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View Todd Doherty Profile
View Todd Doherty Profile
2019-06-04 13:23 [p.28487]
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address some of the failings of the Liberal government over the last four years and reflect upon just how disastrous it has been.
The heckling continues over there. The Liberals never miss an opportunity to get some good heckling in. Our colleagues across the way are chirping loud and doing all they can to throw us off. However, it will not work. I have been chirped at by the best and they definitely are not the best.
I rise today to talk to Bill C-97, the budget implementation act. Essentially, it is an extension of the government's attempt to cover up what could be actually the biggest affront to our democracy in our country's history. It has attempted to cover up potentially the biggest corruption at the highest levels of our government, and that is the SNC-Lavalin case. That is what we are seeing here today. I bring us back to that again because I feel I have to. The gallery is packed. I know Canadians from coast to coast to coast knew this speaker was coming up.
I would be remiss if I did not remind Canadians from all across our country that it was day 10 of the 2015 election when the then member of Papineau committed to Canadians that under his government, he would let the debate reign. He said that he would not resort to parliamentary tricks such as omnibus bills or closure of debate. He also told Canadians around that same time that he would balance the budget in 2019. Those are three giant “oops”, perhaps disingenuous comments. I do not think he has lived up to any of them at this point.
As of today, the government has invoked closure over 70 times. Why? Because the government does not like what it is hearing. If the Liberals do not like what the opposition is saying and they do not want Canadians to hear the truth, they invoke closure. This means we cannot debate really important legislation. They limit the amount of time for debate on that legislation. The BIA, Bill C-97, is just one of them. Does that sound like letting the debate reign? It does not.
It is interesting that whenever things go sideways for the Prime Minister, a couple of things happen. We see him even less in the House or something always happens to change the channel. That is what we have today.
Bill C-97 is really just a cover-up budget. We have talked about that. It just goes in line with more and more of the government's kinds of wacky ways, where it says it will spend money and perhaps it doles it out. However, the money is not really going to things that Canadians need the most.
We see $600 million in an election year being given to the media, a media that is supposed to be impartial. That is a $600 million bailout.
We also know that in the previous budget, approximately $500 million was given to the Asian Infrastructure Bank. That $500 million is not being spent in Canada for one piece of an infrastructure.
I rose to talk about a few things. One of the things that is really disappointing for me is this. When the Liberals came to power in 2015, a lot of promises were made, and this one hits home for us. I have brought this up time and again in the House. The Liberals said that they would put an end to the softwood lumber dispute.
I think it was in 2016 that the Prime Minister stood in the House and told Canadians that he was going to have a deal done within 100 days. He had a new BFF, the Minister of International Trade Diversification said. Both were just giddy. They were going to get this deal done and put an end to the softwood lumber irritant once and for all, yet last week, we found out from the Senate Liberal leader that the Prime Minister had other priorities ahead of softwood lumber.
Over 140 communities and over 140,000 jobs are tied to forestry in my province of British Columbia. Forestry is a cornerstone industry in my province, yet it was not a priority for the Prime Minister in renegotiating his NAFTA deal.
What we are seeing with the Liberal government is that rural Canadians are just not its focus.
Last week I also met with some real estate folks and some Canadian homebuilder folks. They told me that the Liberal government's B-20 stress test and the shared equity program, which is geared toward trying to get Canadians into homes, is actually hurting that industry. The real estate industry is saying that the B-20 stress test, which was geared more for Toronto and Vancouver markets but is all across the country, impacts rural Canadians negatively .
Almost $15 billion has been kept out of that industry, meaning that it is harder for Canadians to get into the home ownership they strive for. It is a step into the middle class. People put money toward something they own rather than putting it into something that someone else owns. The government's failed B-20 policy and the shared equity program is hurting Canadians. It is another example of how Canadians are worse off with the Liberal government.
I will bring us to a couple of years ago. The Prime Minister, the Minister of Veterans Affairs and the Minister of National Defence all have it down pat. They can put their hands on their hearts and say that they really care, yet it is the same Prime Minister who told veterans that they were asking for too much.
Yesterday was a very important day, because we saw the closure of the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls commission and we saw its report. The government knew that this day was coming, but did it put any money in the 2019 budget for that? There is nothing.
The Liberals like to say that Canadians are better off than they were under our previous Conservative administration, but it is actually the opposite. Canadians are worse off since the Liberal government took over. Eighty-one per cent of middle-income Canadians are seeing higher taxes since the Liberal government came to power. The average income increase for middle income families is $840. The government's higher pension plan premiums could eventually cost Canadians up to $2,200 per household. The Liberals cancelled the family tax cut of up to $2,000 per household. They cancelled the arts and fitness tax credit of up to $225 per child. They cancelled the education and textbook tax credits of up to $560 per student. The government's higher employment insurance premiums are up $85 per worker. The Liberal carbon tax could cost up to $1,000 per household and be as high as $5,000 in the future.
The Prime Minister called small businesses tax cheats. The government's intrusive tax measures for small businesses will raise taxes on thousands of family businesses across Canada.
The list goes on and on. Bill C-97 is just the capping of a scandal-ridden administration, and to that, I say, good riddance.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)

Question No. 2291--
Mr. Harold Albrecht:
With regard to the government operating booths or displays at trade shows or similar type events, since January 1, 2016, and broken down by department, agency, Crown Corporation or other government entity: what are the details of each event including (i) date, (ii) location, (iii) title of event, (iv) amount paid by the government for space at the event, (v) amount spent by the government in relation to the displays and a breakdown of such expenses, if known?
(Return tabled)

