House of Commons Hansard #141 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was conservative.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Electoral Financing
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Lise Zarac LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I hasten to support the hon. member for Beauséjour because, indeed, the electoral financing transfer scheme used by the Conservative Party of Canada constitutes electoral fraud and represents an assault on the democratic principles upon which Parliament and our electoral system are based. At the end of February, the Commissioner of Canada Elections filed four electoral fraud charges against the Conservative Party and four of the senior directors of its electoral fund, Conservative Fund Canada, including two senators. All were charged with knowingly violating the Canada Elections Act during the 2006 election.

The first charge is against Conservative Fund Canada, Senator Finley, Senator Gerstein, Michael Donison and Susan J. Kehoe and reads:

Between November 1st, 2005 and January 23rd, 2006, in the City of Ottawa, in the Province of Ontario and elsewhere in Canada, did wilfully incur election expenses in relation to the 39th federal general election that exceeded the maximum of $18, 278, 278.64 for the Conservative Party of Canada, contrary to Section 423 (1) of the Canada Elections Act and did thereby commit an offence punishable on summary conviction contrary to Sections 497 (3) (g) and 500 (5) (a) of the said Act.

The second charge is against the Conservative Party of Canada and reads:

Between November 1st, 2005 and January 23rd, 2006, in the City of Ottawa, in the Province of Ontario and elsewhere in Canada, being a registered party whose chief agent, the Conservative Fund Canada, did wilfully incur election expenses in relation to the 39th federal general election that exceeded the maximum of $18,278,278.64 for the Conservative Party of Canada, contrary to Sections 423(1) and 497(3)(g) of the Canada Elections Act is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction contrary to Section 507 of the said Act.

The third charge is against Conservative Fund Canada and Irving Gerstein and reads:

Between January 23rd, 2006 and December 18th, 2006, in the City of Ottawa, in the Province of Ontario, did provide the Chief Electoral Officer with a return on the general election expenses of the Conservative Party of Canada, in relation to the 39th federal general election, that they knew or ought reasonably to have known contained a materially false or misleading statement, namely that all election expenses in respect of the 39th federal general election had been properly recorded, contrary to Section 431(a) of the Canada Elections Act and did thereby commit an offence punishable on summary conviction contrary to Sections 497(3)(m)(ii) and 500(5)(a) of the said Act.

I want to point out that the party being named in these charges is the same party that claimed, in 2006, that it wanted to amend the Canada Elections Act in order to improve the integrity of the electoral process and instill complete confidence in the Canadian public. That is not what I call leading by example.

The fourth charge is against the Conservative Party of Canada:

Between January 23rd, 2006 and December 18th, 2006, in the City of Ottawa, in the Province of Ontario, being a registered party whose chief agent, the Conservative Fund Canada, did provide the Chief Electoral Officer with a return on its general election expenses, in relation to the 39th federal general election, that the Conservative Fund Canada knew or ought reasonably to have known contained a materially false or misleading statement, namely that all election expenses in respect of the 39th federal general election had been properly recorded, contrary to sections 431(a) and 497(3)(m)(ii) of the Canada Elections Act is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction contrary to section 507 of the said Act.

How can the Prime Minister claim that this is a difference of opinion? These charges clearly indicate that it is a question of bogus invoices, misleading statements made to Elections Canada and deliberate overspending. These offences could result in a $5,000 fine, five years in prison, or both.

This in and out scheme shows the Conservatives for what they truly are. They can talk all they like about an administrative dispute between their party and Elections Canada, but the Federal Court of Appeal unanimously sided with Elections Canada, which alleges that the Conservative Party deliberately spent more than the national campaign limit by having 67 candidates pay some of the party's advertising costs, to the tune of $1.3 million.

