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Track Blake

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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is liberal.

Conservative MP for Banff—Airdrie (Alberta)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 63% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Canada Elections Act February 7th, 2018

Madam Speaker, I listened to the member's speech and heard wonderful words, but that is what we always get from the government: a bunch of words and very little action.

The Liberals might claim this to be action, but at the end of the day, this is really a cover-up, a PR exercise. What would really be required to prevent these kinds of practices from occurring is simply for the Liberal Party to start following some of the guidelines it set for itself, for the Prime Minister to start behaving ethically, and for the Liberals to stop doing cash for access fundraisers. That is all that would be required.

There is no need for a piece of legislation to tell someone what everyone should already know, which is how to behave ethically and how to follow the rules, something the Prime Minister thinks he is above and beyond. Simply, all the Prime Minister needs to do is follow them. Why does the government not simply choose to follow the rules?

I would like to ask a corollary question. Let us look at the kinds of incidents that have occurred, whether they be cash for access or the Prime Minister's travel. The Prime Minister inappropriately claimed some travel expenses in 2009, before he was Prime Minister. It was $672 for a limo ride to an event that had nothing to do with his responsibilities as a member of Parliament. At that time, he said that he would take responsibility, and he paid back the money.

What was good for the goose then should be good for the goose now. Why does the Prime Minister not simply start to follow the rules instead of creating legislation to cover it up with a PR exercise?

Canada Elections Act February 7th, 2018

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.

Canada Elections Act February 7th, 2018

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 Act February 7th, 2018

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 Act February 7th, 2018

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 Act February 7th, 2018

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 Act February 7th, 2018

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.

Business of Supply February 6th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I want to draw the parallel to the situation we are talking about today to a previous time when the Prime Minister was found to have had inappropriate travel. He immediately apologized and then paid it back. That was in 2012 when he took a limo ride to Kingston, and he repaid that money.

Therefore, not only is there this double standard for the Prime Minister in the case of other people compared to himself, but in this case what is good for the goose should still be good for the goose should it not?

Canada Elections Act February 5th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, when we look at the legislation, we essentially see the Liberals trying to provide cover for the fact that they are taking cash for access. It really boils down to that. It does not change that and it does not stop them from doing it. It just simply allows the Prime Minister and his cabinet to continue to do it. They just have to ensure they put it up on a website somewhere, a few things like that, but it does not prevent it from happening.

I started to think a little about that, as well as the Prime Minister and his pattern of not being accountable. That of course extends to the recent ruling by the commissioner, in which he was found guilty on four occasions, but there really has been no consequence of that. He is refusing to repay that money. I paralleled that back to 2012. At that time, as a member of Parliament, the Prime Minister took inappropriate travel expenses. When he was found to have done that, he decided that maybe he needed to make it right and repay that.

Does the member think it would be more proper for the Prime Minister to repay the money this time as well? It was good in the past, why can it not be good now?

Natural Resources February 2nd, 2018

Mr. Speaker, the trade minister recently stated that “when you have more than 70 per cent of your exports to one country, I think people realize that it’s in Canada’s best interest to look west and to look east”. That would be great advice when it comes to pipelines. However, thanks to the Liberals, energy east is dead and Kinder Morgan is in serious jeopardy. It is not enough to simply say the pipeline will get built, the Prime Minister needs to back up his words with action. Talk is not enough.

When will the government take action to ensure the pipeline gets built?