Question No. 2323--
Ms. Rachel Blaney:
With regard to the annual review of eligibility for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) implemented by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) since 2016: (a) what is the average cost of the reviews, broken down by (i) year, (ii) category of client; (b) how many planned full-time equivalents (FTEs) are assigned to review GIS eligibility; (c) what is the branch responsible for these reviews; (d) for the branch in (c), (i) what is its annual budget, (ii) what is the number of FTEs in the branch; (e) how many of the FTEs in (d)(ii) are working as a (i) Program and Services Delivery Clerk (ii) Service Canada Benefit Officer; (f) other than the ones listed in (e), what are the other job titles where the employee is responsible for reviewing eligibility for the GIS; (g) of the clients who undergo reviews and have their benefits suspended, (i) how many have their full benefits (the same amount, adjusted for any increases) reinstated after the review, (ii) how many have their benefits reduced after the review, (iii) how many have their benefits increased after the review, (iv) how many are deemed ineligible to for the GIS after the review; and (h) has the government ever studied the cost-benefit analysis in reviewing GIS eligibility, and, if so, what are the details of this study?
(Return tabled)

Question No. 2324--
Mr. Michael Cooper:
With regard to the government’s decision to provide former Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Gerald Butts’ lawyer with access to his email records prior to his appearance at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights: why was Gerald Butts’ attorney able to get access to his emails without going to court, but Mark Norman’s attorney was forced to go to court to get access to his emails?
(Return tabled)

Question No. 2325--
Mr. Michael Cooper:
With regard to the testimony from the former Attorney General at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights that Katie Telford, the Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister, said “If Jody is nervous, we would of course line up all kinds of people to write OpEds saying that what she is doing is proper”: what is the complete list of individuals the Office of the Prime Minister was planning on lining up to write these “OpEds“?
(Return tabled)

Question No. 2326--
Ms. Rachael Harder:
With regard to the government’s claim that 9,000 jobs are at stake if SNC-Lavalin did not receive a Deferred Prosecution Agreement: was the 9,000 number fictitious, or was it based on specific information, and, if so, on what specific information was it based?
(Return tabled)

Question No. 2327--
Mr. Jim Eglinski:
With regard to Parks Canada cancelling a $66 million proposal for a biking and walking trail through Jasper National Park: (a) why did the government cancel the proposal; (b) will the funds be redistributed to infrastructure projects within the park; (c) are there plans to reallocate this money to other provinces, and, if so, how much of the funding will be redistributed outside of Alberta; (d) why were these funds diverted to another park as opposed to spending them on infrastructure repairs and upgrades that have already been identified for Jasper; (e) what is the distribution or projected distribution of the reallocated funds, including (i) recipient, (ii) location, (iii) amount, (iv) purpose of funding or project description; and (f) what consultations will Parks Canada conduct with entities in or near Jasper National Park regarding the decision to cancel the proposal and reallocate the funding?
(Return tabled)

Question No. 2328--
Mr. Jim Eglinski:
With regard to the request by the Jasper Chamber of Commerce to change the designation of the Icefields Parkway so that it could stay open year-round and benefit from full highway status: (a) how many requests to change de designation were received and were they reviewed by the Minister of Transport; (b) what steps will be taken to review the current designation; (c) does Parks Canada have any specific plans to reduce the time lost to clean up the Icefields Parkway, and, if so, what are the plans; (d) will the funds from the cancelled Jasper Park’s bike trail be redistributed to the Icefields Parkway and other infrastructure projects within Jasper National Park, or will the funds be sent to other parks; and (e) if the funds are being redistributed to other parks, what compensation is being offered to the Town of Jasper and other communities that will lose out due to this cancelled funding?
(Return tabled)

Question No. 2329--
Mr. Pat Kelly:
With regard to the telephone call that the Clerk of the Privy Council accepted from Kevin Lynch, Chairman of the Board of Directors of SNC-Lavalin, in October 2018: has the current Clerk of the Privy Council met with or accepted phone calls from any other corporate board members representing companies facing criminal prosecution, and, if so, what are the details, including (i) date, (ii) individuals, (iii) companies represented, (iv) format (in-person meeting, telephone), (v) topics raised?
(Return tabled)

Question No. 2330--
Mr. Jamie Schmale:
With regard to the telephone call that the Clerk of the Privy Council accepted from Kevin Lynch, Chairman of the Board of Directors of SNC-Lavalin, in October 2018: (a) what are the details of all communication between the Clerk of the Privy Council and the Chairman of the Board of Directors of SNC-Lavalin since January 22, 2016, where any issue concerning SNC-Lavalin was raised, including (i) date, (ii) format (in-person meeting, telephone, email), (iii) issues raised; and (b) what are the details of all communication between anyone in the Privy Council Office or the Office of the Prime Minister, including the Prime Minister himself, and the Chairman of the Board of SNC-Lavalin, where any issue concerning SNC-Lavalin was raised, since January 1, 2016, and noting that such communication is not reported on the Commissioner of Lobbying’s website, including (i) date, (ii) format, (iii) issues raised, (iv) individuals involved in the communication?
(Return tabled)

