House of Commons Hansard #49 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was senate.

Topics

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Jeanne-Le Ber should think about not referring to other members by name, but rather by title or by the name of their riding. No need to read up on it, he already knows the rules.

The hon. member may finish answering the question put to him.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

I realized my mistake the moment I saw you rise, Mr. Speaker.

The Conservative government awarded a communications contract to Marie-Josée Lapointe, who was on this government's transition team. This contract goes against the spirit of the government's own Federal Accountability Act, since political staff are not allowed to receive contracts from the government in place for 12 months after they leave. The contract was eventually cancelled halfway through, following a hard fight in the House.

When Bill C-2 was passed, the point was raised also that the issue of whistleblower protection had not been covered. In addition, the reform of the Access to Information Act has yet to be covered. So, in terms of ethics, it is falling short.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Jeanne-Le Ber, who gave a fairly exhaustive list. I am certain that if we were to continue, we could go on for quite some time. But there are other things in this bill that we need to discuss.

For us in the Bloc, each riding, each candidate, is independent. Candidates are responsible for their own funding. Fundraising is the responsibility of the riding, not the national party. We are therefore responsible for raising money, but we cannot exceed certain limits, such as $1,000 per person.

In my riding, I do not receive $1,000 contributions. Very seldom does someone give $1,000. In fact, I have never received such a contribution in 15 years as a parliamentarian and five terms of office. People contribute $5, $20, $100 at spaghetti-thons and events attended by party members and people who take an interest in our work and come out to help us with the upcoming election campaign.

Election campaigns are coming fast and furious. We had elections in 2004 and 2006, and we could go to the polls again in 2008. It is not easy to raise money quickly, but you have to try. Sitting members and their executives have to do whatever they can. The law must be obeyed. We have passed a law on ethics. It is pointless if we do not obey it. People no longer believe in ethics, because of all the scandals that have occurred and will continue to occur. We have not seen the end of scandals.

There are currently 67 cases involving Conservative members only. Only Conservatives are involved. The Liberal, the Bloc and the NDP members have all had their expenses reimbursed. Of those 67 cases, three Conservative ministers are currently involved in legal action. You have to wonder. Certainly, we will vote for this bill, even though we are more or less in favour of some things, because we need it and more. Otherwise, the Conservatives might continue to do anything.

The other important aspect is that the party has no control over candidates' expenses. If I decide to borrow $50,000 or $60,000, I do not have to ask my party for permission. I can do so in my own name, spend the money and never pay it back. It becomes the party's responsibility. The party has to come after me to recover the $50,000 or $60,000.

If 67 cases are being filed against these 67 Conservative members in this situation, that is one expensive legal bill. Money is being wasted for nothing and they are displaying a total lack of ethics, which is unacceptable. Election campaigns must be run within our means. For example, if I collect $30,000 or $35,000, I will organize my campaign to stay within the budget I have. End of discussion. We will not use as many signs. We will work with the money we have and campaign with the money available to us that we honestly collected. That is extremely important.

It is true that it is difficult to campaign, but we always manage to do so by means of fundraising events and by helping fellow MPs with riding expenses. That is how we manage to get enough money to see a campaign through.

Of course, we do not collect $20,000-dollar or $30,000-dollar donations, since that is against the law, but we know that is done on the sly, which is unacceptable. This must stop. The law must be obeyed. This must never happen again: 67 Conservative members being sued. We did not make that decision. The Chief Electoral Officer, whom the Conservatives appointed themselves, decided there was a case that should be prosecuted.

Obviously, any bill that can improve the situation or make all the members of this House a little more ethical must be supported.

As my colleague said, it is unfortunate that the committee already adopted three motions unanimously, and then all of a sudden they are no longer in the bill. They are there, but they have been changed. This is dangerous, because it leaves us open to a repeat of things that have happened in the past, which would not be good.

Can we not run clean campaigns? Hanging more signs will not get more people elected. It is not because a person has fewer signs up that people will not vote for him; that is not true. If we do our job the way we are supposed to, if we properly represent our constituents, if we provide good services for our constituents and do a good job here, in the House of Commons, I do not think a voter would hesitate to vote for a candidate because he is missing three or four signs. If the voter knows that I have been honest and that I obtained financing honestly, he will encourage me and encourage my ideologies.

