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View Gérard Deltell Profile
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2019-06-04 12:52 [p.28483]
Mr. Speaker, again, not to sound narcissistic, but if we are going to talk, there should be people here to listen.
We are here today to debate the government's bill, which would implement the main measures of the budget. Budgets are highly technical and theoretical, but this gives us a chance to really dig deep.
My first observation is about the budget, as introduced by the minister, election promises and the format of the bill, which is 370 pages long and covers many topics that have nothing to do with the budget. This is called an omnibus bill.
I will remind members that four years ago, back in 2015, the Liberals made a promise. During the election campaign, they made several promises to Canadians in order to get elected. These promises were scrapped, however. The fourth paragraph on page 30 of their election platform states the following:
We will not resort to legislative tricks to avoid scrutiny.
[The former prime minister] has used prorogation to avoid difficult political circumstances. We will not.
[The former prime minister] has also used omnibus bills to prevent Parliament from properly reviewing and debating his proposals.
This is exactly what we are debating today. Today we are debating an omnibus bill into which the government inserted measures that have nothing to do with the budget. Four years ago, the Liberals promised not to do this, but they did it anyway.
Must I remind the House that, at around the same time last year, we were all here studying the previous budget implementation bill? The government had slipped in a dozen or so pages of legal provisions to allow companies facing prosecution for corruption, among other charges, to sign separate agreements. These provisions were not properly debated by parliamentarians. The Senate asked the minister to testify, but he refused.
That is what gave rise to the SNC-Lavalin scandal. Last year's bill included a process to allow for separate trials or agreements. That led to the director of public prosecutions' decision to proceed to trial on September 4. Ten days later, the former attorney general agreed to this proposal, and that is when partisan politics seeped into the legal process. That is what later led the former attorney general and the former president of the Treasury Board to be booted out of the Liberal caucus for having stood up and told Canadians the truth.
I am talking about this sad episode in Canadian democracy precisely because what we have before us today is a government that was elected under false promises, a government that promised the moon and sought to be pure as the driven snow but, in the end, did not keep its promises. That is essentially it. We have an omnibus bill.
Now let us talk about what is really going on with this bill, the government's budget implementation bill. What is the deal with this budget? Once again, we must not forget that the Liberals got themselves elected on the basis of budget promises they most certainly did not keep. The last paragraph on page 76 of the Liberal Party platform mentions the planning framework, the budgeting framework. It says right there in black and white:
With the Liberal plan, the federal government will have a modest short-term deficit of less than $10 billion in each of the next two fiscal years....
The platform also stated that the deficit would decline in the third year and that Canada would return to a balanced budget in 2019-20.
That was the promise that got the Liberals elected. Their bold but not-so-brilliant idea was to make a solemn pledge to run small deficits and eliminate the deficit entirely in 2019-20. That deadline has arrived, and what happened? Those modest deficits ballooned into three big deficits in excess of $70 billion. This is 2019-20, the year they were supposed to get rid of the deficit, but instead, this year's deficit is $19.8 billion.
Twice now I have asked the Minister of Tourism and the Liberal member for Surrey-Centre, if I remember correctly, to tell me the amount of this year’s deficit. They can never come up with the simple and yet very serious figure of $19.8 billion. How can we trust these people who get elected by promising, hand on heart, that they will generate only small deficits and zero deficit in 2019, when they generated three large deficits plus a huge one on the year they were meant to deliver a zero deficit?
What the Liberals fail to understand is that a deficit is a bill that our children and grandchildren will have to pay. A deficit today is a tax tomorrow. It will have to be paid sooner or later. Why did this happen? Because we are living beyond our means.
I would like to remind the House that, historically speaking, deficits are permitted under special conditions. You will remember that we ran deficits during the war. We had to defeat the Nazi menace. We will soon be celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Normandy landings on June 6. It was not until Prime Minister Louis Saint-Laurent that fiscal balance was restored, and I am not just saying that because I happen to represent the riding of Louis-Saint-Laurent.
It was in the early 1970s, under the Liberal government led by Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the current Prime Minister’s father, that we began running deficits in times of prosperity.
It was unfortunate for the Canadian economy. Indeed, fast forward 50 years and the son of the prime minister who ran deficits in times of growth is doing exactly the same thing, running four huge deficits in a period of rapid global economic expansion.
I truly have a great deal of respect and esteem for the Minister of Finance, as I do for all those who run for election and offer their services to Canadians and who, proud of their personal experience, wish to put it to good use. The Minister of Finance had a stellar career on Bay Street. We might even call him a Bay Street baron for having administered his family’s fortune so well. When he was head of the family company, Morneau Shepell, he never ran deficits.
When he was in the private sector, the Minister of Finance never ran a deficit, but since he moved to the public sector, since he has been using taxpayer money, since he has been using money that belongs to Canadian workers, he has been running back-to-back deficits.
How many have there been? There have been one, two, three, four budgets, and there have been one, two, three, four deficits. Four out of four, that is the grand slam of mismanaged public funds, while, in the private sector, he was a model money manager, an example to be followed.
To say the least, he is now neither a model or an example to be followed. Generating deficits during periods of economic growth is the ultimate heresy. No serious economist will tell you that this is a good time to generate a deficit. Quite the contrary, when the economic cycle picks up, it is time to put money aside.
They were very lucky. When they were elected, they took over the G7 country with the best economic track record. When we were in power, we were so intent on serious and rigorous management that we were the first G7 country to recover from the great crisis of 2008-12. That was thanks to the informed and rigorous management of the late Hon. Jim Flaherty, Minister of Finance, and Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper. These people inherited the best economic situation among the G7 nations, as well as a $2.5 billion budget surplus, which will not be the case in five months if Canadians choose us to form the next government.
Worse still, in the past four years, they have taken advantage of the sensational global economic growth and, of course, the economic strength of the United States, which has been experiencing growth for several years. What did they do with it? They made a huge mess of things, and the monstrous deficits they have been running these past four years will be handed down to our children and grandchildren to pay in the future.
That is why we are strongly opposed to this bill, which flies in the face of two election promises: to do away with omnibus bills, and to only run small deficits before balancing the budget in 2019.
View Cathy McLeod Profile
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's staff said, “it's just a bit ironic that she wants an alternative justice process to be available in one sense, but not one for SNC.” It seems like the entire Liberal government has been seized with getting bribery charges dropped against SNC. As a little reminder, that included $30,000 for Gadhafi's son for prostitutes in Canada.
The finance minister believes that this company should get a special deal. I have a simple question: Will the Liberals let him come to the justice committee and explain to Canadians why?
View Bardish Chagger Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bardish Chagger Profile
2019-04-01 14:51 [p.26519]
Mr. Speaker, we know that the justice committee studied this matter over five weeks, which is longer than most pieces of legislation are even studied at committee. We know that the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner is currently investigating this matter. We know that there is an ongoing court case. We know that when it comes to deferred prosecution agreements, this is a new tool that went through the House of Commons, was voted on and it is a legal measure that can be considered.
What is interesting is that we hear this sanctimony from the other side, but where was that member from the Conservative Party when it voted against measures for women and gender programs, when it voted against programs for seniors and when it voted against—
View Geoff Regan Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Geoff Regan Profile
2018-06-07 15:15 [p.20456]
I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Carleton on May 31, 2018, concerning the alleged intimidation of a potential witness by the office of the Minister of Finance.
I would like to thank the member for raising the matter, as well as the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader for his comments.
