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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

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?

Canada Elections Act February 1st, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I certainly heard what the member was saying and wondered what his thoughts would be.

I have described this legislation a number of times as “I got caught with my hand in the cookie jar, so I will blame the cookie jar act”. Obviously, the Prime Minister and some of his cabinet ministers have not really followed the legislation that is in existence already, so this is kind of a PR stunt to make it look like something will change.

If the Prime Minister has not followed the laws that are already in place, does the member think that with this change the Prime Minister is going to follow this and it will make everything all right, or does he think the Prime Minister is going to carry on doing the kinds of unethical things he has done in the past?

Canada Elections Act February 1st, 2018

Madam Speaker, if the member wants to stand and be proud of a piece of legislation that is simply a PR stunt, I guess that is up to him. If I were him, I would be much prouder to stand up and say that we are actually going to fix the problem. However, they are not doing that. They are simply saying that they would put this on a website somewhere and people would know when it would occur. That is all wonderful.

He mentioned the media being invited. There are a few media members who might disagree with that, because they were told to get the heck out of the room on some of these occasions, but that is another story. It is all out there. They can check that out for themselves.

What this boils down to is that we have a Prime Minister who does not want to follow the rules that already exist. He does not want to follow the laws. We already discovered that. He has now broken four of them. Why does he not just start by following the rules? We do not need to have a piece of legislation that says that we will put this on a website somewhere. Let us actually see the Liberals stop taking cash for access and start following their own rules. There is no one set of rules for everyone else and another for the Prime Minister and the cabinet. They should be treated the same as everyone else. It is time for the Prime Minister to wake up and figure that out.

Canada Elections Act February 1st, 2018

Madam Speaker, actually, we are the ones talking about the need for openness and transparency, but we have a government that simply thinks it will throw this out in the open and do it in public but still take the cash for access. Does that somehow make it ethical? In what world does that meet the smell test? It certainly does not.

I have lots of constituents in my riding who would love the opportunity to tell the Prime Minister exactly how they feel about certain pieces of legislation. What do they have to do? I guess they go and pay $1,500 to the Liberal Party. Then they get to attend a fundraiser with him and can give their ideas there. That is what the government is telling them.

The Liberals say it is okay because they would let it be known when the fundraiser is going to occur and put it on a website somewhere, and that would make it all better. However, they would still take the cash for access, no problem. In what world does that make any sense? It sounds to me like just a PR stunt. That is all it is.

Why do they not actually start following the rules that are already in existence? They do not need to create new laws, just follow the rules that exist. They should follow the guidelines they put out for themselves. Does the Prime Minister believe that there should be one set of rules for everyone else and a different set for him and his cabinet? They know better than that.

Canada Elections Act February 1st, 2018

moved:

Motion No. 5

That Bill C-50 be amended by deleting Clause 5.

Motion No. 6

That Bill C-50 be amended by deleting Clause 6.

Motion No. 7

That Bill C-50 be amended by deleting Clause 7.

Motion No. 8

That Bill C-50 be amended by deleting Clause 8.

Motion No. 9

That Bill C-50 be amended by deleting Clause 9.

Motion No. 10

Bill C-50 be amended by deleting Clause 10.

Motion No. 11

That Bill C-50 be amended by deleting Clause 11.

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise to speak to this bill and these amendments. As a member of a political party and a member of Parliament, I certainly understand the importance of fundraising for our ability to campaign. Without it, we certainly could not carry out the activities that we do for our campaigns and our political parties.

However, there is certainly a difference between fundraising by asking supporters or friends to chip in $10 or $20, $50 maybe, to help buy some lawn signs or pamphlets to distribute door to door, and, for example, a swanky $500-a-plate dinner at a law firm attended by top Bay Street lawyers, with the Minister of Justice as the special guest. I cannot imagine how the Liberals cannot see the issue of lawyers being able to buy access to the Minister of Justice, for example.

That is exactly what was happening before the Liberals hastily introduced this bill. They were caught with their hands in the cookie jar and had to scramble to come up with an excuse. Bill C-50, or as I have called it in the past, the “got caught with my hand in the cookie jar so I am blaming the cookie jar” act, is their excuse. This is what they are using as their cover. They have broken their own pledge of having an open and accountable government. The legislation that has been introduced is certainly incredibly underwhelming.

In a document entitled “Open and Accountable Government”, one of the general principles listed for ministers and parliamentary secretaries when fundraising and dealing with lobbyists states, “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.” That is a pretty clear statement. Who was that document signed by? It was signed by none other than the Prime Minister himself. This is hardly shocking to Canadians, as this government is well known for being all talk with, at best, very little action.

