures, we are all expected to lead by example. The Prime Minister should understand that, but it appears that neither he nor his government have plans to stop this obvious conflict of interest.

If someone does not have $1,500 to pay for access to a fundraiser, apparently that person's opinion does not matter to the Prime Minister, and that is simply not right. We are talking about the Prime Minister and his cabinet, the people who make our laws, create regulations, and raise our taxes. Is it right that they attend partisan fundraisers where they are being actively lobbied? How does the entire Liberal government not see that this is a serious conflict of interest?

I know the answer to that one. It is a classic case of Liberal arrogance seeping in yet again, the same type of arrogance that led to the sponsorship scandal. How quickly the Liberals forget that they were swept out of power previously during the Chrétien and Martin days because Canadians were simply tired of their arrogance and their unethical dealings. Now, after just two years as government, the Liberals have piled up a whole slew of ethical breaches already.

The finance minister introduced a bill that would rewrite pension laws while he still held on to a million shares of Morneau Shepell, a company that could benefit from these new laws. That led to an investigation by the ethics commissioner.

The Liberal's former Calgary minister campaigned with his father for a school board seat while using House of Commons resources. That also led to an investigation by the ethics commissioner.

Who can forget about the private island vacation that the Prime Minister took on an island of a billionaire who lobbies the government? That led to him making history as the first prime minister to have been found guilty of breaking the law, not once, not twice, not three times, but four times.

It is no wonder the Liberals have voted down the opposition's efforts to have the Prime Minister appear in front of the ethics committee to answer for his actions. He has even refused to answer the opposition's questions in question period in the House of Commons about these serious ethical breaches. Instead he leaves the government House leader to answer for him, for the mess that he made, while he sits there and signs autographs.

This is why it is so hard to take the Prime Minister and his government seriously when they claim that Bill C-50 would make political parties more accountable. The truth is it will not.

The barbershop owner, the mechanic, and the farmer in our ridings do not have time to go on the Internet to keep up with the fundraising activities of the Liberal Party. They rely on the Prime Minister and his cabinet having the moral integrity not to sell access to themselves to the highest bidder.

Fundraising is a perfectly normal activity for politicians and political parties. Asking Canadians to support us and our party's vision and our ideas is part of how democracy works. Political parties take their ideas to the people and if the people like them enough, they chip in a bit of money to help the message get spread. Selling government access for donations to a political party is not a part of being in a democracy. Maybe it happens in countries with basic dictatorships, which the Prime Minister admires so much. I do not know. Maybe that is where he came up with the idea that this was okay. I can tell him that it is not right and it is certainly not ethical.

As politicians we are expected to go above and beyond. I challenge the Prime Minister and his government to do just that. Stop attending cash for access fundraisers and all of these problems will be gone. No more publicity stunts. It is time to take real action and to make real change, not just lip service.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Fayçal El-Khoury Liberal Laval—Les Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like every Canadian to understand that any citizen has access to the office of the Prime Minister of Canada. They can simply write to him about the issues that concern them and I can assure them they will get the proper answer.

In addition, the Prime Minister at any public political activity or appeal spends many hours agreeing to citizens' requests to have a photo taken with him. We did not see this kind of action with the leader of the previous government.

I am sorry to tell the member that when it comes to stopping cash for access, we are looking for a concrete regime for any political financial activity. Why does the member not just support it and then it would benefit all political parties in this chamber?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Is that member serious, Madam Speaker? He says it is okay because if every Canadian writes a letter to the Prime Minister he might answer them in a few months, but guess what, they could all have a picture with him. I bet that makes them all feel so much better. I am sure they feel great. Maybe they can get one of those autographs he signs during questions. I am sure they would feel great about that too.

Other people who can afford it have the ability to buy, with their cash, access to the Prime Minister, to bend his ear and talk to him about whatever project they might want approved or whatever it is. However, that is okay because others can get an autograph or maybe have a selfie taken with the Prime Minister. They will feel better about that I am sure.

If that is the defence that the member is providing, then I do not know what kind of defence that even really is. If he thinks that is going to move him up to the front benches or something, I am not quite sure that will do it. Maybe the Prime Minister will send him a photo too.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Surrey—Newton, BC

Madam Speaker, I listened carefully to the speech from the hon. member. In fact, I would like to correct him to say that it was a former prime minister, the Right Hon. Jean Chrétien, who brought in the legislation to end the corporate and union donations.

I am very proud to have been in public service for many years, and doing my annual fundraising events where 800 to 1,000 people come to support me. I think the rules we have around the $1,500 limit is probably the lowest in democratic countries.