According to the member for Carleton, the Canadian Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, CAMIC, received two phone calls from the office of the Minister of Finance, which he claimed were intended to stop them from raising their objections to Bill C-74, either by meeting with parliamentarians or by appearing before committee. He surmised that these comments, which he characterized as threatening, might be why this association did not even express an interest in appearing as a committee witness.
In addition to questioning the timeliness of this question of privilege, the parliamentary secretary framed the matter as one of debate and contended that actions of a civil servant have not historically qualified as breaches of privilege.
The issue of timeliness is one that the Chair has raised on several occasions recently since it is a requisite condition that members must heed. In this instance, it is a valid issue to be raised again. This question could have, and should have, been brought to the attention of the House much earlier. The article from The Globe and Mail, dated May 15, 2018, in which the member for Carleton is quoted, suggests that he was aware of this matter as early as May 15. Additionally, it could have been raised at any point since May 22, when the House returned from a break week. The fact that the member for Carleton gave notice of his question of privilege a full week prior to actually rising in the House to make his case also suggests that he could have done so earlier.
House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, explains at page 145 what is expected of members in this respect, when it states:
The matter of privilege to be raised in the House must have recently occurred and must call for the immediate action of the House. Therefore, the member must satisfy the Speaker that he or she is bringing the matter to the attention of the House as soon as practicable after becoming aware of the situation.
In the past, Speakers have chosen not to pursue further on a matter when it is not apparent that it is being raised at the earliest practicable time.
In fact, Speaker Sauvé determined, on March 1, 1982, in a ruling found at pages 15473 and 15474 of Debates, that a question raised by a member was not a breach of privilege, as it had not been raised at the earliest opportunity. She stated:
The first problem I have with this question of privilege is that it does not appear to have been raised at the earliest opportunity....
I must therefore decline to accord this matter precedence over the regular business of the House, particularly in view of the fact that it does not appear to have been raised at the earliest opportunity. This requirement is not a mere technicality, but indeed in some respects a test of the validity of the complaint.
Today the Chair can only come to the same conclusion. This matter was clearly not raised at the first opportunity; the member did not meet this requisite condition, and therefore the Chair will not comment further on it.
I thank all hon. members for their attention.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2018-06-01 10:33 [p.20058]
Madam Speaker, there are actually three points of order or references I am going to have to respond to today, so I will start with the first one.
First, I rise in response to a question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Carleton on May 31, 2018, with respect to alleged ministerial interference with regards to Bill C-74. My hon. colleague, in his statement, argued that his and the members of the finance committee's freedom from obstruction and interference had been breached.
I would argue that the matter before us today does not meet the requirements to be considered a prima facie breach of privilege, but is rather a debate as to the facts. First of all, as you have mentioned on many occasions in recent rulings, matters must be raised at the earliest opportunity. This is not the case here.
In an article dated May 14, 2018, from The Globe and Mail, the member is reported as saying that he would be asking the Speaker of the House of Commons to rule on the issue when the House of Commons resumes next week. This clearly did not happen, as it was a whole 17 days later that the hon. member raised his question of privilege. Secondly, the actions alleged here are related to the actions of a civil servant. These matters have historically not been qualified as a breach of privilege.
In a ruling dated May 15, 1985, Speaker Bosley stated:
I think it has been recognized many times in the House that a complaint about the actions or inactions of government Departments cannot constitute a question of parliamentary privilege.
At no point is there an indication that members of the committee were forbidden from inviting the group as witnesses or that the minister's office had any role in the selection of witnesses. As such, Parliament has acted independently from the minister's office, and there is no ground to qualify these actions as interference.
At the core of the current debate lies the concept of parliamentary privilege. Matters of privilege and contempt can be broadly defined as, one, anything improperly interfering with the parliamentary work of a Member of Parliament, or two, an offence against the authority of the House. The situation brought forward by the hon. member for Carleton does not fit any of these categories, as no individual MP has been impeded and there has not been any offence against the authority of the House.
Failing to see how anyone's rights have been compromised or infringed, I would respectfully submit that this matter does not constitute a prima facie question of privilege.
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
2018-05-31 15:42 [p.19996]
Mr. Speaker, I regret to bring to your attention a possible breach of privilege. The matter came to my attention in an article by The Globe and Mail reporter Bill Curry. Mr. Curry indicates that a ministerial staff member allegedly intimidated an important would-be witness to the Standing Committee on Finance. The Canadian Association of Mutual Insurance Companies planned to raise concerns about the budget implementation act's amendments to the Banking Act.
The article stated:
An insurance lobby group says it was the subject of two "angry" phone calls from Finance Minister Bill Morneau's office aimed at blocking it from raising privacy concerns over new measures in the budget bill related to how banks use customer data. In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Normand Lafrenière, president of the Canadian Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, said the first call came on April 12 from the Finance Minister's senior policy adviser, Ian Foucher.
“I was asked not to meet with MPs and senators,” said Mr. Lafrenière, who has led the organization for 25 years after a public-service career that included senior positions at the Finance Department.
Furthermore, the article indicates that a member of the minister's office said this to the group:
Are you going to play ball with us or not? You better not appear in front of committees, and stop talking to senators and stop talking to MPs. Everything will be taken care of through regulations that will be published down the road.
These threatening comments may have prevented members from hearing testimony on an important bill. This group indicated in the same article that it was trying to raise objections to amendments to the Bank Act that had an effect on the privacy rights of Canadians.
The Minister of Finance has enormous legislative and regulatory powers over the industry that the would-be witnesses represent. That is why such a call from his office demanding their silence would have had great power to intimidate.
The group never testified before the House of Commons finance committee. Members of the government may point out that none of the opposition MPs on the committee put the group forward to serve as witnesses. However, and this may be true, but I do not know for sure, that might have been because the group was hesitant to lobby opposition MPs to be put on the witness list in the first place.
In chapter 3 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, authors Bosc and Gagnon indicate:
A Member may also be obstructed or interfered with in the performance of his or her parliamentary functions by non-physical means. In ruling on such matters, the Speaker examines the effect the incident or event had on the Member’s ability to fulfill his or her parliamentary responsibilities.
For a minister's office to silence a group over which the minister has regulatory power deprives parliamentary committees of valuable witness testimony and prevents members from doing their jobs. I am such a member. I am on the finance committee as a vice-chair, but other committee members would have benefited from having this testimony, which may have been effectively blocked by a threat emanating from the minister's office. If this had been a phone call from just a random person on the street telling a potential witness not to testify, I am sure that potential witness could simply ignore the call. However, when the call comes from the office of the minister that regulates one's industry, and language like, “Are you going to play ball? You better not testify. Don't talk to MPs”, is used, people are obviously tempted to stay silent to protect their interests or to avoid regulatory or legislative harm. That is why I believe that my privileges and those of other members on the committee may have been breached by our inability to hear the witnesses and question them.
Therefore, I ask that you rule on whether it is appropriate for ministerial staff members to tell groups not to testify. I also ask that you determine if this case represents a prima facie case of a breach in privilege.
View Bruce Stanton Profile
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2018-05-31 15:47 [p.19997]
I thank the hon. member for Carleton for bringing this to the attention of the House. We will take it under advisement and get back to the House in due course.
I see the hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader rising. Is it on the question of privilege?
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2018-05-31 15:47 [p.19997]
Mr. Speaker, this is the first time I have had the opportunity to hear the concerns raised by the member. We will take it, as always, and look into the matter. We will want to report back to the House at some point in time.
