|| That, in the opinion of the House, when any Member violates the Conflict of Interest Act, including accepting gifts or hospitality (section 11), furthering private interests (section 21), being in a conflict of interest (section 5), and accepting travel (section 12), or violates the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons, and, in so doing, incurs a cost upon the taxpayer, that Member must repay those costs to the taxpayer.
He said: Mr. Speaker, the official opposition moved a very important motion in the House today. This morning, I would like to make sure we give this situation the serious consideration it deserves.
Before I go on, Mr. Speaker, I want to inform you that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for .
It is shameful that this motion is required, but we are in an unprecedented situation. A sitting has broken the law. He spent $200,000 of taxpayer money on personal travel that turned out to be illegal. These are serious violations of the public trust.
As members of Parliament, we all come here bearing the trust of those who elected us. No matter our political stripe, we were all elected by hard-working Canadians from Regina to Rimouski, from Hamilton to Halifax, and from Montreal to Maple Ridge.
These Canadians, citizens and taxpayers, gave us their confidence. It is a fundamental trust, one every member must always bear in mind as we go about our work as parliamentarians.
Codes and rules have their place, but most importantly, we must all strive to do our work to the best of our ability. As MPs, we have rules and codes of conduct that define what is appropriate and what is not.
The code for members is very clear. It reads:
|| Given that service in Parliament is a public trust, the House of Commons recognizes and declares that Members are expected
||(a) to serve the public interest and represent constituents to the best of their abilities;
||(b) to fulfill their public duties with honesty and uphold the highest standards so as to avoid real or apparent conflicts of interests, and maintain and enhance public confidence and trust in the integrity of each Member and in the House of Commons;
||(c) to perform their official duties and functions and arrange their private affairs in a manner that bears the closest public scrutiny, an obligation that may not be fully discharged by simply acting within the law;
||(d) to arrange their private affairs so that foreseeable real or apparent conflicts of interest may be prevented from arising, but if such a conflict does arise, to resolve it in a way that protects the public interest; and
||(e) not to accept any gift or benefit connected with their position that might reasonably be seen to compromise their personal judgment or integrity except in accordance with the provisions of this Code.
We ought to live up to these standards without being told to simply because we understand the public trust we bear. We should not agree to these parts of the code because the Ethics Commissioner has to tell us. That is the shameful situation we are in today because of the actions of the .
The code, along with the Conflict of Interest Act, makes it clear when any of us has failed in these responsibilities, and in the case of the Conflict of Interest Act, it is a violation of federal law.
On December 20, the Ethics Commissioner reported that the Prime Minister of Canada had contravened four sections of the Conflict of Interest Act when he agreed to spend his personal vacation on the Aga Khan's private island. This is the first time in the history of Canada that a sitting prime minister has broken the law.
The details of the 's situation demonstrate further how he broke the trust given to him by the people of Canada. The Aga Khan is a prominent religious and political figure respected around the world. He has admirers on all sides of this House. Indeed, the previous Conservative government had a very positive and constructive relationship with him.
His charitable organizations do important work to support people in need in many countries.
However, because of his relationship with the government, he is also a registered lobbyist here. His organizations often seek funds from the Government of Canada. These are facts that we must be mindful of when any of us have dealings with him, and these are facts that the himself was aware of when he accepted these illegal gifts. On this count, the Prime Minister has failed in his duties.
In fact, the has made a victim of the Aga Khan. The Aga Khan has been put into this situation because of the negligence and shameful actions of the Prime Minister, and our sympathies certainly go to the Aga Khan for any grief that the Prime Minister has caused him.
Though describing him as a friend, the facts of the Ethics Commissioner's report show that the two had almost no relationship until the took over the leadership of the Liberal Party, and ultimately became Prime Minister. In that light, the travel the Prime Minister took to his private island was clearly a gift.
Furthermore, the never recused himself from any official dealings relating to the Aga Khan or his business with the Government of Canada. The Prime Minister's account of this relationship showed either extreme naïveté or disingenuousness. Neither is acceptable for someone in his position.
More than any other public figure, the Prime Minister of Canada must be transparent and accountable for his actions. Not only did he break the law, but his actions cost Canadian taxpayers $200,000. The illegal gift he accepted was very costly. This is what it costs taxpayers when the Prime Minister travels abroad.
No one should begrudge the the costs associated with official travel, but he has to be respectful of the fact that taxpayer money is not his to spend as he sees fit. The more complex his travels, such as a trip to a private island, the more taxpayers have to cover to ensure that the Prime Minister is safe and secure, in contact with the government, and able to carry out his duties.
Those expenses add up quickly. They are now 70% higher than the initial estimates provided to the public. To a prime minister who plans to rack up billions of dollars in deficits for decades, $200,000 may not sound like very much.
I think every member of this House can readily imagine needs at home that could be met with $200,000. That is the backdrop against which we are discussing this motion today.
On the weekend, the did something unbelievable. On the weekend, the Prime Minister told a wounded Canadian vet, a Canadian hero, that he was asking too much of this Liberal government, that veterans in Canada were asking more than the government could give.
That is the backdrop of what we are discussing today. The sees no problem in sticking Canadian taxpayers with the bill for his illegal travel, and then has the audacity to look a wounded war hero in the face and say that he is asking for too much.
Conservatives reject that, and Conservatives demand that this apologize for that shameful remark.
Let us backtrack a little to December, when this report was first publicized. The claimed that he accepted responsibility. He claimed that he accepted the findings of the Ethics Commissioner's report. He claimed to offer an apology.
It turns out, weeks later, that the apology was completely phony. An apology is meaningless if it does not also accept the consequences. This is trying to avoid any consequences for breaking the law. That does not meet the bar that he has set for himself. It does not meet the bar that Canadians expect public officials to hold themselves accountable to.
If the is truly sorry, if the Prime Minister truly accepts the findings of the report and accepts the conclusion, then he will make amends, just as any of us do in our lives. When any other Canadian, in a workplace, in a family environment, in an interaction with friends or neighbours, offers an apology, he or she offers a solution to make it right.
To make it right, the has to pay back taxpayers the $200,000 that he cost them for his illegal trip.
Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to be able to rise today to speak to our opposition day motion. I want to thank our leader, the , for sharing his time with me today.
Let us begin with a simple question. What is this motion about? I appreciate the comments that came from my hon. colleague, the member for . He asked a question about why we introduced this motion and why it appears to be narrowly focused.
I am a big believer that if one is not faithful and honourable in the small things in life, one will not be faithful and honourable in the big things in life. I believe that same principle applies to us here in the House of Commons. Character is what one does when no one is watching. Character is what one does when one knows one can get away with it. We are calling this specific issue to light. We have been talking about it during last week and this week, because we believe that Canadians deserve a prime minister who will be faithful and honourable, an integrist, in those things that look small. It is not so much about the $200,000, although that is a big amount; it is about a prime minister who, if he is truly sorry, will follow through on what might look like a small thing and pay back the money to the taxpayer. We will then be able to see what kind of character he and his government have when it comes to the big things.
In a nutshell, this motion establishes what we as members of Parliament all adhere to, and should be adhering to, in our behaviour. It is what Canadians would expect from us. This motion establishes and reaffirms our commitment as members of Parliament to be accountable and transparent.
Sometimes as we are doing our duties, we break the rules. We do not do it maliciously. However, sometimes it is done knowingly. I will give two examples where we, as members of Parliament, should be responsible if we break those rules.
Letters sent to the general public are covered under our franking privileges. We are allowed to send letters out to our constituents. There had been some changes in the rules around whether we could send letters to people outside of our constituency. There was a certain point during that transition when members of Parliament sent letters to people outside of their constituency and then found out afterwards that they were breaking the rules. Those members of Parliament could not just say they were sorry for breaking the rules and did not know those were the rules; rather, they had to make it right. They had to personally write a cheque to the Receiver General to cover the taxpayers' costs for when they broke the rules. It may or may not have been malicious, but the rules were broken and amends had to be made. That is the right thing to do.
Here is another example. Let us say that a member of Parliament was given five tickets for him or her and their family to attend an Elton John concert. That member of Parliament then tells the House of Commons that he or she will be going on parliamentary business and claims a plane trip, hotel, and per diems. However, the House of Commons then comes back and asks if that was parliamentary business. It is discovered that it was not and that he or she had taken an illegal gift, thereby doubly breaking the rules. Obviously that member of Parliament would be asked to pay back the cost of the trip, hotels, and per diems. That is also the right thing to do. That is probably an example of knowingly breaking the rules.
Those are two examples where members of Parliament broke the rules, and in breaking the rules used taxpayer dollars and were asked to pay those dollars back. Dare I say that if they did not pay those dollars back, their wages would be garnisheed. The House of Commons would not give them a choice; they would have to pay back those expenses. This motion establishes that we all agree with that. On this side of the House, we all agree with that. I certainly hope that the Liberal members of Parliament would agree with that as well.
This leads me to the biggest example that we have thus far, and what I would say is the biggest breach. That is the one we have been talking about for the last couple of weeks, which is the 's illegal holiday.
This is the second time in less than 24 hours that I have risen to speak about it. It seems like more and more often, all we are talking about in this place is the Liberals' conflict of interest. Whether it is the or the breaking the rules, being investigated, or not recusing themselves from discussions, this is a Liberal pattern that does not seem to end.
Last evening during the debate on Bill , the Liberals' cash for access legislation, I pointed out to the House that the Liberals' very own bill has a requirement to pay the money back when fundraisers stray outside of the rules. It is a sound principle, and one that is mirrored in all kinds of regulatory and legal structures. Why is there a common requirement to pay it back, whether to us as members of Parliament, the general public, in society, or even in Bill C-50, if they fundraise illegally? Why does it exist? It is so that there is a meaningful incentive to encourage people to follow the law. It is that simple.
That is exactly what today's motion calls for. However, regrettably, we are not simply talking about an abstract principle. We have a very real and serious case before us. It is the former ethics commissioner's report on the 's winter trip to the Aga Khan's island, better known as billionaire island. In her report, Mary Dawson said that the Prime Minister broke not one, not two, not even three, but four separate requirements of the Conflict of Interest Act.
