House of Commons Hansard #143 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was conservative.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Conduct of Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

March 10th, 2011 / 1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Desnoyers Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, first, I want to congratulate my colleague from Saint-Jean for an excellent speech that was very clear and specific. He talked about something that is important to me. There were several schemes aimed at hiding documents relating to torture in Afghanistan. Moreover, we want to know about major costs associated with prisons, but we cannot get them. We want to know the cost of the new fighter jets—this is an issue my colleague is following closely—but we cannot get anything. I would like to know what the member thinks of these issues.

Opposition Motion—Conduct of Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, my colleague has focused on some points I touched upon in my comments. It is true it was extremely difficult to find a compromise with the government on the issue of Afghan prisoners. I want to congratulate my colleague who sits on the committee. The Bloc Québécois signed the agreement but is now thinking that if the government does not deal with this matter before April 15, it is going to withdraw from the agreement. That would be perfectly normal. We have been waiting for these documents for eight months. What is happening? I cannot ask any questions of my colleague who, as everyone knows, cannot say anything about this matter. Perhaps I could ask the judges why there is no progress. I know the committee is working diligently and I trust my colleagues. This is another example of the secrecy and the lack of transparency of this government.

Opposition Motion—Conduct of Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, the election scandal of 2006 involved only one party being raided by the RCMP and being charged. No offences were committed by the Bloc, the NDP or the Liberal Party. And, guess what? It all stopped in 2006 because by the 2008 election even the Conservatives knew it was wrong and they did not do it again.

Opposition Motion—Conduct of Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I repeat that the searches and accusations were focused on the Conservative Party and not at the other parties. I do not want the Conservatives to say that we did the same thing. Had that been the case, they would have formally complained long ago, but they did not. They knew that it was done legally on this side of the House and illegally on the other side.

Opposition Motion—Conduct of Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Freeman Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Madam Speaker, the current Conservative government is hands down the most undemocratic government we have ever seen in Ottawa. Personally, I have been a member of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics since 2008, and I have lost track of how many files have been submitted to this committee concerning undemocratic behaviour by Conservative government members.

The Bloc Québécois felt it was important to present the motion we are discussing in the House today because the Bloc is the vigilant party here in Ottawa. Since it arrived on the federal scene, the Bloc has never looked back and it has been committed to keeping watch over the federal government, no matter which party is in power.

In its day, the sponsorship scandal was the most significant breach of the rules of democracy that the Bloc had ever uncovered on Parliament Hill. Today the Liberals may be outraged and cry foul about the Conservative Party's undemocratic behaviour, but no one has forgotten that the Gomery commission proved that for years the Liberal Party of Canada also successfully trampled the basic rules of democracy to ensure that it remained in power in Ottawa.

The day after their minority government was elected in January 2006, the Conservatives wrapped themselves in a cloak of integrity and transparency. We had hoped that they had learned a lesson and would keep their promises, but it was all just smoke and mirrors. In fact, over the past five years, this minority government has continued to develop slick schemes, each more unacceptable than the last, to ensure that it would keep control of power and act as though it were a majority. This government rivals the Liberals in the art of misleading parliamentarians and the people they represent.

The Bloc Québécois is presenting this motion today simply because it believes there is an urgent need to unmask the Conservatives' undemocratic behaviour and denounce them loud and clear in this Parliament, which is the most tangible symbol of democracy in our society.

In our parliamentary system, Parliament is the ultimate representation of democracy, freely expressed during an official election. The government that takes office must serve Parliament and the public and ensure that all elected members can fully represent their constituents. We are dealing with a minority government that, since taking office in January 2006, has been playing hide-and-seek with Parliament and constantly tries to obstruct Parliament's rules. This attitude weakens democracy, provokes crises that breed cynicism and destroys the average citizen's trust in politicians.

The Bloc Québécois has always been committed to fighting against any attacks on democratic institutions, any abuse of power by the government, any affront to the autonomy of independent institutions, any undue restrictions on access to information, and any hindrance preventing elected representatives of the people from fully representing their constituents.

Since January 2006, there has been overwhelming evidence to show that the Conservative Party does not want to abide by democratic rules. Allow me to name just a few instances of that: prorogation of Parliament on two occasions despite the wishes of the majority of the elected representatives; control over information delivered to the media on the decisions and activities of Parliament; the in and out process used during the 2005-06 election campaign to establish a national ad campaign paid for by local candidates, a process deemed illegal by Elections Canada; boycotting of certain parliamentary committees, specifically the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, on which I sit, through multiple absences, refusals to provide required documents and filibusters to block the work of the committee; the control by the Privy Council Office over sensitive access to information requests addressed to the government, an attitude we also see in the departments. For example, an employee at the Department of Public Works ordered officials to unduly delay publication of documents that were comprising to the government.

Let us not forget the scandalous imposition, by the Prime Minister, of a directive to his employees and employees of all ministers prohibiting them from appearing before parliamentary committees, specifically the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, which was investigating the control exerted by the offices of Conservative ministers over access to information requests.

