House of Commons Hansard #261 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was money.

Topics

Tropical DiseasesPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Raj Saini Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a petition signed by dozens of Canadian scientists, health researchers, and members of civil society who work in the little discussed field of neglected tropical diseases. These petitioners are calling on the Government of Canada to join the global movement under way since 2012 to eliminate and control NTDs by signing the London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases. The petitioners call on the Government of Canada to take a leadership role in reaching the 2020 control and elimination goals outlined in the declaration, thereby significantly improving the lives of millions of people worldwide.

Canada Summer Jobs ProgramPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition signed by residents of the riding of Avalon, Newfoundland, regarding the current government's proposed attestation requiring Canada summer jobs program applicants to have the same views as the government, even though they are in contravention of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The petitioners call on the Prime Minister to defend the right of freedom of conscience, thought, and belief and to withdraw the attestation requirement for applicants to the Canada summer jobs program, due today.

Abandoned VesselsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, to protect our coast and fill a big hole in federal leadership that has existed for decades, petitioners call on the government to deal with the long-standing problem of abandoned vessels, and in particular, to legislate improving vessel registration; to put a fee on vessel registration to deal with the cost of vessel disposal, to get the cost off the backs of taxpayers; and to pilot a vessel turn-in program. These are all elements of my bill, Bill C-352, which was blocked by the government. They are now being raised in testimony at the transport committee by repeated witnesses. It is very good reinforcement for the voices here from Prince Rupert, White Rock, Surrey, Delta, Abbotsford, Bella Coola, and Williams Lake, B.C.

Physician-Assisted DyingPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—University, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition from people across Saskatchewan and Alberta who are troubled by discrimination against Christians. They call on the House to protect the conscience rights of doctors and nurses who refuse to participate in euthanasia, and they all call for a review of future legislation so that the constitutional rights of Christians are not violated.

HealthPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to present a petition from a constituent in my riding, along with 590 signatories, calling on the government to include registered respiratory therapists on the list of approved transnational visa medical and allied professionals. Due to labour shortages for respiratory therapists in both Canada and United States, both countries would benefit from the movement of skilled workers across our borders.

Immigration, Refugees and CitizenshipPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to table two petitions.

The first petition is signed by close to 700 individuals. The petitioners note that the outland spousal sponsorship process takes more than a year, even up to three years, while the application is stuck in security screening, despite the absence of a criminal record. The petitioners note that often CBSA is the area where the holdup is occurring and that there are no time limits on how long CBSA can delay an application. The petitioners are therefore calling on the government to give priority to outland spousal sponsorship cases in CBSA; to define a six-month time frame for security screening; and, if the security screening is taking more than six months, to, together with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, issue a dual-intent visitor visa or super visa for the spouses.

The EnvironmentPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is signed by dozens of young Canadians. They are calling on the government to take meaningful steps to support the future of young Canadians by fulfilling Canada's obligations under the Paris agreement by adopting a detailed climate action strategy that includes science-based targets for greenhouse gas reductions, with a plan to meet them, including, but not limited to, implementing comprehensive and steadily rising national carbon pricing beyond 2022 that rises to $150 per tonne by 2030, and eliminating fossil fuel subsidies and redirecting those investments to renewable energy systems, energy efficiency, low-carbon transportation, and job training.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:10 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 ask that all questions be allowed to stand at this time.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Trans Mountain PipelineRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

February 9th, 2018 / 12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The Chair has received notice of a request for an emergency debate from the hon. Leader of the Opposition.

Trans Mountain PipelineRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Regina—Qu'Appelle Saskatchewan

Conservative

Andrew Scheer ConservativeLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, the recent dispute between two provinces, British Columbia and Alberta, threatens the development of a project that is agreed, by many in the House of Commons, and indeed, all across Canada, to be of vital national interest, including by the current government.

The construction of new energy infrastructure is critical for economic growth and job creation, not just at the provincial level but at the national level. Materials, manufacturing, logistics, and labour are all supported through the construction of these projects that are truly nation building.

The independent, scientific, evidence-based decision-making process that was used for the Trans Mountain exploration project clearly indicates that the pipeline can be expanded safely and securely. That means action is needed, not quarrels.

