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 the Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Alexandra Mendes Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not have precise answers for the questions of my colleague because I do not fully understand the whole dimension of the problem myself. However, it is definitely reasonable to believe that this affected much more than only what we see as the in and out scheme.

I do not know how all the transactions were made. That is why Elections Canada is investigating and why this has gone to the courts. However, there is definitely cause for concern about whether the different echelons of the Conservative Party were involved.

Opposition motion—Conduct of the Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is an egregious way of trying to circumvent a particular rule when a certain amount of money is raised by a local association, somewhere in the vicinity of $5,000 to $10,000, and all of a sudden it qualifies itself for something twice that amount because the money went into a particular association and came back out. What is particularly egregious about this is there is all kinds of rhetoric being thrown around the House about money in and money out, but this one is so glaringly obvious.

On the news we saw visits to the Conservatives Party headquarters time and time again. I have yet to see visits to any other party's headquarters in the media. Why is that?

Opposition motion—Conduct of the Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Alexandra Mendes Brossard—La Prairie, QC

If I may, I am going to answer in French. It is important that this be clear.

The enormous difference between the doubts or questions raised about the Liberal Party a few years ago and the visits to the Conservative Party office by the various authorities, whether the RCMP or Elections Canada, is that the Liberal Party took the initiative of holding that commission of inquiry where the documents and evidence were submitted voluntarily. What the Conservatives have shown us since the beginning of this whole thing, since 2006, is that their hand has to be forced. They are not capable of admitting their mistakes, of admitting that they have made major mistakes, and they have forced us to go to these extremes.

Opposition motion—Conduct of the Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Storseth Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that the hon. member needs to get her facts straight on a couple of things.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer's numbers on the F-35 are based on 30 years. Our numbers are based on 20 years. I am not an expert, but I can tell members that 30 years versus 20 years is going to ramp up the cost.

There are two points about this F-35 program to consider. One, this is about jobs. This is about jobs in B.C., Alberta, Winnipeg, and Montreal. I do not know how in this economic downturn the members on the other side can be against that.

The other aspect of this is safety. We have five years left before the CF-18s cannot fly any more. They will hit their maximum number of hours. At the end of the day, this is not just about costs. It is about the safety of the men and women of the Canadian Forces who risk their lives every day for us.

I would like to ask the member, what is an acceptable cost of that safety?

Opposition motion—Conduct of the Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Alexandra Mendes Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will start by acknowledging that I do not think my hon. colleague is an expert on the matter. I will just say that there are a lot of other planes that our air force could use and should use. We do not need stealth airplanes. Canada is a peaceful country. We certainly do not need those kinds of planes.

Opposition motion—Conduct of the Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

March 10th, 2011 / 3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I inform you straightaway that I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the hon. member for Compton—Stanstead. It is an honour for me. She is a member I hold in great esteem. Not only does she do marvellous work here on Parliament Hill, but I know how devoted she is to her constituents, the people of her riding. I have had the opportunity to share responsibilities in human resources and social development with her for more than four or five years. I am mentioning this file first of all because it is most interesting to realize that the Conservatives are using this file, this responsibility, to engage in propaganda.

There are two things at issue today on this Bloc opposition day: the Conservatives’ hijacking of democracy and the propaganda they are spreading with the resources that the House makes available to the government and to ministers.

I shall not repeat the examples given by my colleagues, but I will use one very particular example, that of the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development. On February 26, 2011, the Canadian electoral authority formally charged the Prime Minister's Conservative Party with fraud, along with two senators from the party in power, namely the Conservatives. They allegedly concealed cost overruns during the 2006 election in an amount in excess of a million dollars. Two individuals have been targeted as respondents in this case: Mr. Irving Gerstein and Mr. Douglas Finley. The latter is not only a senator, but also the spouse of the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development.

There are some rather troubling things. Since this morning, we have been highlighting all the methods and stratagems that this government is using in order to deprive Parliament of the means it has to oversee, however slightly, what goes on in government, or at least to acquire information, and also in order to engage in propaganda. Here is what I am getting at. For four years, the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development, and the Status of Persons with Disabilities was engaged in a very thorough study. This committee went all around Canada. We went to the provincial capitals, and often as well to villages and towns, to study, on site, the issue of poverty, which was the topic of our study. We held 68 different meetings, I believe. We also heard over 200 organizations. This led us to make 58 recommendations proposing ways of combatting poverty. You will recall that in November 2009, this House unanimously reiterated its desire to see poverty eliminated, or at least reduced, within 10 years.