I want to thank the quick-thinking member, our Leader of the Opposition, as he was the one who submitted the original request for an investigation once the news broke. We were asking the about the trip, and he constantly said it was a legal vacation and he was with someone who was a close friend. We have now found out that he had not talked to the Aga Khan in over 30 years. They are not close friends, and it was blatantly misleading Canadians. The Prime Minister knew very well that he had not seen or talked to the Aga Khan in over 30 years, but he got up day after day in the House, and he forced the House leader to defend his illegal behaviour. In doing so, and this brings it back to the motion, he incurred expenses of over $200,000 of taxpayers' dollars.
This is not a question of him having incurred those expenses anyway. If that were the question, no one would have to pay restitution. Everyone would say, “I would have received a car anyway. Even if I stole a car and did not give it back, I would have needed a car anyway. I would have used some money anyway, so I took someone else's money, but I would have found a way to get money anyway.” That is the most illogical defence I have ever heard, and I am surprised that we are still hearing it from the Liberals.
The fact is that the broke the law, and in doing so he forced the RCMP to be complicit in his breaking the law. I would be incredibly interested to know if anyone in the Prime Minister's Office or who was part of his security team told him, “We are all now breaking the rules by taking this illegal holiday and going on this helicopter.” If he was told, did he say to them “Oh, don't worry. The rules don't apply to me. I can do whatever I want because I am the Prime Minister.” He likes to refer to himself in the third person, even when he is outside of this place. It is quite remarkable to watch.
Instead of answering questions about this, instead of paying back the money, the was signing autographs during question period yesterday. The House leader had to answer for his irresponsible illegal behaviour, and he sat there signing autographs. Not only is it shameful, it is embarrassing to watch. If the Prime Minister cannot be accountable, honourable, and transparent in what is considered something small, then what do we have? Let us be honest, he has a family fortune. We are not talking about someone in poverty who cannot afford to pay for something they shoplifted. We are talking about someone who brags about his family fortune. He can afford to pay the taxpayer back.
There is so much connected to this breach, including, as our leader talked about, when we have a government that is disrespectful, cold hearted to our veterans, to our men and women in uniform. Would the please show leadership, be accountable, pay this back, and let us get on with doing something good for Canadians and stop taking from them?
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in response to the motion put forward by the leader of the official opposition in regard to the report of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.
As people well know, opposition days play an important role in the functioning of this place. There are days when the opposition parties get to choose the issues to be debated in the House of Commons, and on which every member of Parliament will have a vote.
Normally, we expect opposition days to be used to discuss topics that directly affect Canadians, topics like employment and economic growth or maybe proposals that are put forward to help improve the lives of Canadians across the country. I know those are the things on which we are focused on this side of the House. However, the Conservatives have decided that the best use of the day for them is to talk about the . It appears they have still not learned anything from what Canadians told them in 2015.
We do not have any issue with that on this side of the House. While the Conservatives continue to stay focused on us, on the , and on the government, we and the Prime Minister will continue to stay focused on Canadians.
In regard to the report, the opposition knows that the has taken full responsibility. Not only did he do so, but it is important to note that he did so immediately following the release of the former commissioner's report. He walked into the foyer of the House of Commons, just metres from here, and answered numerous questions from members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery. That is what Canadians expect of their leaders and that is exactly what the has done.
The Conservatives seem to forget that when they were in power, the media had almost no access to former prime minister Stephen Harper. Unfortunately, it seems their current leader has adopted a similar behaviour to that of his predecessor.
Now, Conservatives will say today, as they did before, that they do not speak to the media because the media is biased against them and that journalists are out to get them. They spent years raising funds on this line of attack against one of the pillars of Canadian democracy. However, on this side of the House, we know that is simply not the case. We know the media has an important job to do.
That is why I am proud that the addressed the contents of the report as soon as it was released. The media were given an opportunity to ask him direct questions, and he answered them. That is what a leader must do. In addition, he did not just answer questions here in Ottawa. He also travelled from one end of the country to the other and answered even more questions from Canadians themselves. Canadians had many questions to ask him on numerous issues, including the economy, immigration, and the environment.
On top of that, the has been available to answer questions in the House as well. I know some of my colleagues feel that they have heard similar answers from time to time, but that is what happens when the opposition asks the same question over and over.
We respect the House, Parliament, and its officers. However, as just a small comparison, we can look at the number of questions the has answered in the House in his first two years of a majority mandate compared to the previous prime minister. The Prime Minister has answered over 1,400 questions. When former prime minister Stephen Harper was in power, he answered around 900 question. That is over 50% more than what the Conservatives did in the last Parliament. Therefore, when the Conservatives speak on respect for Parliament, let us not forget where they come from.
However, it is not only a case of respecting Parliament during question period. It is also a question of respecting the institutions of Parliament itself, including its officers. Taking responsibility and committing to working with the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner for all future family vacations is exactly what the has done, and it is what Canadians expect.
To respect the officers of Parliament becomes even more important because of what takes place in Parliament. We all know opposition members have a responsibility to hold the government to account and ensure the government is acting in the best interest of Canadians. Not only do we know this, we welcome it. They do so by asking tough questions, by proposing amendments to legislation, or by voicing their clear opposition to government proposals. However, in the last campaign, Canadians very clearly voted for positive politics, not for the negative politics that the opposition continues to champion.
We have offices like the Office of Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner so they can remain above the fray and make findings free of political interference and of political gain. That is why we thank the former commissioner for her thorough report. As she stated, the report stands for itself, and we agree. That is why the has accepted the findings therein.
I would like to take a moment to thank the former commissioner for her years of service to the House and to Canadians. It has not always been easy for her, as she was the first conflict of interest and ethics commissioner to work under the current Conflict of Interest Act.
She was responsible for setting the standard to be met by the current commissioner and all others who will follow. Although the Conservatives will want above all to remember the report that we are debating in the House today, she conducted many investigations and dedicated herself to improving the institution of the House of Commons. Whether for her first report about Conservative minister Christian Paradis, or her second report about Mr. Paradis, or even her third report about Mr. Paradis, the commissioner has always acted with integrity.
The Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner operates above the partisan arguments that happen in places like the House. That is why we listened to the opposition ask for weeks and months for the commissioner to release her report. The opposition even went so far to insinuate that maybe the current commissioner would refuse to continue the investigation, thereby making it imperative that the report be released immediately.
We were also looking forward to the release of this important report. However, how we have reacted to its release could not be more starkly different to the reactions from the opposition. As I have already stated, the accepted the findings, took responsibility, and committed to clearing every family and personal vacation he took with the office of the commissioner moving forward.
When the former commissioner was asked about this, she said that the Conflict of Interest Act, and her report, fulfilled the objectives it was aiming to achieve. We agree. The has also followed the commissioner's recommendations on how to best manage his close relationship with the Aga Khan in the future. That is accountability and that is how Canadians expect their leaders to respond.
However, the opposition seems to be unable or simply refuses to accept the finding and conclusions of the report. That is why we are debating this motion today, instead of keeping our focus where it should be, on Canadians.
The members opposite have often brought up the issue of the 's security in regard to his travel. It should not surprise any member of the House that whenever and wherever the travels, there are costs related to the security. This is not the case just for the current Prime Minister. This has also been the case for previous prime ministers. Those needs are not determined politically. They are determined by the security agencies that ensure the safety of the Prime Minister and their advice is followed, and we will continue to do so.
Even the former commissioner has acknowledged that there are security costs related to any travel undertaken by the . There is no surprise that these costs exist, but we will not question the advice of security agencies, and I strongly doubt that Canadians would want us to do so.
However, I understand that the opposition is concerned about the expenditure of public funds. Indeed, we all should be.
That is why this Prime Minister, when the Liberal Party was the third party in the House, proposed establishing a proactive disclosure system for all members of the House.
I must admit that the Conservatives at least followed our lead. Although it was not what they would have preferred to do, the Conservatives followed our lead every time we increased the degree of transparency for members' expenses.
As for the NDP, it was an entirely different story. While the Liberals and the Conservatives provided detailed reports on their expenditures, the NDP refused to do so for a long time. Furthermore, they pretended to be doing the same thing as the other two parties and tried to convince Canadians that the annual disclosure without details provided by all members of the House was equivalent to the detailed disclosure that we put in place.
Despite the NDP's opposition to proactive disclosure in the House, it was finally put in place and Canadians now have more information about how their members of Parliament make use of public funds. This change took place thanks to the leadership of one person, and that person is now the . More openness and accountability is what Canadians deserve from their government. That is what we were able to improve when in third place, and that is what we will continue to offer Canadians while in government.
Canadians deserve a government that takes its responsibilities seriously, a government that continuously strives to improve, and a government that cares about issues that are important to Canadians. That is what we do and that is why our plan is working.
As I have said, today, the Conservatives want to talk about the . Let us let them do so. By focusing on Canadians, the Prime Minister has already done things Conservatives were never able to do in 10 years in power.
Last year alone, Canadians created 422,000 jobs. This is the most jobs created in a single year in over a decade. We have the lowest unemployment rate since 1976. Let us think about this. The last time unemployment was as low as it is today, Montreal was hosting the Olympic games. We helped make this happen by investing in Canadians.
The Conservatives and the NDP had proposed cuts so that they could balance the budget no matter the cost. In 2015, we put forward our investment plan and today we have to admit that it is working. It is no wonder that the opposition wants to debate today's motion. What else could they have debated, the economy? They know our economic plan is working for Canadians.
Could they have debated veterans? After years of Conservatives' closing offices, firing front-line staff, and nickel-and-diming veterans, we have reopened offices and veterans today are receiving the services they deserve.
Could they have debated immigration? We are putting an end to Conservative backlogs in our immigration—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured, as always, to rise in this House to represent the people of Timmins—James Bay and to speak to this very serious issue: the unprecedented situation of a sitting having been found guilty on numerous counts of breaching the Conflict of Interest Act.