This dispute is making it harder to provide the regulatory certainty, predictability, and clarity that will ensure the viability of major projects like Trans Mountain now and well into the future. That is why the crisis we face as we stand here today is so urgent.

The Trans Mountain pipeline project is under serious threat as the dispute between British Columbia and Alberta continues to escalate. The situation threatens the jobs of thousands of Canadians across the country. There has been, so far, a complete lack of federal leadership to resolve this situation. That cannot continue.

We believe that the House of Commons needs to come together to discuss every possible solution the federal government could propose to end this crisis.

We are here in the House of Commons to find a solution to this roadblock. The Prime Minister is very good at words. He is making a lot of statements. However, this project was approved back in the fall, and to date, no action has been taken.

This emergency debate is vital today, because every day that goes by jeopardizes this project, and indeed, every energy project, as the Liberal government continues to add new hurdles and new barriers to development.

I understand that we have supply days next week, but as I mentioned, I hope you will find that this particular situation is very urgent and does meet the test in the Standing Orders.

Speaker's RulingRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I thank the hon. Leader of the Opposition for bringing this to the attention of the House. However, I am not persuaded that it actually meets the requirements of the Standing Orders, and the authorities and conventions that are set out, at this time. As the hon. Leader of the Opposition mentioned, there are other opportunities to bring this kind of matter before the House, and I urge him to look at those possibilities. Again, I thank him for raising the issue in the House for its consideration.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing), be read the third time and passed.

Canada Elections ActPrivate Members' Business

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

When the House last took up the debate on the motion, the hon. member for Salaberry—Suroît had sixteen and a half minutes remaining in her speech.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Salaberry—Suroît.

Canada Elections ActPrivate Members' Business

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, since we are still talking about Bill C-50, let us all agree on why we are here.

We are talking about this bill, the main goal of which is to restore the Liberals' reputation, which was tarnished by certain ministers and the Prime Minister. We are not talking about the Prime Minister's vacation to the Aga Khan's island. He was severely chastised by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner recently for that. We are talking about political party financing.

As we all know, politics and the exercise of democracy requires funding. Funding is needed to run an election campaign. In order to raise that money, some members of the Liberal government sold privileged access. At what price? It seems that the maximum amount that can be donated to a federal party is $1,500.

In May 2016, the Prime Minister went to the home of a wealthy businessman, where 32 guests paid $1,500 each for exclusive access to the leader of the government.

We also learned that the Prime Minister was present at receptions hosted by the wealthiest people and business people at $1,500 a plate, in order to meet people interested in the infrastructure bank. There were also Chinese nationals hoping to buy Canadian telecommunication companies in B.C. Other people had interests in cannabis, for example. All of these very influential people with a lot of money managed to land a private evening with the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister cannot deny it. This has been made public, so Canadians would know, which put him in an awkward position, much like the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Justice.

If that does not constitute selling access to ministers or the Prime Minister, I do not know what does.

In October 2016, as I said, it was the Minister of Finance who was hosting a cocktail party at $1,500 a plate with wealthy people from Bay Street. The Minister of Finance is supposed to be an arbiter and show fairness to all Canadians, since he regulates Canada's financial sector. However, he had no problem taking money from some of the world's wealthiest people.

The activities of the Minister of Justice have also been the subject of much discussion. What exactly is the problem? How is the Minister of Justice in conflict? Certain lawyers hoping for judgeships attended the Minister of Justice's fundraising events, which were held not in her riding, but in various places across the country. Since the minister is the one who approves judicial appointments, there is clearly a conflict of interest there.

Certainly political parties need to hold fundraisers to generate revenue and to have a platform for candidates' ideas during election campaigns. The problem is the lack of transparency with respect to who attends, what they talk about, and access to ministers.

“Open and Accountable Government” states the following:

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

That is exactly what we are talking about today.