This report was therefore entirely appropriate and entirely relevant. The only response that the minister was able to give us, which I have here in my hand, is a propaganda document. We have had no response on the 58 recommendations made by the committee.

The minister responded to each of the problems we raised by mentioning existing programs and giving the Conservative government credit for having instituted them. But there is no new program to reduce poverty. What is even more infuriating, and even scandalous, is that the minister simply disregards all the testimony from all over Canada describing the poverty of aboriginal populations and single-parent families, the fate of seniors and of people who lose their jobs, and the plight of children living in poverty. If there are poor children, it is because there are poor parents. Rich families do not decide that some of their children will be poor and live in poverty. Some families simply do not have the means and have to deal with situations that they cannot control or that are forced upon them. Such is the case of native communities, for example.

There are some very specific recommendations highlighting the plight of women living in various places all over the country. This week we marked the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. The minister’s answer coincided with this anniversary, making it all the more outrageous that she did not take the trouble to announce anything at all to reduce poverty.

The House has reiterated its unanimous motion from 1989, which was never implemented. The motion was brought forward again on November 22, 2009. The government and the House took it up, but the minister thumbed her nose at the opportunity given her by the Standing Committee on Human Resources to announce some measures. Her actions showed her contempt for all the work that has been done here.

I encourage my colleagues in the House to study this document sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, page by page. I have re-read it because I thought I must have made a mistake. It is 17 pages of coarse, outrageous remarks and propaganda. We have to connect the dots because there are political families. The senator who supervised the operation that the Conservatives are accused of using to circumvent the Canada Elections Act is the husband of the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development. People might wonder what the connection is. The answer to this question is just as serious as or even more serious than the misappropriation of funds because it involves all the people who are struggling in our society.

Opposition motion—Conduct of the Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, there are many reasons to support this motion from our colleagues in the Bloc today.

However, I want to take advantage of my colleague from the human resources committee, the member for Chambly—Borduas who, along with myself and others, notably the member for Sault Ste. Marie and our chair from Niagara West—Glanbrook, who travelled across Canada and met with hundreds of witnesses representing thousands of people. He talked about poverty and homelessness, and really got a sense of just how desperate the lives are of so many Canadians who were helped so little by the stimulus package. Many of these people will now be asked to help repay, making their lives even worse.

He joined me earlier this week when we met with a number of faith leaders from Canada. Every faith community in the country is saying that it needs action on poverty. The faith leaders were as disappointed as we were in the minister's response to the poverty report that took three years to complete. My view of the response is that seldom has so much been written about so many things while saying so little.

It was not so much the response as it was the way the minister snuck it into the House. Usually when the government announces something, it announces it eight times. She did not even have a press conference or say a word. She snuck it into the desk in the House of Commons. What does that say about the government's approach to those Canadians who are truly vulnerable and need assistance from their government?

Opposition motion—Conduct of the Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take the opportunity to congratulate our colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for the tremendous work he is doing. We have been working together for some years now, and I know how concerned he is with justice.

His question allows me to go back to something. There is a sort of contempt here for parliamentary authorities. When someone responds that way to a job as exceptional as the one that we did, it is contemptuous. The work was done in the context of Canada's parliamentary institutions. Even though we have different opinions on the status of Quebec, we, the Bloc members, are respectful of Canadian institutions because we know that a country needs democratic institutions like these. When someone responds that way to such an exceptional job, done by members from all parties, it is contemptuous of the democratic institutions and the work that we have done.

Opposition motion—Conduct of the Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member talked a lot about how he cares for people. I wonder if the member could outline for the House how he voted when we brought in a budget that reduced the GST from 7% to 6% to 5%.

He talked about caring for people who are having difficulties. I was in the riding of Markham—Unionville the other day cutting the ribbon for a new social housing project that was funded by this government for 245 low-income families.

The member from Nova Scotia talked about the economic stimulus program not helping families and individuals. I wonder if he could explain how he voted when we cut taxes by $3,000 for the average family, how the member's party voted when we brought in a tax credit for tradespeople, when we brought in a tax credit for people with disabilities, when we brought in a tax credit for people who use transit, when we brought in a tax credit for people--

Opposition motion—Conduct of the Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Chambly—Borduas.

Opposition motion—Conduct of the Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my Conservative colleague for his question because it allows me to illustrate the reason why we voted against this budget.