This is how the Conservative scheme worked. After the Conservative Party reached its $18.3 million spending limit, it decided to transfer $1.3 million to 67 ridings that had not reached their $80,000 limit. The ridings returned the same amount, claiming that the money had been used for local ads. The ads, however, were exactly the same as the national ones. The riding associations had no control over these transfers.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister can try to dismiss the facts and maintain that the matter is an administrative dispute, but it will be hard to fight the charges when so many candidates are now coming forward to tell their stories.

Inky Mark, who resigned his Manitoba seat last year, said that his staff was contacted by party officials during the 2006 election campaign. He said that Conservative Party officials asked if they could deposit several thousand dollars into his campaign account and withdraw it later to buy advertising. It did not make sense to him, so he refused.

Mark's former campaign manager said she recalls being asked to receive money and then have the funds withdrawn quickly afterward. She remembers the issue because it sounded similar to a case involving a Conservative cabinet minister from Manitoba who had to plead guilty and was convicted of electoral overspending.

Also, the independent Conservative MP for Simcoe—Grey, who was turfed from the Conservative caucus last year, said her campaign was approached and she rejected the plan.

There is also David Marler, a candidate in the Brome—Missisquoi riding in the Eastern Townships. In an interview with La Presse, he explained why he refused to sign a form in December 2006: the document would have authorized Conservative Party officials to transfer money to his account and then take it right back out again. David Marler declined the offer when an organizer was unable to explain to him the reason and purpose of this transaction. As a lawyer, he understood right away that this scheme was illegal.

The Conservative Party's behaviour during the 2005-06 election campaign, when it claimed to be the champion of public ethics, does not fall into the category of an administrative dispute but, rather, that of hypocrisy and abuse of power. The Conservative Party used a shell game to give the impression that it had complied with the national spending limit. The national organization distributed some $1.3 million to 67 candidates who were below their campaign spending limits.

The Conservatives can try to downplay what they did, but Canadians are well aware of their fraudulent tactics. The Canada Elections Act applies to all political parties. Creating a level playing field for everyone serves to promote a healthy democracy. There is no point in imposing a spending limit on political parties if they can circumvent that limit by moving money around to their local organizations.

The Prime Minister must order the immediate repayment of any and all illegally obtained electoral rebates that were paid out to candidates for the Conservative Party of Canada as a result of the in and out fraud and must remove all individuals facing charges for this fraud from any position of responsibility within government or the Conservative Party of Canada. The issue here is the integrity of the electoral process and thus of Canadian democracy.

Opposition Motion—Electoral Financing
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Anthony Rota Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague. Her speech was excellent and comprehensive. I have a question for her. Normally, when someone is innocent and is accused of something, he wants to know what he is accused of and then wonders what the problem is. But when the Conservatives were accused, they did not wonder what the problem was. The RCMP had to be sent into their offices to find the problem.

This is not about the legislation or Elections Canada. What does everything going on today tell us about the character of the Conservative Party?

Opposition Motion—Electoral Financing
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Lise Zarac LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question. It tells us that the Conservative Party is still abusing its power and is still trying to circumvent the law. It still refuses to take responsibility for its actions. It even wants to appeal the court's decision. That shows that the party thinks it is above the law.

Opposition Motion—Electoral Financing
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question for the member is quite simple.

It is quite scandalous that we are spending a full day talking about why the Liberals lost the 2006 election. The reality is the Liberals lost the 2006 election because they were a corrupt government that the people turned their backs on.

The only in and out we have here is that we were brought in to clean up the mess of the Liberals who were actually thrown out of government after stealing $40 million of taxpayers money and using it to help them win elections. That is the only scandal here.

When will the Liberals focus on what Canadians want us to focus on? Canadians want us to focus on jobs, the economy, getting people back to work, the investments we have made across the country with respect to infrastructure, all of the great things the government has done to make sure the economy is moving in the right direction. Canada is recognized internationally as one of the best places in which to live, work, invest and raise a family because of the decisions made by the government and this party.

When will the Liberals stop focusing on why they lost the 2006 election and start focusing on the needs of Canadians, and in looking forward help us to build a bigger, better and stronger Canada?