Question No. 2331--
Mr. Glen Motz:
With regard to ministerial holds being issued on deportation orders since November 4, 2015: (a) how many times has a minister issued a ministerial hold; (b) broken down by Ministerial hold, on what dates were holds issued and how many individuals’ deportation order were affected by each hold; and (c) have any individuals been issued multiple ministerial holds, and, if so, (i) how many received multiple holds, (ii) how many did each individual receive?
(Return tabled)

Question No. 2332--
Mrs. Cathay Wagantall:
With regard to Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members required to take mefloquine, since 1990: (a) how many were required to take mefloquine, broken down by deployment; (b) broken down by country of deployment, what were the dates of the deployment; and (c) what is the breakdown of CAF members required to take mefloquine by rank?
(Return tabled)

Question No. 2333--
Mr. Michael Barrett:
With regard to contracts signed by the government in order to assist with the fallout over the SNC-Lavalin controversy: what are the details of all such contracts, including (i) vendor, (ii) date, (iii) amount, (iv) description of goods or services, (v) duration of contract?
(Return tabled)

Question No. 2334--
Mrs. Shannon Stubbs:
With regard to the statement by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement on CBC News on March 4, 2019, that SNC-Lavalin is “entitled to a deferred prosecution arrangement”: (a) is this the position of the government, and, if so, when did it become the position of the government; and (b) are any other Canadian companies “entitled” to a deferred prosecution agreement, and, if so, which ones?
(Return tabled)

Question No. 2335--
Mrs. Cheryl Gallant:
With regard to detention benefits and the New Veterans Charter, broken down by year: (a) how many applications have been made for detention benefits since it was added to the New Veterans Charter; (b) how many applications were (i) approved, (ii) rejected; (c) in general terms, without violating the privacy of individuals involved, which detention incidents qualified for the benefit and which ones did not qualify; (d) for each detention incident which does not qualify for the benefit, what is the rationale or benefit requirement which the incident does not meet; (e) what is the (i) average, (ii) median, (iii) maximum benefit determination; (f) how is the amount of benefit determined; (g) what appeal mechanisms are available to veterans who have been denied detention benefits; (h) how many appeals mentionned in (g) has the government received, and of those, how many have been successful; and (i) how was the lump sum per-day award rate determined for each incident which qualified for the benefit?
(Return tabled)

Question No. 2336--
Mr. Dean Allison:
With regard to government involvement in the potential sale or lease of aircraft by Bombardier to Iranian entities, including Iran Air, and including any involvement by Global Affairs Canada, the Trade Commissioner Service, Export Development Canada, or Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, as well as any other agencies or departments which have dealt with Bombardier: (a) what are the details of all emails, memorandums, notes, or other documents related to the topic since January 1, 2017, including (i) date, (ii) sender, (iii) recipient, (iv) title, (v) form (email, memorandum, etc.); (b) what are the details of any proposed sale or lease of aircraft to Iranian entities of which the government is aware, including (i) the date when the government became aware, (ii) the number of aircraft involved, (iii) the estimated value of transaction, (iv) did a minister approve the transaction, and, if so, what are the details of any approval; and (c) has the government provided any funding or loan guarantees in relation to this potential transaction, and, if so, what are the details?
(Return tabled)

Question No. 2337--
Mr. Blaine Calkins:
With regard to the funding announced in the 2018 Budget in response to the opioid crisis, and specifically the funding commitments mentioned on pages 170 and 171 of the Budget Plan, broken down by funding commitment: what are the details of all funding which has actually been delivered to date, including (i) recipient, (ii) date, (iii) amount, (iv) location, (v) project description or purpose of funding?
(Return tabled)

