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

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé. My remarks will be a bit more moderate, but my message will come across just the same.

I am pleased to take the floor today to demonstrate to the House the government's disregard for democracy and its determination to go to any lengths to advance its partisan interests and impose its regressive ideology. As soon as it was elected, in January 2006, the Conservative government radically changed Canada's official development assistance and foreign policies by concentrating on its own economic and trade vision.

It deliberately abandoned the African continent. Up until then, African countries were getting a sizeable portion of our official development assistance budget. In 2009, the Conservative government decided Africa would no longer be a priority, and eight African countries were dropped from the priority list, including Rwanda, Niger, Burkina Faso and Benin. The 2005 list included 14 African countries, but only 7 were left on the 2009 list.

The Conservative government preferred to prioritize countries with which it is signing or negotiating free trade agreements, such as Ukraine, Colombia, Peru and Honduras. Although these countries do experience poverty, CIDA's 2005 list of priority countries included more poor countries than the 2009 list. Under the Conservative government, Canada’s foreign policy has become merely a trade policy.

Over many decades, Quebeckers and Canadians earned a good reputation abroad thanks to their respect for human rights and international law and their fervent support for democracy, advocating diplomacy rather than the use of force. A majority of Canadians still support these values and principles, but since the Conservatives are in power, economic prosperity, militarism and the security agenda have replaced the values that once were so distinctively Canadian on the world scene.

This is another example of how this government has imposed its regressive ideology on Canada's official development assistance. During the G8 and G20 summits in June 2010, the government said that one of its priorities was maternal health, a millennium development goal. That is a very commendable and admirable priority. However, CIDA, the Canadian International Development Agency, refuses to fund abortion, even though many experts say it should be included in order to cover all women's health needs.

The women of Quebec and Canada have won this freedom of choice, and the debate is closed. In Canada, women have the right to choose to end a pregnancy and they have access to all the care and services required for that choice. So why did the government remove all funding for abortion in its assistance plan for women in developing countries, if not to appease groups that advocate this conservative ideology?

Since coming to power, Conservative members have been introducing bills meant to surreptitiously reopen the abortion debate. One such example is Bill C-484 introduced by the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park. That bill would have given a legal status to a fetus, which has no such status under current laws.

Another perfect example is Bill C-510 introduced by the member for Winnipeg South. That bill patronizes women by implying they are frequently coerced into abortion, but the vast majority of women make their own decision to have an abortion and take full responsibility for it. It is clear that, once again, the Conservative government was trying to limit a woman's right to choose regarding abortion, by making women feel isolated when making such a decision.

This government will stop at nothing to promote its partisan interests and impose its regressive ideology, as it demonstrated with non-governmental organizations, civil society representatives and human rights groups.

The government is refusing or cutting funding for organizations that dare to criticize it, question its motives or voice a different opinion. The Canadian Council for International Co-operation, or the CCIC, and KAIROS, two organizations that are internationally recognized and known for their excellent work, had their funding requests denied by CIDA.

All of the controversy surrounding the refusal of funding for KAIROS clearly shows that the Conservative government is prepared to go so far as to allow a minister to falsify documents and make misleading statements to the House in order to ensure that there is no deviation from its ideology and that it can freely promote its partisan interests.

Shocked and disturbed by this behaviour, the members of the opposition raised a question of privilege. Yesterday, the Speaker of the House ruled that the Minister of International Cooperation did indeed abuse the privileges enjoyed by members of the House of Commons and that she could be found in contempt of Parliament if the opposition decides to take the matter that far. What is outrageous is that the government's ideology is harmful to democracy. We condemn the autocratic approach of the government, which has demonstrated on numerous occasions its total lack of respect for democracy and the parliamentary system.

The government has gone even further by imposing its regressive ideology on projects that it funds abroad. The government fears the unions in Canada, so it tries to stifle them abroad. Canada could help to improve the situation of workers in Mexico and other southern countries, but the Government of Canada is refusing or cutting funding for cooperative programs with labour organizations. CIDA ended funding for the CSN and the Centre international de solidarité ouvrière for their projects designed to support workers in the south.

Not only has the government interfered politically in official development assistance and let pro-life groups dictate its policies, but it is also slowly destroying Canada’s image abroad. It goes even further. It is even changing the terminology public servants should use. International organizations and NGOs have all agreed on a common terminology, but it seems it does not suit the Conservative government anymore. In order to avoid the key words often used by women’s organizations and other groups dedicated to the protection of rights, the Conservatives are imposing a whole new terminology on diplomats.

