Interventions in the House of Commons
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View Alupa Clarke Profile
View Alupa Clarke Profile
2018-10-26 10:49 [p.22876]
Madam Speaker, it is always an honour to rise to speak in the House.
I would like to say hello to the people of Beauport—Limoilou who are watching us now on CPAC or watching a rebroadcast on Facebook or Twitter.
Without further delay, I would like to address the previous speaker's comments. I find it interesting that he said their objective was to prevent foreign influence from third parties.
The bill will pass, since the Liberals have a majority. However, one problem I have with the bill is that it will allow more than 1.5 million Canadians who have been living outside of Canada for more than five years to vote in general elections, even if they have been outside Canada for 10 or 15 years.
These people have a privilege that even Canadians who have never left the country do not even have. The Liberals will let them randomly choose which riding they want to vote in. This is a massive privilege.
If I were living in the United States for 10 years and saw that the vote was really close in a certain riding, thanks to the new amendments made to the bill, I could decide to vote for the Liberal Party in order to ensure that a Liberal member gets elected. That seems like a very dangerous measure to me. It will give a lot of power to people who have been living abroad for a very long time. That still does not make them foreigners, since they are Canadian citizens.
For those watching us, I want to note that we are talking about Bill C-76 to modernize the Canada Elections Act.
This is an extremely important issue because it is the Canada Elections Act that sets the guidelines for our elections in our democracy. These elections determine the party that will form the next government of Canada.
I am sure that the people of Beauport—Limoilou watching us right now can hardly believe the Liberal government when it says that it wants to improve democracy or Canada's electoral system or allow a lot of people to exercise their right to vote. The Liberals' record on different elements of democracy has been deplorable the past three years.
Two years ago when the House was debating the issue, I was a member of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates. The Liberals introduced a parliamentary reform that included some rather surprising elements. They wanted to weaken the opposition, thereby weakening roughly 10 million Canadians who voted for the opposition parties, including the Conservative Party, the New Democratic Party, and the Green Party.
They wanted to cut speaking times in the House, which is completely ridiculous. I have said it many times before and I will say it again. An MP currently has the right to speak for 20 minutes. Most of the time, each MP speaks for 10 minutes. Through the reform, the Liberals wanted to cut speaking times from 20 minutes to 10 minutes at all times. The 20-minute speaking slot would no longer exist.
I have a book at home that I love called The Confederation Debates. It features speeches by Papineau, Doyon, George-Étienne Cartier, John A. MacDonald, Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine, among many others that I could name. These great MPs would speak for four, five, six, seven or eight hours without stopping, long into the night.
With their parliamentary reforms, the Liberals wanted to reduce MPs' speaking time to 10 minutes. They wanted to take away our right to speak for 20 minutes. All this was intended to minimize the opposition's speaking time, to stifle debate on various issues.
What they did yesterday was even worse. It was a clear-cut example of their attitude towards parliamentary democracy. They imposed time allocation. In layman's terms, they placed a gag order on a debate on the modernization of the Canada Elections Act. No example could more blatantly demonstrate their ultimate intent, which is to ram the bill through as fast as possible. It is really a shame. They want to ram this down our throats.
There is also what they did in 2015 and 2016 with their practice of cash for access.
When big-time lobbyists want to meet with a minister or the Prime Minister to discuss an issue, they just have to register and pay $1,500, or $1,575 now, for the opportunity to influence them.
These are not get-togethers with ordinary constituents. These are get-togethers arranged for the express purpose of giving prominent lobbyists access to top government officials and enabling them to influence decisions.
Here is a great example. The Minister of Finance attended a get-together with Port of Halifax officials and people closely connected to the Port of Halifax. No other Liberal Party MP was there. That is a blatant conflict of interest and cash for access.
If Canadians have a hard time trusting the Liberals when they say they introduced this bill because they want to enfranchise people or improve democracy and civic engagement, it is also because of all of the promises the Liberals have broken since their election in 2015.
Elections and electoral platforms form the foundations of Canadian democracy. Each party's political platform contains election promises. Personally, I prefer to call them commitments. The Liberals made some big promises. They said they would run small $10-billion deficits for the first two years and then reduce the deficits. Year after year, however, as they are in their third year of a four-year mandate, they have been running deficits that are much worse: $30 billion, $20 billion and, this year, $19 billion, although their plan projected a $6-billion deficit.
They broke that promise, but worse still, they broke their promise to return to a balanced budget. As my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent has put it so well often enough, this is the first time we are seeing structural deficits outside wartime or a major recession. What is worse, this is the first time a government has had no plan to return to a balanced budget. It defies reason. The Parliamentary Budget Officer, an institution created by the Right Hon. Stephen Harper, said again recently that it is unbelievable to see a government not taking affairs of the state more seriously.
Meanwhile, with respect to infrastructure, the Liberals said they were introducing the largest infrastructure program in Canadian history—everything is always historic with them—worth $187 billion. What is the total amount spent to date? They have spent, at most, $7 billion on a few projects here and there, although this was supposed to be a pan-Canadian, structured and large-scale program.
The Liberals also broke their promise to reform the electoral system. They wanted a preferential balloting system because, according to analyses, surveys and their strategists, it would have benefited them. I did not support that promise, but it is probably why so many Canadians voted for the Liberals.
There is then a string of broken promises, but electoral reform was a fundamental promise and the Liberals reneged on it. It would have made changes to the Election Act and to how Canadians choose their government. That clearly shows once again that Canadians cannot trust the Liberals when they say they will reform the Election Act in order to strengthen democracy in Canada.
Let us now get back to the matter at hand, Bill C-76, which makes major fundamental changes that I find deplorable.
First, Bill C-76 would allow the Chief Electoral Officer to authorize the use of the voter information card as a piece of identification for voting. As one of my Conservative colleagues said recently, whether we like it or not, voter cards show up all over, even in recycling boxes. Sometimes voter cards are found sticking out of community mailboxes.
There are all kinds of ways that an individual can get hold of a voter card and go to the polling station with it. It is not that difficult. This Liberal bill enables that individual to vote, although there is no way of knowing if they are that person, unless they are asked to provide identification—and that is not even the biggest problem.
It does not happen often, thank goodness, but when I go to the CHUL in Quebec City—which is the hospital where I am registered—not only do I have to provide the doctor's requisition for blood work, but I also have to show a piece of ID and my hospital card.
View Luc Thériault Profile
View Luc Thériault Profile
2018-03-01 17:18 [p.17567]
Mr. Speaker, the last time I spoke, I tried to convince my Liberal and Conservative colleagues of the merits of the bill introduced by my colleague from Terrebonne on political financing.
I would like to give an overview of this bill for the benefit of voters. This bill seeks to introduce or reintroduce per-vote party financing. This small measure would cost very little, benefit democracy, and produce a number of worthwhile results.