With regard to controlling access to information requests, the Information Commissioner is currently conducting a formal investigation of three ministers, and we are still waiting for the results.

All these facts clearly show that the people can no longer trust the Conservatives to restore access to information. The Conservative government demonstrated the extent of its culture of secrecy during the last parliamentary session, when the Speaker of the House had to demand that it produce the documents on allegations of torture in Afghanistan.

The most recent misstep in terms of respect for democratic rules was made by the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, who showed a clear lack of judgment as the person responsible for immigration in Canada. As a number of my colleagues have already pointed out, he participated in a partisan activity involving cultural communities and newcomers, even though he is responsible for ensuring that everyone is treated equally. He acted more like a Conservative minister of propaganda for ethnocultural communities. That is the true nature of this Conservative government, which claims to be transparent and responsible. It is a government of propaganda that has proven to be very good at manipulating information and voters.

Being ethical and transparent is a question of will. No rule can take the place of political will and vigilance. The best example to date of the excesses of Conservative propaganda is the unbelievable directive that was sent to public servants late last year stating that, in federal communications, the words “Government of Canada” should be replaced by the Prime Minister's name followed by Government. The directive was from the Prime Minister's office.

We checked and found that, since December, the expression “Name That Cannot Be Said In The House Government” has spread like wildfire in public departmental communications. You practically do not see “Government of Canada” any more. But the “Name-that cannot be said-in-the-House Government” now oversees us. Must we all be transformed into Harry Potter to defeat He Who Must Not Be Named? Stay tuned.

This directive turns out to be the best piece of political propaganda from the Conservative Government of Canada. Today, the Bloc Québécois wishes to warn citizens and have them truly understand the dangerous drift that has threatened our democracy since the Conservatives came to power in Ottawa.

Imagine if this Conservative government won a majority in the next election. I cannot envisage it without shuddering. Action is urgently needed. Our democracy is in jeopardy.

Come next election time, Quebeckers will know that they can no longer count on the government of the person who I cannot name in the House if I wish to abide by the essential rules of any effective democracy.

Opposition Motion—Conduct of Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Madam Speaker, there was a lot of torqued up and over-the-top language in the member's comments. There was also quite a bit of revisionist history.

I served on the committee to which the member referred. We heard from quite a number of witnesses. In the summer of 2008 the committee heard a lot of evidence about how the Bloc Québécois transferred money from the central party into the ridings and back to the party. From the best we can see, the leader of the Bloc Québécois is the first person to have used this method. He was in fact referred to as the creator, or the father, of the transfer from the main party to the association and then back to the party.

Perhaps the member could comment on whether she or any of her colleagues have ever used the technique designed by her leader?

Opposition Motion—Conduct of Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Freeman Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question and for the information he provided. Before answering, I would like to also thank the NDP members here today who spoke so loudly during my speech that I had a hard time hearing myself. I would like to thank them for listening; it was very kind. Madam Speaker, it would have been kind of you to call the members to order.

I will now respond to the very interesting question about in and out schemes and the fact that the Bloc Québécois was the creator of such schemes. I would like to remind the hon. member of the Conservative Party that, had the Bloc Québécois been guilty of wrongdoing of this sort, the Conservatives would have been the first to complain and to send the RCMP to investigate and check all of our ridings' books. That did not happen. The only party that was investigated, that had its books checked and that was charged in a case that was brought before the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal is the Conservative Party and no other.

The bottom line is that, despite the fact that they have been abusing democracy for many years, they are no longer even capable of admitting their mistakes, which are now recognized by the courts.

I do not know if they will have the gall to take this as far as the Supreme Court at the public's expense, but it is shameful to circumvent the most fundamental democratic rules of a parliamentary system in such a manner. Circumventing the electoral laws to divert money for unnecessary advertising is a crime. If another party had behaved in such a manner, rest assured that it would have already been subject to a search. The Conservatives are the only guilty ones and they must take the blame.

Opposition Motion—Conduct of Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on her speech. The Conservative government has made a habit of resorting to this culture of secrecy by refusing to provide information, or by providing it in very small doses. Now, it is democracy that is being impaired. It is really disturbing to hear that public servants were told to replace “Government of Canada” in public announcements with the Prime Minister's name followed by the word “Government”. Louis XIV used to say “I am the State”. The Prime Minister also thinks he is the State.

What does my colleague have to say about this autocratic, centralizing and undemocratic government?

Opposition Motion—Conduct of Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Freeman Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Madam Speaker, the expression “I am the State” says it all. We are no longer in the British parliamentary system as we know it. We have become a kind of royalty. Someone suddenly decided here that he would be a king. We must call to order all elected members, and particularly Conservative members, and remind them that we are in a democratic parliamentary system. All elected members have the right to speak, particularly in a minority government. The Conservatives should recognize their status and they should work with their fellow members in a diligent and proactive fashion.

Opposition Motion—Conduct of Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Brossard—La Prairie may begin her remarks, but I will have to interrupt her at 2 p.m.