I am going to be speaking to the issue of conflict of interest today. I understand why the official opposition brought this motion forward. I have some problems with it, and I am going to talk about them. However, I find it very frustrating that we have a who shows his contempt for Parliament by not bothering to show up to answer questions. I believe that we are in a dangerous position across the world of moving into post-democratic politics. Our is a great example of that. If he does push-ups in the Bronx, it will make international news. I do not mind that he makes international news, but he does have an obligation to come to the House to answer questions.
We were told at the ethics committee that the should not come to the committee to explain being found guilty by the Ethics Commissioner, because the proper place is in the House of Commons. I agreed with that. That was fair. However, members may have noticed that the showed up when Parliament returned, answered a few questions, and then sat down and refused to answer the leader of the official opposition. That is disrespect for this House. I am not here to take the position of leader of the opposition, but this is about respect for the House.
On the first Wednesday, the Wednesday the told us would be the day he answers all manner of questions, he skipped town to do a television town hall. He had a month and a half to do television town halls, but he skipped Ottawa. To me, this is a serious issue.
On the issue of the being found guilty of breaching the Conflict of Interest Act, the New Democrats differ somewhat from the Conservatives. To me, the fact that he went off to billionaire's island with a family friend showed a major breach of judgment. We are not dealing with a criminal act; we are dealing with a breach of judgment. The question of the judgment of this is his extremely close relationship with the 1%, the insiders.
The government always talks about the middle class and how it is here to do everything for the middle class, but if we look at the growing conflict of interest issues around the , it is about the government's failure to even understand what the middle class is.
I have often said that I think the Prime Minister and I grew up in a different middle class. My father joined the middle class when he was in his forties. He had to quit school as a teenager, as did my mom, to go work. It was not until my dad was in his forties that he was able to go back to school, get an education, and eventually become a professor of economics.
The middle class was built not just through hard work but by a whole social and economic structure that made it possible for kids from working class backgrounds who got an education to move beyond. We are seeing that the notion of the middle class is disappearing year after year with growing levels of student debt and growing precariousness of work.
We have a who decided to go off to billionaire's island to hang out with the Aga Khan, his friend, who is lobbying the Government of Canada. That is a problem. Liberals do not seem to think it is a problem. As the ultimate insider party in the country, they are saying that they are their friends. However, the reason we have laws is so friends who are powerful cannot call up the Prime Minister and make changes. The law should apply to everyone. This does not seem to think it applies to him.
In the case of the breach of the Conflict of Interest Act, he broke it on numerous points. He should have known that it was a conflict of interest to accept a gift from someone that powerful who was lobbying the government. The government's response was very disturbing.
Section 12 of the Conflict of Interest Act, on travel, states:
|| No minister of the Crown, minister of state or parliamentary secretary, no member of his or her family and no ministerial adviser or ministerial staff shall accept travel on non-commercial chartered or private aircraft for any purpose unless required in his or her capacity as a public office holder or in exceptional circumstances or with the prior approval of the Commissioner.
The decided to go on the Aga Khan's private helicopter to get to his private island. In his defence, the Prime Minister said that there was a difference in the language used in the French act and the English one. The French used the more specific term “avions” and not “aircraft”. The felt that this specifically exempted helicopters, which was a ridiculous response. It showed not only a lack of judgment but showed someone who would go to the extent of saying that it did not specifically say “helicopters“ to find a way to slip through the rules and abuse the act.
I have not agreed with many of Madam Dawson's decisions over the course of many years. However, she said that the 's position would be to create a legal absurdity and a complete abuse of the act.
I am going to say quickly that I have a problem with the Conservative motion to pay back travel, because when the travels, there are enormous costs. There are issues of security if a prime minister wants to take a vacation anywhere. When Stephen Harper went to see a Boston Red Sox game, there was an enormous cost to the taxpayer. However, the does not get to travel on public aircraft. If the is going anywhere, there are going to be costs. We accepted it for Stephen Harper. People were asking how much money was spent for him to go to a ball game. He was the prime minister. He was not able to take cheap WestJet flights. There were going to be costs.
Therefore, I have a question about the propriety of the House ordering the to pay it back for his bad judgment.
That being said, the problem with our Conflict of Interest Act is that the commissioner does not have the power or ability to render the appropriate penalty. Should the pay a penalty from his personal money for this abuse of the act? Certainly. I think it behooves us within this House to say that we need to overhaul the Conflict of Interest Act to make sure that we do not have sitting prime ministers or cabinet ministers abusing the act and that the commissioner has the power to levy financial fines to force compliance, because if the believes he is above the law, it sends a very disturbing message to his cabinet.
On the issue of overall conflict of interest and the , I am seeing a disturbing pattern emerging. It emerged right after the election. I was so impressed with his talk during the campaign of creating a new, open, and transparent notion of parliamentary accountability. He seemed to follow through with his letters of commission to each of his ministers that talked about the need to have a higher standard. It was not just about the legal obligation but about being seen meeting that legal obligation. I was thinking that here was a Prime Minister who would be willing to do stuff differently, and for a moment, the sun was shining on accountability in Ottawa, but then our decided to go for cash for access.
To me, it is the most grotty thing possible for a sitting prime minister to make himself available to be lobbied for cash. He said that they were not lobbying. Who would pay $1,500 a pop to sit at a private CEO's condo if not to get the ear of the ? Was it because they thought he was a funny guy and just wanted to hang out with him?
Chinese billionaires met with the . When he was confronted, the said that they were talking about the middle class. I guess I grew up in a different middle class. Can members imagine for a minute that Chinese billionaires came over to Canada, paid $1,500 a pop to talk to the at a private function, and were worried about folks who are just getting by? I do not think so. The idea that the would use his office to collect those funds for the Liberal Party to me set a disturbing pattern, and it is a pattern that has been repeated.
We saw the issue of the KPMG fraud scheme. KPMG, which has received millions of dollars in federal contracts, set up a scheme so that powerful Canadians did not have to pay their share.
I think of a single mom I dealt with in my riding over Christmas who was not able to pay for her kids' Christmas presents, because every year, CRA cuts her off, because it claims that she has to prove once again that she actually has children. We were calling and calling. There was a seven-week period CRA had to go through, because it had to do due diligence, as it has done three times in three years, to prove that this single mother actually has children, and she was not able to buy Christmas presents. We see the CRA's willingness to go after any ordinary Canadian who owes it money. It shows no mercy. However, when the rich insiders who were caught in the KPMG scandal were found out, CRA offered them immediate amnesty. That is not standing up for the middle class. That is standing up for the 1%.
What did the do after this scandal? He appointed a senior KPMG representative to be the treasurer of Liberal Party finances. To me, that sends a very disturbing message. It shows contempt for taxpayers who work hard and pay their bills. The looked at that KPMG scandal and said, “This is a great guy. I like how these guys are operating. Let us get them to handle Liberal Party finances.” That is a very disturbing tone.
We saw it repeated for Samuel Bronfman, who is the good, close friend of the and a key Liberal fundraiser. Mr. Bronfman was named in the paradise papers, an international scandal in terms of the uber rich not paying their share while they turn around and tell Canadians that they do not have services.
We can make comparisons to understand how this plays out. This past week, the looked a Princess Patricia's veteran in the face, Brock Blaszczyk, a man who lost his leg serving his country, and told him that veterans are asking for more than what the government is willing to give. These are people who were willing to give their lives and their health in service to the nation who came back and have been ripped off on their basic pensions. The can look a veteran in the eye and say that he is asking for more than Canada is willing to give.
The 's personal friend, Samuel Bronfman, was then named in the paradise papers for a business scheme he had been involved in. The said that there was absolutely no issue, because the Liberals had been assured that Samuel Bronfman followed all the rules. It is completely inappropriate for a sitting prime minister to interpose himself in a question of a tax case, or potential tax fraud, and tell Canadians that there is nothing to be seen here. Why? It is because Samuel Bronfman is not only a personal friend but raised $250,000 in two hours for the Liberal Party. He is a very powerful person.
We brought in the Accountability Act when the last Liberal government fell to try to close these kinds of loopholes so that powerful insiders who raise money for the party and hang out with the on billionaire's island do not get this kind of access. This brings us back to the Aga Khan. The Aga Khan was lobbying the government for money, and the received a gift. The Liberal Party does not seem to understand that there is a problem with that.
We will go to the next issue. There is a very disturbing pattern of conflict of interest emerging in a government that says it is there for the little guy and the middle class, but time and again, it is looking after the uber rich.
We can talk about the privatized pension king of Canada, who is the . He is a man who told investors about the enormous opportunities in getting rid of defined pension plans, a man whose company was involved in the largest pension meltdowns in Canadian history: Nortel, Stelco, and now the Sears pension windup. We have a who is unwilling to do anything to end this kind of corporate pension theft. Well, it would certainly affect the bottom line of his family business.
He brought in pension legislation. In fact, the very first thing he did was bring in pension legislation, and that legislation, Bill , will make it easier to go after other defined pension plans. However, the did not think there was a potential conflict of interest.
Again, I guess the and I grew up in a different middle class. The people I know, who save so hard to get a basic pension, see what is happening to the Sears workers and say, “That could be me.”
Younger people, who see that they will never have a pension, are asking where this government is in dealing with the pension crisis. Well, the government is making sure that the privatized pension king of Canada, who is the , who is driving the agenda on pensions, is not going to be in a position to be pulled from the file. The government is going to do nothing to help Sears workers, and it is continuing to push ahead with Bill , which is a direct attack on defined pensions.
Over the years in Parliament, I have seen many politicians telling Canadians that they are going to give them a better deal. Sometimes it is like the crocodile saying, “Trust me. Let's go on a picnic down by the riverside. I have your best interest at heart”. However, when one puts in the Samuel Bronfmans, the top people from KPMG, and the privatized pension king in this country to deal with the issue of pensions, one cannot be saying that one has Canadians' interests at heart.