Question No. 2338--
Mr. David Yurdiga:
With regards to legal advice for either the Prime Minister, current staff or former members in the Office of the Prime Minister: what are all the amounts budgeted in 2017, 2018, and 2019 for outside legal advice, broken down by (i) how much each firm is charging per hour, (ii) the total expected cost, (iii) any details released in the contracts signed, (e.g. the nature of the work and other such details)?
(Return tabled)
8555-421-2291 Government operating booth ...8555-421-2291-01 Government operating bo ...8555-421-2323 Guaranteed Income Supplement8555-421-2324 Access to emails8555-421-2325 Testimony from the former ...8555-421-2326 SNC-Lavalin8555-421-2327 Jasper National Park8555-421-2328 Icefields Parkway8555-421-2329 Telephone call from Kevin Lynch8555-421-2330 Details of telephone call ...8555-421-2331 Ministerial holds
...Show all topics
View Charlie Angus Profile
View Charlie Angus Profile
2018-02-06 11:03 [p.16800]
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 Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister, 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 Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister'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 Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister does not get to travel on public aircraft. If the Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister, 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 Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister? Was it because they thought he was a funny guy and just wanted to hang out with him?
Chinese billionaires met with the Prime Minister. When he was confronted, the Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister at a private function, and were worried about folks who are just getting by? I do not think so. The idea that the Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister can look a veteran in the eye and say that he is asking for more than Canada is willing to give.
The Prime Minister's personal friend, Samuel Bronfman, was then named in the paradise papers for a business scheme he had been involved in. The Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister 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 finance minister. 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 finance minister 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 C-27, will make it easier to go after other defined pension plans. However, the Prime Minister did not think there was a potential conflict of interest.
Again, I guess the Prime Minister 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 finance minister, 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 C-27, 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 Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister 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.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2017-04-05 17:10 [p.10216]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise and address the government's budget. It is a budget that the hon. member for Outremont and leader of the NDP rightly called the “we'll get around to it” budget. In part he called it that because if we look at the budget, the columns for this year for various initiatives are filled with zeros. The government is clearly not doing it now, so presumably it will get around to it. We will see about that. That is from the present.
However, he was also making a historical comment about the typical behaviour of Liberal governments. He cited the example of the Chrétien-Martin era. A lot of promises were made in the red book in 1993, for instance, around a national pharmacare plan and doing something with respect to child care. Come the time the Liberals were ultimately defeated in 2006, they were still saying, “just one more election and we're going to get to it” and “It's coming.” They had the audacity, frankly, to be indignant about the fact that they were defeated after 13 years of government and some pretty unsavoury stories coming out of the Gomery commission saying that there were things that Canadians needed, that they really wanted the opportunity to do them, and shame on other parties for having observed they were not getting around to it and maybe it was time to replace them.
Therefore, given that historical context, one has every reason to look at that behaviour, and at this budget, and worry that this government is not serious about getting around to the things that need to be done.
A good example is the housing file. If we look down the column, it is filled with zeros for this year. Of course, there are promises of big money, that it is coming but we have to hang on. In 2023 things will be really great, we will have spent multiple billions of dollars, and that by 2027 that will have doubled. I submit to the House that this is not really a good way of making policy. It certainly is not a good way of doing politics. It is sort of starting an arms race of who can announce money further into the future.
What we are concerned about, and I think Canadians and people in Elmwood—Transcona are concerned about as well, is having the government allocate resources and funds to its priorities now, not 10 or 20 years from now. If we make a habit of getting into announcing money further into the future just to have bigger, more impressive numbers, there is no reason why we should not be talking about $40 billion by 2039 or $50 billion by 2047. If we wanted to get really polemic, we might announce a trillion dollars by the year 2100.
This game of simply announcing money further into the future to make it look as though the Liberals are taking action on priorities today is not the right way of doing politics. It is not a good way of doing policy for that matter. That is not to say that we cannot have long-term deals, but those deals have to include some action today. There is no guarantee that one, or two or three elections from now the government of the day will honour those deals. Therefore, if the government wants to show its sincerity with respect to taking action on the priorities of Canadians, it is important it spends some money today. That certainly was promised by the Liberals in the last election, but it is not delivering that with this budget.
Child care is a great example. The Liberals talk big numbers on child care. If we look at the amount of aid that will got to working Canadian families that need child care so they can report to work and have confidence that their kids are in a safe place with well-trained staff, the number is zero. That is a strange way for the Liberals to treat their priorities.
Incidentally, I have noticed this is a feature of the government. A number of things have happened, for instance, undermining the lawsuit of Air Canada maintenance workers who wanted to keep their jobs in Canada. That was not mentioned as a priority of the government, but it certainly got done. There have been other examples of things that were done in the House that were not talked about in the election. The things that are not being done are the things that were promised. Therefore, the lesson here is, God forbid we become a priority of the Liberal government because we would wither on the vine.
The things that corporate CEOs bring to the government, which the Liberals did not talk about during the election, are going to get the priority. That is the list people want to be on, if they are rich enough to get on it. That lesson is evident in this budget.
Canadian workers who have been laid off in the economic slowdown might be one of the six out of 10 Canadians who cannot access the EI fund. There is nothing in the budget that talks about changing the eligibility rules to allow more workers who have been laid off to access that money to make their mortgage payments, to put food on the table, and to keep a roof over their head while they look for new employment.