We see that this is an opportunity for them, even as we speak, to make huge cuts in social housing, renovation and improvement of social housing units, housing units for low-income seniors and disabled persons, housing units in the north and renovation of housing units for members of the first nations. The cuts add up to $912 million. The Conservatives need to explain to us why they are continuing to slash social housing, when we know that the two biggest factors that make people poverty-stricken are the absence of housing—or of affordable housing—and employment insurance. Instead of him giving a big speech or showing off as he just did, I would have preferred to hear what he had to say about that. That would have been more practical.

Opposition motion—Conduct of the Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is not the first time there has been mention of the cynicism that reigns within society. People are disillusioned and are increasingly abandoning politics.

In the last federal election, the voter turnout was only 58.8%, according to the Chief Electoral Officer. Thus, less than one-quarter of all voters elected the government. This is a very sad record, since we would need to go back to the 19th century to find a turnout so low.

This sad situation might be explained by a number of reasons. People may have the impression that politicians believe they are above the law, that politicians show a lot of partisanship and that they make misleading statements. Do you not find that this describes the Conservative government's actions very well?

The Bloc Québécois finds that this government's ideology is an affront to democracy. For the Conservative Party, the House of Commons is the equivalent of a monkey wrench stuck in the gears of the Conservative strategy, which aims only to keep the party in power. This shows its entire lack of respect for the principles that form the basis of our democracy.

Sine the Conservatives came to power in 2006, a number of ministers have found themselves in embarrassing situations. Their exaggerated partisanship and their attempts to control information are the reasons for that.

On March 3, 2011, an employee of the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism used the public resources of his office. The minister's director of multicultural affairs mistakenly sent a member of the NDP a fundraising letter for a Conservative advertising campaign. The letter provided a detailed outline of the Conservatives' strategy, and we learned that only certain cultural communities were being targeted. The minister's government letterhead was used, which violates the rules.

The minister also adopts a client-centric approach although he is responsible for all newcomers. It is absolutely unacceptable. The Minister of Immigration has been mixed up in a number of cases that highlight this government's questionable strategy. A government certificate bearing the immense logo of the Conservative Party and sending an ultra-partisan email to a refugee defence agency can be added to the list of the minister's ideological actions. But the minister does not even have the courage to assume his responsibilities. He refuses to leave office and places the blame on his former employee.

In December 2010, the minister responsible for CIDA was asked a question in committee about who had altered a document coming from the agency. By adding the word “not”, someone had cancelled the decision made by officials to grant financing in the amount of $7 million to the KAIROS organization. However, the minister admitted in February that she herself had altered the document in order to cancel the KAIROS financing.

This action reflects the Conservatives’ lack of sensitivity towards the causes defended by this organization. But, more importantly, the minister lied to the committee and misled the representatives of the people. Since then, she has not been allowed by her one and only big boss, the Prime Minister, to answer any questions from the opposition. When she answers a question relating to this matter, she simply reads a memo from one of her assistants about the situation in another country. So she is just deflecting questions.

The Speaker of the House said yesterday that the minister has violated parliamentary privilege. She may be declared to be in contempt of Parliament. This depends on the actions of the opposition in the coming days.

Regardless of how this case ends, it is the duty of every parliamentarian to denounce this reactionary behaviour. When members of the cabinet violate the rules of the House as she did, it only increases the cynicism felt towards politicians.

Late in 2010, public servants received a directive ordering them to replace “Government of Canada” with “Preparation H Government”. The Prime Minister is thus trying to show that he is the government and that he is the master of Parliament. How can we avoid comparing him to Big Brother, the omnipresent fictional character who rules the state? You might also feel that you are living in a storybook world of wizards, in which the state is run by a Government Who Must Not Be Named.

Some public administration experts make a parallel with King Louis XIV, who said “I am the State”. I should point out that Louis XIV reigned over France during the 17th and 18th centuries. This is what we call a regressive ideology.

While we are on the issue information monitoring and control, I must mention the obstruction by the Minister of Natural Resources and his lack of transparency. Back in October, one of the minister's assistants resigned—another one—when the media revealed that he had tried on three occasions to prevent the disclosure of government information. Around the middle of December 2010, we learned that two other assistants of the minister had also tried to block an authorized access to information request. While he was the Minister of Public Works, the minister's office impeded the disclosure of information on the asbestos issue and on the preparations for the U.S. president's visit, in 2009.