View Bruce Stanton Profile
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2018-05-31 15:48 [p.19997]
That is duly noted. In the short time ahead, perhaps when he is able to, we will hear from the parliamentary secretary on the question as well.
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.
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—
View Dan Albas Profile
Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to rise in this place and join the debate today. I am proud to be splitting my time with the member for Foothills.
I would like to talk a bit about money and preferential access.
In C.E.S Franks's book, The Parliament of Canada, written in the mid-1980s, he talked about the issue of members of Parliament. Originally members of Parliament in England oftentimes were served a notice akin to jury duty. They would be expected to represent their area and to go to Parliament. Back then Parliament was quite new, and this was often considered a burden by many people because it would take them away from home and would often require them to resolve tough issues. As an institution, Parliament was still quite young. Oftentimes even Speakers were threatened with violence. It is documented that many MPs would leave England when they found out they were appointed to represent their area.
It was not until later when the institution of Parliament began to strengthen and the individual roles of members of Parliament began to become stronger that preferential access was seen. Members of Parliament would count on patrons, usually quite wealthy people, to fund their campaigns, with the expectation of a quid pro quo in return.
Obviously, over the years our country has grown in its own institutions, as has Great Britain. I am proud to be a Canadian. I am proud of the rules that we have right now, but as the Prime Minister always likes to say, “better is always possible”.
I am going to address some of the issues with respect to the government's position right now when it comes to enforcing its “Open and Accountable Government” document. I hope all sides of the House will welcome my contribution, because one of the key tenets of democracy is that members of Parliament can speak up, even if what they say may be uncomfortable.
I have spent a lot of time exploring ways that pertain to conflict of interest, particularly how we can ensure that Canadians can have trust in our institutions, which sometimes means that we give our institutions more teeth in a parliamentary sense.
First, let us discuss where there is a problem, using some real world examples. The Prime Minister in his earlier years as the MP for Papineau, and before his election as leader of the Liberal Party, engaged in paid public speaking engagements. What is fascinating about that is while an individual cannot be gifted financial benefits from special interest groups, it turns out that the person can take thousands of dollars if they give a paid speech. In the case of the Prime Minister, it turns out that he was paid thousands of dollars by unions to give speeches, and surprise, surprise, one of the first things he did after taking power, as mentioned by a member earlier, was to repeal union financial disclosure. Ironically, the very law that would have revealed exactly who was getting paid by unions to give paid speeches was repealed by a politician who was paid by unions to give speeches. That is one of the reasons why at the federal level we treat donations from unions and corporations the way we do. However, keep in mind that taking money for a paid speech is potentially a loophole, which the Ethics and Conflict Commissioner is powerless to take action on. That is why today's motion is so important.
Let us not forget that on a year-for-year basis, it has been reported that consultant lobbying has increased 142% under the present Liberal government. That is, in a word, a remarkable increase in lobbying. Let us not forget that it was the Liberals' own national campaign co-chair who was forced to step down after advising others on how to lobby the Liberal government on the energy east pipeline.
On top of that we have a number of Liberal ministers and senior staff members who must work around ethical screens because of ethics-related concerns. By the way, those screens are overseen by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. She is already working with the government on making sure that it fulfills its commitments in those capacities.
Lobbying and ethics-related concerns with the Liberal government are frequently raised, and yet we have not even dealt with the cash for access Liberal fundraisers as of yet, in which extremely wealthy, well-connected insiders are paying as much as $1,500 each to have private, one-on-one access with key Liberal ministers.
Keep in mind that we hear about these things not because the ever-transparent Liberal government tells us about them. No, it is typically journalists who blow the whistle on these kinds of clandestine behaviours. Meanwhile, the Liberals simply shrug and tell us that it is okay because the Wynne Liberals have done even worse provincially, and it is okay to do what they are doing or because of the time-honoured Liberal comment that they are not breaking any rules. Of course, they are always silent on the fact that it is just not right.
Some will say that that is how fundraising works when there are no political public subsidies. I disagree. Yes, ministers are a draw for fundraising purposes. It is common for everyday Canadians to pay $50 or $100 to attend an event and it is a practice, let us be frank, that has gone on for decades. However, secretly sending out invitations to only elite insiders, boasting about special access for a $1,500 ticket, is different. That is something new and something the Liberals are increasingly doing.
Not long ago, I discovered that some Liberal ministers were using a paid limousine service, despite indicating in response to an Order Paper question that they were not. On further investigation, it turned out that one of those Liberal ministers involved was using a limousine that was connected to—wait for it—a Liberal. The point is that this demonstrates that Liberal ministers are not afraid to send taxpayer-provided benefits back to their Liberal supporters.
What happens when someone is paying $1,500 for direct access to a minister? We do not know. However, we do know that the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner currently needs more power to find out. Ironically, this is something that the Prime Minister has stated in the past he supports. Who knows? Maybe the Liberals will surprise this place and vote in favour of the motion. That has not been uncommon of late.
Before I close, I want to share one further point. Recently, on the finance committee, I had an opportunity to ask the finance minister what value he placed on the input of the finance committee, which, again, is dominated by a Liberal majority. I asked because the committee had recently been travelling right across this great country, hearing the priorities of Canadians for the 2017 budget. To my great surprise, the finance minister replied that he placed no more value on the reports of this parliamentary committee than he did of any other stakeholder.
Again, this is the very same finance minister who was exposed recently as having attended a $1,500-a-plate private, direct access to the minister Liberal fundraiser. What the finance minister is basically saying is that he values equally the input of these $1,500 stakeholders level and a parliamentary committee. Just let that sink in. All of us here are elected to represent thousands of Canadians and he places no greater value on a parliamentary committee, made up of the people's representatives, than he does on an individual stakeholder. No wonder well-heeled Liberal insiders are lining up to pay $1,500 per ticket for these direct access Liberal fundraisers.
In summary, this motion is a complete necessity when we have this particular Liberal government in power. Let us be honest: we have watched how the Liberal government has responded in question period when this subject has been raised by both the Conservative and NDP opposition parties, and it just shrugs its shoulders and does not even pretend to care about these highly questionable optics.
I should add that we all know that partisan politics is always at a premium when it comes to the fundraising practices of political parties. For this reason alone, I suggest that all members ask themselves the question: is better always possible? It is, if we get some agreement. We have had that agreement in the last few votes on opposition motions, and I hope we will get it today.
View John Barlow Profile
View John Barlow Profile
2016-11-03 12:21 [p.6528]
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and speak to this. I would like to invite the finance minister, the trade minister, the minister of innovation, and the Minister of Natural Resources to come on down and play The Price Is Right, because it seems as if they will sell their integrity and whatever it takes to get ahead as long as the price is right. That seems to be the game that the Liberal Party is playing with this. Who knows what the showcase showdown will be at the end of this show? I am sure that those who are spending $1,500 to attend these exclusive events will be the ones who will enjoy the benefits of the showcase showdown. However, the message I would like to leave for those who have paid the $1,500 to get these exclusive opportunities to shake hands with and wag the ear of the ministers is that they have overbid. A smarter bid of one dollar would have been a better investment, also of their time.
I want to go back to what the Prime Minister said after he was elected a year ago. I quote from annex B, which states:
Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries must avoid conflict of interest, the appearance of conflict of interest and situations that have the potential to involve conflicts of interest.
The Prime Minister himself clearly stated to the ministers and parliamentary secretaries that 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 or political parties.