This goes back to the importance of the motion to have the found guilty of using his position in getting a benefit from a billionaire to vacation on a billionaire's island. Again, I will not say that this is an illegal act. To me, this was an astounding lack of judgment. It is within the purview of Parliament to insist that the meet a level of accountability, which he has not done because he has left Parliament and he has not answered these questions.
However, to be clear, I have a problem with the Conservatives' argument that he should pay back the cost of the trip, because wherever the Prime Minister goes, there will be enormous costs associated with the issue of security. However, there does need to be the ability under the ethics act to deal with financial monetary penalties for the abuse of office, and for the failure to live up to the standard. The has set the bar very low for the rest of his cabinet. We need to be working across party lines to ensure that these loopholes in the Conflict of Interest Act are shut down and that the Prime Minister is held accountable so that he can restore the trust of Canadians on this fundamental issue.
On the overall issue of conflict of interest, as New Democrats we will continue to hold the government to account. We are not afraid to congratulate it if we believe it is doing something good. We do not have to be oppositional on everything. However, to see the government time and time again favour the interests of the 1% and the insiders while paying lip service to people who are falling behind is simply not acceptable.
We will continue to address these issues and the need to deal with the toxic nature of big money's influence in political life, which is as important now as it was when we had to bring in the Federal Accountability Act back in 2006. I remember at that time we had the corrupt Liberal government up on charges. We had such abuse with lobbyists and insiders. The line back then was “It's who you know in the PMO”.
This struck Canadians as fundamentally wrong, because most Canadians never get the opportunity to call in. Most Canadians never get their cases fixed, except when they go through the system, and that is the way it is supposed to be for the lobbyists and the insiders. There has to be a system. It has to be accountable. It has to be transparent so that the people know why and how decisions are being made. However, with the current government, there is too much of a slip back to the bad old days of insiders and friends.
This is an instructive motion. Hopefully, the will listen to it, and I think the Prime Minister does need to tell Canadians that he will make some manner of restitution to show that he understands the seriousness of having been found guilty on numerous counts of breaching the Conflict of Interest Act.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
I am pleased to speak to the opposition motion. Perhaps members of the House are aware that I have an engineering background, but what they may not be aware of is that every professional engineer in this country has to take an ethics and law exam in order to get their professional licence. We receive a book and we study, and become well versed in ethics, in conflict of interest, and in a number of other issues like that. It is important for engineers to have this background in ethics and to clearly understand conflict of interest because public safety depends on them. Public trust is important.
I would argue that even though understanding ethics and conflict of interest is important in engineering, it is even more important here in the House of Commons. It is important that the , who holds the highest position in the country, have a high standard of ethics and integrity and an understanding of conflict of interest so that public safety is protected and so the public can have trust in him.
The began his campaign by suggesting that the bar was going to be higher. He said that he would be open and transparent. He said the mandate letters to his ministers would call on them to have a higher standard of behaviour so they would avoid even the perception of a conflict of interest. He raised Canadians' expectations and they expected him to do what he said he was going to do.
Unfortunately, the bad behaviour started with broken promises. The said a Liberal government would only spend a deficit of $10 billion. That went out the window. He said a Liberal government would balance the budget within its mandate. Maybe not. He said a Liberal government would restore home mail delivery. No. He said it would be the last election under first past the post. No.
With his constant breaking of promises, Canadians started to question whether they could trust the . That is a difficulty. If an organization is rotten at the top, the rot will work its way through the organization like a cancer. That is what we started to see, from the time the Prime Minister started to do the cash for access fundraisers where billionaires were paying money to him and then receiving deals, such as $1 billion for health care in B.C. or the Trudeau Foundation getting lots of money in exchange for discussions about affairs and business in the government.
That behaviour began to work its way to Liberal ministers. The started to do the cash for access thing. People would pay $500. One of them became head of the Halifax port authority. We saw it happen with the and cash for access fundraisers with lawyers that were doing business with the government. This is forbidden under the Conflict of Interest Act. The rot began to spread. We saw violations of expenses by the health minister and the minister of indigenous and northern affairs. All of these things began to erode the confidence that people had in the and in our ability to trust him.
Then we get to the trip to billionaire island. When I first heard that the , the , and a number of members of the Liberal Party had gone to this private island for a vacation, in less than five seconds I knew that they had violated the Conflict of Interest Act.
Members of Parliament receive training with respect to the Conflict of Interest Act as soon as they are elected. I knew immediately that they had violated the act. We are not allowed to accept travel of a value more than $200. To stay at a private island for a week is worth more than $200. Immediately I knew that was bad. Then the Aga Khan Foundation received millions of dollars from the government for its work over time. The foundation lobbies for money. It is clear in the act that members cannot receive anything from a lobbyist because we do not want to create the perception of undue influence.
The said that the Aga Khan was a close personal family friend, but the Ethics Commissioner, in her report, was clear. She said that the Prime Minister had not seen the Aga Khan in 30 years, until such time as the Prime Minister became the head of the Liberal Party and subsequently Prime Minister. Why then would the Aga Khan want to take up this relationship with the head of the Liberal Party, and subsequently the Prime Minister, when his foundation receives millions of dollars from him? I think we can easily see why he might want to do that, but it does not mean he is a close family friend.
Talking about the vacation on the island, my other question is about the . Nobody seems to be talking about this, but in that same first five seconds I thought that if it is wrong for the to accept travel of more than $200, it must also be wrong for the Minister of Veterans Affairs. However, nobody has even begun to talk about that part of the problem.
When someone is caught doing something that is not right, the person needs to own up to it. We listened for a whole year to the and the claiming that the Prime Minister abided by all of the ethics rules and the acts and there was nothing wrong at all. It was not until all of this came to light and the report was finally issued—I have no idea why it took a whole year—that it was clear he was guilty on four counts of violating the act. He is the first prime minister to break a federal law. Instead of owning up and making up, the Prime Minister apologized and said that we should move on. That is not the way things work.
When the health minister took limousines, she had to pay the money back because it was not an eligible expense. She went against what was allowed to be charged. It was the same for the . If the women in his government do not follow the rules and have to pay money back, I do not understand why the Prime Minister thinks the rules do not apply to him and he does not have to pay money back. Is it that the women have one standard and the men have another, or is it that his whole cabinet has a certain standard and he has a different set of rules that he thinks applies to him?
I find that part of it very troubling, because at the end of the day, there is absolutely no consequence to the for what he has done. However, there is a consequence to taxpayers, because over $200,000 was spent on this billionaire island vacation. If part of the $200,000 was spent on security, I accept the argument that has been made that the security of the government goes wherever the Prime Minister goes, but that does not encompass the whole cost. If we think about the equivalent value for the Prime Minister, his family, Liberal Party members, and the to vacation for that week, that is a lot of money. It is certainly a lot more than a $200 fine that the got. Canadians' trust in the Prime Minister will not be restored until he shows that he is willing to take responsibility for what he did. He broke the law and he needs to do as his other ministers did, which is to pay the money back.
Leadership starts at the top. It is very important that the hold his whole government to account, that all Liberals obey the rules, that they all stop this cash for access nonsense, and that they all understand what ethics are. If they need to be trained, I would be very happy to lend them the book I had to read when I first became an engineer in order to understand ethics and conflict of interest, or they could simply read the guidelines that are clearly available to the government that talk about the fact that members cannot accept travel or any gift of more than $200 and they are not allowed to receive anything from lobbyists.
I would encourage the government to come clean with Canadians, make amends for the wrong that was done, and try to restore the public's trust in the , who, as I said, is the highest office in the land. If it is not pure at the top, it will not be pure at the bottom.
Mr. Speaker, I have a very deep and authentic relationship and connection with the rule of law. I enforced laws when I was the harbour master of the Toronto port authority. I interpreted laws when I was a lawyer. I have drafted laws as a minister and member of Parliament.
I believe that laws are living documents, and they have to be looked at and changed and updated where the conditions warrant. The motion today seeks to address a shortcoming in the current rules that we face here in the House. It is worth noting that it has to do with two separate acts, the Conflict of Interest Act, regarding the accepting of gifts and hospitality, or furthering private interests, or being in a conflict of interest in accepting travel, or the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons, which as members know, is appendix I to the Standing Orders of this House.
What this motion seeks to redress is a curious situation that we find ourselves in at the moment. It is worth a trip down memory lane to remind us of how we got here. As the House knows, we have had an unprecedented set of findings and facts in the last number of weeks. The Ethics Commissioner investigated a trip that the took in December 2016, along with another member of Parliament. Why I bring up this other member of Parliament will be apparent at the end of my remarks.
The Ethics Commissioner interviewed the twice, in April and in October. She received representations from counsel to the Prime Minister about why he felt he had not violated the act associated with the conflict of interest in his duty as a public office holder, or the code of conduct in his duty as a member of Parliament. She interviewed witnesses as well. She reviewed past findings. She drew up a set of facts which she then distributed to the Prime Minister in order for him to agree with the facts or set the facts correct if they were incorrect. As well, at the end of the day, she made conclusions and she put it forth in a report.
The Ethics Commissioner made five key findings in her report. The first was that the Aga Khan did not meet the definition of a friend, and she believed that the defining a friendship with him was misleading. Second, the Prime Minister breached the act when his family travelled on a non-commercial aircraft chartered by the Aga Khan in March 2016, and as well in December 2016. Third, she found that the Prime Minister failed to arrange his affairs in a way that would prevent him from being placed into a conflict. Fourth, she found that when there were future discussions surrounding federal government grants to the Prime Minister's self-defined friend, he refused to recuse himself from the conversation.
Finally, and the point which I am going to be focusing on today, was the finding that the Prime Minister broke rules when he accepted these gifts. This is exactly what the motion is aimed to redress, an updating of the rules given the set of circumstances.
As I mentioned, I have been in a drafter position. I have been an enforcer, and I have been an interpreter of laws. One thing I know is that when there is a very clear process, which we have, but more importantly a very clear penalty and deterrent, it is very effective in ensuring that rules and laws are followed.
We know the values the ethics code, and we know that he values the Conflict of Interest Act. In his own words, he has indicated it is not enough to merely abide by them in law, but that we should abide by them in spirit as well.