We have had several discussions and many questions in question period about the cash for access dynamic of political fundraising, or in other words, privileged access to the government and the Prime Minister. I am talking about private dinners that will now be advertised. People will be invited, and it will be announced that a private dinner will be held at the cost of $1,500 a person for those who can afford to attend and who have things to say to the Prime Minister about the interests of lobby groups. The Liberals think that this is a big step for democracy because they are now going to advertise these events.
At this moment, however, how many of the viewers watching this debate on television can afford to donate $1,500 to a political party, seeing as, unlike lobbies, they have no interests to advance by donating to the Prime Minister's riding of Papineau through a fundraiser being held in Vancouver? These people attended a $1,500-a-plate dinner and told the Prime Minister what they wanted, and the same day their bank was approved, poof, $70,000 magically found its way to the coffers of Papineau, 5,000 kilometres away. What a way to finance an election.
The mere suspicion and appearance of a kickback is enough to damage our democratic institutions and undermine public trust in democratic institutions.
When it was in opposition, this government said it wanted to restore the per-vote subsidy. Now that it holds the purse strings, it is backtracking under pressure from multiple lobbies. Right now, its coffers are full, as are the coffers of the Conservative Party. It is well known that power alternates between these two parties. They are two sides of the same coin. It comes as no surprise today to see these two parties joining forces to wipe out the per-vote subsidy.
This flies in the face of the Liberal government's apparently empty promise to reform the Canada Elections Act and introduce a fairer voting system, but it is not the first time the government has said one thing and done another. One of the reasons we wanted a fairer voting system was to give Canadians an opportunity to express a broader range of ideas in the House by giving smaller parties a voice and seats in the House and enabling them to participate in democratic debate. Since that did not happen, we think the least the government can do is encourage people to express their political views by providing per-vote funding.
Per-vote funding would enable voters to vote for what they believe in so that a vote for, say, the Green Party, which is a minority party in the House, would not be a total waste. It would give such minority parties a say in the democratic debate of a democratic society for four years. It would enable small parties to participate on a more level playing field in the democratic debate of a democratic society as expressed in an election campaign.
The government wants to backtrack on this. I am disgusted at the government's failure to keep yet another promise.
It is disgusting.
View Michael Cooper Profile
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-03-01 17:23 [p.17568]
Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-364, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act, introduced by the hon. member for Terrebonne.
Bill C-364 seeks to do two things. First, it seeks to re-establish the per-vote subsidy, which provides that after a federal election political parties receive taxpayer subsidies based upon the number of votes they received during the previous election. Second, it seeks to reduce the maximum amount an individual can contribute to a political party from $1,500 to $500.
I oppose Bill C-364 because I do not support the re-establishment of the per-vote subsidy, nor do I believe it makes sense or see any compelling reason for why the maximum limit should be reduced from $1,500 to $500.
The heart of this bill relates to re-establishing the per-vote subsidy, and I want to take a bit of time to talk about why it is I oppose the re-establishment of the per-vote subsidy. In that regard, it is helpful to provide some context in terms of how the per-vote subsidy came to be.
It came to be as part and parcel with political financing reforms introduced by the Chrétien government in 2003, whereby a $5,000 maximum cap was set in terms of contributions to political parties. That change in political financing laws was a step in the right direction, to the Chrétien government's credit. It is something we continued when the previous Conservative government reduced the maximum contribution amount and banned union and corporate donations altogether.
When the $5,000 cap was introduced, it constituted a monumental change in political financing laws in Canada. Indeed, prior to that, there were really no rules or limits. Unions and corporations could donate large sums of money to political parties. In that fundraising environment, it is no surprise that political parties often relied upon a smaller pool of donors who contributed large sums of money, whether it be from corporations, unions, or other wealthy individuals.
Then the rules changed, and changed very quickly, almost overnight. As a result, the per-vote subsidy was introduced to allow political parties to transition and acclimatize to the new rules respecting fundraising activities. It was never intended that the per-vote subsidy would be permanent; rather, it was intended to be an interim measure. It is precisely for that reason the previous Conservative government phased out the per-vote subsidy following the 2011 election.
There are proponents of re-establishing the per-vote subsidy, and they argue that it is a more fair and equitable way in which to finance political parties. I respectfully disagree with that assertion. I say it is an unfair way to finance political parties, starting with asking taxpayers to pick up and subsidize, out of sweat-soaked taxpayers' dollars, political parties. The Parliamentary Budget Officer estimates that re-establishing the per-vote subsidy would cost taxpayers $45 million annually. I can think of a lot of better ways to use 45 million taxpayers' dollars than to subsidize political parties.
Moreover, I would submit that the per-vote subsidy is unfair in as much as the party that receives the largest share of the votes receives the largest subsidy. Why might that be a problem? Is it fair to ask taxpayers to continue to subsidize a political party that they may no longer support, that they may no longer agree with, having regard for the fact that there could be a significant shift in support between elections? I would say that is not fair.
In that regard, as a result, almost always there is a built-in advantage for governing parties over opposition parties. Again, I say that does not sound very fair. That does not sound very equitable. In addition, it provides a significant advantage to established political parties and a significant disadvantage to new parties. After all, a party that competed in a previous election would receive large amounts of taxpayer-subsidized funds, whereas a new party would receive nothing, if it was a new party that did not compete in the previous election.
There are many examples in Canadian history where political parties have emerged to go on to be very successful, whether it be the Reform Party or the Bloc Québécois, of which the member for Terrebonne was a member at least up until yesterday.
For all of those reasons, I would submit that the per-vote subsidy is not fair and is not equitable.
Proponents would go on to say that this bill would help take money out of politics, except that it does not take money out of politics because it provides that individuals can continue to contribute to political parties, as I believe they should. All it does is provide a whole new stream of revenue, courtesy of the taxpayer, to political parties.
Then there are proponents who would say that at least it would diminish the need for the Liberals to engage in their unethical pay-to-play, cash for access, $1,500 fundraisers. I say that we do not need to pass Bill C-364 for the Liberals to end cash for access. All that needs to happen is for the Prime Minister to follow his “Open and Accountable Government”. Do members remember that document? It was the code of conduct that the Prime Minister said would bind him, his cabinet ministers, and his parliamentary secretaries.
“Open and Accountable Government” provides that there should be no preferential access to government, and no perception of preferential access to government. Imagine that: the Prime Minister actually doing what he said, keeping his word to Canadians. I know for this Prime Minister, it is a truly novel concept.
For all of those reasons, while I believe this is a well-intentioned bill, I cannot support it.
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2018-03-01 18:02 [p.17573]
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise this afternoon to speak to the bill introduced by my colleague from Terrebonne. It is a noble bill that has to do with political party financing.
Our role here is to faithfully represent the public and our ridings. Are there some people who have more rights than others in a democracy? No. The basic principle, the fundamental principle, is that everyone has an equal voice. Unfortunately, a correlation has been observed between political party financing and the results the parties obtain. The system becomes distorted, and money wields greater influence.
The wealthiest people can decide to finance political parties, those able to form government in particular, in other words, the two main parties. This has happened in recent months and years, where people were given access to power at fundraising dinners or galas for $1,500. Obviously, those donors expected something in return. That approach skews our democracy; it hijacks it. Under that type of system, those with more money have a greater say.
