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View Erin O'Toole Profile
View Erin O'Toole Profile
2019-04-05 13:47 [p.26775]
Madam Speaker, I am happy to bring us home regarding the debate on Bill C-278 and the important public policy discussion started by our colleague from Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke.
I find it quite interesting to listen to NDP members and the Liberals in this debate. The Liberal speaker who preceded me suggested that everything was fine regarding lobbyist registries and that the regulations did not need to be updated. This is after two months of scandal related to intensive lobbying efforts by SNC-Lavalin to change the course of justice in Canada, which has led us to the largest political scandal in Canadian history.
In fact, the OECD has a group looking into the SNC-Lavalin affair. The OECD is an international body that has never investigated Canada before for rule-of-law concerns. This all stems from lobbying that commenced four months into the government's mandate, which led to the insertion of the remediation agreement provisions into the budget implementation act, an omnibus bill.
That lobbying was all above board and done correctly, but to dismiss concerns about the need to ensure our lobbying registries are the most current and effective in the world is a false argument at a time when we have been consumed by a scandal that, at its centre, was the government advancing the interests of a private corporation.
When my friend from Timmins—James Bay stood up, he had a piece of paper in his hand that looked like the bill, but he clearly had not read it. He went on a rant about a lot of his old nuggets from the Harper government days and talked about grassroots efforts. We know that money coming from foreign sources, unions or elsewhere does not represent truly grassroots efforts. At the very minimum, we should expect full transparency disclosure of any monies used to influence public discourse, public debate and the review of legislation in Canada.
Why do I say this? Why is Bill C-278 critical at this time in our history?
Today, at the G7 meeting in Europe, the Minister of Foreign Affairs said, “interference is very likely and we think there have probably already been efforts by malign foreign actors to disrupt our democracy.” This was what the Liberal minister said today at the G7 meeting about foreign influence in elections and democracies. This is why my colleague brought forward Bill C-278.
The last Liberal speaker should get on the phone to correct her minister. Perhaps she could say to her House leader that the Liberals should support what the Conservatives are doing to ensure we prevent interference.
Bill C-278 does two discrete and very easy-to-understand things. It would require lobbyists to disclose the source of their funding as well as disclose the intention of those foreign funds and lobbying efforts to influence proceedings in Canada, be they regulatory proceedings on pipeline review or legislative proceedings on the legalization of cannabis. Last I checked, most Liberal operatives seem to working that industry these days. All that will do is bring disclosure.
What is wrong with a little sunshine? We have this new chamber that allows in a bit of diffused light. That diffused and opaque transparency is what we get from the Prime Minister.
I find this the height of hypocrisy. As a private member, the member for Papineau was not really known for doing much in this place before he became Prime Minister, and I respect the role he has. His one private member's bill from the last session, about which maybe my Liberal friends who were elected in 2015 do not know, was Bill C-613, and I always thought it was ironic that it used the Ottawa area code. That bill was meant to update access to information laws.
When he was in opposition, he talked about having transparency by default. As Prime Minister, he has done the opposite. In fact, he has not lived up to one shred of the intention of Bill C-613.
The last information commissioner chastised the Prime Minister for his conduct with respect to access to information. We have just today debated code words being used within the government to delay disclosure in the Norman affair. We have heard that ATIs asked for by La Presse will not be available from the government on the SNC matter until after the election. There has been zero transparency from the Liberal government, this Prime Minister and the small group of people around him.
Let me say why this sunshine is needed and particularly why l am concerned that we seem to be fine with not tracking foreign money in our country. I would invite members, including Liberal and NDP members, to watch Wendy Mesley's interview with Vivian Krause. Because in the U.S. there is disclosure of tax records, of foundation reports to the IRS, of unions' disclosures of money spent on the legislative process, she is able to analyze U.S. documentation to track the spending of money in Canada.
In fact, it should very much concern Canadians, including in my province, where in the great recession when the auto industry was at the edge, the resource industry in western Canada led to more jobs than the auto sector did in Ontario. People in my community of Durham should be concerned that the Rockefeller Foundation, the Tides Foundation and the Hewlett trust were part of a Corporate Ethics International campaign to, in their words, “landlock Canadian oil”.
In fact, they were putting and syphoning money into Canada, into activist groups, into activities to actually stop regulatory proceedings with respect to resource development and getting those products to market. As a result, last year alone our national interests received $15 billion less than the world price for oil because of a deflated price that has hurt Alberta immensely. That is less tax revenue that we can spend at the provincial and federal levels on things that matter to Canadians. I think people should know if those projects are being delayed, cancelled or influenced by foreign money.
Therefore, what is wrong with a little disclosure, particularly from a Prime Minister who said transparency should be the default setting in government? Today we hear from the Liberals that the regulatory process is in order and the bill is not needed, yet in Europe, the minister is saying there is likely interference going on now with respect to our parliamentary democracy and our election this fall.
Bill C-278 is intended to address that. Let us at least get it to committee so we can talk about this situation. If we go on social media, on Twitter, what we see would probably keep most of us up at night because of the terrible environment. The last Clerk of the Privy Council called it a vomitorium.
The influence of paid operatives on Twitter may have influenced other elections before ours. Should we not know if some of those foreign influences are paying organizations on the ground here in Canada to impact Canadians and our decisions on our resources, on our projects, on our infrastructure, on whether indigenous Canadians will be able to benefit from resources on traditional lands. It is impacting our indigenous peoples and our democracy.
Bill C-278 is a modest proposal. I know the grassroots members of the NDP will survive without foreign money. They should support the bill. If the Liberal members listened to their own minister today, talking to G7 leaders about interference by foreign actors in political elections, then the Liberals should also support the bill. That is why I want to thank the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke for bringing it to Parliament.
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