It is too bad that the three motions that were adopted in committee are no longer there in the same form. That is often how things are done here. Everything is changed, everything is altered, and then they try to downplay it in order to act unethically. That is not acceptable to anyone in the House. It is also undesirable because it destroys what confidence our electors have. They are already very sensitive and concerned about whether we are doing clear, clean, accurate work.

We could shed light on all our finances. In my riding, people can find out who gave me donations over $100. We have lists and they are available. Everyone should do it like that. That should be how it is done everywhere. In this way, we cannot be accused of being unethical. I think it is high time that things changed around here.

For 15 years I have been watching my colleagues in action and have seen some of the so-called in and out schemes. There are so many it can scarcely be imagined. For us, though, it is forbidden. The Bloc Québécois has been applying Quebec law for a long time because we want to abide by this ethical code, which is very important. We want to show that we are responsible because we do not want to put our party in an embarrassing position. Our party is therefore very clean and clear in Quebec. We have actually already campaigned on this issue. People can check at any time, therefore, whether our election campaigns have been conducted properly or not.

We must be responsible. We cannot simply borrow money left and right. Think of the people who cannot get paid back. Think of the people who borrowed money like Bob Rae, who borrowed $705,000. Just think what will happen if he fails to pay this money back. It is unethical and that cannot be accepted. I wish we could open the books of the Conservatives across the aisle and see how they conducted their campaign in 2006. There could well be some big surprises and maybe one of the biggest scandals ever witnessed in the House.

Business of the House
Government Orders

February 12th, 2008 / 5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been discussions among the parties and I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of this House, during consideration of Bill S-220, An Act respecting a National Blood Donor Week, a member, other than the member for Mississauga--Brampton South, may move the motions for concurrence at report stage and third reading.

Business of the House
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Business of the House
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the House
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the House
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the House
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-29, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (accountability with respect to loans), as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Rivière-du-Nord for explaining to the House how it is possible to collect funds honestly. We all practice this way of doing things. However, I wish to thank her for explaining it to the House because I believe that this is not the practice of all parties in this House.

An amendment such as the third amendment to this bill makes it possible to be truly Machiavellian. For very honest parties, it would mean that candidates could put their party into debt. The parties that want debt to be incurred at the beginning could very well tell the candidates to take on debt that the party would pay back later. That could be disastrous for both sides.

I would like my colleague from Rivière-du-Nord to tell us about the horrible consequences of adopting the amendment and how the members' monies could be manipulated.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Brome—Missisquoi.

That is probably what happened. We will know more after the inquiry. At this point, the entire Conservative Party is the subject of an inquiry. I believe that the party told its members to borrow money that it would pay back. That is downright illegal. Furthermore, it distances candidates from the people. Being close to the people means organizing all kinds of events, such as cocktails for business people and less costly events to attract people, to invite them to meet us so they can get to know us and understand our political party and what we have to offer.

In my opinion, that is a better way of doing things, much better than taking out a $60,000 loan that the party will pay back later and campaigning with that money. That is totally illegal and unacceptable, and it is not at all close to the people. That is not what people are looking for. When they find out about things like this, it reflects badly on all politicians. That is the problem. We all pay for that. It makes us all look like thieves, even though we are not. The Bloc has never done that kind of thing. As I said earlier, we raise funds in accordance with Quebec law that has been in place for 30 years.

The sad thing is that this affects how people see politicians. Voters now think we are the lowest of the low; they like us less than car salespeople. Imagine that. We have a lot of catching up to do. We have a lot of work ahead of us. We need ethics, and we need it now. This bill has sidestepped ethics yet again. Yes, we will vote for the bill because it has some good things in it. However, the Conservatives are still trying to get around some issues so they can do what they did in 2006 once again.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

The member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine for a brief question or comment.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

I will be very brief, Mr. Speaker. My Bloc colleague's speech was quite interesting.

I would like to ask her if she has other examples, besides the 67 MPs, of unsuccessful Conservative candidates suspected of having violated the Canada Elections Act in 2006, based on a ruling by the Chief Electoral Officer and not the opinion of the opposition parties.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

The member for Rivière-du-Nord has 30 seconds left.