Let me be clear. Very few of our constituents, such as the people of Salaberry-Suroît, can afford to spend $1,500 to attend a private event. When someone is prepared to do so, they obviously expect something in return. In the case at hand, it is the possibility of becoming known to a minister or getting one's name into an address book, which could help get an idea or a project off the ground. It goes without saying that there is always the possibility of putting a word in or making a recommendation to the right person.

The only way to make these events less secretive is to make them more transparent. To that end, we have to allow the media to publicly report on the goings on at these events and to name who was present. One might think that that is the goal of Bill C-50 . However, as my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley said, the Liberals invented the Laurier Club loophole.

In some cases, specifically during party conventions, people might donate the maximum amount of $1,500 to the Liberal Party, but the names and addresses of those donors do not have to be made public. Under Bill C-50, every donation of $200 or more will have to be recorded in a report sent within 30 days to Elections Canada, which could publish that report on the Internet. Again under Bill C-50, any fundraising activity that involves ministers, the Prime Minister, and party presidents has to be announced five days in advance, a measure we applaud. In fact, that is why we support this bill. However, that does not stop people from avoiding disclosure by buying a $1,500 ticket under the pretext of attending a Liberal Party convention, for example.

This is just another bill that allows the Liberals to have it both ways. They claim to want to improve transparency, but with a bit of game-playing and an open back door they can continue to provide Liberal Party donors with a bit of discretion to ensure that they do not have to disclose their names and addresses, except in a final report at the end of the year. They also get to keep organizing questionable events providing special access to the Prime Minister and ministers.

Is that loophole fair? Should it be removed? The NDP thinks so. We made this recommendation in committee and the Liberals rejected it outright. Every time we make a recommendation in committee, the Liberals take great delight in rejecting it. Why? If the recommendation improves a bill, if it improves transparency, if they are looking to be accountable to the public, and to be fairer, more equitable, and more ethical, why do they refuse to prohibit privileged access at conventions? No one knows. We suspect that the Liberals are not opposed to that revenue stream.

We are also asking that the Chief Electoral Officer be given investigative powers to ensure that political financing during elections is fair and equitable and that he has the public's trust. Once again, the Liberals rejected the NDP's recommendation out of hand. The NDP has made many recommendations in committee, but the Liberals have ignored them, even though that is part of the democratic process. What is the point of having committees if we cannot make sensible recommendations based on the advice of experts and common sense and if the Liberal majority, which refuses to listen to reason or to be open to other ideas, always prevails? What is the point of hearing from one witness after another, if in the end the government does not listen to any of their suggestions?

The Liberals are the champions of excessive consultation. They are doing the same thing to farmers. The Liberals keep saying that they want to know what to do to protect supply management and maintain family farms in Canada. They keep telling farmers that they are going to consult them and listen to them and that farmers are important, but when it comes right down to it, the Liberals are using farmers as a bargaining chip.

Getting back to the matter at hand and Bill C-50, it is the same thing. Once again, fair, sensible, and significant recommendations that would make Bill C-50 more than just a charade will not be acted upon because, unfortunately, the Liberals rejected them.

Bill C-50 still allows parties to hold fundraisers and makes it even harder to fight corruption. This is an opportunity to strengthen our democracy and prove to all Canadians that their elected representatives live up to moral and ethical standards, but that is not where the Liberals are going with this.

Clearly, the bill does not go far enough. There is an effort to be more transparent, but it still allows cash for access events to be held. Those kinds of events, which we oppose, have been making headlines for the past six months. They will stay in the headlines because certains parties will maintain this practice, as the Liberal Party is doing now.

I want to reiterate that this was a Liberal promise in 2015. This is a betrayal of the people who voted for the Prime Minister, who then decided to give up on the electoral reform that Canadians, especially young Canadians, so desperately want.

We are trying to get young people more involved in politics, not just as candidates, but more interested in political activities, in the debates, in social issues. We want young people to know what is going on, to propose ideas, and to become engaged.

There was one idea that really united young people, gave them hope, and might have won them over, but in the end, they were told “never mind”; the old system was too advantageous for the Liberals, and our young people were robbed of that hope.