Canadians are owed that, particularly when we consider that successive Liberal and Conservative governments stole money out of the EI fund. Workers paid into that fund in case they needed it in these circumstances. It is shameful to see, once again, that ordinary working Canadians are being asked to wait, being told by the Liberals that they will get around to it, maybe if they are elected two, three, or four more times, 15 to 16 years sounds about right.
The corporate lobby bandwagon might have slowed down by then and then the Liberals will get around to the priorities of Canadians. We have seen this with the veterans. There is nothing in the budget about restoring lifetime pensions for veterans, which was a promise of the Liberals during the campaign. They are being asked to wait.
On defence spending, the Liberals are taking money that was allocated for defence spending and back-ending it. It was not enough to just back-end the new money. The Liberals looked at the budget and noted that there was old money that was not back-ended. They could correct that by taking it out of the budget and back-ending it. Never mind the fact that the Canadian military needs new equipment now to do its job properly and safely.
The Liberals have not been content with just back-ending new money. They want to back-end the old money as well. They are doing this in the context where through Bill C-27, and a couple of other examples I would mention if I had time, they are mounting an attack on the pensions of Canadian workers. We saw it a bit with the CPP not including the dropout provisions for women and people with disabilities. Incidentally, if people take advantage of their extended parental leave, which is just extra time with no extra money, the same amount of money they would have had over the course of a year stretched over 18 months, they are then penalized on the next tier of CPP that the Liberals were so proud to have brought in because they did not include the dropout provisions for women and people with disabilities.
Even when the Liberals are trying to do something right, they just cannot seem to help themselves. They have to do something to throw a monkey wrench into it, particularly when it comes to pensions. If people need any evidence at all, Bill C-27, sitting on the Order Paper, is all the evidence they need to know that the government is not committed to real pensions for Canadian workers. Shame on it for that.
How do the Liberals do all this? How do they go to seniors and say, “sorry, there is nothing in the budget for you”, even though a national pharmacare plan would actually save money for Canadian taxpayers, but they cannot be bothered to do it? They tell seniors that they do not have the money to do it. Meanwhile, a Liberal priority in the election, and as I said earlier, God forbid we become a Liberal priority, was to close the CEO stock option loophole, something worth over $750 million of revenue to the government each year. It was a priority during the election, so it is not getting done.
Then the Liberals have the nerve to turn around to Canadian workers and tell them that there is no money for them when it comes to pharmacare, expanding EI, investing in child care. They just say that they do not have the money, because Bay Street showed up and said that it did not like the idea of being taxed fairly so the Liberals backed right off.
When it comes to sweetheart tax haven deals with Barbados and other countries that allow corporate CEOs to hide their money offshore, the Liberals are not taking any action. It is easier to go to Canadian workers who do not have the same power and the same say as CEOs and tell them to wait, to tighten their belts. That is what is shameful about this budget.
When we hear about the CRA giving amnesty to Canada's richest and worst tax cheats, when that revenue could be used to invest in those services that working Canadians actually need, it is easier for the Liberals to tell those working Canadians to wait.
Shame on the Liberals for having so little for Canadian workers, because they are not willing to stand up to those who should be paying their fair share. It is not enough to tell Canadian workers to tighten their belt when the money is out there.
View Blaine Calkins Profile
View Blaine Calkins Profile
2016-11-03 10:32 [p.6513]
That, in the opinion of the House, the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner should be granted the authority to oversee and enforce the directives to Ministers listed in Open and Accountable Government in order to end the current practice of “cash-for-access” by ensuring there is no preferential access to government, or appearance of preferential access, accorded to individuals or organizations because they have made financial contributions to politicians or political parties.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate the opportunity to speak today. I thank my colleague for seconding the motion, and of course all my colleagues on this side of the House who have been asking very pertinent, very relevant, and very tough questions in regard to this. In terms of what brought us to this point of having to move the motion, it is actually a sad day.
Before I get going, this will probably be my last opportunity to do a speech before we have Remembrance Day. I want to thank all of my colleagues in this place today who spoke so eloquently, so articulately, and so passionately about Veterans' Week. If allowed, I would add a little personal touch to this.
I want to thank my colleague, Yonah Martin in the Senate, who allowed me to sponsor a bill in the previous Parliament to recognize the Korean War Veterans Day. I would just add a personal story to this.
My grandfather, who I grew up with on the family farm, had three brothers. At the time, the policy of the Government of Canada was that one male would be allowed to stay home. Even though it was all voluntary that was the way it was decided. My grandfather Don was the lucky one who did not sign up to go to war. He was chosen to stay home and look after the family farm.
His brothers, Joe, Robert, and James, all served with the Canadian Armed Forces. Robert was killed in the Italian campaign and is buried at Coriano Ridge. James served with 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, and was killed in February, a couple of weeks before the Battle at Kapyong in Korea, and is buried in Busan. His oldest brother, Joe landed on D-Day and survived. He was the only one of my grandfather's brothers who survived, or did he? Sadly, around the age of 60, after returning from the horrors of war, he took his own life after having a very tumultuous time.
It is very important that we recognize and honour those who made these sacrifices. I just wanted to get that on the record.
The reason I wanted to talk today about the motion, and am pleased to introduce it, is that the Prime Minister, upon his election, and the new Liberal government that we have here in Ottawa produced a document called “Open and Accountable Government”. It is a very large document and it contains a lot of words.
However, we do not know what some of these words actually mean. That is why we are using the motion today to get clarification on what the intent actually is. It is truly sad that I have to table a motion, calling on the Prime Minister to follow the rules he has here in his very own “Open and Accountable Government” document. However, here I am, calling on the Prime Minister to do something to make sure that Canadians can be confident in the business of the government, in the business of political activities.
Why is this important? Canadians need to have confidence that the people they send to Ottawa are acting in their best interests. I am not going to go back and do a litany of all of the things that have transpired before this. However, when somebody in the general public asks what someone else does, we laugh and chuckle and say, “I'm a lawyer”, and then the lawyer jokes ensue. If it is “I'm a politician”, then the politician jokes ensue.