Under the Conservatives, “gender equality” does not exist anymore. It has been replaced by “equality between men and women”. We should not talk about “child soldiers”, but”. The terminology is being changed. When talking about rape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the word “impunity” has been replaced by “prevention”. These are serious changes that show how much this government is under the influence of its strong right wing.

The crisis in the Rights and Democracy organization revealed the true face of the Conservatives. By appointing people who subscribe to the Conservative ideology to the board, the government could keep this organization under its control. But this organization should be instead at arm’s length from the Canadian government if it is to perform its work adequately and keep its credibility.

There is a long list of actions taken by the Conservative government to change Canada’s foreign policy to please its partisan base. The government does not realize how badly it is tarnishing Canada’s image abroad. When it failed, last fall, to win a seat on the UN Security Council, it should have understood that its radical positions are hurting its diplomatic relations.

In conclusion, the fundamental concern we all have is how far the Conservative government is willing to go to promote its regressive ideology.

Opposition Motion—Conduct of Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, the government has been very carefully orchestrating, almost like a play, over the last few weeks. It is saying that it is not interested in an election. Yet, through accident, the only way to describe it, a document entitled: “Breaking Through--Building the Conservative Brand in Cultural Communities”, a Conservative ethnic paid media strategy, was delivered to the member for Edmonton—Strathcona.

In it the Conservatives clearly identify their program. They are trying to shake down riding associations in their party for a donation to the campaign. However, they do specify that the TV buy that they are talking about is pre-writ and it says “heavy deployment over two weeks starting March 15”. I presume in another few days we are going to be hearing ads on the stations on which they are advertising and the official launch is March 20 for the India cricket match.

Does the member agree that this presents a very compelling argument that the government really does want an election and it is simply working to engineer its own defeat?

Opposition Motion—Conduct of Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. I think that the facts speak for themselves. Although this government repeats ad nauseum that it does not want an election and that Canadians do not want an election, we have demonstrated that the Canadian government is already in an election campaign and is using everything it can to promote its Economic Action Plan. Even his colleague who spoke previously clearly showed this and proved it with a document.

With its motion today, the Bloc Québécois wants to show that this government, on the one hand, is saying that it wants to be transparent and, on the other, through the list of events attached to the motion, is only promoting its own partisan interests in order to impose its ideology.

Opposition Motion—Conduct of Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

March 10th, 2011 / 12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her comments.

When our NDP colleague said previously that the government was preparing for an election, even though the government says repeatedly that there will be no election, we need only recall the promise broken by the Prime Minister himself. He had a bill adopted in the House, stating that elections would be held on a fixed date from now on, every four years. But, in September 2008, he decided all by himself, totally unexpectedly and without respecting his bill, to call an election.

How can we believe the Prime Minister when he says that he does not want to call an election, when he is, himself, willing to break the laws that he promoted, presented and had adopted in this House, like the bill relating to fixed election dates every four years?

My colleague spoke about breaking the most elementary rules of democracy, and we need only think about prorogation. When this House decides to adopt bills, to reach a consensus to move in the direction of common interest, public interest, and when this does not suit the government and does not fit in with its ideology—the member spoke about ideology—it decides to shut down Parliament. I would ask my colleague to comment on that.

Opposition Motion—Conduct of Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Laurentides—Labelle has less than a minute to answer.

Opposition Motion—Conduct of Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Madam Speaker, that is hardly enough time, but in short, the Bloc opposition day motion today wants respectfully to show that the Conservative government is prepared to do anything, that it does not like to abide by democratic rules and that it sees Parliament as an obstacle that must be circumvented. It is prepared to go so far as to prorogue this House when it feels cornered or to use whatever means necessary to impose its ideology and maintain the same direction it has been taking in order to please the conservative base.

Opposition Motion—Conduct of Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois.

It is clear to us that the Conservative Party does not like to abide by democratic rules and that it sees Parliament as an obstacle to be circumvented. We see that again today in the speeches made by the Conservatives on the motion moved by the Bloc Québécois. We saw the minister and other Conservative Party MPs make speeches on the economic action plan of Canada. This motion makes no mention of an economic plan. We are denouncing situations that have come up over the past few months in the House showing this government's lack of transparency and democracy.