My colleague is suggesting that we reduce this type of financing and replace it with public funding. This bill is about restoring public funding, as my colleague from Trois-Rivières pointed out in his speech. We had this type of funding before, but it was abolished under the Harper regime.
Public funding was brought in under Jean Chrétien in response to the sponsorship scandal. Friends of the party were providing financing, and they then got a kickback in the form of contracts. That was the sponsorship scandal. Mr. Chrétien figured that he needed to save face, so he made the process a little more democratic. This is unfortunately how things sometimes work in our society. It takes a scandal for us to implement a more progressive measure or to improve our democracy.
My colleague is proposing that we bring back the principle of per-vote funding for existing parties. This is a wonderful principle. It is not the end of the world, nor is it a cure-all, but it would help get us back on track.
As my colleague from Trois-Rivières and my other colleagues were saying, we are looking at the principle. In the House, no one can justify voting against this bill at second reading because of the details. We are all open to the idea of improving the bill in committee, as we have said repeatedly during today's debate. That is the principle.
Our role as legislators is to pass good laws that improve democracy and reflect the desires of the people we represent. That is what we are talking about, and that is what we should aspire to. I cannot imagine anyone voting against this principle in good conscience today. If any Conservatives or Liberals vote against this bill, I can only deduce that they are doing it with an eye to the next election. We condemn cynicism in politics and the mediocre levels of trust in politicians. If any members vote against this bill on the pretext of having small details debated and improved in committee, I would not trust those members because they would have shown that what matters to them most is power. Anyone who votes against this bill is showing that all they care about is winning the next election and making sure their party stays strong thanks to financial contributions from the rich and powerful.
Tax havens are a good example. In their fine speeches, the Liberals say they are against them. The minister says the net is tightening, but in reality, nothing concrete is being done. The Liberals continue to legalize more and more tax havens. Does that really benefit the middle class and those working hard to join it, as the Liberals say? Not in the least.
If the business world and the banks on Bay Street in Toronto tell their friends to keep doing what they are doing and promise that in exchange, business people will get together and keep giving them $1,500, that does not work.
That is not democracy. That is the opposite of democracy. It is financial dictatorship and that needs to change.
My colleague introduced a bill that is based on a meaningful principle and that represents a step in the right direction. In my opinion, this is a fundamental democratic principle. Everyone should be in favour of it. I can only assume that anyone who opposes it is acting in bad faith.
I would like to close by saying that we have spoken out against the $1,500 dinners and against the Prime Minister accepting donations from people from Toronto and Vancouver and authorizing a bank for their cultural community in exchange for those donations. We spoke out against that. That is not the kind of system that we want. We want more objective principles.
My colleagues and I are currently part of a group of independent parliamentarians. If this bill were to be passed tomorrow, we would not get a penny as a result. We are rising today on a matter of principle because we believe in a better democracy. We are here to defend values, not just personal interests, which seems to be the case for my colleagues opposite and my colleagues on this side. I encourage everyone to vote for my colleague's bill. As I said, we are at the principle stage. Improvements will be made to the bill in committee.
View Michel Boudrias Profile
View Michel Boudrias Profile
2018-03-01 18:08 [p.17574]
I suppose it is more of a right to wrap it up, Mr. Speaker.
Does anyone know what percentage of Canadians support and have confidence in politicians and their promises? It is 3%. I am sure everyone will agree that the people are not exactly giving us top marks. There is definitely room for improvement when it comes to the bonds of trust between us and our constituents. We owe it to them to do better, that is for sure. People are expressing dissatisfaction to an alarming degree and are constantly saying that politicians are sellouts and power can be bought.
Now more than ever, we must ensure that we are beyond reproach, squeaky clean. That is why I am asking my colleagues to do everything they can to separate us as politicians from any appearance of conflict of interest related to money. I have heard some very good arguments in favour of that. We will be voting on the bill I had the honour of introducing, Bill C-364. The bill would restore public per-vote funding for all parties that receive at least 2% of the votes in an election, so it only applies to the serious ones.
However, the maximum amount for donations that can be collected by parties would be reduced from $1,500 per person to a reasonable $500. I am proud to introduce this bill because it serves the interests of the people who vote for me and for my colleagues. To be democratic is to put shared interests before personal interests. That is what I am asking some of my colleagues to do, but not all because some have already seen reason. I am asking those who are still having difficulty seeing the light. I am referring to the two major parties that take turns governing.
Public funding is fundamentally democratic. For every vote received, parties get a small amount of money to finance their activities. We are talking about just under $2 a year, but this makes all the difference. Providing just under $2 in stable and predictable funding for all political parties, from the largest to the smallest, tells people that, yes, it makes a difference when they vote for the party of their choice, no matter the polls and the political landscape of their riding. It tells people that their vote is added to the votes of all those who share their ideals, enabling the party of their choice to operate between election campaigns. It ensures that public debate is vigorous by allowing a plurality of votes and points of view. It also reduces that blight on democracy that is strategic voting, protest voting, or voting for the least objectionable candidate.
Let us work together to restore public funding for political parties. Let us restore it and finally put an end to the deplorable era of cash for access. Let us forget the $1,500-a-head cocktail receptions, where those who can afford it pay for privileged access to decision-makers. We are all members of Parliament, and we all know that politics involves costs. That is a part of politics. We all need to campaign, pay for our signs and offices, and buy our volunteers coffee now and then. We are not trying to take away the right of citizens to contribute financially to a party. We encourage people to donate if they can and want to.
Most families in Terrebonne, the riding I have the honour to represent, do not have $1,500 to spend on meetings with politicians. I would go so far as to say that if families in my area had $1,500 to spare, they would have no trouble thinking of all kinds of smart, sensible things to spend it on. They certainly would not spend it on lunch with a politician. Nor would I, for that matter. That kind of investment is made by people who have personal interests to promote, not by ordinary citizens.
I think the time has come to separate private interests from our democracy. In a way, what this bill does is nationalize our democracy, making sure that it works for all Quebeckers and all Canadians. Let's do the right thing together. Let's nationalize our democracy once and for all, and let's give the power back to the people.
View Anne Minh-Thu Quach Profile
View Anne Minh-Thu Quach Profile
2018-02-09 12:15 [p.17009]
Mr. Speaker, since we are still talking about Bill C-50, let us all agree on why we are here.
We are talking about this bill, the main goal of which is to restore the Liberals' reputation, which was tarnished by certain ministers and the Prime Minister. We are not talking about the Prime Minister's vacation to the Aga Khan's island. He was severely chastised by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner recently for that. We are talking about political party financing.
As we all know, politics and the exercise of democracy requires funding. Funding is needed to run an election campaign. In order to raise that money, some members of the Liberal government sold privileged access. At what price? It seems that the maximum amount that can be donated to a federal party is $1,500.
In May 2016, the Prime Minister went to the home of a wealthy businessman, where 32 guests paid $1,500 each for exclusive access to the leader of the government.
