Ms. Dianne L. Watts (South Surrey—White Rock, CPC)
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Battle River—Crowfoot.
I rise to speak to Bill C-50, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act, political financing.
I want to talk about integrity, openness, and transparency.
Several members this morning have talked about what that means and the ethical aspect of all of those elements that are intrinsic, or should be intrinsic, in each one of us, and that therefore we would not have to introduce legislation, if we merely had a moral compass.
This bill would not stop the cash for access fundraisers. The bill is about formalizing and instituting a system for cash for access fundraisers. When we look at the bill, it is silent on the very issues that the Liberals promised to address. As well, it is silent on third party financing. None of that is addressed.
When we talk about integrity and our moral compass as elected officials or as people in our society, it really behooves us to understand where that moral compass lies.
People attending these fundraisers have clearly stated on numerous occasions that they have discussed and lobbied the ministers and the Prime Minister, that they have had business before the government, and they were proud to speak openly about doing so.
As my colleague so eloquently laid out, it is the rationalization around why these fundraisers are taking place. It is the rationalization that the ministers and the Prime Minister believe this is the normal course of business. However, the $1,500 gets people in the door and then they have access to discuss business with the Prime Minister and the ministers. Clearly, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that this is wrong.
It is wrong on so many fronts. It is wrong because the Prime Minister was very clear in his comments, and I will it read them out, that this practice would not be undertaken, that this was sunny ways, that things would change, that the Liberals would have the most open and accountable government in history. They were going to ensure they would kept their word and promises, and Canadians would be proud of the work that was undertaken. That sounded really great.
During the election, the Prime Minister went around the country, and that was his message on behalf of the party. The government was going to be open, transparent, and ensure Canadians had access to the government. What he did not say was that lobbyists would have access to government and ministers for $1,500.
The Prime Minister stated general principles. I will read them so we can grasp the context here. He said:
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.
As we have heard over and over again, there is a litany of events where that precisely took place, not only for the ministers and parliamentary secretaries but also for the Prime Minister. When a statement is issued publicly, is reported on, and is distributed among the Liberal members of Parliament, that should be the defining moment where people have their moral compass intact and do not go to these events. However, that did not happen. Those events took place. The Prime Minister and ministers went, and business was discussed. It was quite astonishing because they were very proud of undertaking that practice.
When we talk about openness and transparency, which the government had said it would be, at every turn the language continues to be about openness and transparency. If we look at any of our freedom of information requests, the majority of it is redacted. Public servants are not permitted to speak publicly for life. The Liberals refuse to answer questions in question period, which I find astonishing because it is question period. Reports are not forthcoming to the House. The Auditor General has raised concerns regarding the lack of financial information. There was an actual refusal to give the AG documents and it impeded officials from doing their job.
We can look at the appointments process. The Liberals say it is open, transparent, and merit-based, which is further from the truth.
The Liberals promise one thing during the election and another when they are in government. The general public deserves better than that. This is about integrity and ethical behaviour, and it starts at the top. If the Prime Minister sees nothing wrong with cash for access fundraising, how possibly can that translate to the Liberal members of Parliament? I would suggest it does not.
Producing this legislation, which really now covers the Liberals to continue this behaviour, speaks to the ethical void in the Prime Minister. If there were an actual willingness to address this issue, then the bill certainly would be more comprehensive. Furthermore, it is around following the rules. Not every situation can be legislated, but surely I would think the Prime Minister would know that when there is business before the House and when lobbyists pay $1,500 to go to a fundraiser, it is wrong. The Liberals cannot justify it. They cannot rationalize it. Plain and simply, it is wrong. Canadians deserve far better.
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: Canada Elections Act