With these numerous cases of obstruction and lack of transparency, we can no longer talk about isolated incidents but, rather, a true culture of secrecy. The minister gives a lot of work to the Information Commissioner's investigators. We also have doubts about the minister's defence, who pleaded ignorance. This is yet another cabinet member who refused to resign despite those wrongdoings.

The circumvention of election campaign rules by the Conservatives is certainly the best example of the Conservative government's behaviour. This government will do anything to remain in office and to promote its partisan interests. A few days ago, the Federal Court of Appeal reversed the decision of the Federal Court, which supported the Conservatives' view on their election financing scheme. This issue dates back to 2006. To better understand its impact, I am going to mention the facts surrounding this controversy.

During the 2006 election campaign, the Conservative Party exceeded the spending limit by one million dollars. Four major Conservative organizers were involved in that illegal scheme, including two who are now senators. That is probably a prerequisite. I am referring to the in and out scheme used by the party's strategists. The Conservatives tried to circumvent the rules by involving local organizations in their calculations of election expenses to pay for national ads. In 2007, the Conservative Party took Elections Canada to court. That takes some nerve. The arm's length body refused to pay back the election expenses claimed by 67 candidates, of which more than one third are Quebec candidates.

Last Tuesday's ruling supports Elections Canada's stand. The organization says that the Conservatives divided over $1 million among candidates who had not yet reached their individual spending limit.

When it comes to spending limits, the Canada Elections Act is essential to the health of our democracy. It ensures a level playing field among candidates, so that money is not the overriding factor in an election campaign. However, as we know, the Conservatives are a little too fond of the American model. They would like to see the day when spending limits are abolished. Remember their attempts to abolish public financing for political parties, so as to muzzle opposition parties. In its decision, the Federal Court of Appeal points out on a number of occasions the Conservative Party's wrongdoings.

In conclusion, there is no doubt that this government has no intention of respecting the will of the people's representatives who are gathered in this House. There are a number of reasons to denounce the conduct of the government, namely: the unacceptable actions of several of its ministers; its self-promotion through government communications; the circumvention of the election rules by its party; and its blatant lack of transparency, despite putting its hand on its heart.

For these reasons, I am asking all members of this House to support the Bloc Québécois' motion.

Opposition motion—Conduct of the Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Desnoyers Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, first I want to congratulate my colleague on her excellent speech. I think she made a clear assessment of the Conservative government: its attitude and behaviour are anti-democratic and wrong and it stops at nothing to pursue this system of significant control that is centralist and bends the truth, as my colleague put it so well.

With regard to the lack of transparency and ethics, this government has shown that it is tops; it has been the Canadian champion for many years. If we go back in time a bit, we have the Liberals of course, but today we see to what extent this government tells lies. It is terrible to see how the privileges of duly elected members of the House are being limited. We are asking for simple documents, on Afghanistan or the F-35s, and the government refuses to produce those documents.

I would like my colleague to say a little more about the outrageous in and out electoral financing scheme.

Opposition motion—Conduct of the Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his brilliant question.

During the 2006 election, a Conservative candidate ran against me. He was the first one to testify because of his conscience and values. I congratulated him on his honesty. Today, Mr. Caldwell can walk with his head held high.

The most disgusting aspect of all this is that in 2005-06, we saw a Prime Minister promise, with his hand on his heart, that his government would be transparent, that it would be a government of the people, that it would be honest and would not do what the Liberals did. It was indeed different. Instead of taking 13 years to resort to propaganda and ideology, the Conservatives needed just two years. They are a bit cleverer than the Liberals but not cleverer than many citizens.

This government is not any better than the previous one.

Opposition motion—Conduct of the Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, part of the contempt the government shows in the House of Commons is the attempt to keep documents not just from the members of Parliament but, by extension, keeping evidence and information that belongs to the people of Canada. We see that in the secret deal to buy jet fighters. Now we know that the real cost of this single-sourced jet fighter contract is $30 billion for 65 planes. No wonder the Conservatives want to keep it secret, because the folks back home are saying that they are blowing $30 billion on 65 planes and asking how did this group ever get to power. What are their priorities? Thirty billion dollars is more than the war in Afghanistan cost. It is more than the federal government gives to all the provinces for health care and it is going to blow that on 65 planes.

Why does my hon. colleague think that the government shows such contempt for the people of Canada by keeping this information secret and refusing to be accountable to the people of this country?