We also learned that the Prime Minister was present at receptions hosted by the wealthiest people and business people at $1,500 a plate, in order to meet people interested in the infrastructure bank. There were also Chinese nationals hoping to buy Canadian telecommunication companies in B.C. Other people had interests in cannabis, for example. All of these very influential people with a lot of money managed to land a private evening with the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister cannot deny it. This has been made public, so Canadians would know, which put him in an awkward position, much like the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Justice.
If that does not constitute selling access to ministers or the Prime Minister, I do not know what does.
In October 2016, as I said, it was the Minister of Finance who was hosting a cocktail party at $1,500 a plate with wealthy people from Bay Street. The Minister of Finance is supposed to be an arbiter and show fairness to all Canadians, since he regulates Canada's financial sector. However, he had no problem taking money from some of the world's wealthiest people.
The activities of the Minister of Justice have also been the subject of much discussion. What exactly is the problem? How is the Minister of Justice in conflict? Certain lawyers hoping for judgeships attended the Minister of Justice's fundraising events, which were held not in her riding, but in various places across the country. Since the minister is the one who approves judicial appointments, there is clearly a conflict of interest there.
Certainly political parties need to hold fundraisers to generate revenue and to have a platform for candidates' ideas during election campaigns. The problem is the lack of transparency with respect to who attends, what they talk about, and access to ministers.
“Open and Accountable Government” states the following:
There should be no preferential access to government, or appearance of preferential access, accorded to individuals or organizations because they have made financial contributions...
That is exactly what we are talking about today.
Let me be clear. Very few of our constituents, such as the people of Salaberry-Suroît, can afford to spend $1,500 to attend a private event. When someone is prepared to do so, they obviously expect something in return. In the case at hand, it is the possibility of becoming known to a minister or getting one's name into an address book, which could help get an idea or a project off the ground. It goes without saying that there is always the possibility of putting a word in or making a recommendation to the right person.
The only way to make these events less secretive is to make them more transparent. To that end, we have to allow the media to publicly report on the goings on at these events and to name who was present. One might think that that is the goal of Bill C-50 . However, as my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley said, the Liberals invented the Laurier Club loophole.
In some cases, specifically during party conventions, people might donate the maximum amount of $1,500 to the Liberal Party, but the names and addresses of those donors do not have to be made public. Under Bill C-50, every donation of $200 or more will have to be recorded in a report sent within 30 days to Elections Canada, which could publish that report on the Internet. Again under Bill C-50, any fundraising activity that involves ministers, the Prime Minister, and party presidents has to be announced five days in advance, a measure we applaud. In fact, that is why we support this bill. However, that does not stop people from avoiding disclosure by buying a $1,500 ticket under the pretext of attending a Liberal Party convention, for example.
This is just another bill that allows the Liberals to have it both ways. They claim to want to improve transparency, but with a bit of game-playing and an open back door they can continue to provide Liberal Party donors with a bit of discretion to ensure that they do not have to disclose their names and addresses, except in a final report at the end of the year. They also get to keep organizing questionable events providing special access to the Prime Minister and ministers.
Is that loophole fair? Should it be removed? The NDP thinks so. We made this recommendation in committee and the Liberals rejected it outright. Every time we make a recommendation in committee, the Liberals take great delight in rejecting it. Why? If the recommendation improves a bill, if it improves transparency, if they are looking to be accountable to the public, and to be fairer, more equitable, and more ethical, why do they refuse to prohibit privileged access at conventions? No one knows. We suspect that the Liberals are not opposed to that revenue stream.
We are also asking that the Chief Electoral Officer be given investigative powers to ensure that political financing during elections is fair and equitable and that he has the public's trust. Once again, the Liberals rejected the NDP's recommendation out of hand. The NDP has made many recommendations in committee, but the Liberals have ignored them, even though that is part of the democratic process. What is the point of having committees if we cannot make sensible recommendations based on the advice of experts and common sense and if the Liberal majority, which refuses to listen to reason or to be open to other ideas, always prevails? What is the point of hearing from one witness after another, if in the end the government does not listen to any of their suggestions?
The Liberals are the champions of excessive consultation. They are doing the same thing to farmers. The Liberals keep saying that they want to know what to do to protect supply management and maintain family farms in Canada. They keep telling farmers that they are going to consult them and listen to them and that farmers are important, but when it comes right down to it, the Liberals are using farmers as a bargaining chip.
Getting back to the matter at hand and Bill C-50, it is the same thing. Once again, fair, sensible, and significant recommendations that would make Bill C-50 more than just a charade will not be acted upon because, unfortunately, the Liberals rejected them.
Bill C-50 still allows parties to hold fundraisers and makes it even harder to fight corruption. This is an opportunity to strengthen our democracy and prove to all Canadians that their elected representatives live up to moral and ethical standards, but that is not where the Liberals are going with this.
Clearly, the bill does not go far enough. There is an effort to be more transparent, but it still allows cash for access events to be held. Those kinds of events, which we oppose, have been making headlines for the past six months. They will stay in the headlines because certains parties will maintain this practice, as the Liberal Party is doing now.
I want to reiterate that this was a Liberal promise in 2015. This is a betrayal of the people who voted for the Prime Minister, who then decided to give up on the electoral reform that Canadians, especially young Canadians, so desperately want.
We are trying to get young people more involved in politics, not just as candidates, but more interested in political activities, in the debates, in social issues. We want young people to know what is going on, to propose ideas, and to become engaged.
There was one idea that really united young people, gave them hope, and might have won them over, but in the end, they were told “never mind”; the old system was too advantageous for the Liberals, and our young people were robbed of that hope.
What effect will that have? Youth voter turnout has declined by 30% over the past 30 years and no one seems to mind. The Liberals do not seem to think it is important to remedy the situation. They are in power. They have a majority. That means that they are going to continue to dash the hopes of these young people who believed them. These young people will be told to have faith because there may still be some authentic people who keep their promises and bring integrity to politics. Nevertheless, with every broken promise, it becomes harder and harder to show people that there can still be honest politicians worthy of our trust.
Electoral reform was not just a simple election promise. It was a commitment made by the Prime Minister to everyone. Again, we are nowhere near it. The Prime Minister has done a complete about-face and left people with their shattered dreams of a better world.
It is 2018 and there is nothing left of the promise that brought the Prime Minister to power. He made people believe that legislators could not agree. However, as I mentioned, 90% of the people did agree. The Conservative Party, the NDP, the Bloc Québécois, the Green Party, everyone agreed that there was a need for electoral reform and that proportional representation had to be part of the next system. That was not enough for the Liberals.
Clearly, a mixed member proportional system resonated with MPs, Canadians, and experts alike. It would have given a voice to every Canadian.
For all these reasons, I find that Bill C-50 is poorly thought out. It does provide some additional transparency, but there is so much more to be done. The Liberals could have gone further. We hope that they will listen to reason and will be open to the NDP's recommendations and those of the other parties and the experts.