It really should not ensue. Political life should be something that we aspire to. Asking for the opportunity to represent our constituents, our country, and to come here to do what is best on behalf of all Canadians is actually a very noble calling.
It is incumbent on each and every one of us in the House to then make sure that the reputations we have as individuals, but also the reputation of the institution, the institution of Parliament, the institution of the Government of Canada, and the federal government, which should be leading by example in all ways, actually maintain that trust and that sacred bond with the people of Canada.
We need to be open and transparent, and accountable for everything that we do, for everything that we say, and for all of the money that we spend. It is a clear principle. There should be no taxation without representation. We should understand how policy decisions are being made, and how influence is conducted here in Ottawa.
I am not going to say that all lobbyists are bad. I am not going to say that all politicians are bad. I am saying that in order to make sure that we are clear and above board, and have the trust of the Canadian public, we must do so in an open and accountable way.
Let us refer to the document that the Prime Minister has. It says, in his message to ministers:
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.
We have seen clearly in the House of Commons that when we ask questions with regard to this “Open and Accountable Government” document, they answer with just technical compliance with the Elections Canada laws, which is already a violation of the Prime Minister's own rules. It continues:
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.
Yet again, I will make the case. Time and again, when questions have been put to the government on this particular matter, on this document, the government's response is that they are hiding behind a lower bar, the bar that has been set with the Canada Elections Act financing, and of course, the bar that we have with the Lobbying Act, the ethics act, and the code of conduct for members of Parliament and ministers, and so on.
This document was meant to be a higher bar. It came in with much fanfare and was touted by the government as being the solution. However, what we are seeing is that it is not actually being utilized. It was all for show and there are no substantive changes that have been made.
I will remind folks of the issues pertaining to the Gomery Commission and so on. As I said, I do not want to dredge up all of that history. I am not here to do that today. However, it painted this institution, it painted politicians, and it painted government with a very negative brush. It is imperative that all of us make sure none of us in the House are painted with that brush again.
The document goes on to say:
You are accountable to Parliament for the exercise of the powers, duties and functions with which you have been entrusted. This requires you to be present in Parliament to answer honestly and accurately about your areas of responsibility, to take corrective action as appropriate to address problems that may arise in your portfolios...and to work with parliamentary colleagues of all political persuasions in a respectful and constructive manner.
That respectful and constructive manner should be that, at the end of the debate on this motion, we have an agreement in the House, absolutely, unequivocally, to pass the motion so that we can work and co-operate together and have the information from each other that we need, in order to govern this country wisely and in good conscience.
A general principle stated in the document is that:
...a public office holder should not participate in a political activity that is, or that may reasonably be seen to be, incompatible with the public office holder’s duty, or otherwise be seen to impair his or her ability to discharge his or her public duties in a politically impartial fashion, or would cast doubt on the integrity or impartiality of the office.
Canadians want to know. We have seen several cases where questions have been put in the House with regard to Apotex, for example, where we talked about the activities of the chairman of the board, who is actually actively organizing a fundraising campaign, a cash for access fundraiser, for Liberal cabinet ministers. Meanwhile, Apotex is suing the federal government. It is organizing a fundraiser for the Minister of Finance, the same Minster of Finance who sits on the cabinet litigation committee, deciding what the government strategy is on lawsuits that face the government. Apotex is actually throwing a fundraiser for the Liberal Party of Canada.
It just does not pass.
As the chair of the ethics committee, when we ask the Lobbying Commissioner and we ask the Ethics Commissioner to look into these matters, we do not get a satisfactory answer from them. They tell us, unequivocally, that they are unable to get access to the information that they need. They cannot get the information they need because they do not have the ability to enforce this document.
This is what the motion today is all about. The motion says we have an “Open and Accountable Government” document. It was tabled by the government. It is enforced by the Privy Council Office. Nobody, not the Information Commissioner, the Privacy Commissioner, the Ethics Commissioner, the Lobbying Commissioner, actually has access to cabinet documents.
I am not suggesting that all members of Parliament have access to cabinet confidentiality, but to remove any perceived notions of conflicts of interest or ethical lapses, surely to goodness we can allow our commissioners to review this information to make sure everything is operating above board.
In annex B, Fundraising and Dealing with Lobbyists: Best Practices for Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries, it says:
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.
This is not happening. A lot of questions are being asked. When the Minister of Justice appeared at a private event in Toronto hosted by a law firm at $1,500 a touch, one had to wonder what is going on. This was not an event where anybody could buy a ticket and go to it; this was a private event. There are more of these examples. One only has to scan the media, and the media are doing a very good job right now of chasing these things down.
We found more than 90 of these cash for access fundraisers, a vast number of them at the $1,525 maximum ticket price. That is a lot of coin. That is a lot of jingle. We are not talking about $50 to go to a fundraising dinner. We are not talking $75. We are talking about people who can shell out $1,525, without even blinking about it, and have direct access to ministers who are responsible for making decisions on behalf of the Government of Canada.
The document goes on to say:
There should be no preferential access to government, or appearance of preferential access, accorded to individuals or organizations because they have made financial contributions to politicians and political parties.
One only has to look at the recent appointment to the Halifax Port Authority, where the individual in question actually donated $1,525 to the Liberal Party and attended and helped organize an event for a land developer who will actually receive money from the federal government to host the same minister, the Minister of Finance again, who decides where that money will go.
These are interesting questions. Somebody ought to be able to find out and investigate whether this actually passes the ethical bar, because when this document is set up, the Prime Minister's own document, the rules that he is supposed to follow, the rules that his cabinet ministers are supposed to follow are enforced by the Privy Council office. Who does the Privy Council office report to? It reports to the Prime Minister. Is that not convenient? Is that not absolutely convenient. It sounds an awful lot like another government that is deeply admired by the Prime Minister, which might set up something like that and call it accountability.