Three times in one year, this government has been found guilty of having abused the privileges of parliamentarians and Parliament. In one case, it was demonstrated that the government refused, before the Standing Committee on Finance, to discuss and disclose the costs of the measures it was proposing. Not only did the Conservative government try to prevent the members of the Standing Committee on Finance from accessing the information they needed to do their work properly, but in addition, they tried to hide this by tabling documents in the House of Commons that were in no way what hon. members had asked for. This is virtually adding insult to injury. In fact, it is hypocrisy. They take us for fools here, but we are not wearing dunce caps.

We are seeing here in the House that this abject behaviour is becoming a trend, an operating guideline for the Conservatives. They are playing hide-and-seek. Yet when this government was elected in 2006 it promised transparency and improved exercise of democracy to replace the former government, which, as we recall, was dealing with the sponsorship scandal, one of the biggest scandals in Canadian history. The Conservative government took over and, since it was elected in 2006, it has begun playing the same game of hypocrisy and lack of transparency, and I would even say using public funds for partisan purposes, as the Liberal Party had done previously.

The Conservatives are trying to undermine and subordinate this parliamentary institution with their dishonest arrogance. They claim they are not obliged to respond to Parliament about the costs of the bills, decisions or measures they put forward. They are not accountable to this Parliament. They are a minority government. Imagine what things would be like if this were a majority government. We would have a major scandal, probably as big as the one we had before, the sponsorship scandal.

The government is, in fact, obliged to provide certain information to Parliament, and the Speaker confirmed this yesterday in his decision. Parliament must be permitted to fill one of its fundamental roles. It is therefore time for hon. members to tell the Conservatives that enough is enough, and that is the motion tabled here by the Bloc. We are telling the Conservative government that enough is enough, and the government’s lack of ethics and transparency has to stop. I believe that Quebeckers and Canadians deserve better.

The purpose of this motion is to denounce the Conservative government’s failure to respect the rules of democracy and of Parliament.

Many examples have occurred, and my colleagues in the Bloc Québécois and the other opposition parties have mentioned many of them. The time when the government refused to transmit documents to the committee is one example among many others. I could also talk about the case of the Minister of International Cooperation, who is accused of having falsified a document to refuse a grant to the KAIROS organization and then misleading Parliament when she was asked for explanations. Did she have a choice? I do not know. I do not think she was alone in doing what she did. It was based on Conservative ideology. However it has affected an important group, KAIROS, which unfortunately had a somewhat pro-Palestinian position. The government is one of the first Canadian governments to have proclaimed with conviction that it is somewhat pro-Israeli. As a result KAIROS did not receive a grant to carry out its humanitarian activities.

In his ruling yesterday, the Speaker confirmed that there is sufficient reason to conclude there is a prima facie question of privilege. Since this story came out, what has the Prime Minister done? He has approved, agreed with and defended his minister. He has failed to tell Canadians the whole truth and has refused to take full responsibility for her decision, trying to make Parliament think that public servants were somehow involved. The Prime Minister’s behaviour is malicious. He has not said a word about the minister’s lie or half-truths. What credibility can the Minister of International Cooperation still have with the NGOs and the many volunteers who manage humanitarian programs?

This too shows the government’s and the Prime Minister's lack of respect for Parliament and the voters. Quebeckers and Canadians have a right to truth and transparency. The taxes they pay are managed by Parliament, and they have a right to know the figures. This is further proof that the Prime Minister thinks everything is permissible in his attempts to impose his aims. What arrogance, what contempt.

Let us look more closely at the whole issue of the Conservative Party’s 2006 election expenses, which Elections Canada has deemed fraudulent. The Conservatives got elected by promising transparency and more ethical government. But even before they were elected, they were engaging in illegal activities. They now stand accused of illegalities by Elections Canada.

Just recently, the Federal Court of Appeal confirmed Elections Canada’s view that the Conservatives violated the Canada Elections Act through their in and out financing system. That is what the Conservatives did before getting elected in 2006, and that is what the judgment clearly says. They intentionally transferred money from their national offices to have national advertising paid for by ridings and candidates who had not reached their spending limits, established by the Canada Elections Act, and were unlikely to do so.

In conclusion, the Speaker’s two rulings yesterday have further tarnished not just the image of the Conservatives but everything they do. These people are brazen liars, who have nothing but contempt for the House of Commons, democracy and the people of Canada. That is why—

Opposition Motion—Conduct of Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Order. Questions and comments.

The hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona.

Opposition Motion—Conduct of Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, the Elections Canada scandal, which we have been debating the last few days, is all about the Conservative Party overspending its limits in the 2006 campaign. In fact, only the Conservative Party had the RCMP raid its office to gather documents. No other party was charged in this situation, because the Liberal Party, the Bloc and the New Democratic Party did not overspend. This was peculiar to the 2006 election.

Since then there has been one other election, the 2008 election. There were no charges emanating against any party in the House. Clearly even the Conservatives can learn from their mistakes.

Why are the Conservatives wasting court time? Why are they wasting their donor donations on lawyers, fighting what appears to be a lost cause? Why not admit that they were wrong at the time and move on? They would not be in the mess they are in right now if they did not keep denying, acting like Richard Nixon. It is just getting them into more trouble.

Opposition Motion—Conduct of Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for the question.

The Conservatives' lack of integrity and transparency is astounding. Take, for example, their message to the Canadian and Quebec people that they do not want an election and that they would prefer to manage the economy. We know very well that they spent more than $250 million to promote their economic action plan. They have also spent a great deal of money on pre-election advertising, and yet they continue to tell people that they do not want an election. That is a lack of transparency and integrity. I believe that the people deserve better. The people deserve a government that tells them the honest truth. That is not the case at present.

Opposition Motion—Conduct of Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Madam Speaker, we know how democracy works: rules are established so that, when an election is held, voters can choose their representatives in the House of Commons and, in the case of Quebec voters, in the National Assembly of Quebec. Election rules are necessary because without them there would be pandemonium; might would make right, and the winners would be the strongest or those with the most cronies. Therefore, rules must be established. The rules are voted on and enacted by this very Parliament. The members of the House, who vote on these laws, choose a referee. That referee is the Chief Electoral Officer, along with his team. In 2007, the referee, the Chief Electoral Officer, told the Conservative Party that it had made a mistake and would have to reimburse monies, and that it had contravened the law enacted by Parliament. Now the government is taking Elections Canada, the referee, to court.

What does my colleague think of this?

Opposition Motion—Conduct of Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, it is unfortunate because this is an attack on the institutions that are there to ensure that elections are decent, fair and equitable for all candidates who are running and for all voters.

What the Conservatives did is clear in the judgment. The Conservatives deliberately transferred money from the national level to pay a national advertising invoice in ridings where the candidates had not reached their spending limits or who had little chance of reaching their limits, as set out in the Canada Elections Act. A riding may raise money from donations it receives from the public in order to participate in a campaign. But the Conservatives did the opposite, which clearly and directly violates the Canada Elections Act. That is shameful and appalling. And now they are once again taking taxpayer money to sue Elections Canada, the same institution—

Opposition Motion—Conduct of Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. The hon. member for Burlington.

Opposition Motion—Conduct of Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my excellent colleague from Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.

I want to start with the basics of why we are here today. This is a business of supply motion. For those who do not know the history or understand what happens, the governments of the day determined that for the estimates to go through in a smoother way, they would provide opposition benches a day to talk about the issues and policies that are important to them. If they want to get on the record something they are in favour of or want to do, they can use the time, as we are today, to criticize the government.

I worked very hard to get elected, as all members do. We come here to make a difference, to debate issues and policies, and the motions this week have had nothing to do with those issues. I am sad for the people who claim that we are here to work together. We hear that from opposition members on television all the time. In press conferences they say we should be working together to make this place work. We hear that all the time, but what kinds of motions do they bring forward? They bring forward partisan motions that have nothing to do with helping the economic or social well-being of Canadians.

I am willing to debate issues and policies that I may not agree with on the economic or social services sides, but the motions this week are a complete waste of taxpayers' money for our time and effort. What are members doing here?

This is a Bloc motion. On a supply day Bloc members are entitled to move any motion they wish. They have brought forward a motion to talk about the conduct of the government. I am very proud of the conduct. I can talk about it because it is mentioned in the Bloc's motion. However, let me talk about the conduct of the Bloc for a few minutes.

This is not personal. I have great respect for Bloc members I have met and dealt with in committee. They are very intelligent and engaged in the issues at committee. I admire their efforts in getting elected, but what are they doing for Canada and Canadians? I forgot: they do not even care about Canada. That is the basis upon which they were elected.