A lot of the questions we are getting from across the floor are asking whether any laws were broken. The election laws were not broken, but what was broken was a very profound promise by the Prime Minister to do things differently.
He states in that quote, “must avoid conflict of interest” or “the appearance of conflict of interest”.
It is quite obvious that these statements are not worth the paper they are written on. We are back to the age-old Liberal mantra that they are entitled to their entitlements no matter what the cost. Again, if the price is right, they will be there to try to grant whatever it is those people are asking for. I would like to talk about some of those who have done so already, and we are barely just over a year into their mandate.
The Minister of Natural Resources attended an event on August 29 in Edmonton at the offices of MacPherson Leslie and Tyerman. This is the minister for natural resources, mining, oil and gas, forestry, and nuclear energy. The expertise of this law firm with which he had a private meeting just happens to be mining and resource permits and regulations. Not only was this a meeting with this law firm, but it was a private party, and the only people who were allowed to attend were people who paid the $1,500 fee to join the Liberal Laurier Club, which is an exclusive fundraising arm of the Liberal Party. Therefore, to say that this was an open consultation with the energy sector or stakeholders in the mining or oil and gas sector, I think, is quite disingenuous. This was an event exclusively for members of the Liberal Laurier fundraising club, who have paid a $1,500 membership fee, to get an opportunity to speak with the Minister of Natural Resources.
I could tell members right now that, of the 100,000 Albertan energy workers who are out of work, not one has had the opportunity to speak to the Minister of Natural Resources. They are the ones who need that $1,500 to pay their mortgage because they are out of work, and yet a very exclusive, elite group of lawyers in downtown Edmonton has the opportunity to meet with the Minister of Natural Resources. I am certain that mining and resource development permits were a hot topic at that meeting. I am sure there are thousands of Alberta energy workers right now who would love to have an opportunity to sit down with the minister of natural resources and talk about some of the things that they on the ground feel the minister would be able to implement, such as policies and regulations that would help them get back to work, rather than spending his time meeting with lawyers in downtown Edmonton. However, the unemployed energy workers simply do not have the $1,500 or probably the connections to have that opportunity to meet personally with the Minister of Natural Resources.
He is obviously not alone. On April 7, the Minister of Justice attended a Liberal fundraiser hosted by a prominent Bay Street law firm at $500 a ticket. Why would the Minister of Justice be meeting exclusively with a law firm in downtown Toronto?
Let us keep going.
The Minister of Justice attended another event, this time for only $1,000 a ticket—she had a discount—on April 28. This was a meeting in Vancouver and included Gordon and Catherine McCauley. Gordon just happens to be CEO of Viable Healthworks and director of Centre for Drug Research and Development. I am sure they were talking about anything other than marijuana laws or decriminalizing marijuana. I am sure those were not topics at that event.
The Minister of International Trade will be attending a Liberal Party of Canada event that advertises a wonderful evening with the Minister of International Trade, in Toronto. When I go to that website and click on it to get a password to attend, I cannot get that password. This is supposed to be open. If I want an opportunity to talk to the Minister of International Trade about what happened with CETA or what is going on with the trans-Pacific partnership, which farmers and ranchers in southern Alberta are very eager to see proceed, unfortunately, I do not have access to what is supposed to be an open and transparent process to meet with government members of Parliament, ministers.
The finance minister recently had an event in Halifax, on October 13. The ticket price for that event was $1,500. Again, that was pretty exclusive company. Fifteen business executives, including land developers, bankers, and mortgage brokers, each paid $1,500 to have an opportunity to meet with the finance minister. I am sure they were not talking about downtown Halifax developments or the Halifax Port Authority. I am sure it was just to get some consultation on the upcoming budget, which will be much better than we heard in the update, hopefully.
Again, I would love to carry on.
I am going to add the innovation minister. He was the top guest at a Vancouver event, where the ticket price was $1,500. He also must have had a tough time, as he is taking a discount. His next one is at a private residence where the tickets are only $400.
The Prime Minister himself is not free from these either. He has attended 17 of these, some of them with a ticket price as high as $1,525.
The Liberals have 89 of these events planned over the next few months. Despite the rhetoric we are hearing in question period or here today about not breaking any laws and trying to be open and transparent, despite the reaction they are getting from Canadian taxpayers that this is wrong, they do not care. They are plugging right along with continuing to host these things. It is an absolute affront to this House and to Canadian taxpayers, a slap in the face, saying they don't care what people think about the optics of these types of fundraisers, and they are going to go right ahead and do them anyway.
The finance minister talked quite a bit that this was going to be consultation, that this was a chance to speak to Canadians about the budget process, but the federal lobbying commissioner, Karen Shepherd, is now investigating these pay for access fundraisers; the Ethics Commissioner has called these fundraisers unsavoury; and even former Liberal minister Sheila Copps has asked the Prime Minister to ban these elite fundraisers, saying that during the Chrétien years, when she was minister, “You go and you get an envelope, ‘I need this, I want this, I want this’”.
It is quite clear that this has nothing to do with consultations. This is about what they can do for people and how much it is going to cost.
If he talked about consulting with Canadians, there are other ways to do it. We have a break week next week. I am going to be in my riding of Foothills. I have four round tables planned during that week, throughout the riding. I am going to be consulting with hundreds of Foothills residents about what they think is important as we go through the budget process, and certainly they are going to be focusing on Alberta jobs.
I am renting rooms at the Legion, at a local hotel, and at a local restaurant. Do members know how much I am charging people to attend? I am charging zero, absolutely zero. That is how consultation with Canadians should be done. It should not be done at $1,500 a head.
They are talking to the wealthy, the entitled, the elite. They are not talking to average hard-working Canadians, the ones they should really be paying attention to because those are the ones who really matter, with what is going on and the decisions that the Liberal government is making.
In conclusion, I am certainly hearing from my constituents, in disbelief, that this is utterly the kind of attitude of entitlement to their entitlements. It is the same old Liberal Party.
View Mark Strahl Profile
View Mark Strahl Profile
2016-11-03 13:05 [p.6534]
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte.
What we have just heard is basically an excuse for unethical behaviour. The excuse that we have heard all morning from the speeches that members are reading from the PMO is that no laws have been broken. That is the standard the Liberals are setting. Of course, what they are not talking about is the ethical guidelines that the Prime Minister handed out to the public office holders over there, the best practices for ministers and parliamentary secretaries. I want to read from those guidelines, under general principles:
Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries must ensure that political fundraising activities or considerations do not affect, or appear to affect, the exercise of their official duties or the access of individuals or organizations to government.
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. There should be no singling out, or appearance of singling out, of individuals or organizations as targets of political fundraising because they have official dealings with Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries, or their staff or departments.
What the Liberal Party wants us to believe is that when the Minister of Justice holds a fundraiser attended by a bunch of lawyers who pay $1,500 for the privilege, it is just a coincidence that they are lawyers who are regulated by the Justice Department.
When the Minister of Natural Resources holds a $1,500 per person fundraiser at a law firm that specializes in natural resource sectors, that is just a coincidence. How are they supposed to know that it was going to be the minister who regulates their department and may decide whether their projects proceed or not? How could they know? What a happy coincidence.
When the Minister of Finance holds dozens of these things across the country, at $1,500 per person and filled with Bay Street bankers, how are the latter supposed to know that the minister who is responsible for regulating the financial services sector would be there and take that $1,500?