What effect will that have? Youth voter turnout has declined by 30% over the past 30 years and no one seems to mind. The Liberals do not seem to think it is important to remedy the situation. They are in power. They have a majority. That means that they are going to continue to dash the hopes of these young people who believed them. These young people will be told to have faith because there may still be some authentic people who keep their promises and bring integrity to politics. Nevertheless, with every broken promise, it becomes harder and harder to show people that there can still be honest politicians worthy of our trust.

Electoral reform was not just a simple election promise. It was a commitment made by the Prime Minister to everyone. Again, we are nowhere near it. The Prime Minister has done a complete about-face and left people with their shattered dreams of a better world.

It is 2018 and there is nothing left of the promise that brought the Prime Minister to power. He made people believe that legislators could not agree. However, as I mentioned, 90% of the people did agree. The Conservative Party, the NDP, the Bloc Québécois, the Green Party, everyone agreed that there was a need for electoral reform and that proportional representation had to be part of the next system. That was not enough for the Liberals.

Clearly, a mixed member proportional system resonated with MPs, Canadians, and experts alike. It would have given a voice to every Canadian.

For all these reasons, I find that Bill C-50 is poorly thought out. It does provide some additional transparency, but there is so much more to be done. The Liberals could have gone further. We hope that they will listen to reason and will be open to the NDP's recommendations and those of the other parties and the experts.

Under the bill, any party that does not follow the rules would be fined $1,000. However, according to a former chief electoral officer, this fine would not deter parties from breaking the law. If donors can donate up to $1,500, the parties are still making money and still manage to fill their coffers. It is not hard for them to pay a $1,000 fine. That is ridiculous.

This really is a smokescreen. The Liberals are trying to restore their public image, but this is mostly fluff.

I think the Liberals should go back to the drawing board, improve this bill, and make it genuinely ethical and moral.

Canada Elections ActPrivate Members' Business

12:30 p.m.

Whitby Ontario

Liberal

Celina Caesar-Chavannes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development

Mr. Speaker, the member seemed to focus quite a bit on the Liberals. This particular piece of legislation is focusing on all parties, making sure that we have openness and transparency across parties in terms of fundraising.

Could the member share her thoughts on the legislation requiring political leaders, in particular, to have increased openness and transparency as related to their fundraising activities?

Canada Elections ActPrivate Members' Business

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. It is true that this bill affects all members of the House, including the Prime Minister, ministers, and party leaders.

However, if she agrees that we need to improve transparency, then why not give the Chief Electoral Officer investigative powers? Why is the Liberal Party continuing to allow members of the club to participate in convention events and give the maximum amount without having to disclose their name and address? That is allowed. In committee, we asked the Liberals to eliminate that loophole, but they refused. Are they really in favour of greater transparency if they continue to allow such privileged access to ministers and the Prime Minister at Laurier Club events, for example?

If the member really believes what she just said, then the answer should be no. However, the Liberals have said to leave that alone and not to give the Chief Electoral Officer investigative powers. What does that mean? It means that the Liberals can happily and shamelessly continue to hold this type of event.

I do not understand where the Liberals are going with this, unless their goal is to continue to be able to make money by giving the wealthy privileged access. Meanwhile, other people also have problems, but they have a hard time accessing services at the Canada Revenue Agency. Some people have problems related to the guaranteed income supplement, but it is very difficult for them to reach someone from the CRA on the phone. These people do not have $1,500 to donate so that they can talk to someone who can help them. However, members of the Laurier Club have all kinds of money. They pay money to meet with ministers, the Prime Ministers, or party leaders because they can do so on the pretext of participating in a party convention. Is that ethical, fair, just, and transparent? Not at all.

Canada Elections ActPrivate Members' Business

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to hear my New Democratic colleague's views in this area. We all hear that our constituents, voters, Canadians want to see themselves reflected in the government, both in the seats that are here but also reflected in the outcomes of public consultations and public participation. I know that very active youth activists, especially, feel deeply betrayed by the government abandoning its promise, repeated 1,500 times, that it would make every vote count. It had broad public support, and the parliamentary committee made a lot of strong recommendations that the government totally ignored.