We need third-party, objective eyes on this. The office of the Ethics Commissioner is an organization that is established as being very credible, very non-partisan, very effective in the work it does.
The Ethics Commissioner, in several cases when we have talked to her at committee, has said that she gives hard advice and soft advice. She has actually said this in committee. When I asked her about this, she said she gives hard advice based on the act and the code of conduct. This is where she has jurisdiction and where she has authority. She says that she could do more, not for her benefit but for the benefit of everybody in this room, if she had more access and was able to look into actual partisan political fundraising activities to see if there was an ethical breach or an ethical lapse.
She does not have that ability, but she does have the ability to give soft advice, and she says that she looks at all other documents. She looks at the document that the Prime Minister has on the Government of Canada's website, and she would provide soft advice. When I asked her the question in committee if she has recently given any soft advice, her reply was that she has given lots. I wonder why.
Just a couple of the examples I have given today would indicate, in my opinion, that the Ethics Commissioner has probably given advice to Liberal cabinet ministers, maybe even the Prime Minister himself. I do not know. I will trust that she is doing her job, but she has been giving lots of advice to make sure that these ethical lapses do not happen, not for her benefit, but for our benefit, for the benefit of all Canadians so that they can clearly see and understand and trust that nothing fishy is going on.
Right now, we just do not know, but when we put the dots up on the board somebody in grade 6 can connect them. That is how blatant this is. It is so obvious to everyone involved that something is not right.
Before I conclude, I want to highlight one other aspect that has recently come back into the media. That is a WikiLeaks email involving a visit by Hillary Clinton, presidential candidate, back in 2014. Glen McGregor has an article. Joan Bryden has published some articles on this. I wrote to the Ethics Commissioner some time ago and asked her to look into the relationships between Bluesky Strategy Group, Canada 2020, and the fundraising activities that this so-called independent think tank has actually been doing on behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada.
Here we have an organization, Canada 2020, which was started by Tim Barber and Susan Smith, who are well-known lobbyists with Bluesky. The president of Canada 2020 is Thomas Pitfield, who is married to none other than Anna Gainey, who is the president of the Liberal Party of Canada. They are having a conference here this week in Ottawa, funded by the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario.
We know through the emails that we've seen that this organization has organized meetings between Hillary Clinton and Justin Trudeau, and the Liberal Party of Canada and Canada 2020 tried to turn a meeting into a fundraiser, against the ethical standards of Hillary Clinton, if you can believe that. They have posted a number of opportunities to win a trip to meet somebody very influential on their website in the Liberal Party. Is that all within the technicalities of the rules? I am not sure, because the Ethics Commissioner is not allowed to go and investigate.
When I wrote my letter to the Ethics Commissioner, it was several pages long. I do not have time right now, although I would have loved to read it into the record. I put these questions to the Ethics Commissioner and the Lobbying Commissioner, and the Lobbying Commissioner at least has the ability, to a certain degree, to look into the lobbyist side of the equation. When the question was put last week at the committee, we found out that the Lobbying Commissioner is looking into this. The Lobbying Commissioner said there is enough information and enough doubt here that we need to have an investigation to make sure that the access to ministers is being properly recorded and everything is above board. The Ethics Commissioner, again, said that she would love nothing more than to look into these matters but she does not have the ability to do so.
What we need to do is seriously consider this motion. We need to take it as being very important because the reputations of this institution, the House of Commons, of political parties, even of Elections Canada, of the Ethics Commissioner, and of politicians in general hinge on this. It is absolutely very important.
We know that Canada 2020 and Bluesky Strategy, a lobbying firm—though I did not realize that think tanks needed lobbying firms—share the same building. They share the same people. They are getting money from the Government of Canada. They are organizing Liberal Party fundraisers. That is hardly what I would bill as an independent think tank. It does not pass the open and accountable government guidelines set out by the Prime Minister, in my opinion and in the opinions of virtually everybody sitting in opposition to the government, I would guess; and I am hopeful not even in the opinions of some of the members of the Liberal Party.
The solution is to shine the light on this. Let us open it up. Let us have the Ethics Commissioner take a look. Let us trust in her judgment, her wisdom, and her office to have all of the information to make a determination as to whether or not this is kosher.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2016-11-03 11:03 [p.6517]
Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise to speak inside this wonderful chamber. I truly thank the constituents of Winnipeg North who have allowed me to be here to respond issues, whether it be this issue or what we witnessed earlier with the special tribute for Remembrance Day, for members both past and present of our Canadian Forces, and for the sacrifices they have made.
I would like to echo the many remarks toward our vets that have been put on the record today and, as a government member, express our best wishes in going forward and encouraging people to participate in Remembrance Day on November 11.
I will be very specific on a few points. When we talk about democracy and, in this case, what the Conservative Party has raised over a number of days, it is important for Canadians not to be deceived by the misinformation of the Conservative Party. Therefore, I will hit on some very specific points that need to be reinforced.
First, the federal rules are some of the strongest in the country, and donations and contributions are made in an open and transparent fashion. In fact, in some provinces, individuals can donate in the tens of thousands of dollars, and others do not have any limits on contributions. In addition, some provinces accept donations from unions, trade associations, and corporations. This is not the case in the federal system. We follow all the rules and the laws around fundraising. We are proud that we have one of the strictest regimes around fundraising for political parties.
Our government spends a tremendous amount of time working hard for Canadians across the country, whether it is meeting with crowds, individuals, or listening to consumer groups, small businesses, and the like. We are engaged so we can deliver for Canadians, and Canadians know that.
Our government has embarked on unprecedented levels of public consultations to ensure we respond to the very real challenges that Canadians face. This is why we did things like raise taxes on the wealthiest 1% and lowered them for the middle class. Canadians wanted these things.