Under the bill, any party that does not follow the rules would be fined $1,000. However, according to a former chief electoral officer, this fine would not deter parties from breaking the law. If donors can donate up to $1,500, the parties are still making money and still manage to fill their coffers. It is not hard for them to pay a $1,000 fine. That is ridiculous.
This really is a smokescreen. The Liberals are trying to restore their public image, but this is mostly fluff.
I think the Liberals should go back to the drawing board, improve this bill, and make it genuinely ethical and moral.
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2018-02-05 12:17 [p.16731]
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak about democracy in Canada today and, more specific, about political fundraising, which is an important part and an important reality of the political system in which we operate.
Bill C-50, which I am proud to lend my support to, is designed to enhance the transparency of political financing in Canada. It would do a number of things, but I will focus my remarks on just a few, such as the scope of application of the bill to not just cabinet ministers and the Prime Minister, but to opposition leaders and contenders for the opposition leadership; the necessity to report attendees of fundraisers to Elections Canada; and the need to advertise publicly the fundraising activities involving one of the individuals affected.
However, before I get into that by point analysis, I would like to spend a little time talking about why transparency is an important value in our democracy and in our political financing in particular.
It is a trend around the world where people, rightly or wrongly, believe their governments can be bought. I do not believe that is true in Canada. We have a phenomenally strong electoral system that has a number of institutional safeguards to prevent this kind of phenomenon from taking place.
The fact is that everyone deserves to benefit from the decisions of their government, and not just the wealthiest members of society who are able to buy influence. I would not suggest for a moment that there is a single member of Parliament in the House whose integrity is for sale. However, it is important to build public confidence by demonstrating that our institutions prevent that possibility from ever arising.
We know that a system where only the richest can dictate policy decisions is not the kind of society in which we want to live. Governments have a duty, in my mind, to serve the public interest and not the personal interest of either politicians or their donors.
The perception of politicians peddling influence is also a very important point that we need to make. When members of the public believe, even without grounds to reasonably believe it, when the perception is that politicians will sell themselves and their values to have a donation made to their riding associations so they can stay elected in perpetuity, it undermines faith in the system and is a heck of an inspiration to cause citizens to become disengaged with the work of their government and disengaged with the electoral process more generally.
We cannot ban donations altogether. Realistically, campaigns cost money. Every member of the House knows this. I value, greatly, the small donations that citizens gave to my campaign to put up election signs on my neighbours' yards, and some of the larger donations that maybe went to a communications plan to let the public know about some of the work I planned on doing locally and perhaps our party was campaigning on across the nation.
The fact is that there is real value in this form of civic engagement, and I believe citizens should be able to contribute to political parties or candidates of their choice to help get that message out during a campaign. However, we need safeguards. Gone unchecked, members of society with a capacity to pay have the potential to influence the activity of their elected officials. I do not believe that is fair or just, and it is not the kind of Canada in which I want to live.
Thankfully some of the safeguards we have in place are some of the strongest the world has to offer. We have spending limits for campaigns, a certain value cannot be exceeded, depending on the length of the campaign, which keeps it reasonable. The party or the campaign with the most amount of money does not necessarily have the loudest megaphone.
We have individual donor limits. I believe it is $1,575 annually. Again, I could not in good faith stand here and say a member of any political party, no matter his or her persuasion, would sell his or her integrity for that figure, or any figure for that matter. I trust my colleagues on all sides of the aisle.
We also, importantly, do not allow corporate or union donations. This is important because we know that the donations coming into campaigns, to candidates and to parties are made by Canadians, and we have a duty to govern for them. We are not pursuing merely corporate interests or unions that can afford to pay. This is about serving people.
Some improvements are needed. Of course, some people are not familiar with the political process, the electoral process and maybe have never donated to a campaign in their lives. I can imagine the thought process they may have when they hear about a campaign fundraiser that maybe costs $500. That is a lot of money for most of the people who live in my riding. The median income in the riding I represent is about $21,000.
The idea that some of these people will contribute $1,500, or even a more modest amount of $200 is not something they can reasonably afford. They do not want to believe that their neighbours who may have that kind of money lying around are able to walk into a fundraiser with a politician, or perhaps a future politician, and dictate what that person will campaign on in the future.
At the end of the day, what forms the idea in the basis of a campaign cannot be what has been demanded by a donor. There can be no quid pro quo. We cannot have the sense that because people donated to a campaign, they are owed some kind of an obligation. That is not right. We need to ensure that the politics of our country are dictated by what serves the public best, not what the richest donors can afford.
That is why I believe Bill C-50 would add certain important elements to enhance the transparency of our political financing system. If I look specifically at the need to report attendees to these fundraising events to Elections Canada when the cost of the fundraiser is over $200, which is the same threshold as today, I know this will let the public know who came to one of the fundraisers of the Prime Minister, or a minister, or leader of the opposition, or a candidate for opposition leadership. If I see 100 donors making maximum donations to a person's campaign and the next day he or she comes out with a new policy designed just to meet the needs of that donor base, I will know something is up. When I go to the ballot box, that will inform my decision-making.
Assuming that Bill C-50 passes, I also note the requirement to report, at least five days in advance, that there will be a fundraising initiative. This gives the public the opportunity to enquire about the nature of the fundraiser and potentially attend if people are so inclined. It prevents the opportunity for the person or party hosting the fundraising event from sequestering the attendees and burying the message to ensure the public never finds out who was there.
Transparency is of extraordinary importance. I would like to pre-emptively answer a question I heard asked of the last speaker about the need to ensure Bill C-50 would apply to both government and opposition sides of the House. I would only suggest that it would be appropriate to limit the scope of the legislation to the government if I did not believe individual members of Parliament had the ability to make a difference. I reject that notion as strongly as I possibly can.
As someone who is not part of the cabinet, not sitting as Prime Minister, not an opposition leader, or not campaigning to be the leader of a party, I know I still have the opportunity to make a difference. My integrity is worth more than a $1,500 donation to my riding association. It is not fair for the wealthiest members of my community back home in Nova Scotia to have additional influence on me than my neighbour who might earn $21,000 a year, like the median person in my riding. I, and I trust every member in the House, am in it for the right reasons. We are here to serve the public, not just the wealthiest members of it.
I am pleased to support Bill C-50. I know it will make one of the strongest political financing systems in Canada even stronger, it will strengthen our democracy, it will enhance public perception of our electoral system more generally, and it will give faith that politicians are here for the right reason, which is to serve the public interest.
View Blake Richards Profile
View Blake Richards Profile
2018-02-05 12:26 [p.16732]
Mr. Speaker, when we look at the legislation, we essentially see the Liberals trying to provide cover for the fact that they are taking cash for access. It really boils down to that. It does not change that and it does not stop them from doing it. It just simply allows the Prime Minister and his cabinet to continue to do it. They just have to ensure they put it up on a website somewhere, a few things like that, but it does not prevent it from happening.