Bill C-50, for one, feels like a distraction from that broken promise on true democratic reform. As well, the Liberal government ignored the previous committee study, in the previous Parliament, that could have informed this work, and then also ignored the amendments that the NDP made at committee. It just did not even give them consideration.

How do these betrayals affect public support for the political process and for the democratic process? What is lost when those promises are broken?

Canada Elections ActPrivate Members' Business

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is absolutely right. Experts, young people, and Canadians in general see it as a betrayal, and it is making people even more cynical. I do not know how people can be even more cynical than they already are. Voter participation is already extremely low.

Why did the Liberals not keep that promise? The Liberals must have said it about 1,500 times before, during, and after the campaign: the 2015 election was supposed to be the last to use the first-past-the-post system. People have been calling for electoral reform for years. Scientific studies of the past 30 years have shown that our voting system needs to change if we want people to feel more engaged and involved, if we want them to feel that the system is fair, their vote counts, and their views will be heard and represented in the House of Commons.

They say that the Prime Minister earned the trust of young people. To do so, he repeated this election promise over and over, and then last year he turned his back on them. In a recent interview he did with the CBC at the Library of Parliament, he said that he had no plans for electoral reform, but that if people wanted to talk about a preferential system, he would be interested. Wow. Is that the electoral reform he had in mind a year or two ago? That is really not what Canadians expected from him.

The government spent money on consultations across Canada and created an all-party committee to consult the public and experts. In the end, 80% of Canadians were in favour of a system with a proportional component, and 90% of experts agreed that this was the direction we should take. The Prime Minister ultimately decided that this was not convincing enough.

What facts and studies is he looking at if 90% of experts and 80% of Canadians is not enough? Is he truly respecting Canadians' wishes? Is he truly representing the public? I do not think so. This means that he will decide, no matter what he hears. He used his veto. How democratic. Canadians are losing hope and losing confidence. This affects all of us as members of Parliament. It affects everyone who wants to get into politics. It is very sad.

Canada Elections ActPrivate Members' Business

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her very pertinent remarks.

Last year, I sat on the Special Committee on Electoral Reform that travelled across Canada. I was one of the members who went to Canada's Far North. That is one of the great things I have done in the past two and a half years. No matter what happens, I am happy to have gone to Whitehorse and Yellowknife.

It is remarkable. We achieved unanimity among the opposition parties. Members of the Conservative Party, the NDP, the Green Party and the Bloc Québécois all wanted a referendum on electoral reform. It is important to point this out. We totally trusted Canadians to decide whether or not to move forward.

The Prime Minister realized that he was no longer in the driver's seat and decided to change his mind.

I would like my colleague to comment on the fact that unanimity was reached by the opposition parties because we were willing to let the people decide in a referendum.

Canada Elections ActPrivate Members' Business

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is absolutely right. When do we ever see all the opposition parties in the House of Commons agree on how to give a voice to Canadians? We can count on one hand the number of times the opposition parties have all agreed to give the public the opportunity to have a say.

The opposition parties represent 60% of public opinion because the Liberals were elected with only 40% of the vote, even though they have the majority in the House of Commons. That means that the Prime Minister deliberately chose to ignore 60% of Canadians when he changed course and said that he was no longer interested and that 90% of experts in committee did not manage to convince him.

The Liberals are washing their hands of all the work that was done in committee from coast to coast. They decided to conduct an informal online poll to see if people were still interested. However, nowhere were people directly asked whether the system should be reformed or which system they preferred. There were no clear questions. Everything was vague, but the Liberals boast about being responsible, ethical, and democratic in this process.

I do not understand. There is an immense gap between the Liberals' perception and the actual outcome of the consultations, like those conducted by my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent, I think, who just asked the question.

Canada Elections ActPrivate Members' Business

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise in the House. It is particularly an honour to rise on a Friday afternoon, when so many of my friends and colleagues have joined us in the House today to listen to my speech. It is always a great honour to have so many people tuning in.

It reminds me a bit of when I was a lecturer at King's University College at the Western University when so many people would turn up for my lectures on Canadian public administration. They were always hanging on every word, until I had to wake them up, and then realized they may not have been paying as much attention as I had thought.