We find ourselves in the situation, in accordance with the Conflict of Interest Act, where the is the adjudicator of what the penalty will be. How does that happen? People may ask how that is possible.
As I mentioned, there are two pieces of legislation. One is the Conflict of Interest Act, and one is the code of conduct. In both cases, there are consequences for breaches by the . The one that Prime Minister was found to be in breach of was the Conflict of Interest Act for public office holders. In the act, sections 44 and 45 are the parts that deal with the conflict of interest and what happens at the end of the report. As I described already, the Ethics Commissioner has powers to summon witnesses, to interview, to draft findings, and then gives the report to the Prime Minister, to the person who is alleged to have broken the rules, and to the public.
Obviously there is a reason that it goes to the . One could surmise, in drafting this legislation, that the reason is that the Prime Minister has the control and power to appoint or not appoint public office holders. He has the control and power to determine who is going to be a minister and who is not. As such, handing over a report with a finding of fact and conclusion that indicates a minister or public office holder has breached the Conflict of Interest Act means something, because in the hands of the Prime Minister is the ability to punish for the breach.
However, here we have a situation where the is receiving a report about himself. I do not think the drafters assumed that the first person to breach these parts of the act would be the Prime Minister of Canada. One curious measure that seems to have been forgotten is that there are sections of the act where one can receive an administrative penalty, but they are clearly defined. It is very clear that these two parts of the act have not been included. The reasons are that the people who came before us probably thought that putting it in the hands of the would be best. As a result, there is no penalty for a breach of this part of the act.
What we seek is to provide a framework, so that if the breach of the act ends up with taxpayers footing the bill for something tangential to the receipt of this gift illegally, then they do not have to pay for it. That makes absolute sense. It is something, as lawmakers, that we should consider. We need to have a framework. It is incredibly important.
At the end of the day, this motion is about responsibility, accountability, and integrity. It is about the integrity of every member in this place. Let us be very clear. What we are talking about today is implementing one rule to govern us all. Remember what I said. In this set of circumstances, it is the who will always have the ability to adjudicate and determine the appropriate level of punishment for breach of the Conflict of Interest Act for the receipt of gifts. It is he who decides what will happen. In this case, he decided that an apology was sufficient. We disagree on this side of the House. Apologies are not sufficient, especially when we know that this trip cost at least $200,000.
There is one other matter I would like to bring up. If the other side wants to tell me they are working with the Ethics Commissioner on recommendations, they are doing an absolutely terrible job. In both the Conflict of Interest Act and the code of conduct, it is very clear that gifts must be reported, registered in the public registry, and notice given to the Ethics Commissioner. As I researched last evening, I discovered that the current has not reported this trip, either as a gift, which the Ethics Commissioner has indicated is the case, or as sponsored travel. There is no excuse for not updating this public registry. There is no reason that this did not happen, except there is one rule for these guys and one rule for the rest of us.
As well, the has not updated his public registry to include the fact that he received a gift. Now, we had to wait a year for the Ethics Commissioner to determine it was a gift, because he said it was a friend. However, it does not matter if it is a friend or not; it is a gift. He has abdicated his responsibility, again, to update the registry, so who is going to punish him for that? Who is going to have the last say on whether they are going to uphold it? This is a farce. The Liberals say that they care about ethics, transparency, and accountability. Given the first opportunity, not only does the breach this act knowingly and in full contemplation of the problems associated with it, but he decides there is no punishment. Then he scoffs the regulations by not even doing the simple motion of filling out a piece of paper and sending it to the Ethics Commissioner, so all Canadians know on the public registry who is taking gifts from lobbyists and who is not. That is a shame, and it should be corrected today.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
It is always an honour and a privilege for me to rise in the House to tell Canadians about the remarkable work being done by our government under the leadership of our right hon. . That same Prime Minister took responsibility for his actions and accepted the findings of the former commissioner as soon as her report was released.
Our government respects the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner and the work of all officers of Parliament. Canadians expect all members to work with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, which is what the Prime Minister did. Immediately after the commissioner's report was released, the Prime Minister accepted the findings and took responsibility.
That is exactly what Canadians expect: a sense of responsibility and transparency that shows that we trust Canadians and we respect the work of officers of Parliament. Our trust in Canadians is precisely why they in turn trust us to put in place our economic plan to support the middle class and those working hard to join it.
This plan is working. Because Canadians trust us and are working hard, 422,000 jobs were created in 2017. This is the largest number of jobs created in a single year in more than a decade. The last time we saw such numbers was under another Liberal government. However, we would never have been able to do this without the trust of Canadians. They can have confidence in us and our democratic institutions thanks to the work of our officers of Parliament, like the former commissioner. We thank her for her work.
We will continue to work with the new commissioner. With respect to the Prime Minister's family and personal vacations, the commissioner will ensure that such trips are cleared by the commissioner's office. We are also determined to continue ensuring that officers of Parliament get the support they need and remain independent.
The motion moved by my colleague in the opposition addresses, in my opinion, an important notion that my Conservative colleagues too often ignored when they were in power: the Canadian taxpayer. As we all know, all prime ministers incur security costs. The security agencies are the ones that determine what is needed to keep the Prime Minister safe, and their recommendations are followed. The former commissioner herself acknowledged that costs are always incurred when the Prime Minister travels.
On the topic of using taxpayer dollars, the Conservatives should be a little more humble. We all remember the television ads that the Conservatives bought with public funds to announce programs that did not even exist yet, and the billboards that got as much attention from the Conservatives as the construction projects themselves.
Our government is listening and is acting in the best interests of taxpayers and all Canadians. This is reflected in all the policies we have brought forward over the past two years. As soon as we took office, we clearly said that the economy needs to work for the middle class and those working hard to join it. This is and always has been a must, on this side of the House.
First, we introduced a middle-class tax cut, which continues to benefit nearly nine million Canadians. Then we introduced the Canada child benefit, which has lifted hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty. As a reminder, the Canada child benefit is a tax-free monthly payment to eligible families to help support their children under 18 years of age. Families can then use this extra money to enroll their children in day camp, put food on the table, or buy warm winter clothing. That is called working for the future and helping taxpayers. By contrast, the Conservatives paid benefits to the children of millionaires.
Moving right along, we also announced the government’s historical agreement with the provinces to enhance the Canada pension plan. At maturity, it will increase the maximum retirement benefit by about 50%.
In current dollars, this represents an increase of almost $7,000 for a maximum benefit of approximately $20,000. With similar improvements made by the Quebec government to the Quebec pension plan, Canadians across the country can now aspire to a more dignified and secure retirement. These are just a few simple examples of the investments we have made for the benefit of the middle class and all taxpayers.
Of course, my colleagues opposite would rather ignore those results and the commissioner's findings. Indeed, the opposition has been asking for weeks and months that the report be tabled. Now that this has been done, it is refusing to accept its findings. It is not surprising. We are talking about a party that has spent years attacking all those who did not follow the leader's directive to a T, be they backbenchers, experts in every field, officers of Parliament or judges from across the country. If the party line was not toed 100%, the Conservatives launched all-out attacks. They were willing to make personal attacks and go after extremely honest people. It did not matter to the Conservatives, as long as they were on the attack.
Very little has changed since. Today, the Conservatives continue to do the same thing in the opposition, but everyone has gotten used to that. Their behaviour is so similar that it is as if Stephen Harper were still their leader.
Meanwhile, on this side of the House, we will continue to work in the same spirit of openness and transparency that has guided us since our election. The will continue to listen to Canadians and respond to their questions and concerns.
Madam Speaker, the Conservatives believed that personal attacks was the path to victory in the last election. Canadians did not buy it then and they will not buy it now.
The opposition knows that security agencies make determinations on what is needed to protect the , as they have done with previous prime ministers. We follow their recommendations. The Prime Minister also accepted full responsibility immediately after the report was made public. That is what Canadians expect of their leaders.
When this government was elected, we committed to honour the trust Canadians had given us. We committed to bring new leadership to the government, listening to the needs of Canadians and working collaboratively to tackle the real challenges we faced as a country. We have and continue to deliver on this commitment.
Instead of focusing on these real challenges, such as employment, affordable housing, or advancing equal rights, the opposition is using this day to debate a subject that has already been thoroughly examined by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. Let us be clear about what is happening here. The opposition is trying to second guess the work of the commissioner.
On this side of the House, we respect the work that is done by officers of Parliament. When they make determinations, we accept them. When they make recommendations, we follow them. This is in stark contrast to what the Conservatives did during their 10 years in power.
The Conservatives went to court against the findings of the Chief Electoral Officer. They eliminated the position of chief science officer. They ignored everything the parliamentary budget officer said and attacked the credibility of the office. They even attacked the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, which is not fathomable to Canadians.
This is not what Canadians want, and not what Canadians deserve. The Conservatives seem to forget that their belief that they know better than the institutions of Parliament is part of the reason they are on that side of the House today.
We put forward a proposal that included respect for Parliament, including its officers. We put our trust in Canadians. We continue to focus on them, while the Conservatives are focused on us.
I am pleased to speak about the great efforts our government has made to increase transparency and accountability, as well as our strong commitment to an open and honest government that Canadians deserve. We are committed to maintaining the trust we have earned from Canadians.
When it comes to the costs mentioned by my hon. colleagues, the former commissioner herself acknowledges that these costs were incurred as part of the 's travels. As we have often said, wherever and whenever the Prime Minister travels, there are security costs. This is not new. It was the case for previous prime ministers as well. We have been transparent about these costs.
We believe in the importance of openness and transparency, so much so that we introduced legislation to make political fundraising more open and transparent. The legislation would apply to fundraising events attended by the Prime Minister, cabinet ministers, party leaders, and leadership candidates. Shockingly, the Conservatives do not support the legislation. Why? Because it would apply to the leader of the Official Opposition.
By further opening the doors to participation in our political process and by ensuring that events are open and transparent, we believe public confidence in the system will be enhanced.