I started to think a little about that, as well as the Prime Minister and his pattern of not being accountable. That of course extends to the recent ruling by the commissioner, in which he was found guilty on four occasions, but there really has been no consequence of that. He is refusing to repay that money. I paralleled that back to 2012. At that time, as a member of Parliament, the Prime Minister took inappropriate travel expenses. When he was found to have done that, he decided that maybe he needed to make it right and repay that.
Does the member think it would be more proper for the Prime Minister to repay the money this time as well? It was good in the past, why can it not be good now?
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2018-02-05 12:27 [p.16733]
Mr. Speaker, that question was a bit of a mixed bag and I would question the relevance of two-thirds of it. It started on whether this was an opportunity to legitimize cash for access events and it had a very partisan slant against the Liberal Party. I note that this bill is actually non-partisan in its very nature. By definition, it applies to the government and the opposition parties, no matter who is in government.
On the issue of the Prime Minister's accountability, I cannot help but note that he is currently on a town hall tour, visiting residents, and giving them access to him for free, with no opportunity to stack the room with partisan supporters of one kind or another.
The hon. member would seemingly suggest there should be a higher standard for the Liberal Party than for opposition parties. This should apply to every party in the House with an opportunity for somebody to influence the decisions today or in the near future. It is a perfectly fine approach. I note that the person the member referenced, the former Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, actually suggested this legislation is a good thing because it strengthens our democratic institutions.
View Michael Cooper Profile
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-02-05 12:47 [p.16735]
Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to on Bill C-50an act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing).
Bill C-50, more particularly, would require certain public notification and reporting in respect of certain political fundraising events. In that regard, Bill C-50 would require that where a cabinet minister or party leader or leadership candidate attends a political fundraising event, and where the ticket price for the event is more than $200, that public notification would be required and a report would be sent to Elections Canada on the event.
The government has sold this bill as a bill to increase transparency, accountability, and to strengthen Canada's political financing laws. I say that one should not buy into the bill of goods that the government is trying to sell to Canadians. This bill is not about increased transparency. It is not about increased accountability. It is not about strengthening Canada's political financing laws. Rather, what Bill C-50 is about is legitimizing and sanitizing the government and the Liberal Party's sordid cash for access racket. That is what Bill C-50 is about.
Why would the government, by way of legislation, seek to legitimize cash for access? As my colleague, the hon. member for Banff—Airdrie has pointed out, the government has found its hand caught in the cookie jar one too many times. The government has been caught with its hand in the cookie jar, and as much as the Prime Minister has said one thing, he has then done another. We have a Prime Minister who, after all, more or less disavowed cash for access fundraising and then proceeded to engage in cash for access fundraising. He not only engaged in cash for access fundraising but perfected cash for access fundraising.
To understand the degree to which the Prime Minister broke his word to the Canadian public, one need only look back to the 2015 election, when he told Canadians to elect him and that he would deliver the most open, most transparent, and most accountable government in Canadian history. To try to demonstrate that he meant what he said and said what he meant, the Prime Minister, upon appointing his cabinet, unveiled a document called “Open and Accountable Government”.
“Open and Accountable Government” was the code of conduct, the standards of conduct, by which the Prime Minister said that he, his ministers, and parliamentary secretaries would be held to. “Open and Accountable Government” did deal with sets of standards, standards of conduct, for cabinet ministers, for the Prime Minister, and for parliamentary secretaries, specifically relating to political fundraising.
It is important to speak to and review some of what “Open and Accountable Government” said to understand how blatantly and how flagrantly this Prime Minister has broken his word to the Canadian people. “Open and Accountable Government” says, among other things, “Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries must avoid conflict of interest, the appearance of conflict of interest and situations that have the potential to involve conflicts of interest.” However, it gets better. It says, “There should be no preferential access to government, or appearance of preferential access..”.
Moreover, “Open and Accountable Government” states that department stakeholders, including lobbyists, should not be targeted for the solicitation of political funds. That is what “Open and Accountable Government” says. That is the standard the Prime Minister set for himself and his cabinet, so it begs the question: what did the Prime Minister do following the issuance of that standard? The answer is that the Prime Minister ignored “Open and Accountable Government”.
It was as if “Open and Accountable Government” had never been written. As my friend, the member for Barrie—Innisfil, said, it was not worth the paper it was written on, because almost immediately, the Prime Minister doubled down with cash for access event after cash for access event. Indeed, in 2016, the Liberal Party held more than 100 cash for access events, like one held in May 2016, in Toronto, with none other than Mr. Sanctimony himself, the Prime Minister, who was at the residence of a Chinese billionaire. There were other Chinese billionaires there, each of whom paid $1,500 to the Liberal Party of Canada. There they had an evening with the Prime Minister, making dumplings and having the ear of the Prime Minister, and, I am sure, spending a wonderful evening with him.
Among those in attendance was none other than the chief investor in the Wealth One Bank of Canada, a bank that was seeking a banking licence in Canada at the time of the cash for access fundraiser. What a sweet deal: $1,500 to the Liberal Party and an opportunity to spend the evening with the Prime Minister to talk about Wealth One Bank. Sure enough, the licence was approved.
At the very same event, there was a Chinese Communist official. He was not a Canadian citizen, so he could not send the money directly to the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party said not to worry about it. Two weeks later, that same individual wrote a $200,000 cheque to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation. I guess we are supposed to assume that it was a coincidence that he would spend the evening with the Prime Minister and two weeks later decide to write a $200,000 cheque to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation.
My friend from Barrie—Innisfil says that we could not make this up. Well, we really could not, because it is just incredible. It speaks to the hypocrisy, to the lack of ethical conduct, on the part of the government.
Here we are today with Bill C-50. What does it do? It requires public notification five days before an event. I say, big deal. It requires reporting to Elections Canada of an event. I do not know if it occurred to the government, but every single political contribution is already reported to Elections Canada, so in terms of substantive improvements to political financing laws in Canada, the bill falls short.
It is nothing more than smoke and mirrors so that the Prime Minister can pretend that he is doing something about political financing, all the while giving himself a blank cheque to engage in the most sordid types of political fundraising activities. This is a cynical bill, and Canadians deserve more than a cynical bill from a cynical and ethically challenged government.
View Scott Reid Profile
View Scott Reid Profile
2018-02-05 13:12 [p.16739]
Mr. Speaker, I want to address Bill C-50 by articulating what I believe is its central purpose, which is not to remedy an absence in the law that has resulted in unlawful behaviour. Rather, it is to deal with an issue that was never unlawful; it was something that did not pass the sniff test and was not considered acceptable by Canadians.
Therefore, the goal of the bill is to put in some new and completely insignificant reporting requirements about who attends cash for access or pay-to-play fundraisers. It puts some minimal limitations on where they can be held, and has a few other little bells and whistles of that sort. It does so for the purpose of saying that the government has done something to address what the Canadian public regards as an ethical problem even though, strictly speaking, it is not a legal problem.