However, it is a pleasure to speak today to Bill C-50. As a member of the procedure and House affairs committee, I am well-acquainted with the legislation, having heard from a number of witnesses and participated in the examination of this bill.

Bill C-50 is really about legitimizing the Liberal cash for access events. So often the Liberals try to tell Canadians that they are different, that they are not like those Liberals of the past anymore. The days of the sponsorship scandal and the Gomery commission, that is not them anymore. Those days are gone. The days of being entitled to their entitlements, those days are gone, as this is a different Liberal Party. The Prime Minister told Canadians, hand over heart, that the Liberal Party was different.

The Prime Minister, when he came to office, told Canadians:

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

However, shortly after the government was elected, that is exactly what happened. We saw a string of cash for access events. High-profile Liberal politicians hosted events where donors gave significant amounts of money to the Liberal Party. In exchange, these donors got private one-on-one access with senior Liberal ministers, senior Liberals ministers who many of those donors could potentially have business with the government and could potentially have business with these same ministers. Most Canadians know this is wrong. Most Canadians know that this is not an appropriate way for ministers of the crown, those who serve our country to operate. However, with the Liberals, old habits die hard.

We should not be too surprised when the Liberals formed government that these types of cash for access events would happen. After all, the Liberals learned from the best. The Ottawa Liberals learned from their Ontario counterparts. The Ottawa Liberals learned from Kathleen Wynne, Dalton McGuinty, and their great success with fundraising through cash for access events.

I want to quote from a Globe and Mail article of July 6, 2016. The title is, “An inside look at cash-for-access Ontario Liberal fundraisers”. The article reads:

On the evening of March 2, 2015, Premier Kathleen Wynne gathered with eight guests who paid $10,000 each for exclusive face-time. Three months earlier, 22 donors spent $5,000 apiece to be entertained by Finance Minister Charles Sousa. Days later, eight people shelled out $5,000 each to attend a reception with then-energy minister Bob Chiarelli.

These were just three of more than 150 intimate cash-for-access fundraisers the Ontario Liberal Party held in Ms. Wynne's first three years in power. At the events, contributors paid thousands of dollars each to bend the ears of the Premier and members of her cabinet privately, typically over cocktails and dinner at five-star hotels or high-end restaurants.

Therefore, the Ottawa Liberals had a great road map from their friends in Ontario.

What happened once the Liberals formed government? They quickly started implementing cash for access events.

Chinese billionaires have been attending Liberal fundraisers, even though they are not allowed to donate because they are not Canadian citizens. One of these individuals, Zhang Bin, who is also a Communist Party apparatchik, attended a May 19, 2016, fundraiser at the Toronto home of Chinese Business Chamber of Canada chairperson Benson Wong, according to the report in The Globe and Mail. A few weeks later, Mr. Zhang and a business partner donated $200,000 to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, and $50,000 to build a statue of the current Prime Minister's father.

On November 7, 2016, B.C. multi-millionaire Miaofei Pan hosted a fundraiser at his West Vancouver mansion. At this event, which was of course a pay-to-play event, Chinese investment, seniors care, and real estate developments were certainly topics of discussion. This event took place while the federal government was reviewing a $1 billion bid by China's Anbang Insurance Group to buy one of British Columbia's largest retirement and nursing home chains.

In Toronto, another example of cash for access was an event with the justice minister that had a $1,500 paycheque. This was again an event with a minister who could potentially be having dealings with these same donors.

When the Liberal Party promised real change, this was certainly not what Canadians were expecting. Canadians know this is wrong. Canadians know this type of cash for access event is not right. In fact, a 2016 Nanos Research survey showed that more than six in 10 Canadians disapprove of this type of event. They disapprove of political parties holding fundraising events in which access is sold to Canadians.

One has to wonder why the Liberals are so eager to raise money through cash for access events. One reason is that they are failing to raise money through other means. Time and again we see the Conservative Party raising more than the Liberal Party. Why does the Conservative Party raise more than the Liberals? It does so because of hard-working Canadians who feel the Conservative Party reflects their views. It does so because the Conservatives have a leader who is committed to Canadians, average Canadians, and not selling access, as our friends across the way have been doing since the beginning of their time in office.