Opposition Motion—Conduct of Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Alexandra Mendes Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to begin by thanking the hon. member for Joliette, who sponsored today's motion. I am going to preface my remarks with a proverb from my country of origin. It says that a fish dies through the mouth, and this government is clear proof of that. After promising so much about transparency and accountability, it has ended up taking the bait.

Over the past 24 hours, we have witnessed a remarkable series of events, and it is very appropriate to debate this motion today. We cannot help but notice this increasingly obvious pattern on the part of the Conservative government, which is to ignore the will of Parliament and, particularly, to ignore the best interests of Canadians. We see a government that is not governing but keeping us in a permanent election mode.

We also see a government that is prepared to sacrifice political assistants and public servants while claiming to bring accountability. This has to be a dismal failure for a political party that campaigned by swearing that accountability was the most important thing for any elected member of this country. We have before us a government which, in marked contradiction with that commitment, is consumed by power, is imposing a monitoring regime and is manipulating the truth shamelessly.

Let us come back to the facts, nothing but the facts, by looking at 10 recent situations involving abuses of power by the Conservative regime.

First, there was the refusal to disclose the costs related to tax cuts, megaprisons and the F-35s.

Next, the Conservative regime was unable to respect the majority motion of the House of Commons that asked it to provide, by March 7, all the details concerning its plans to spend billions of dollars on tax cuts for businesses, prison expansions and untendered stealth jet fighters. Hiding these costs undermines the credibility of the whole budget. We must get answers to these questions before the budget is tabled. The member for Kings—Hants sent the question to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and asked that it report to the House before the budget is tabled.

Third, there were in and out schemes during elections. The Prime Minister's inner circle is accused of a $1.2 million scheme for exceeding the allowed election spending limits and buying more advertising. High-ranking Conservative operators "transferred" money to local campaigns, money that was then "returned" to them. Now, they are facing serious accusations that could lead to imprisonment. When the candidates claimed the transfers to get $800,000 more in repayments from the taxpayers, Elections Canada said, "Enough!"

Fourth, we had the decree by the “H” government to the public service. The Prime Minister is using public resources for partisan causes by forcing employees of the federal public service to replace the words "Government of Canada" with "the H Government". Canadians know that it is not the Prime Minister's government. The government belongs to all Canadians.

Fifth, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism's "very ethnic" fundraising letter—

Opposition Motion—Conduct of Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am sorry to interrupt the honourable member, but it is now 2:00 p.m., and we need to move on to statements by members. The member will have 16 minutes to continue her remarks later this afternoon.

International Women's Week
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Tilly O'Neill-Gordon Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, with this year's International Women's Week, we are proud to recognize women and girls who continue to achieve economic, social and democratic progress in Canada.

I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all the women in the riding of Miramichi, to those who have paved the way for all of us and, most certainly, those special women who are well over 100 years old, and my riding has been blessed with a few.

Sadly, last month Muriel Morris passed away in her 104th year. Here is what her obituary read:

Her joy, kindness and dignity in dealing with wins, losses, set-backs and challenges was a trait that impressed all who knew her and a legacy passed to those who loved her.

Muriel Morris has made an indelible imprint on all of us. She will live on in every act of kindness, grace and dignity. Her memories and stories will enrich our lives long after she has passed.

Pickering
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, in March 1811, at Thompson's Tavern in Brougham, the first meeting of the township of Pickering was held and a new municipality born.

Two hundred years later, the now city of Pickering is kicking off its bicentennial year.

Born on Rougemount Drive, I have watched our small suburb grow into a booming community 100,000 strong. Now among the most diverse in Canada, it has one of the highest percentages of young families in the nation.

Pickering is rich not only in its diversity of people but also in its landscape. From large tracts of prime agricultural land to historic hamlets, like Brougham, Whitevale, Cherrywood, Greenwood and Claremont, Pickering has retained its small town character and heritage even as it expands.

In this bicentennial year, I call upon the government to finally respect and celebrate our history rather than tear it down, to recognize heritage structures on federal land, invest in them and stop their neglect and destruction. Two hundred years of history deserves no less.

I congratulate Mayor Ryan and members of council on an exciting year of celebrations ahead and wish then a happy bicentennial.

Canadian Jewish Congress
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, in March 1919, over 200 delegates elected by some 25,000 Jews met in Montreal, at the Monument-National, headquarters for the St-Jean-Baptiste Society of Quebec, to participate in the first assembly of the Jewish community in Canada.

This great democratic assembly led to the creation of the Canadian Jewish Congress, an organization that has played an important role in the fight for equality, civil rights, human rights and immigration policy reform in this country. The congress remains an important mouthpiece for the Jewish community, on both the national and international levels.

The goal of the Jewish Congress is to protect and improve the lives of Jews in Quebec, Canada and abroad. As part of its mandate, the organization helps develop an environment of mutual respect that fosters interfaith and cross-cultural dialogue. I should point out that in 2009, the Canadian Jewish Congress changed its name in Quebec to become the Quebec Jewish Congress.

Long live both of these organizations.