Apart from explicitly stating that there is to be no preferential access to government by people who have made financial contributions to politicians and political parties, the document also clearly states that there should be no appearance of that. “Appearance” is a word that I am sure the Liberal government is quite familiar with. Does having a $500-a-plate fundraiser at a Bay Street law firm, attended by the justice minister, pass the appearance test? I would say it does not.

Does having Chinese nationals with business interests in Canada attend a Liberal fundraiser with the Prime Minister and then provide six-figure donations to the Trudeau Foundation pass the appearance test? I would say no.

Does the Prime Minister vacationing on a billionaire's private island in the Bahamas, a billionaire who heads an organization that actively lobbies the government, pass the appearance test? I think I know the answer to that one, too, and it is no. It did not just fail the appearance test; it also failed the Ethics Commissioner's test, and the Prime Minister became the first one to have broken ethics laws. For the record, there are many ways to have a vacation on a private island that do not require selling access to the government. By all means, if that is the lifestyle that the Prime Minister likes to enjoy, I can certainly connect him with a number of travel agents across the country who could help him with his next trip.

However, let us get back to the serious issue at hand, which is simply this. How can Canadians trust a government that pledges to take accountability seriously and then fails its own appearance test at every single turn?

In an attempt to change the channel, Bill C-50 was introduced. It is like letting the foxes guard the henhouse. The Prime Minister is supposed to lead by example, but if his cabinet ministers see him enjoying a vacation on the private island of someone who lobbies the government, they probably think to themselves that there is nothing wrong with fundraisers attended by people who are going to lobby them. Therefore, it is no surprise that this bill was introduced.

There is only one thing this bill would do. It would bring these fundraisers into the open. The bill would not end the question about how appropriate it is for ministers of the crown or even the Prime Minister himself to attend fundraisers where they are being lobbied. No, it would not do that at all. The bill would simply move it into the public eye. Again, it is about appearance.

At least the bill would fulfill one aspect of the “Open and Accountable Government” document. The Liberals think that if the public can see it, everything is just fine. That is the logic they are going on. However, let us be clear. Cash for access does not become ethical simply because it is conducted in public. The Liberals should not need rules or laws to know that cash for access is unethical. That should simply be clear. There should not be a need for any rules or laws to make it clear.

Special interest groups and lobbyists should not have preferential access to very powerful figures simply because they can afford $1,500 for a fundraiser ticket. To the Liberals, bringing these fundraisers into the public eye is enough, but is it really? Have we come to expect so little of our government that simply doing the bare minimum, simply having the appearance of doing the right thing, is acceptable?

Someone once said this:

Most of all, we defeated the idea that Canadians should be satisfied with less, that good enough is good enough and that better just isn’t possible. Well, my friends, this is Canada, and in Canada better is always possible.

Who said that? It was none other than the Prime Minister himself, on election night in 2015.

Well, if better is always possible, according to the Prime Minister, then we need to do better than this bill, to be more accountable to Canadians. Certainly the Liberals need to do better.

Better does not mean a PR stunt where the actual issue is not addressed. Again, that is what Canadians have come to expect from this Liberal government: PR stunts that give the appearance of something being done, but in reality nothing changes. In this case, which is one of many examples, wealthy lobbyists will still be able to gain access to the Prime Minister and to senior cabinet ministers by simply buying a ticket for a fundraiser. That is what they have to do, put out a little cash and get some access. The Liberal government has missed a great opportunity to address this issue. Instead, the Liberals have chosen to duck and hide.

There is a very simple solution to this. If the Liberals would just take a moment to listen to the opposition, we can fix this. The Liberals should simply follow their own guidelines and stop attending these fundraisers, and that includes the Prime Minister. That is all it would take. We do not need a piece of legislation to figure that out. It is common sense.

By attempting to pass this underwhelming legislation, all the Liberals are doing is ensuring that the Prime Minister gets to continue to charge $1,500 for wealthy and connected insiders to meet him and discuss government business. Perhaps they meet him and then make big donations to the Prime Minister's family foundation.

At this point, one thing is clear. The Prime Minister does not believe that the rules should apply to him. A new law would not make the Prime Minister's cash for access fundraisers ethical. He does not respect even the laws we have now. What in the world would make us think that he would respect this law?

The Prime Minister knew that the vacation he took was not allowed, yet he did it anyway. Then he just apologized because he was caught. Clearly, the Prime Minister believes that these laws are meant only for regular Canadians and not for him. That is why we have an issue with this bill. It is simply a PR stunt designed to cover up the fact that the Liberals are engaged in unethical behaviour, and it does not do anything to actually address the problem.

Canada Elections Act February 1st, 2018

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-50 be amended by deleting Clause 1.

Motion No. 2

That Bill C-50 be amended by deleting Clause 2.

Motion No. 3

That Bill C-50 be amended by deleting Clause 3.