Let us go back to what this bill is trying to do. It is trying to legitimize what the Liberals have been doing. Rather than simply stopping cash for access, they would rather print new rules just to legitimize what they are doing. However, they did not have to. They already have rules in place in their mandate letters and in the “Open and Accountable Government” document.

I will quote from the Minister of Democratic Institutions' mandate letter, but the words are reflected in all the mandate letters of ministers. The Prime Minister wrote the following to his Minister of Democratic Institutions:

...you must uphold the highest standards of honesty and impartiality, and both the performance of your official duties and the arrangement of your private affairs should bear the closest public scrutiny. This is an obligation that is not fully discharged by simply acting within the law.

The Prime Minister's own letter to his ministers clearly dictates that simply following the letter of the law is not enough. They have to appear to be fully above board. This was not happening with the Liberals' cash for access fundraisers, so they brought in this piece of legislation to try to legitimize them.

The Liberal government introduced its “Open and Accountable Government” document with great fanfare. This would be the road map for a new era of transparency for these Liberals. The opening clearly states, “Open and Accountable Government sets out core principles regarding the roles and responsibilities of Ministers in Canada’s system of responsible parliamentary government.”

What are some of those requirements? What are some of those issues ministers and parliamentary secretaries ought to follow? Annex B, “Fundraising and Dealing with Lobbyists: Best Practices for Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries”, 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 best practices the Prime Minister lays out were not followed by his Liberals. They were not followed by his ministers, who felt the need to raise $1,500 from donors who could have direct dealings with not only the government as whole but also with its individual departments. Under “General Principles” in annex B, it states:

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.

It is not only following the letter of the law. It is the appearance. It is ensuring that all actions are above board and are able to have the closest degree of scrutiny to ensure that those who serve as ministers of the crown, those who serve our country in high office, are not tainted by even the appearance of conflict of interest.

I am reminded of a former minister in the Harper Conservative government. Once she became aware that there was a potential that those who lobbied and who worked with her department could be attending a fundraiser hosted by her riding association, that event was cancelled and all funds raised were immediately returned. Then we fast-forward to this government. Not only is the money not being returned, but the Liberals are doubling down on these events and they have introduced Bill C-50 to do so.

This bill has had great fanfare from pretty much only the Liberal Party. In testimony before the committee, almost all witnesses were very lukewarm in their excitement about this piece of legislation. They were very lukewarm in their response to an underwhelming bill being brought forward. It could be because this bill really does not do much at all.

In fact, the media knows this. Despite the advertising of these events, the way the media is actually treated at the events is far from ideal.

Let me read from an article in The Hill Times from June 21, 2017:

A Hill journalist is calling into question the Liberal Party’s promise to make its fundraising events more open and transparent, after party staff restricted media access at a June 19 Ottawa event for the party’s top donors.

Sure, the media can know about the events. They can even show up, as long as they stay in the corner and do not talk to anyone. The report goes on to state:

Reporters were ushered into one room for an RCMP sweep prior to speeches. They were told they were not allowed to mingle, but could talk to guests registering and entering the event in the foyer of the museum.

Even a Liberal Party candidate expressed concern about how the Liberals were treating journalists:

Allan Thompson, a journalism professor at Carleton University who ran for the Liberals in the riding of Huron–Bruce, Ont. during the 2015 election and attended Monday’s event, said in an interview afterward that he had sympathy for the reporters who weren’t allowed to mingle, especially because of his background as a former Hill reporter with The Toronto Star.

It is one thing to try to legitimize cash for access. It is another thing to blatantly use this as a ploy to keep the media away and to ensure that this is actually not opening up transparency at all, unlike the former Conservative government, which, on taking office in 2006, introduced Bill C-2, the strongest measures of accountability and transparency in our country. It was a bill that banned corporate and union donations, and put hard caps on the amount of money that could be donated to political parties. Unfortunately, the good work that was begun by the Conservative Party is now being used by the Liberals to initiate and to continue their cash for access events.