Moreover, it is exciting to hear that the Liberal party has voluntarily moved to introducing these changes on its own, and will develop an interim system of public reporting. These are real measures to improve public confidence in our democratic institutions. They show how our government is committed to being open and accountable and ensuring ministers discharge their duties with integrity and meet the fundamental principles of our system of a responsible government.
The Conservatives want transparency to apply to others and ask others to apply a higher standard. However, when it comes to themselves, suddenly there are numerous reasons why transparency would be a bad idea. Not that we are surprised; it is the Conservative way.
When we look at the commissioner's report, the accepted the findings and was already engaged with the office to clear all future family and personal vacations. The Conservative technique under Stephen Harper was to always question the work of officers of parliament, and we see it continue today.
We are committed to being a government that is accountable to Canadians and lives up to the highest ethical standards. A transparent government is a good government. It strengthens trust in our democracy and ensures the integrity of our public institutions. Canadians support the progress that we, as a government, have made so far in this area, and they expect us to continue. We must never cease to earn and keep their trust.
I would like to reiterate that our has said on numerous occasions that he welcomed the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner's inquiry, and has taken all necessary steps to ensure that all and any future vacations of the Prime Minister will be vetted by the Ethics Commissioner prior to them taking place.
I am proud to be a part of a government that is committed to being open and transparent with all Canadians and conducts itself in an ethical manner.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
I am pleased today to rise in support of the motion before the House. The motion, in essence, refers to four major elements of the Conflict of Interest Act regarding the acceptance of illegal gifts, furthering private interests, being in a conflict of interest, and accepting travel.
The motion asks that the House find that when any of those sections of the Conflict of Interest Act are broken, sections 11, 21, 5, and 12, and the conflict of interest code and costs to the taxpayer are incurred, the member responsible must repay those costs to the taxpayer.
Before I go any further, the House should recognize that today is an important anniversary. It is not necessarily an anniversary to be marked with candles, fizzy drinks, and from the heart out, rainbows and unicorns, but rather one that the Liberal government would rather see forgotten, a day of infamy for the Liberal government. Today is the first anniversary of the day, February 6, 2017, when the Ethics Commissioner informed the that he was being investigated.
Why was the being investigated? Because the Conservative member for had requested an inquiry under the code into an improper vacation taken by the Prime Minister and his family to the private island of His Highness the Aga Khan. The commissioner was also responding to a request by another Conservative member of the House, raising concerns that the Prime Minister may have contravened sections of the Conflict of Interest Act.
The Ethics Commissioner found both requests reasonable, and that led to the letter written 12 months ago, informing the that he was being investigated for wrongdoing.
The Ethics Commissioner also informed the Prime Minister, in that fateful letter, that she was extending him the courtesy of an initial interview before collecting additional information or documents from other parties, third parties.
It was a gracious offer, but did the take advantage of that offer? Did the Prime Minister fully co-operate, as he has claimed so many times over the past 12 months? No. The Prime Minister did not consider the Ethics Commissioner's investigation a priority matter. He did not make himself available to the Ethics Commissioner for a full two months.
The focus of the final report, the official title of which may not be spoken in the House by order of the Speaker, because it is in the 's name, is the one improper, illegal Christmas vacation, December/January 2016. However, the commissioner's investigation also revealed that the Prime Minister and his family had accepted a vacation on the Aga Khan's island earlier, in December 2014, and that in March 2016, members of the Prime Minister's family, a friend, and the friend's children enjoyed a vacation on the Aga Khan's island, requested by the Prime Minister's wife.
On March 9, 2016, two days before the 's wife took that vacation, a representative of the Aga Khan requested a formal, bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister, which, when held in May, 2016, discussed matters including a $15 million dollar Government of Canada grant for one of the Aga Khan's projects.
When the , or the Liberal House leader, recites his lines that he accepts the commissioner's findings, and I will get to those in a moment, he just dusts his hands, says he has apologized, and commits to seek advice on his holidays from the Ethics Commissioner from now on.
What he has not acknowledged is his testimony before the Ethics Commissioner and, just as important, her interpretation of that testimony regarding the May 17 meeting with the Aga Khan. The Ethics Commissioner reported that the , despite receiving gifts and hospitality from the Aga Khan, had no concerns about attending the high-level grant-seeking meeting with the Aga Khan.
The told the Ethics Commissioner that the meetings he attended as Prime Minister were not really business meetings, but rather “high-level” meetings centred on relationship building and ensuring that all parties were moving forward together, that he left the details of deals, deals involving millions of dollars of Canadian taxpayers, to others. He suggested that was the way he saw his role in any high-level meeting, ceremonial in nature.
That is why we on this side of the House want the to tell us just how many other times he has behaved similarly with big name lobbyists or other organizations seeking millions of dollars, or much more, of Canadians' hard-earned tax dollars.
In the end, 11 months after initiating an investigation of the , the commissioner released her report, titled in the Prime Minister's name, a week after the House rose just before Christmas. Commissioner Dawson found that the Prime Minister violated four major sections of the Conflict of Interest Act: 5, 11, 12, and 21.
Except for one clumsy scrum in the foyer of the House, the has not meaningfully discussed the report with members, either in question period or more appropriately with the ethics committee. He has refused an invitation to committee saying he would rather answer in town halls, but where again, he has not.
The has been found to have broken the law. The Prime Minister accepted an illegal gift. The Prime Minister should do the right thing to attempt to regain the public trust, to demonstrate his accountability not only to the act but to his own ethical guidelines.
That is why this motion is before the House. That is why I hope all members will support the motion and the principles of accountability and ethical behaviour that the has so cavalierly violated.
Madam Speaker, as a member of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, it is a privilege for me to take part in this debate. As my colleagues know, I am a tireless crusader when it comes to shedding light on the unethical behaviour of the and his ministers and the free passes they give themselves. This latest scandal, in a long line of many, simply proves once again that the old Liberal culture is alive and well within the party. I would remind the House that, if the member for Papineau had not become leader of the Liberal Party, the Aga Khan certainly would not have invited him, so as to strengthen his ties with a potential future influential leader of Canada. Indeed, I myself have never been invited by the Aga Khan, nor have most of my colleagues in the House.
It beggars belief to see this self-important dandy expecting us to foot the bill for his whims and those of his family while Canadians are working hard and paying taxes. These expenses are unjustifiable. A taxpayer-funded illegal trip does not fall within his duties as a statesman.
This whole thing started when the contacted the Aga Khan's daughter in mid-July 2016 to ask whether his family could spend their Christmas holidays in Bells Cay. The Prime Minister's Office confirmed with the Privy Council Office in early November 2016 that the Prime Minister's family would be staying in Bells Cay from December 26, 2016 to January 4, 2017. The Prime Minister said that the only way to get to the island from Nassau was by private helicopter. He and his family travelled that way during their trip to Bells Cay in December 2014. Surprise. Now, it appears there was a third trip.
For a March 2016 trip taken by the Prime Minister's wife, who was joined by her friend and their children, she contacted the Aga Khan's daughter in mid-February 2016 to discuss the possibility of staying on the island with her children in the months that followed. The Aga Khan's daughter told Mrs. Grégoire that they would be welcome to say on the island. On February 27, 2016, Mrs. Grégoire sent an email to her assistant in the Prime Minister's Office, as well as to the staff in Bells Cay about her trip to the island with a friend and their children, in order to ask that she arrange the helicopter ride to Bells Cay with the island's staff.
It is nevertheless exceptional to see that there was an invitation to travel. I did not misspeak when I called the Prime Minister self-important, since he believes he is exceptional. When the former ethics commissioner appeared before the committee on which I sit on January 10, I asked Ms. Dawson to explain to us why the circumstances of the Prime Minister's family's trip were deemed “exceptional” and why it should be paid by Canadian taxpayers. I wondered if that was the position argued by the Prime Minister's legal counsel. I will quote Ms. Dawson, who said:
|| As I indicated in the report, Mr. Trudeau said that all of his trips were exceptional. In a way, they are always exceptional, because there is always a lot of security involved and all that. My point here is that you cannot use the argument that all travel is exceptional to claim that the holidays in question were exceptional. The circumstances were known, it was well planned, they had taken the helicopter before...
On page 61 of her report, Ms. Dawson also notes the following:
|| There was nothing unusual, unforeseen or unavoidable about this trip. [The Prime Minister] was well aware, given his previous stay on the island in 2014, that private transportation was needed to reach the Aga Khan's private island. While it may have been typical for guests of the Aga Khan to use his helicopter to reach the island, [the Prime Minister] knew that travel by helicopter was not the only means of transportation to the island. Members of his family had previously travelled to the island on a seaplane chartered by the Aga Khan from a company in the Bahamas.
|| Therefore when [the Prime Minister] and his family were planning their stay at the Aga Khan's island during the summer and fall of 2016, it would have been possible for the Prime Minister and his family to have considered and arranged alternative means of transportation to the island, including by chartering their own aircraft. Any alternative arrangements would have been less convenient and more expensive than the helicopter, but, given the prohibition set out in section 12, other alternatives should have been pursued.
|| For these reasons, I cannot conclude that there were exceptional circumstances in this case.
On page 56 of the report, the commissioner wrote that preparations for the trip had started much earlier:
|| As well, in the case of the December 2016 trip, plans were initiated for the trip in the summer of 2016 and firmed up by the fall, and the travel itinerary for [the Prime Minister] and his family was being organized weeks in advance by [the Prime Minister's] ministerial staff and the RCMP.
|| It is clear from the evidence that there were other options available to transport the [Prime Minister's] family to Bells Cay. The RCMP, when first advised of the Prime Minister’s trip to the private island, began considering various travel options to reach the island, including by boat or by chartering a private aircraft. When the RCMP became aware that the Aga Khan’s helicopter would be available as an option, it was considered by the RCMP to be the best option, taking into account that it was direct and easy. The RCMP considered the helicopter to be secure given that it had frequently been used by other dignitaries travelling to the island.
|| Although it is understandable from a security and efficiency perspective why the Prime Minister and his family accepted the travel aboard the Aga Khan’s private helicopter to reach Bells Cay, I am of the view that the circumstances surrounding the acceptance of the private air travel were not exceptional.