It is beyond belief that the Liberal Party is justifying this clear cash for access scheme and trying to drag in other members of Parliament who all fundraise. The difference is that when we were in government, our ministers were very clear. We set up the ethical standard so that our ministers were not taking cash from people they regulated, from the people who lobbied their departments. That is the clear differentiation between the Conservative government and the Liberal Party. They do not even try to hide it; they justify it as not being illegal.
It is the same behaviour we have seen from Kathleen Wynne and the Ontario Liberal Party, in which people who are under a cloud of investigation are kept in their posts because they have not been officially charged yet. They have not officially gone to jail yet.
That is the standard the government is emulating. It is not a surprise, because this is the same party that has another member, Jacques Corriveau, who was found guilty on three counts of fraud just this week in the sponsorship scandal. Canadians remember it well, that system of coordinated kickbacks for government contracts. There are still people going to jail because of that Liberal culture of corruption.
We see it continuing. It is the proud legacy that the Liberals have brought forward into this new iteration, which is basically more of the same. This is how they do business. As David Dingwall famously said, “I'm entitled to my entitlements.” The Liberal Party of Canada seems to think it is entitled to raise money from the very people who should not be at fundraisers with the people who regulate them, with the ministers who often hold the very future of whether a project proceeds, and whether a regulation changes to the benefit of an industry. That is what we are talking about. It is the cash for that access. We are not talking about eliminating fundraising.
I heard another member say in another speech written by the PMO and read into the record here today that in B.C. one could give $30,000 and in other jurisdictions $20,000, as if the amount of the donation were the ethical breach. However, the breach occurs when any amount is given to get access to a minister who has control over files that are important to the minister and the minister's personal interests. That is what this party is doing, and its members are not even hiding it. It is coordinated corruption.
The Liberals have had nearly 90 of these events that we know about, and 20 with high-profile ministers who have been implicated. Now we have the Minister of Natural Resources saying that he was not there, but, of course, the record shows that he was. I would be embarrassed if I were him too. I would be telling people that I do not do anything like that. However, the record shows that he was there at the event with a law firm that lobbies in regard to natural resources.
We have other events taking place with the Minister of International Trade, such as the following event, described as the Liberal Party of Canada and an evening with the hon. Minister of International Trade in Toronto. However, when we go to the web page now, we cannot find out about that event because it is password protected. The Liberals are trying to cover their tracks, but Canadians will not let them get away with it.
The Prime Minister's bureaucrats are deciding whether the Prime Minister is breaking ethical guidelines. That is the system he has conveniently set up so that the Privy Council oversees it. The Privy Council, which is the bureaucracy for the Prime Minister's Office, is the one that oversees whether the Prime Minister is keeping his own ethical guidelines, and, surprise, he is batting 1000%. He is always on the level, and they do not seem to find a problem with it, even though the Lobbying Commissioner and Ethics Commissioner have said it is very unsavoury and believe it is something that should come under their purview. We agree. Therefore, this is what the motion says today:
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.
That is taken directly from the Prime Minister's directives to his ministers. However, we hear today a defence. It is hard to believe that every one of the Liberal Party members gets up to say that they have not broken the law. The laws have not been broken, but it is about ethics, which is why this decision by ministers to purposely seek out funds from the people they regulate is corruption.
As I said before, the Liberals have held 89 of these fundraisers so far, and have another 10 scheduled for the fall. They all include fundraisers with ministers and parliamentary secretaries, as well as one with the Prime Minister's senior adviser, Gerald Butts.
They are defending the indefensible. They are bringing up the Elections Act, or the fact that members have fundraised. We all fundraise. It is part of the political process in Canada. What is not a part of the political process is using the office that one has been entrusted with by the Prime Minister to act on behalf of all Canadians, to instead act on behalf of people who can afford a $1,500 donation to bend the ear of the Prime Minister or his ministers.
In the natural resource sector, 100,000 workers have lost their jobs since the current government took office. They cannot afford the entry fee to get face time with the Minister of Natural Resources to ask why he is not doing anything to get them back to work. This is a return to the culture of corruption.
The Liberals should support this motion, support the words of their Prime Minister, and get the Ethics Commission, not their bureaucrats, to evaluate whether or not these clear conflicts of interest violate ethical rules.
View Alexander Nuttall Profile
Mr. Speaker, today we stand in the House regarding a motion that is moved to make a statement to the current government and to the people of Canada, a statement that is firm, strong, and empowers the people of Canada rather than empowering the few who have the money to gain access and influence.
The basic tenets of our democracy and the rule of law determine that we are all equal in our weight and responsibility as citizens and before the laws of this land. Unfortunately, there are practices going on that threaten that principle and seek to undermine the will of the people and replace it with the wants of wealthy insiders. I know my colleagues across the aisle are wondering how this could be, how the party that promised real change could threaten the structure of our democracy so that the Canadian people, who voted for them and placed them in government, are diminished in their position.
It is actually quite easy to do.
Some Liberal insiders with nice offices or homes invite a Liberal minister, who has the time, and they sell tickets to people who want to bend the ear of said minister, so that the Liberal minister will perhaps bend the policies of the country or give his or her support to their thoughts.
Maybe it is not all about policies at all. Maybe the people attending the fundraiser are not actually looking for a change in policy, but to receive an appointment, maybe as a judge, for instance, from the justice minister or an immigration tribunal position from the immigration minister, an appointment to the Senate from the Prime Minister or democratic reform minister, some piece of corporate welfare from the Minister of Innovation, the funding of a project from the infrastructure minister, or finally, a change in fiscal policy from the finance minister.
The question of preferential access comes down to one very clear point: what Canada do we believe in? Do we believe in a Canada where people are seen as equal and therefore treated equally? Or do we believe in a Canada where citizens who are of a certain political party, of a certain income-earning level, or of a certain personal relationship deserve the inside track?
My opinion is this. I believe in a Canada that respects its electors equally and fairly, and provides all of us the ability to influence the policies of government so that government is reflective of the country that voted it into power and not of the donors who sustain the Liberal Party of Canada. I do not think that this is a question of whether one is a Liberal, Conservative, NDP, or any other party supporter. I do not believe there are Liberal voters out there who think the Liberal government should be allowing a few Liberal insiders to influence the conduct of the government.
This is why. It means that some Liberals who have the means or know the right person have more access to government than do others. It is just plain wrong. The country that I believe in, the one I thought I grew up in, is one in which it does not matter where people grew up, what financial means their families have, or who their friends are; their opportunity for success is equal. It is equal for all Canadians.
I am not so naive as to believe that there are not persons in this country who are disadvantaged, but I am furious and Canadians are furious that those children are often forgotten, and in this case for a $1,525 cheque. It is disturbing that the fundraising practices of a political party that is in government are determining the priorities of the federal government.
Let me provide a few examples as to why this is so important.
Let us pretend that the justice minister were to travel to, say, Bay Street in Toronto to a ritzy law firm and hold a fundraiser for the Liberal government. Let us pretend the law firm just mentioned were to go out and sell a bunch of tickets for the Liberal Party. Now, let us pretend the justice minister needed to appoint hundreds of judges and there was a backlog. Finally, let us pretend the law firm mentioned has a tonne of lawyers who want to be judges. Is this a scenario that Canadians would be comfortable with? My guess is no. I am not comfortable with it; that is for sure.