Of course, there are certain exceptions and exemptions to this bill. One such exemption is what I like to call the Laurier Club loophole. Yes, donor appreciation events are included under this legislation, except for when they occur at a party convention. A perfect example of this is the Liberal Party convention happening later this year. The Liberal Party's own website boasts about the benefits of being a Laurier Club member, which include invitations to “Laurier Club events across the country, hearing from leading voices on our Liberal team” and the “opportunity to meet a strong network of business and community leaders who share your commitment to Liberal values”.

The Liberal Party is selling access through its Laurier Club. In fact, earlier this week, the chief of staff to the Minister of National Defence sent a tweet that said, “if there was a time to join Laurier Club, now is the time”, of course, referring in advance to the Laurier Club event that would be held at the Liberal convention later this year. It is cash for access, but simply another way of doing it.

I find it interesting that when this legislation was tabled, we heard from certain witnesses in committee, and one of them was Canada's acting Chief Electoral Officer. It was interesting because the acting Chief Electoral Officer had a number of suggested amendments to this piece of legislation. Why should the Chief Electoral Officer have to encourage a committee to introduce amendments? Could it be that the Liberal government did not actually consult the Chief Electoral Officer before introducing this piece of legislation, and instead, had to rely on the committee to review to take into account some of his recommendations?

Let us talk about penalties in this act. Clause 11 of the bill states:

Section 500 of the Act is amended by adding the following after subsection (1):

Punishment — strict liability offences

(1.1) Every person who is guilty of an offence under section 497.01 is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than $1,000.

That is one aspect of it. The other aspect is found in proposed section 384.4, which refers to the return of contributions. I find it interesting with these Liberals that if, in this situation, an event is held that does not comply with the new rules they are putting in place, the money has to be repaid, but what about an all-expense paid trip to the Aga Khan's private island? What about a trip in which the Ethics Commissioner found that the Prime Minister had violated the ethics laws on four separate occasions? What about that situation?

No, these Liberals feel there is no need to repay money in that situation. There is no need for the Prime Minister to pay back $200,000-plus that was expensed to Canadian taxpayers for an illegal and ethically challenged trip that the Prime Minister himself took. No, the Prime Minister does not feel the need to pay that back, because what is good for the goose is not good for the gander. This behaviour, by an elected member of the House, let alone the Prime Minister of this country, is unacceptable.

The bill is clear in what it intends to do. It intends to do nothing more than legitimize the cash for access schemes of the Liberal Party of Canada. Old habits die hard and with these Liberals, it is the same old Liberal Party.

Canada Elections ActPrivate Members' Business

1 p.m.

Halifax Nova Scotia

Liberal

Andy Fillmore LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague across the way for his work not only on this today but in the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, where we often get to work very productively.

The member opined on whether the government had engaged or consulted with the acting Chief Electoral Officer. I would like to read a quote that the acting CEO shared with the committee and Liberals when we did, in fact, consult with him. He stated:

There is also an important exception for party conventions, including leadership conventions.... The convention itself is exempted, but if there's a fundraiser that meets all the conditions within the convention, then that is caught by the new rules. Again, this reflects a concern to achieve a proper balance and I think it is wise.

Everyone who attends the convention in the first place will pay a fee and then that will be recorded because that is a political contribution. That is why he believes the correct balance has been struck by exempting events within the convention. I wonder if the member would care to characterize the weight or validity of the acting CEO's remark in this regard.

Canada Elections ActPrivate Members' Business

1 p.m.

Conservative

John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, in almost any piece of legislation, there will be exemptions and exceptions, and important exemptions and exceptions under the law, but just because there are exceptions and exemptions does not mean it is open season for the Liberal Party to exploit those exemptions and exceptions. That is exactly what is being done by the Liberal Party. It is using every loophole, every exemption, every exception in the book to continue with its cash for access exercises.

It is using its pay-to-play fundraising to sell access to senior members with only one caveat, “Don't worry, we will report it.” It is already being reported. Any contribution over $200 is reported. That information is already there. The Liberal Party is using this piece of legislation to legitimize what it is doing when it is selling access to its senior ministers. It is wrong, and Canadians know it is wrong.