Opposition Motion—Electoral Financing
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Lise Zarac LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is not a matter of who won or lost the election; it is a matter of election fraud. We are well off in Canada, and the Conservatives can thank the Liberal government that left them a huge surplus. That is why they are managing quite well. But despite all that, the deficit has reached $56 billion.

Opposition Motion—Electoral Financing
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, today's motion deals with electoral fraud. It deals with the issue of a moral compass, that the government has lost its moral compass. It does not have economic competency. It has lost its moral compass.

The government keeps saying that this is an administrative matter. There are no administrative jails, unless the Conservatives are preparing to build one.

Those forged invoices resulted in the headquarters of the Conservative Party being raided. Could the member explain why the Conservatives are so scared of admitting the truth and returning the ill-gotten, dirty money back to Canadians?

Opposition Motion—Electoral Financing
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Lise Zarac LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her excellent question. The Conservative government would not dare admit that it was caught red-handed. That is the problem. It cheated and violated the Canada Elections Act.

Opposition Motion—Electoral Financing
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois about the motion before us. I would like to read several lines:

That, in the opinion of the House, the Conservative Party of Canada’s “in and out” electoral financing scheme was an act of electoral fraud and represents an assault on the democratic principles upon which Parliament and our electoral system are based, and that, further, the House calls upon the Prime Minister...

The Bloc Québécois supports this motion. I would like to quote an article published by Agence France-Presse that was reprinted by Le Figaro on March 2, 2011. It states:

Today the Canadian electoral authority formally charged the Prime Minister's Conservative Party and two senators from the governing party with fraud for allegedly concealing cost overruns during the 2006 election. The charges, laid at a time when many observers expect a spring election to be held, revolve around a “false or misleading statement” about the budget for the campaign that brought [the Conservatives] to power, writes Elections Canada in a news release.

These charges of fraud, which were reported by Agence France-Presse and by Le Figaro on March 2, are very serious and constitute an attack on democracy. It is important that the House take a stand on the Conservative Party's fraud.

In the 2006 election campaign, when a certain opportunity presented itself to the Conservative Party and the cash was beginning to pour into its coffers, it lacked resources for its national campaign. Given that the Conservatives had a national spending limit of $18 million, they transferred national party money to the ridings, which then returned the money to the national party to run national ads.

That is clearly against the law. A riding can collect donations from people and then run a campaign. The Conservatives did the opposite, thus contravening the Canada Elections Act. It is not surprising that they were charged. What is surprising is that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister told the House that they provided all the documents. That is false. The RCMP had to search the Conservative headquarters to obtain the evidence.

Day after day in the House of Commons, they have tried to cover up this scandal. It is becoming an international scandal given that an article in the March 2, 2011 edition of Le Figaro discussed the modus operandi of the right-wing party.

After question period, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Châteauguay—Saint-Constant.

Getting back to the article in Le Figaro, the second paragraph states:

According to this independent [Canadian] agency, the Conservative Party deliberately exceeded election spending limits...by $1 million through an accounting scheme involving the right-wing party's local committees.

The right-wing Conservatives do not hesitate to circumvent the law and commit fraud to achieve their ends.

Opposition Motion—Electoral Financing
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member will have seven minutes to finish his speech after question period. It is now time for statements by members.

Carol Williams
Statements By Members

March 8th, 2011 / 1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, Carol Williams, a resident of Coldstream in my riding of Okanagan—Shuswap, passed away on February 26 of this year.

Carol's life was one of dedication to her career as a nurse, her family and her community.

Her love of life was always evident not just by what she did for the community but also how she did it. Carol served as a Coldstream councillor and director of the Vernon winter carnival and was an active organizer and volunteer in the Vernon region.

When I met Carol she was the chair of the Okanagan Regional Library. At that time she was in her 70s. I was so impressed by her energy level and dedication to her position and those that she served. She was a great example to me.