The most difficult fact about this pretend situation is that it is not pretend at all. The justice minister did just this. Some lawyers, based on their employment or choice of law firm and the amount of money they would donate to the Liberal Party, were given access to the person they were asking for a job. For some reason, the members of the Liberal Party stand up, day in and day out, defending these practices. It is deplorable.
Let us pretend the finance minister visits Halifax. Let us pretend he has a fundraiser with a land developer. Let us pretend that land developer who raised thousands of dollars for the Liberal Party of Canada wanted to be appointed to the Halifax Port Authority. Now let us pretend the finance minister appointed this person, this developer, to the Halifax Port Authority. Again, Canadians need to ask themselves whether it is wrong to appoint a person to a position they want because they were able to organize and buy tickets to a Liberal fundraiser. Yes, it is wrong. This is not a pretend situation. This is an act against our democratic process that the Liberal Party and the finance minister, quite frankly, have already committed.
Liberals have said today, and will say all day and probably again tomorrow, that they have broken no laws. I know I am young and I am naive, but is it too much to ask that the actual letter of the law for the country should not be the only determining guideline for conduct regarding fundraising affairs? I would say, “no”. The Prime Minister said “no” just one year ago, but unfortunately, does not reflect that now.
The ethical standards for individuals serving in Canada would, hopefully, be easily understood and it would be easy to hold those ministers accountable for potentially exchanging access to government for donations to the Liberal Party.
It turns out it is easy to know what the standards are. They are written by the Liberal government and called “Open and Accountable Government”. Unfortunately, Liberal ministers are not following the statements in these ethical guidelines. It says that public office holders “have an obligation to perform their official duties and arrange their private affairs in a manner that will bear the closest public scrutiny. This obligation is not fully discharged merely by acting within the law.”
Obviously, this is no longer a document that bears any relevance to the government.
When I first got to Ottawa last year, someone took me aside and said, “Alex, don't get Ottawashed”, meaning do not let Ottawa change who you are and what you stand for. It is my belief that the government has either become Ottawashed in this year or maybe, just maybe, its members were Ottawa insiders from the beginning. Either way, it demonstrates how out of touch the Liberal government is with Canadians.
It is my belief that it does not matter where in Canada one is from, whether it is Windsor or Yellowknife, what one's income level is, or how much government support one has had, we are all equal before the law. This is a representative democracy, meaning all people are represented and all people are equal.
The government should know that all Canadians are equal, whether they live in social housing, Nunavut, or Barrie. Everyone deserves equal access to the government and its ministers. All Canadians deserve to have the opportunity to share their views with the government and to be heard.
However, this question today is not solely regarding who has access. It is more importantly about who does not have access. What child is forgotten because the minister is so focused on fundraising? What grandmother or senior is left behind because these ministers are focusing on the people at these fundraisers?
I will remind the federal Liberals that their principal secretary and their chief of staff have come from the Ontario Liberal government. That is a government that instituted the Green Energy Act that gave out billions of dollars in contracts. The Ontario auditor general said as much as 92% of these Green Energy Act contracts went to people who donated to the Liberal Party of Ontario. It is incredible.
The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. The Liberals past behaviour was cash for access fundraisers. Their current behaviour is cash for access fundraisers. Their future behaviour will be cash for access fundraisers. However, as the Liberal Party gives access to Liberal insiders, it needs to remember it is excluding the rest of Canadians.
View Alexandre Boulerice Profile
Mr. Speaker, I am going to share my time with my dear colleague, the member of Parliament for Elmwood—Transcona, a beautiful riding. I want to congratulate him for all the work he is doing on the ethics committee. It is really impressive, especially for someone coming from a family that has nothing to do with federal politics. It looks like he knows quite a bit.
I think everyone remembers the Prime Minister saying with great pride that Canada is back. In fact, what he was actually saying is that the Liberal Party of Canada is back, and with it are the old stories of scandals and friends. They try to hide their natural instincts, but guess what? They are back with cash for access to ministers, even though they are pretending to do otherwise.
What we see in the behaviour of those ministers of cabinet is that two things are certain in life. We are all going to die and a Liberal is a Liberal is a Liberal. It is like a time machine going back to the old days, giving access to big businessmen, to the elites of this country, to Bay Street, again and again.
This shows how disappointing the Liberal cabinet’s behaviour is in light of the expectations it created. The Liberals said they were going to combat cynicism and do politics differently. They said that after the years of darkness, it would be sunny ways. They said they were going to rebuild Canadians’ trust in political institutions as well as integrity in our institutions and in Parliament. However, at the first opportunity, the Liberals flout the laws and principles they took such pride in putting forward. It is extremely disappointing.
Before going on, I have to say I am a great admirer of Georges Brassens. I listen to him as often as I can. During the previous Parliament, the song that came to mind most often was Le temps ne fait rien à l'affaire, or time does not change anything. In the current Parliament, my favourite Georges Brassens song is certainly Les copains d’abord , or friends first, because everything works for the government’s friends thanks to the government’s friends. That is certainly not what Canadians and Quebeckers voted for last year.
Today's motion is interesting because it calls on the Liberals to face up to their own contradictions, to have a look in the mirror and tell us whether promoting something and then hiding behind the existing law is good enough for them. Is that the kind of hope they put into the hearts and minds of people during the last federal election campaign? I do not think so.
The document entitled “Open and Accountable Government” is fairly clear cut, and it is posted on the Prime Minister's website, which is significant. The document lists a number of principles that ministers must follow. That document, which is talked up by the Prime Minister and says that things are going to be done differently, prohibits all “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.”
How can it be that, according to The Globe and Mail, there have now been about 20 such events where people paid $400, $500, or $1,500 to attend an evening with the justice minister, the heritage minister, or the finance minister? They have some nerve. In fact, they have a whole lot of nerve because they get double the payoff: $1,500 for access to the finance minister just days before the economic update and a few months before the tabling of a budget that will see billions of dollars in infrastructure funding flow to our communities.
Still, they would have us believe that a $1,500 dinner at a house in Halifax, an event organized by the Laurier Club, is not privileged access.
I do not know many people in Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie who can write a $1,500 cheque to dine with the Minister of Finance. That kind of thing is not about fighting for the middle class or representing ordinary people. It is old-school politics with old-school elites, real estate developers, big-time business people, and people who are on the boards of institutions and corporations under federal jurisdiction, such as the Halifax Port Authority.
The Minister of Finance put himself in an extremely delicate position that is entirely inconsistent with the Liberals' own rules and principles. What a bad example for the public. Imagine if this is how we talked to our children; tell them not to do this or that because it is against the rules, and then turn around and do it ourselves and say that it is not that bad. That is what the Liberals are doing.
They brag about doing politics differently. They apply new standards. They set high standards. Then, they turn tail and hide, saying that the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner has no jurisdiction over the document presented by the Prime Minister. In fact, why are we not legislating this? Why not take this principle and make it law? That way, the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner would have jurisdiction over the document. What are the Liberals afraid of? It is rather odd.
The cherry on top is that their own document also says that their attitude and behaviour should be held to a higher standard than what the law requires. By trying to put a square peg in a round hole, they end up chasing their own tails.
Chapter 4.1 of the Prime Minister's document states:
Moreover, they have an obligation to perform their official duties...in a manner that will bear the closest public scrutiny. This obligation is not fully discharged merely by acting within the law.
Need we say anything more?