Has the member ever accepted a $1,500 donation from one of his constituents? If he did, why did he not follow that rule at that time himself?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Madam Speaker, when the member wants to stand up in the House of Commons to try to correct somebody, he should make sure he has his facts straight. He is simply wrong. He can go back and check that for himself.

I guess the way to respond to his various statements and questions would be say that these cash for access fundraisers are part of a pattern that we have seen from the government of unethical behaviour. Part of that pattern, just as a way of a parallel example, is this vacation that the Prime Minister took, his so-called vacation, when he went to the private island of a billionaire who lobbies the government. Obviously that was found by the Ethics Commissioner to have broken the law in four separate ways. The Prime Minister says that he is taking responsibility, but he is refusing to actually take responsibility by paying that back.

There have been previous instances where the Prime Minister, when he was simply a member of Parliament, prior to being the Prime Minister, was found to have inappropriate travel expenses. This was back in 2012. He was found to have misused $672 in transportation costs to attend an event that had nothing to do with his role as a member of Parliament, and he used House of Commons resources to do that. When he was caught doing that, he admitted to the wrongdoing and repaid the money.

There is a saying about what is good for the goose is good for the gander. In this case, I would ask the member, is what was good for the goose still good for the goose? Why is he not paying back the money now?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Tracey Ramsey NDP Essex, ON

Madam Speaker, I have a question for the member for Banff—Airdrie. It is about Mary Dawson.

When she appeared before the committee, she made it very clear that parliamentary secretaries are not covered under the provision currently. She made a recommendation that the committee may want to consider that omission. This could potentially be expanded.

Could the member comment on whether or not he agrees that parliamentary secretaries should be included in the changes that are being proposed?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Madam Speaker, I found that omission interesting as well.

I suppose if one actually believed that this piece of legislation was intended to try to address or fix the problem, then maybe one could say that there is an omission. However, I do not really believe that is what this is about at all. It is simply a PR exercise, because the Liberals got caught with their hands in the cookie jar and now they are trying to blame the cookie jar.

What is really interesting about it is that if we actually look at the Prime Minister's own guidelines that were written, it says very clearly that they should apply to ministers and to parliamentary secretaries, and there should be no conflict of interest and no appearance of it. Simply, all they have to do is follow their own guidelines. They do not even need a new piece of legislation. Clearly, that is not what this is about at all. This is simply a PR exercise for the Liberal Party because it was caught breaking the rules.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Alberta and commend him on the quality of his speech.

My colleague has been in public office for a number of years now. He served under the former government and was first elected in 2011. Being from Alberta he is practically neighbours with the riding of our former prime minister, the Right Hon. Stephen Harper.

Could our colleague tell us whether, to his knowledge or from what he remembers, former Prime Minister Harper ever took part in what is known as cash for access events?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Madam Speaker, that I know of, no, that never occurred. That is because he is someone who tried to conduct himself with integrity. That is the difference between that prime minister and the current one.

As for the current one, I cannot even name the number of examples of ethics breaches, violations, hypocrisy, and the breaking of promises, all things that speak to the integrity of the Prime Minister, of which there really is none.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, the member referenced a number of articles. I would like to reference one in The Globe and Mail on September 20, 2017, with the headline, “Conservative Leader...won’t post details of private fundraisers”. The article talks about how he sees a big difference between the Prime Minister and himself, somebody who aspires to be prime minister and by all intents and purposes is really just one election and one vote away from it. I guess once he does become prime minister, if he ever gets to that point, as the opposition party would like, he would then suddenly become responsible for making sure that he lives up to those requirements.

I am wondering why, if the Leader of the Opposition has nothing to hide, he would not want to release that information. Does he not appreciate the fact that openness and transparency would allow others to look into what he is doing to make sure that he is completely clean on this as well? Why will he not provide that?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Madam Speaker, the member is right about one thing. There is a very big difference between the Prime Minister and the leader of the official opposition. There is a very big difference. We have a Prime Minister over there who thinks that he is above the law and better than everyone else. Over here we have a Leader of the Opposition who is one of us. He is one of the people. He is someone who understands what everyday Canadians go through and has their best interests in mind. That is the big difference between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.

I can assure members that when the Leader of the Opposition is the prime minister of this country in 2019, they will not be seeing his name attached to any kind of ethics scandals or wrongdoings, like we have seen multiple times with the Prime Minister and his government, because the Leader of the Opposition stands up for regular everyday Canadians and understands what they are going through and does not feel he is entitled and better than everyone else. He wants to accomplish something for everyday, hard-working Canadians, and that is what he will do.