I would like to come back to the March 2016 trip to Bells Cay. On page 58 of the report, the former commissioner writes:
|| The March 2016 trip taken by [the Prime Minister’s] family was obviously not required in relation to [the Prime Minister’s] official duties…As in the case of the December 2016 trip, [the Prime Minister] did not seek my prior approval in relation to this trip.
|| Like the December 2016 trip, there was nothing so unusual, unforeseen or unavoidable about the March 2016 trip that a finding of exceptional circumstances would be warranted.
|| For the reasons stated above, I find that [the Prime Minister] contravened section 12 of the Act when he and his family accepted travel on the Aga Khan’s helicopter in December 2016 and when his family accepted travel on the non-commercial chartered aircraft arranged by the Aga Khan in March 2016.
I would also like to read Ms. Dawson's observation:
|| In 2015, the Prime Minister issued a guidance document for ministers and ministerial exempt staff, entitled Open and Accountable Government. That document provides that Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries must not accept travel on “non-commercial chartered or private aircraft for any purpose except in exceptional circumstances, and only with the prior approval of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner and public disclosure of the use of such aircraft. Any hospitality accepted must strictly adhere to the requirements of the Conflict of Interest Act.”
Ms. Dawson also said:
|| The rule as expressed in the Prime Minister’s document requires that the public office holder must always consult with the Commissioner prior to accepting travel, when claiming exceptional circumstances. In this case, the Prime Minister did not follow his own rule.
She goes on to say:
|| As mentioned above, section 12 of the Act arose out of a concern over a series of instances where ministers accepted travel on private aircraft. The seeking of prior approval in such cases brings the matter to my Office’s attention. This approval has been sought by other public office holders and would normally be favourably met where practical reasons support such a prior approval....As well, seeking prior approval enables my Office to look at the situation more broadly and to consider whether other provisions of the Act should also be considered.
Here in the House, it is our duty to abide by the Conflict of Interest Act. Everyone must abide by it, even the Prime Minister himself. In light of the damning report of former ethics commissioner Dawson, we can unequivocally say that the deliberately tried to be exempt from a federal law.
Madam Speaker, I would like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the member for .
We are here today to debate the opposition motion on the Conflict of Interest Act. This topic was of great interest to opposition members before the holidays. Indeed, this is a subject of great interest to all MPs because we must all comply with the act, so we all understand the importance of this debate.
I can assure the House that those of us on this side have the greatest respect for the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, as we do for all officers of Parliament. Their work is essential to our democracy, and they ensure the House functions properly. We co-operate with all officers of Parliament, which is what Canadians expect of us, and that is exactly what the hon. member for did.
In December, immediately following the release of the commissioner's report, the Prime Minister took responsibility, as any good leader should, and accepted all the commissioner's findings. He also took additional steps to ensure that all of his future personal and family vacations would be cleared in advance by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. He will continue to follow all the commissioner's advice and recommendations on managing his family friendship with the Aga Khan.
As elected officials, we have a very important duty. We represent Canadians in this House. We speak on behalf of Canadians. As an elected official, I make it my duty to stay in touch with my constituents and find out everything I can about their priorities and challenges. How can we, as members of the House, make the most significant contribution to our society?
Obviously, ethical issues are important, and we will always acknowledge that. However, I also have to recognize that the Conservatives are once again out of touch with Canadians' priorities. When I run into my constituents in the street or in a coffee shop and when I meet with them in my office, they tell me that what they want is more good jobs for the middle class and those working hard to join it. That is what our government continues to offer them. Through smart and responsible investments, we are helping to strengthen the middle class and grow the economy.
The results speak for themselves. Nearly 700,000 jobs have been created in Canada since our government took office. What is more, the unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in 40 years. In 2017 alone, 422,000 new jobs were added to Canada's economy. I would like my colleagues opposite to take note of that. That is the best job growth Canada has seen since 2002 and the strongest economic growth in the G7. The unemployment rate is 5.7%, which is practically the lowest it has ever been since I was born.
In Quebec, once again, the economy is doing very well. This is the best situation we have seen since 1976.
I hear from people that they care about their children's future. They want a society where good opportunities are available for all. I am proud to be part of a government that introduced and enhanced the Canada child benefit. It is so important. Right after the election, we raised taxes for the top 1% in order to lower them for the middle class. My colleagues opposite voted against this measure.
As I said, we introduced the Canada child benefit, which has helped 300,000 children across Canada. This is unprecedented. The impact has been tremendous for single-parent families, of which 80% are headed by women. The Canada child benefit has lifted 135,000 women out of poverty. It is a matter of ethics and morality. What we have done is very important. Clearly, it is our responsibility as MPs and as a government, no matter our political party, to support this measure. Unfortunately, the official opposition voted against this initiative.
As I said at the start of my speech, the motion before us is very important. We recognize it. The also recognizes the importance of this motion. Unlike former prime ministers who were not committed to Canadians, the current Prime Minister toured the country to speak to Canadians in public town halls. In these public meetings, he answered Canadians' questions and listened to their concerns.
When some Canadians asked difficult questions, he did not try to hide. He was there to answer their questions directly and candidly. He answered questions about this motion, and he did so very openly and honestly. Like any good leader must, he took responsibility and accepted all the findings of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.
I must point out the irony in what the opposition members are doing. For weeks and months, the opposition called for the Ethics Commissioner’s report to be tabled. Now that it has been tabled, the opposition refuses to accept the commissioner’s findings. This shows that they are not being serious.
The Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner’s work is extremely important. We recognize and have the greatest respect for that role within our institution.
The official opposition’s political games will not distract us from our commitment to Canadians. We will continue to listen to Canadians and take real action to make the middle class even stronger and to help those working so hard to join it.
We promised Canadians a government that will bring real change in terms of what we will do and how we will go about doing it. That is exactly what we are going to do. We promised to make investments that will grow the economy and create jobs and prosperity. That is exactly what we are doing.
We will do this while also meeting our moral and ethical responsibilities to this institution and to all Canadians.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to this motion regarding the Conflict of Interest Act and the report made by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner with respect to the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons and the Conflict of Interest Act.
The first thing I would like to point out is that the has accepted the findings of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner and has accepted full responsibility. Further, the has also undertaken to consult with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner on all future personal and family vacations to ensure that they always conform to the requirements of both the members' code and the Conflict of Interest Act.
The thanked the former conflict of interest and ethics commissioner for her work and for her advice in managing his relationship with the Aga Khan. There is a good reason for this. The commissioner's work ensures that Canadians can rely on a non-partisan officer of Parliament to make determinations on activities of members of Parliament.
Although the House of Commons is naturally an adversarial chamber where accusations often fly back and forth one side to the other, Canadians know that officers of Parliament, such as the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, investigate allegations and make findings and recommendations which are non-partisan. When the former conflict of interest and ethics commissioner answered questions on this matter before the ethics committee on January 10, 2018, she stated that the act has accomplished what it sets out to do, and that she stands by her report.
The Prime Minister has accepted the findings, and he has made arrangements to ensure that he clears all family and personal vacations with the office of the commissioner on an ongoing basis. The Conservatives are the ones who refuse to accept the fact that the report stands for itself. The former commissioner also found that no preferential treatment was ever given by the throughout this endeavour. In fact, no such preferential treatment was even sought. However, the Prime Minister has put in place measures to better manage his relationship with the Aga Khan moving forward. The fact that the immediately took full responsibility for the commissioner's findings is exactly what Canadians expect from their elected officials and their leaders. Not only has the Prime Minister stood and responded to the concerns in this House, he also has crossed the country engaging with Canadians on matters that are of concern to them.
Let us recap. The immediately took responsibility and answered numerous questions from the media. He answered numerous questions here in the House. He attended a number of public town hall events where Canadians were able to ask him unscripted questions on issues that they judged to be important. In fact, the came to Hamilton, my hometown, for a town hall. I am delighted to report that approximately 2,000 attendees were delighted that the Prime Minister would engage with them on matters that were important to them.
This civic engagement is very important to our government. This is why the is making himself available to connect with Canadians across the country. We are proud of this initiative. I want to thank all those Canadians who are showing up to the town hall events to engage. We appreciate their input and know how important it is for us to govern effectively.
I wish to confirm that at our town hall, as with all the other town halls, none of the questions were vetted, and the answered every question that was put to him. It was a great day for Hamilton. This is what real accountability looks like, and it is very different from what the Conservatives did while they were in power.
I would like to stay positive on this subject, so rather than criticize my Conservative opponents, let me say this. Our believes that engaging with Canadians and hearing from them directly, and truly listening, as our dear friend Arnold Chan asked all of us to do, will make this country better.
Why? That is easy. We believe in Canadians. We know that listening to Canadians will help us serve them more effectively. This is not an approach that former prime minister Stephen Harper took with Canadians or the media. Our 's acceptance of the findings and willingness to work with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner is proof of the strength of the protections we currently have for our democratic process and decision-making.
We are currently debating a proposal to put in place additional members to protect our democratic process from undue influence. The Conservatives actually oppose Bill , which would increase the transparency and accountability of our current fundraising regime. New requirements would be in place for how ministers, opposition leaders, and party leadership candidates would advertise their fundraising events, report on how much they charge, and let us know who attended those events. This legislation would give the public the information they need to verify that their ministers and party leaders are acting with an openness and accountability to everyday Canadians, who expect political contributions not to influence the decisions that will be made in their lives.
In regard to costs, Canadians expect that the 's security is assured, wherever and whenever he travels. This is not just the case for our Prime Minister. This has been the case for previous prime ministers as well. The listens very carefully to the advice of security experts and makes sure their advice is followed. In her testimony before the ethics committee, the former ethics commissioner also pointed out, in response to the questions from the member for , that expenses to protect the Prime Minister are costs incurred wherever the Prime Minister happens to be.
Today's motion focuses on the . In fact, this focus has been seized by the opposition for the past number of weeks. However, what the Conservatives fail to understand is that we need to focus on the needs of Canadians. That is what we are doing. We are working hard for Canadians.