What people also need to know is that these events are not open to the public. With respect to the October 13 event in Halifax, a Google search using the words “Halifax”, “Minister of Finance”, and “Liberal Party” does not return any results. It is all very hush-hush. Private invitations are sent out in secret. It is a meeting of friends, hand-picked from the inner circle, who are going to influence public policy. I do not believe that someone is going to pay $500 or $1,500 and not expect to have some influence on the Minister of Canadian Heritage or the Minister of Finance when tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure money is on its way.
Investing in infrastructure is a good thing. However, why do people have preferential access to the Minister of Finance when they have a monetary, financial and economic interest in influencing the Liberal government's decision?
It is extremely disappointing, and we expected better of the Liberal government. I hope that it will support the motion and that it will live up to its promises.
View Alexandre Boulerice Profile
Mr. Speaker, I was not expecting to be congratulated by a Conservative MP. It threw me off a little at first, but he is quite right.
In my opinion, people who are not friends of the Liberal Party must feel extremely frustrated that they are not at the table when major decisions are being made about the future of their communities.
My colleague spoke about the choices the government has made about prescription drugs, for instance. The Minister of Finance just happens to be attending a fundraising activity in Toronto on November 7 that was organized by pharmaceutical companies. These companies are organizing the event and selling tickets, and in return they get the finance minister. If that is not a perceived conflict of interest, I do not know what is.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2016-11-03 17:08 [p.6571]
Mr. Speaker, it might just help to step back and mention for a minute what it is we are here to talk about. Really, what we are here to talk about is how it is that the government intends to implement and enforce the very same rules that the Prime Minister sent out to his ministers when he appointed cabinet.
We have heard from some Liberal members that somehow they do not think that putting it into law is the best way. If they have an alternative, let us hear it, but right now, we have a situation where ministers of the crown are obviously not following the rules set out by the Prime Minister. If the Liberals have a great idea on how to see that policy actually enforced, let us hear it. In the meantime, writing those rules into the law and allowing the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner to enforce those rules seems like a pretty good idea, and we certainly have not heard anything better from members opposite today.
To give hon. members a sense of what those rules are, may we step back and say something about the context into which the new government stepped in October? We really just have to name some names in order to get a sense of what Canadians were feeling about the standard of ethics in politics in October 2015, when we were talking about Dean Del Mastro and Mike Duffy. There were a lot of names on the tip of the tongues of Canadians that suggested to them that the ethical standard in Canadian politics was not high enough.
In came the Prime Minister, if we listen to him, on a white horse, and he would make things better. He went so far as to say in his instructions to ministers:
Moreover, [ministers] have an obligation to perform their official duties and arrange their private affairs in a manner that will bear the closest public scrutiny. This obligation is not fully discharged merely by acting within the law.
He went on in annex B of that same document to flesh out what exactly he meant. He said, “In order to ensure that there is no differential treatment or appearance”, and that is really the crux of the matter, because it is not just whether there is differential treatment.
According to the Prime Minister, the issue is whether there may even be the appearance of differential treatment, and he himself said, as I quoted just now, that merely acting within the law would not be enough to meet the bar he was setting just over a year ago, so he said:
In order to ensure that there is no differential treatment or appearance of differential treatment for individuals, corporations or organizations because of their financial support of politicians or political parties, Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries should adopt the following best practices
What are those best practices that this motion simply calls on the government to enforce by allowing the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner to enforce?
First, it says that “Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries should not seek to have departmental stakeholders included on fundraising or campaign teams or on the boards of electoral district associations”, so when we hear that the chair of Apotex is organizing a fundraiser for ministers of the crown, I think that is a pretty obvious contradiction of the guidelines that the Prime Minister set out and that we are simply asking to have enforced.
It says that ”Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries should ensure that the solicitation of political contributions on their behalf does not target: departmental stakeholders, or other lobbyists and employees of lobbying firms”. When we find out through The Globe and Mail and others that there have been confidential websites set up and that people are getting access to those websites to buy tickets to those fundraisers by invitation, that is clearly not meeting the standard set out by the Prime Minister in these guidelines.
It makes us wonder. If the Prime Minister is not willing to police his members, who would? The Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner is an obvious choice, and this motion simply calls on the government to allow the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner to go ahead and do that work that the Prime Minister has decided he will not do, because he is not enforcing his own rules.
As I say, any time Liberals want to chime in and say that they have a better mechanism to ensure that this document and instructions on open and accountable government are actually followed by ministers of the crown and not just talked about, let them put them on the table, but we have not heard anything from them, and we have been debating this all day.
The other notorious thing about what is going on, in my view, about these particular fundraisers that we have talked about—because it is a problem—is that they do create the appearance of preferential access when people are paying $1,500 to get into an exclusive night with the Minister of Finance.
Incidentally, there is this idea that somehow a little old lady from Elmwood—Transcona who takes Handi-Transit to sit in the back of an open house, and leaves without talking to the minister, is the same as a high-powered corporate executive paying $1,500 to get into someone's private residence with only 14 other people. That there is no difference between those interactions with the minister is laughable. Shame on the members who have been getting up today to insinuate that somehow those two situations are not significantly different for the purposes of influencing ministers. That is just totally ridiculous.
When they pay that $1,500 to get into that privileged night with the minister, as advertised, then what? Well, at tax time they get about $650 of that back. So that is really nice. If a person has the $1,500 to fork out now—and this is a cash flow issue—then that person gets the preferential access, but the very same people who did not have the $1,500 are the ones who are going to pay almost half of it back to that person later.
Therefore, Canadians perversely are being made to pay for preferential treatment for high-powered corporate executives. I think there is something shameful about that, and it has not gotten enough attention. They are not actually paying $1,500 out of their own pocket. They are paying about $800 out of their own pocket, and the rest is coming out of the pocket of Canadian taxpayers.
I referred earlier to Dean Del Mastro and Mike Duffy. We have heard as kind of a defence from the Liberals that it seems to be that they are not like Dean Del Maestro; they are more of a Mike Duffy. Duffy went through court, and it ended up that he did not break any rules, according to the law. We have that from a judge, and so there was no problem. We know that Dean Del Mastro was bad and he went to jail, but the Liberals do not have a problem as they are really like Mike Duffy. They have this kind of strange Duffy defence.
I can tell members that, given the last five years of Canadian politics, for the government to get up and think that an acceptable defence is to say not to worry, because it is just like Mike Duffy, I think is pretty pathetic. However, that is what we have been hearing all day. I am at a loss on that.
I think there is another elephant in the room here. Actually one of the Liberal members earlier raised it as a bad thing, but I have always believed in a per-vote subsidy for political financing. That came in under the Chrétien Liberals. When they said that corporations and unions would not be able to donate, they recognized that political parties were going to have a harder time raising money.
Therefore, the Liberals brought in public financing so that, based on the support that political parties had, they could expect to have some money to fund their activities, so that parties would not be in a position where they were prostituting their ministers of the crown for money. When we create that kind of imperative to have politicians spending all of their time raising money, certain governments get into political hot water, because they start to use all the tools at their disposal to raise that money, whether it is right or wrong, and that is what we have been watching.
I dare say that, if the Liberals put their focus on bringing back reasonable public support for political party financing, then they may not have to be in the embarrassing position of having to defend ministers who are doing cash for access fundraisers. As far as I am concerned, that is part of the debate and where it ought to go.
I think it is an embarrassment to Canadians that ministers are out parading around asking for money for attention. Frankly, I think that if they are not ashamed of it, it is an embarrassment to the Liberal Party. They should care more, frankly, for their own brand. It is an embarrassment to Canada. It is an embarrassment to the Liberals that they are out doing this. They could bring in a proper political financing regime in Canada like the one we had.