There is no preferential access to this government. This government is demonstrating the most open and transparent approach, not just in following the rules but in being more engaged with Canadians than any previous government. We are consulting and we are engaged. The fact is that listening to Canadians is what is allowing us to deliver for Canadians, as we have been doing for the past year and as we will continue to be doing.
For over a year now, the members opposite have been criticizing this government regularly for engaging Canadians too much, for being too open and accessible, for consulting regularly with Canadians and demonstrating the most open and accessible government our country has ever seen. The Conservatives have been critical of that.
We, of course, follow all the rules and ensure we engage with Canadians. We are listening to them in the most positive and respectful way possible. All members of Parliament and all parties fundraise, and we all abide by the exact same rules, rules that were put in place by the previous government. When the rules are followed, no conflicts of interest can exist. We will continue to follow all of the rules.
There are a number of things I would like to share with the House.
Before he became Prime Minister and was the leader of the Liberal Party, the issue of proactive disclosure came up. A number of my colleagues from all parties will recall that particular initiative. The Liberal Party had third-party status and a relatively small caucus. Our leader stood up and asked for the unanimous consent of the House to bring in proactive disclosure. No matter how often he attempted to do it, we could not get unanimous support to make it happen. However, the leader of the Liberal Party did not stop there. He then indicated that if the House were not prepared to go there, the Liberal Party was, and all members of the Liberal caucus were obligated to abide by proactive disclosure. Even at the expense of the party, we went for proactive disclosure. To the credit of the Harper government, the Conservative Party did likewise months after we made that commitment. That party followed the leadership of the Liberal Party. Months afterward and following a Liberal opposition motion, we were able to garner unanimous support for proactive disclosure. New Democrats finally joined with us.
I say this because we do not have to play second fiddle to other parties in the chamber when it comes to public accountability and transparency and making sure that we are doing things right. The leader of the third party at that time clearly demonstrated that, and is clearly demonstrating that as the Prime Minister of Canada now.
No laws have been broken. The Conservatives can try to conspire and make all sorts of accusations, but the bottom line is that Canada has some of the most stringent laws in place to ensure that there is no conflict of interest. Members of the Liberal cabinet and this government are following the laws of our land so that there cannot be any conflict of interest. The members across the way know that. They are just being mischievous and trying to create something that is not there.
I am a strong democrat who believes in the parliamentary system. I am not going to be intimidated by someone who gives me a $1,500 donation, a $1,000 donation, or a $500 donation. I am accessible to my constituents. I am going to advertise what I do at this point. Every Saturday from 10 o'clock to 2 o'clock, I am at the local McDonald's, meeting with constituents. I have been doing this for over 20 years. What influences me personally is when I hear a good case from my constituents. I take that to my caucus colleagues and to the floor of the House. A good example of that is the reunification of families, because that is an area of huge interest to my constituents. Virtually every other week, whether at the local restaurant or by email or phone calls, my constituents get in touch with me or my office. That influences me personally.
Democracy is an important aspect to who we are individually and who we are as a society. I have had donations in excess of $1,000 and I could not tell anyone the names of all of those individuals. I might be able to list one or two. Do I appreciate these donations? Absolutely. I also appreciate the individuals who volunteer for my campaign. Some people are not in a position to give a cash donation but are more than happy to donate their labour or their time, and they do that in a multitude of ways. Some will assist me and the Liberal Party by knocking on doors and putting up signs. I do not feel indebted to them. I do not feel like I have to bring up every one of their issues on the floor of the House of Commons, unless, of course, it is an issue that I concur with. These individuals are just as important as those who donate to my campaign.
What are we going to see next? Are the opposition benches going to say that so-and-so volunteered a lot on a member's campaign and that it is a conflict of interest because he is influencing the member? It would be bizarre to think so. I have dinners in riding on many occasions and people often have to pay for them. Sometimes I will have a social activity and get hundreds of constituents attending at $10 a pop to participate. Other times I will get a $1,000 donation, and other times I will have a $100 dinner and they will participate. It is all about democracy.
Whether people are putting up signs, making telephone calls, going door to door, delivering brochures, or donating because they do not have the time to work directly on a campaign, I respect all of it. I do not give them preferential treatment. As for accessibility, come to my local McDonald's any Saturday and I am there. I might miss one or two Saturdays a year, but I like to think that I am accessible. I am no different from many, if not most, of the members in the chamber. I believe we all appreciate it.
Does the Conservative Party not have fundraisers in which they charge money? Of course they do. Even the New Democrats do. If we want to change or improve some of the laws, let us propose a study in committee and have a debate on how we might want to look at making some changes to the election laws to enhance them. That is something all members are entitled to do. It could also be done in private members' bills, but do not try to give the impression that laws have been broken when they have not been. I have seen election laws broken in the past and seen the party across the way violate those laws. The members sitting on the other side of the House should not point and throw stones at a glass house when they have been in violation of election laws.
What we have witnessed here is a government that is truly open and transparent on a wide variety of issues. If the members opposite want to talk about accessibility and the Minister of Finance having dinners, tell me about any other minister of finance who has been as accessible to input on budgetary matters as the current minister has been? Let me save the work for them, because they will not find another minister of finance who has been so aggressive in wanting to hear what Canadians have to say about the budget and the next budget. Even Mr. Flaherty was nowhere near to being as close to the public as this government has been in its consultations. I can assure members of that.
We are not always talking about thousands, but about tens of thousands, and we are talking about many different ways, not just through the Internet. In fact, we have a Minister of Finance and a parliamentary secretary who go into many different regions of our country to listen to what Canadians have to say.
Some hon. members: Sunny ways for a price.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: Yes, Mr. Speaker, sunny ways, the members are right. We are for sunny ways.
What we are doing is that we are moving—
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