Let us look at the results. Unemployment is lower than it has been in 40 years. In fact, some members of the House have never seen as low an unemployment rate as we have today. The Canadian child benefit has lifted over 300,000 children out of poverty. In Hamilton, the Canada child benefit has lifted 89,500 children out of poverty with an investment of $25.7 million. We have lowered taxes for nine million Canadians thanks to the middle-class tax cut. We have strengthened the CPP and increased GIS benefits for the most vulnerable seniors.
While the opposition stays laser-focused on us, we remain focused on Canadians and we will not be distracted from this focus no matter what tactics the opposition implements. We have a strong country and we have a strong democracy. This is thanks, in part, to the work of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, who helps Canadians better trust their institutions.
The Conflict of Interest Act has been applied for the , and the Prime Minister has accepted the findings of the report. He has promised to closely work with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner going forward. This is what Canadians expect and this is how democracy works.
Madam Speaker, I am proud to say I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
We are having a debate today because of truly unparalleled circumstances in our parliamentary democracy. Within two years of forming government, the Liberal government, led by the , is the subject of multiple investigations by officers of Parliament for inappropriate lobbying and conflicts of interest. Canadians who tuned in to the political debate in the fall saw the hon. member for Toronto Centre, the , plagued by questions of conflict of interest with respect to his dealings and legislation he brought into the chamber that he had lobbied for in the private sector ahead of time without recusing himself from that process. That investigation is still to come.
Within months of forming government, the was engaged in cash for access fundraising events. The Lobbying Commissioner is investigating that. That report is yet to come. Today's debate comes from the report we do have before us and it is the reason we are debating the conflict of interest of the Prime Minister today. That was the report in the name of the Prime Minister released by the Ethics Commissioner just before Christmas last year.
What is unparalleled is that the was found to violate the Conflict of Interest Act in four separate ways. Despite the repeated rhetoric from my friends on the Liberal side of the House saying the Prime Minister has accepted responsibility and is accountable, there is nothing in the report that levies a punishment, an administrative fine, or any type of accountability measure on the Prime Minister. True accountability for a leader would be, at an absolute minimum, to apologize and reimburse Canadians for expenditures that should never have been spent with respect to his trip.
Liberals are suggesting Conservatives are being unreasonable. We are not suggesting the face jail time for this. We are not suggesting that an administrative monetary penalty, a fine, be levied. We are suggesting a basic form of accountability that most parents teach their children when it comes to accepting responsibility for their actions. The Prime Minister is famous for saying sorry, including in this House for several good reasons in the past, but sorry with respect to four ethical violations on his own conduct is unacceptable. He needs to show leadership to show that other members in his caucus need to be accountable for their conduct.
That is why we are here. Liberals do not want to talk about that, but they have yet to provide one example of how the is being accountable. Saying he was found guilty on four counts under the act is one thing. What is the Prime Minister prepared to do to show contrition, to show he understands the severity of the decision of the Ethics Commissioner, and to send a signal that both the Prime Minister and his caucus find that conduct unacceptable?
We all remember, after the lovely stroll up to Rideau Hall, #RealChange, and all of that language, the , to great fanfare, released the mandate letters for his ministers, in which he said their conduct not only needed to be free from conflict of interest but, to the highest standards, needed to be free from perceptions of conflict of interest. Even the appearance that something was inappropriate was the standard he set. He has not met that standard himself, and it is being suggested that Conservatives are being unreasonable by saying the only true way he can show contrition, to show Canadians and the Ethics Commissioner that he understands the message of this report, is to reimburse taxpayers for the cost of a trip that never should have occurred.
I will highlight how ridiculous his defence is. Because there is an exception to receiving gifts from friends, the of Canada has turned himself into a pretzel suggesting that the Aga Khan is a friend.
What did the ethics commissioner say about whether this exception applied? She applied an objective standard, which is, in law, what a reasonable person would take from this defence. I quote from page 36:
|| The evidence shows that, but for the Aga Khan's attendance at [the Prime Minister's] father's funeral in 2000, [the Prime Minister] had no private or personal interactions with the Aga Khan between 1983 and fall of 2013, a span of 30 years.
I think it is hard to suggest that one has a lifelong friendship with a person because one met that person once or twice when young. When trying to pin a legal and ethical defence on a friendship, a person will bend over backwards to suggest that this is a lifetime friend. The certainly did not maintain that friendship very well, if three decades passed with no interaction.
The report goes on to say that on several visits the Aga Khan made to Canada, there was no attempt on either's part to connect. There was no correspondence.
This was a Hail Mary pass defence to suggest that this was a friendship with Uncle K. It is not befitting the of Canada to make ridiculous defences when he should be accepting responsibility.
The had his , when she was in that role, accept responsibility for some inappropriate expenditures. I respect her for that. I think she got the respect of the House for taking responsibility. The Prime Minister has not. To say he accepts the findings is not enough.
This is an administrative law, a parliamentary matter. We are not talking about criminal law. We are not talking about imposing sanctions or monetary penalties on the . In the civil context or the administrative context, reimbursement is the appropriate measure. A press conference held days before Christmas, when the Prime Minister stumbled through an apology in the most embarrassing fashion possible, does not cut it.
I was a cabinet minister at the tail end of the Harper government, which lasted for almost a decade. There are no reports entitled the Harper report. This is occurring within months of the Prime Minister forming government.
As I said the other day, it took over a decade for entitlement, helping friends, and avoiding responsibility to creep in under the Chrétien Liberals. It took a decade for that government to become tired and in conflict. It has taken the present Liberal government mere months.
Would I today like to be talking about the 's trip to China, where he secretly promised a free trade deal before being sent home with his tail between his legs by the Chinese? Would I prefer to be talking about NAFTA? Would I prefer to be talking about the shameful display the Prime Minister made in front of veterans in Edmonton last week, when he suggested that despite his extravagant spending, hundreds of thousands of dollars on tweets alone, veterans are asking for too much? I would prefer to have an opposition day debate on that.
The needs to show accountability for his ethics breaches. Leadership by example should mean that the Prime Minister holds himself to an even higher standard than he expects from his team. That is leadership by example. We saw the do that. The Prime Minister should take some lessons from her on accountability. Certainly the amounts are slightly larger than the minister repaid, but then again, it is hard to take a limousine to a private island in the Caribbean.
What was even more inappropriate was the fact that later on, the 's family asked for additional trips. This is the level of entitlement and expectation they have.
At a time when we have debated the difficult circumstances families in Alberta have faced and the threat and imposition on Sears employees, Canadians do not accept this high-wheeling, high-flying who will not accept responsibility for his actions. We are here today to ask for it, and I only hope that his own members of caucus will pressure him to lead by example and repay the amount of money.
Madam Speaker, my colleagues on the other side of the House are laughing, and meanwhile their leader has violated four sections of the Conflict of Interest Act. They are laughing, and meanwhile their government has entered talks involving tens of millions of dollars. In fact, it has already given tens of millions of dollars to the Aga Khan's causes. Whether or not these causes are worthy matters little. In the meantime, the was gallivanting around his private island.
Lastly, the commissioner found that “Mr. Trudeau contravened section 12 of the Act when his family travelled on non-commercial aircraft chartered by the Aga Khan”. I am pleased that Ms. Dawson, the Ethics Commissioner, had the courage to write this incriminating report which says, in black and white, just how the Prime Minister violated four sections of the act.
This is all terrible, but there is something else that bothers me even more and that makes me sad. I do not say this lightly, and I rarely say this in politics, but I am sad, as all Canadians should be. I genuinely do not understand how a prime minister of our great federation could not only decide to take his Christmas vacation outside Canada, which is already a shameful and dishonourable thing for a prime minister to do, but also to travel to a billionaire's island.
I knocked on doors throughout the Christmas break. I met one constituent who lives in affordable housing. He had tears in his eyes as he told me that he had almost no teeth left. He has had toothaches for years, he needs dentures, and he has a very low income, but his honour prevents him from requesting social assistance. However, he still cannot afford dentures and cannot afford to replace his teeth. He spoke to me about his teeth for 15 minutes, because it was such a big part of his life. What he is going through is terrible.
Across the country, Canadians are living in poverty. People are starving and freezing to death in Toronto, in Montreal, and in Vancouver. They are not dying because they have mental health issues or addictions. They are dying because of sociological problems such as lack of education. Poverty is a real issue in Canadian society, but not only is the Prime Minister not encouraging Canadians to stay here, he himself is spending time on a billionaire's tropical island.
Seriously, people are dying of hunger in Canada, but our shameless Prime Minister had the nerve to take a vacation that cost taxpayers $200,000. The worst part is his total contempt for Canadians. He should never have done that. As Prime Minister, he should at the very least avoid vacations like that during his four-year term. Four years is not a long time in the life of a man who could live to the age of 90. He could not wait four years to go gallivanting around on a tropical beach while people here at home in eastern and Atlantic Canada are dying of hunger because of the employment insurance spring gap, not to mention the indigenous peoples on every reserve in the country.
The Prime Minister says that his most important relationship is the nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples. This is ridiculous, since his most important relationship should be with all Canadians and not with any one group in particular. He is constantly spouting his lofty ideals, saying that he works for the middle class and for Indigenous people on reserve, and that he will make investments for Canadians, and then he vacations on a billionaire's private island. Talk about setting a good example. This just makes me sad.
Since 1867, and I think it is written in the Constitution, all governments are required to operate in accordance with the notion of peace, order, and good government. However, so far, the Liberals have been unable to form a good government. They continue to run deficits, when there is no war and no economic crisis.
They keep breaking promises. I will conclude by saying that, yesterday, the proudly announced that his program was huge in comparison with free trade. They have done absolutely nothing for free trade. That is why we introduced the TPP. The President of the United States is the one who began renegotiating NAFTA. Were is this Liberal free trade agreement I have heard so much about? It does not exist. We must denounce the ’s attitude and behaviour, and that is what we are doing today.