They go to the people in their ridings and say they are going to Ottawa to work on breaking up this country and they are allotted a day to debate a motion. They are entitled to it, but I do not understand why Quebeckers continue to elect Bloc members. What have they done in terms of policy, social services or anything else in the last 20 years? For 20 years they have been here and I can only think of one accomplishment, which is that they keep being re-elected. They collect paycheques and will get pensions, but they have done nothing to move the yardstick on policy.

The other issue in this motion is about providing parliamentary committees with the cost of proposals. I would like to speak to this part of the motion. I sit on the Standing Committee on Finance and the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. There has been a plethora of Bloc private members' bills over the last number of years. How many of them have had costs? How many of those private members' bills have been researched to see if they are even legal, let alone financially sustainable? The answer is none, zero.

I have been at these committees and have asked the individual movers of those private members' bills to provide that information. They look around, they look at their staff and they do not have it. They have not done their homework.

People would expect that if one is going to change the laws for all of Canada, not just for Quebec or for a riding, that people would take the time and effort to get these items that are being brought forward at least priced out so that we would know if they are going to affect the taxpayers' pocketbook. We would know if they would have any effect from a social services perspective, but they do not do that work.

They go to the Library of Parliament and say that they want to make the sky blue. They get a bill sent to them saying that the sky is going to be blue. They present to the House what they want to accomplish, but there is nothing. I have proof of this with the bills that have been sent to me. I do not want to pick only on the Bloc because it happens in other parties, including my own.

These bills need to be vetted. I have sent them to the Parliamentary Budget Officer for review. The Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer would respond and say, “Well, based on these assumptions, we really cannot price it out. We are not sure where we are going with this”.

In this motion, how can the Bloc members criticize the conduct of the government when they do not do it themselves? Time and time again they have brought these ill-thought-out bills to committee to be voted on in the House and they have not done their due diligence to find out what it would actually cost the taxpayers of all of Canada, including Quebec. I do not know why they have the audacity to put the refusal to a parliamentary committee to provide costs when they will not do it themselves.

The other point I wish to comment on is the conduct of this government.

The economic action plan, year two, is the seventh report that we have put out on economic activity. Nobody in the House is denying that the world economy has been tough over the last couple of years. I have not heard anyone in the House say that. Canada is faring better than most other countries, including being number one in the G7. That is supported by the OECD and other commentaries around the world. We have quotes from British newspapers and from New York. I am not going to bother with a bunch of quotes because we all know it is true. We know that we are doing better.

What should the opposition be doing today on a supply day? If those members do not think we are doing good enough on the economic recovery, why do they not ask questions? Why are they not putting forward what they would do differently? Why are they not giving their voters a chance to see what they would do if they were able to form a government, which they will not? Why will they not admit that they are not interested in forming a government?

Bloc members may be interested in forming a coalition where they can have their say with the NDP and the Liberals. They may be interested in a coalition to see if they can get their way. They know they have no real responsibility because they have no accountability and are never going to form government. They are never going to put forward government legislation. It is not going to happen and they know that. So they put forward a motion that is a mixed bag of all these items, similar to what we had on Tuesday.

Are we making a difference for Canadians? Are we making sure that Canadians have jobs? Are we making sure that even though we are in recovery and the economy is still fragile, we are doing something?

Does the motion do anything to move the yardstick to make Canada, including Quebec, a better place in which to live? Does the motion do anything on the social policies of this country, whether it is providing services to individuals, children, adults and seniors? Are we doing anything in this motion? Are we spending a full day debating an issue that is going to make a difference in anyone's life in this country?

My answer is no. It is shameful that opposition parties can hold this government to account on issues, but to waste their supply day on issues that have nothing to do with helping Canadians is a waste of time and I am almost embarrassed to be up here speaking to it.

Opposition Motion—Conduct of Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Madam Speaker, what we have just heard makes no sense. It would appear that democracy means nothing to the member opposite, that the meaning of honour and transparency, and being held accountable to the public and to parliamentarians, are of absolutely no value. It is unacceptable to hear that from a member of this House.

I have a very simple question for him. What is so difficult about being transparent and making documents available, particularly those related to Afghan prisoners or the documents the parliamentary budget officer needs to be able to understand the government's figures? What is so difficult about producing these documents? I would like the member to explain.