The goal here is to normalize or legitimatize a practice that Canadians have said is not normal and not legitimate, which is holding fundraising dinners at which individuals pay up to $1,500 a pop to meet someone as eminent as the Prime Minister or the Minister of Finance, people who have a direct impact on issues of immediate importance to their enterprises. Sometimes we will see multiple people from the same company buying tickets, effectively grouping together, as a way of maximizing the potential interests that the Prime Minister or the Minister of Finance would have in talking to them. In doing so, the government is saying that this practice, once it reports on it, will become legitimate, or at least it hopes Canadians will regard it as legitimate.
I want to make the suggestion that Canadians' rejection of this practice as illegitimate is well-founded. It is quite deep. I certainly hope the legislation will not overcome the concerns Canadians have.
Let me read a bit from an article by The Hill Times a few months ago. It talks about a particular event held at a prominent law firm in Toronto where the justice minister was present. The attendance fee was over $1,000 a ticket. The Hill Times wrote, “So [the] Justice Minister...wasn’t breaking any rule by being the guest of honour at the pricey fundraiser organized by a Bay Street law firm. It just smells really bad and violates the spirit of the government’s own code of conduct.”
Canadians think it is illegal, they are surprised to learn it is not illegal, and now, with this process of requiring some reporting, the government can say that it is explicitly legal. We heard it in the minister's response about those sneaky opposition leaders out there who were having their own fundraisers, with the same sort of things occurring. The minister who raised this earlier apparently believes or wants us to believe that leaders of the opposition or of third parties are capable of delivering favours and that people would buy tickets based upon that. Of course that is nonsense. It is a diversion from the fundamental ethical problem, which is that ministers can deliver favours. I am not saying that the ministers have delivered favours. How would I know? However, clearly, some of the people who have been buying tickets believe it is a possibility, and the Canadian public emphatically believes it is a possibility.
Maybe the Canadian public is all wrong and stupid. That is certainly a prominent theme in Liberal policy, or policy adjustments with the current government. I mean the Canadian public was all wrong about electoral reform, for example. Let me tell people what those stupid, poorly-thought-out Canadians think.
I will quote again. The Globe and Mail states:
A Nanos public-opinion survey, conducted for The Globe and Mail from Nov. 26 to 30 [of 2016] shows that 62 per cent of Canadians disapprove of the Liberal Party's practice of charging people $1,500 a ticket to meet in private with...[the Prime Minister] and senior cabinet ministers who oversee major spending or policy-making decisions.
Maybe 60% of Canadians are wrong again, but maybe there is the possibility that people are not wrong, that they are upset, and that this exercise of pulling the wool over their eyes is inappropriate, illegitimate in itself.
Why does this fail the sniff test? Why do Canadians think this is not the right way to do fundraising? The answer to that, I think, is illustrated by a number of examples I can offer of specific Liberal fundraisers. These were the source of the ethical conundrum.
Chinese billionaires, and when I say Chinese, I mean someone who is a citizen of the People's Republic of China, not a citizen of Canada, attended Liberal fundraisers even though they were not allowed to donate. They were not Canadian citizens. One such individual, Zhang Bin, who is also a Communist Party apparatchik, attended a May 19, 2016 event, at which a cabinet minister was present. We were told that Mr. Zhang and a business partner, just to sweeten the deal, donated $200,000 to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, and donated $50,000 to build a statute of the current Prime Minister's father.
Another example was on November 7, 2016, in B.C. B.C. multimillionaire Miaofei Pan hosted a fundraiser at his West Vancouver mansion. This was going on at the same time the federal government was in the process of reviewing the $1 billion bid by China's Anbang Insurance Group to purchase one of British Columbia's largest retirement home nursing care chains, which it did.
The government's behaviour also fails to live up to the highfalutin rhetoric in the mandate letters to all ministers, which say:
To be worthy of Canadians’ trust, we must always act with integrity. This is not merely a matter of adopting the right rules, or of ensuring technical compliance with those rules. As Ministers, you and your staff must uphold the highest standards of honesty and impartiality, and both the performance of your official duties and the arrangement of your private affairs should bear the closest public scrutiny. This is an obligation that is not fully discharged by simply acting within the law.
The mandate letters are publicly available and this can be read in every letter.
Clearly, having these fundraisers does not achieve that target. The Liberals are completely failing to achieve their targets, so they are trying misdirect, saying they have a new set of rules that make it all okay. I do not know, maybe this will work; maybe it will not work. The question is why the Liberals are trying it in the first place.
The answer is that this is the backbone of Liberal fundraising. Attendance figures suggest that the party brings in somewhere between $50,000 and $120,000 per event when the Prime Minister or the Minister of Finance is in attendance. The Liberal Party needs these events to keep its fundraising up. It has not developed successively a mechanism for going after a large number of smaller donations or of getting this size of donation in the absence of this kind of event.
That is a problem for the Liberal Party, I grant that. However, may I suggest for the Liberal Party that developing a grassroots appeal will not be done by holding this kind of event and then trying to cover it up. On the contrary, a populist appeal necessarily involves trying to reach out at the grassroots level. The Liberals are doing better than they did in the past, in all fairness, but that is where they should be concentrating. They should not be concentrating on trying to epitomize pay-for-play or cash for access, something Canadians have spoken against so very strongly.
View Richard Cannings Profile
Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague across the way what her thoughts are on the question of the unethical conflict of interest that goes on at these cash for access events. First is the transparency. They are two very different things. I would argue that conflict of interest is the biggest problem, and the bill only tries to solve a smaller problem and does nothing for the elephant in the room. I wonder if she could comment on that.
View Pam Goldsmith-Jones Profile
Lib. (BC)
Mr. Speaker, the intent of the bill is to move in a step-by-step way, continually toward greater transparency and accountability. The way that should work in a democracy is that we all hold one another accountable. Whether someone is a volunteer, a donor, or a candidate, it does not matter; we are all citizens of Canada and we are all responsible for the integrity of the system.
I would like to note what the acting Chief Electoral Officer said in October 2017:
In this regard, I note that the Bill offers a calibrated approach. Not all parties will be subject to the new requirements, and that is a good thing. Similarly, the rules will not apply to all fundraising activities, but only those for which a minimum amount is charged to attend and where key decision-makers will be present.
It occurs to me that is something every member of Parliament can agree to.
View Richard Cannings Profile
Mr. Speaker, as the previous speaker said, something I will repeat, elections are central to our democracy. Through them, the people of Canada give us here in the House of Commons the huge privilege and responsibility of representing them. If people feel elections are not fair, are biased in any way, it erodes the confidence they have in us and in all the work we do here.
This bill is about political financing. It arose in response to the cash for access fundraisers that Liberal cabinet ministers were organizing. There are a lot of things wrong about these events. First and foremost is the conflict of interest: lawyers paying to lobby the Minister of Justice or bankers paying to lobby the Minister of Finance. They are paying the Liberal Party. It would be bad enough if one had to pay a government user fee to gain access to cabinet ministers to recoup the cost of their salaries or whatever, but this money went directly to the Liberal Party. Finally, is the secrecy. Events were usually private. The public did not even know about them so could not attend them if they had wanted to or were wealthy enough. As well, we did not find out who donated until the year-end reports.