What we are hearing from Liberals when they attack the political financing model is that they think Stephen Harper and the reforms he brought to political financing in Canada were better than Jean Chrétien's. If that is what they think, let us have them get up and say it again, that they are on team Harper when it comes to electoral reform, that they are disowning the actions of previous Liberal governments, and that if they had to choose between Stephen Harper's electoral reforms or the Chrétien Liberal reforms, they would be voting for the Harper reforms. Is that how far we have come? Is that what the last election was about? I do not think so.
View Rachael Harder Profile
View Rachael Harder Profile
2016-11-03 17:23 [p.6573]
Mr. Speaker, today I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Elgin—Middlesex—London.
Many students and young professionals voted for the first time in this last election. These are Canadians who chose not to vote in the previous election, but they voted this time because the Prime Minister promised them something. He promised them to function according to integrity, to be transparent, and to offer hope against the cynicism that they feel about politics and politicians. The greatest sin from my generation, because I fit within that, is hypocrisy. Since taking government, the Liberal Party is proving to be every single last thing that this rising generation stands against.
The Prime Minister made big promises to get elected, but once he gained power it was simply business as usual for the Liberal Party, which happens to be the most cynical appeal to the values of students and young professionals that we have ever seen in politics to date. The damage this will do is astronomical in terms of the trust Canadians should be able to place in government and the promises a government makes, particularly with regard to ethics.
The Liberals promised Canadians a “fair and open government”. Shortly after winning the election, the Prime Minister publicly released the standard that his cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries were supposed to hold to. Unfortunately, they have not done so. The “Open and Accountable Government” guideline states, “Public office holders have an obligation to perform their official duties and arrange their private affairs in a manner that will bear the closest public scrutiny, an obligation that is not fully discharged by simply acting within the law.” The guideline goes on to say that ministers and parliamentary secretaries must “act with honesty and uphold the highest ethical standards so that public confidence and trust in the integrity...and impartiality of the government are conserved and enhanced”.
What is the test of whether or not public confidence is in fact met? The Prime Minister answers this for us. He goes on to state that this obligation to integrity and impartiality “is not fully discharged merely by acting within the law.” Therefore, even when acting within the law, one's actions can in fact be unethical and that is what we see from the present Liberal government.
This is why it was so concerning last week for us to have the finance minister busily telling reporters that he did nothing illegal and that he followed all of the rules, as he sold access to himself to rich business individuals on the eve of his fall fiscal update. This was not just a one-off. This follows on the heels of the justice, natural resources, and industry ministers attending similar high-profile, swanky $1,500 events for access. It does not take an expert with a legal degree to see that the Liberals are not living up to the standard that they set at the beginning of their term.
For a government that came to power with the promise of greater transparency, the Liberals only seem to offer a chair for those who can afford to make the maximum donation to their party. This is unacceptable. This is baffling, seeing as how the “Open and Accountable Government” document explicitly states, “There should be no preferential access to government, or appearance of preferential access, accorded to individuals or organizations because they have made financial contributions to politicians and political parties.”
Why should a law firm specializing in mining and resource permits and regulations then be able to meet with the Minister of Natural Resources? Why should the firm's representatives be able to meet with him in the home of a host who is in fact a registered lobbyist? The Prime Minister will meet with his youth council maybe twice per year, but if people have $1,500 in their back pockets, they can have access to a minister far more often.
Are the voices of top Liberal donors more important than the voices of any one of my constituents in Lethbridge? Is this why those people who lost their jobs in the province of Alberta cannot seem to get the ear of the current government, while the millionaires running Bombardier are able to get $1 billion in subsidization?
The Liberals are putting a price on policy, and they are allowing the highest bidder to influence its making. Cabinet ministers directly shape the policies of this nation, which will affect all Canadians from farmers in Alberta to moms in Nova Scotia to students in Ontario.
How can the Liberals truly grasp the gravity of the job loss and economic stress that is plaguing our country if they are only hearing the opinions from their friends on Bay Street? Canadians can clearly see the hypocrisy in only allowing those with cash to have access to top decision-makers. This is absolutely unacceptable, but not surprising.
This is the same Prime Minister who felt that it was all right to charge $25,000 to charities for the privilege of hearing him speak. How cynical is it to promise Canadians accountability, transparency, and hope, and then so blatantly throw it back in their faces with these hypocritical moves, this cash for access? To make matters worse, Liberals put the responsibility for policing this guideline in the hands of the department that reports to the Prime Minister directly, instead of an independent and impartial Ethics Commissioner. We know why.
Under our previous Conservative government, we introduced the single biggest piece of accountability legislation in Canada's history, the Federal Accountability Act. We created the Commissioner of Lobbying, the registry of lobbyists, and expanded the powers of the Ethics Commissioner. The Commissioner of Lobbying and the Ethics Commissioner used these expanded powers to crack down on even perceived conflicts of interest by lobbyists and stakeholders.
These changes significantly limited the events and the gifts that lobbyists are allowed to use to entice policy-makers to change their policies. Ministers and staff were banned from attending industry rubber-chicken dinners, because that could create a perceived conflict of interest.
We know that there is absolutely no way that the Ethics Commissioner would approve of the cash for access events that the Liberals are pulling off right now, should she be given the opportunity to weigh in, which is exactly why the Liberals are opposed to the motion that we brought forward today.
It looks like we are back to the days of the 1990s. Those were dark days, when the elite old boys' club worked the backroom of Parliament, trading influence for cash, making backroom deals.
Today, I call upon the Liberal government to grant the Ethics Commissioner the authority to enforce the “Open and Accountable Government” policy. I believe that only an independent officer of Parliament, like the Ethics Commissioner, has the trust of the Canadian public to fairly and impartially apply the ethical standards that the Liberals say they will abide by. If the Liberal government is as transparent as its election promises and its guide to ministerial conduct, then it should in fact support the motion. Alas, it does not.
As someone who is part of this rising generation, I know what it is to distrust or question authority. This generation is often skeptical of words. It is actions that demonstrate the nature of an individual's character. The Prime Minister made big promises to this generation, promises to do politics differently, promises to be accountable, promises to be transparent, and promises to do things the right way.
However, he is failing to live up to those promises. The cynicism that this demonstrates is absolutely deplorable. Saying anything to get elected is exactly what he promised not to do. However, he is doing it very well. If the Prime Minister is incapable of living up to his own words, he needs to allow an independent, impartial officer of Parliament to do what he clearly lacks the integrity to do himself.
View Blaine Calkins Profile
View Blaine Calkins Profile
2015-12-09 14:49 [p.169]
Mr. Speaker, it is not just the finance minister who is using his position inappropriately. Now we know that at least four other ministers are using their positions to fundraise for the Liberal Party. Airfare, hotel rooms, and access to ministers are being offered at an event this evening in return for generous donations to the Liberal Party. Will the Prime Minister put an immediate stop to this practice of selling access to his ministers?
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
2015-12-09 14:49 [p.169]
Mr. Speaker, the event the member referred to is the Liberal caucus Christmas party this evening. I know many people from across the country are looking forward to that event. We are certainly hoping that you will be able to attend, Mr. Speaker, as I understand you have with other caucus Christmas parties as well.
The important thing to note is that, in fact, to enter the particular contest the member referred to does not require a donation. We are hopeful that many people will look forward to a very good evening tonight.
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