This bill would only fix the last problem. It entirely misses the point on the most serious aspect of cash for access. If we asked a reasonable person on the street about what they find troubling about the cash for access problem, they would not single out the lack of transparency. They would not say that if they only knew the names of the people involved they would feel okay, or that if only they had been invited it would be okay. No, they would say that the problem was the conflict of interest in asking people to pay big bucks to the Liberal Party if they wanted access to cabinet ministers.
We know lobbying happens every day on Parliament Hill without money changing hands. I was talking to one of my Liberal colleagues the other day, and he was saying how busy he was in his office with lobbyists. That is great. He is working hard and that is his job. However, cash for access is a different kettle of fish, and this bill should have put an end to it. Instead, it actually legitimizes cash for access, with a dollop of transparency.
Because of that added transparency, that extra step, the NDP will reluctantly support this bill, but will keep reminding the Liberals that the conflict of interest aspect of these events has to be dealt with. The Liberals say they are fighting inequality in our society, but cash for access entrenches inequality. It gives more power to the powerful. No wonder many Canadians are cynical about politics and politicians. If anything increases cynicism in politics, it is when politicians break promises.
People are smart. They know that governing is difficult and sometimes one cannot fulfill every little promise made during the election. However, when someone breaks a big juicy promise, a promise that got them elected, people feel completely betrayed.
Last weekend, a constituent emailed me about an issue, so I called her back and we talked about that issue. At the end of the conversation, she said how happy she was to hear directly from her MP. She said that she had lost confidence in politicians after the last election. She said that during the campaign, she and her husband had engaged their children in discussing party platforms and issues, and figuring out which were most important to them.
In the end, they actually let their children decide who they were going to vote for. In the end, they decided electoral reform was one of the most important issues. They did not want Canada to elect another Parliament where a party with 38% or 39% of the vote held 100% of the power. They were deeply disappointed in the Conservative government for taking us down a path that two-thirds of the country disagreed with. They were excited to see that three of the other parties made electoral reform a central plank in their party platforms. They were happy to hear those leaders, including the present Prime Minister, repeat time and time again that this would be the last election run under first past the post.
That is what I saw at the all-candidates forums during the election. The Liberal candidate stood beside me to repeat the mantra that this would be the last election run under first past the post, that the government would ask Canadians and experts what the best new system would be, and they would implement that. The audience would stand up and cheer. Those people are not so happy now. The woman I talked to was devastated. She told me her children were so disappointed with the Liberals for going back on this promise that they might not vote in the next election when they are old enough. This betrayal is going to breed cynicism across Canada.
All of us here knock on doors throughout our ridings. Some people are happy to see us. Some people do not agree with our party. However, the big disappointment for me when I began door-knocking was the number of people who told me that they do not vote. They told me to not even try to tell them to vote or why they should vote. That changed in the last campaign. Most people were engaged in issues and were going to vote. I think they were energized by the feeling of change sweeping across the country and the chance they had to make a difference.
Three of the parties had pledged to change the electoral system so that every vote would count and strategic voting would be a thing of the past. One could vote for one's favourite candidate and party and know that one would make a difference in the final result. Unfortunately, they elected the only party that would break that promise.
It started out well. The minister asked MPs to hold town halls to talk to Canadians about electoral reform to find out what they thought. NDP MPs answered that call. We held multiple town halls and asked people their opinions at the end of the meetings. We wrote down the numbers on the kind of system they wanted. We sent out questionnaires to every household in our ridings and tallied those numbers, and 80% of those responses were in favour of proportional representation.
Liberal MPs held town halls as well, but few, if any, asked people what system they favoured. NDP MPs started going to some of those meetings to find out if our results had been biased, and asked the crowd at the Liberal town halls for a show of hands on which system they would like. About 80% of those people wanted proportional representation as well.
The electoral reform committee met through the summer asking experts from across the country and around the world what the best system for Canada might be. Almost 90% of those experts said that proportional representation would be the best system.
The Prime Minister said that he broke his promise because he could not find a strong demand from Canadians for change and thought that changing would be bad for Canada. He is ignoring those experts. He did not ask Canadians. Instead, the government sent out a laughable survey that asked ridiculously biased questions around the margins of electoral reform. There was no question asking, “Do you want change?” or “Do you want seats in the House of Commons to reflect the proportion of a vote?”
Despite the silly questions, the survey did find that 70% of respondents wanted a government where several parties agreed before a decision is made. Almost two-thirds agreed that it is better for several parties to govern together, even if it might take longer for government to get things done, as the question said.
Canadians want political parties to work together in Parliament. Despite the way that last question was asked, things will actually get done faster if that happens. Just look at the snail's pace of the current government's actions, brought on by its uncooperative attitude with the opposition that has brought the system to periodic halts.
Canadians want a fair electoral system that produces results that accurately reflect the faces of this country. Canadians want more women representing them in the House. All of this could be achieved with a new electoral system that uses some form of proportional representation.
We must work constantly to maintain a healthy democracy in Canada and we must fight everything that breeds cynicism about our work here in this place. Many Canadians feel they have no voice, that their votes do not count, and that they do not have an equal opportunity to voice their concerns to the government. Real electoral change would do that.
Finding out sooner which lawyer paid $1,500 to the Liberal Party to get access to the Minister of Justice does not help much. Finding out in advance that there is a an event on Bay Street where one could meet the Minister of Finance with an admission fee of only $1,500 does not help. We need strong laws banning unethical conflicts of interest and we need true electoral reform to keep our democracy strong.
View Pat Kelly Profile
View Pat Kelly Profile
2018-02-05 15:19 [p.16761]
Mr. Speaker, we certainly would not want to hold up question period, so I was happy to yield at that time.
With the three minutes I have left just to pick up, I spoke of the background and the history on this bill and the issue purported by the Liberals to solve. Being that of a problem with fundraising that the Liberal party is the only one with the problem.
Mr Speaker, we know that cash for access and the calls to eliminate and calls to question and be concerned about the conflict of interest inherent in cash for access fundraising were the reason for this bill. The Liberals had to do something. They had to be seen as doing something about a practice that only the Liberal Party party takes part in, so they tabled the bill we are now debating.
As I said before question period, Bill C-50 is not necessary. The government could at any point simply choose not to shake down its own lobbyists and stakeholders for money for the party. It could simply choose to not allow that of members of its own cabinet, who have the power to dispense contracts, to hire people into the public sector, to make judicial appointments, to put out cash to subsidize businesses. A minister of the crown has these powers. Members of the opposition do not have these powers. Leaders of opposition parties do not have these powers. Government backbenchers do not have these powers. A minister of the crown has these powers.
It is the swinging back that we have heard, and I am sure we will hear more in a minute or so, that this is something about anything other than cash for access fundraising. It is just silly.
I will conclude by reiterating that I do not intend to support this legislation. To do so would be to lend credibility to a government that is merely seeking cover for a practice that Canadians find odious, that nobody besides members of the opposite party think is okay. I am not going to allow them to use the passage of this legislation to say they have somehow sanitized and legitimized the practice of cash for access.
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