Carol will be missed by her husband Verne, three children, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Carol's smiles, hugs and service will be missed by the community she loved.

International Women's Day
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, today is the centenary of International Women's Day. What began as a struggle to achieve equality rights has become a celebration of the trail-blazing women who made our society more equal.

Today is no different. It is remarkable to see so many women pursuing non-traditional occupations, and to live in a time when young girls do not see barriers but only opportunities.

While we celebrate, let us also remember that the struggle for equality is not yet over. Over the past five years the fundamental human right to equal pay for work of equal value has been undermined. Federal support for advocacy and research into the status of women in Canada has been eliminated and the gender wage gap remains significant. The lack of access to quality, affordable early learning and child care services is a barrier to full equality.

I join my colleagues in the House in celebrating this anniversary but remain mindful of the challenges that remain.

Marie-Andrée Bertrand
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, on March 6, we lost one of our pioneering feminists and criminologists, Marie-Andrée Bertrand.

She was the first female Quebecker—the first woman, actually—to earn a Ph.D. in criminology from the University of California's Berkeley campus. A leader of the anti-prohibition movement, she did not believe that criminal legislation was the way to fight illegal substance abuse. She believed in reconciling the confusion between harm reduction and drug prohibition policies.

Her work and research on women and criminal law and her critiques on gender, class and ethnic inequality were well written.

She fought and remained active to the end, and in 2007 she said that a retired feminist cannot easily relax and does not want to.

The Bloc Québécois pays tribute to this woman who was both ahead of her time and inspirational. We offer our deepest sympathies to her family and loved ones.

International Women's Day
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, today is the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day, a day when we celebrate the profound and divine feminine power that graces our world.

There is no way we can truly express all that we owe to the women of our communities, our country and our planet. The givers of life, powerful voices of understanding, compassion and peace, women make our society a nobler and more civilized place. To every woman in our lives we owe everything.

International Women's Day is to celebrate women but also to highlight the struggles that remain. Women want and deserve: reproductive health and choice; equal pay for work of equal value; to be free from the use, threat or fear of violence; and to be free from all barriers and forms of discrimination.

Women want and deserve equality, respect and full participation in all aspects of society.

Today we renew our commitment to work with the women and men in this House, in our communities and throughout the world to pursue and achieve true equality for all women.

Forestry Industry
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to report some good news in my riding. Many of our local lumber producers are going back to full operations, recording profits and making major upgrades. This in turn is helping communities, local forestry workers and their families.

West Fraser's mill in 100 Mile House as well as Aspen Planers in Savona have reported they will be back to full production. As a result, they are now hiring new workers and training is under way.

The Ainsworth mill in 100 Mile House has completed a major project to enhance the mill's ability to process trees infected by pine beetles and has returned to profitability.

On February 28, it was reported that Canfor plans to reopen its Vavenby sawmill operations, while at the Kamloops Domtar mill, significant environmental upgrades have been made .

There have been 24 sawmills reopened in B.C. in the last 24 months. Along with new international trade deals and support from Canada's economic action plan, the forestry industry is solidly rebounding.

International Women's Day
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Lise Zarac LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, today, March 8, marks the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day. It is only fitting that we should take a moment to think of the many pioneers who paved the way for this important annual celebration.

At the beginning of the 20th century, women began to rise up, demanding better working conditions and the right to vote. This social action undertaken by these courageous women is still paying off today in 2011.

Unfortunately, the reality here in Canada is quite sad. The Conservative government is not only ignoring the interests of Canadian women, but it has systematically and deliberately made choices that have reversed at least a decade of progress in terms of gender equality.

Furthermore, this government axed the Kelowna accord, which would have provided much-needed health and education funding for aboriginal women. It treats aboriginal women like second-class citizens, first by cutting the generous social programs that were included in the Kelowna accord, and then by refusing to launch a thorough investigation into the disappearance of young aboriginal women.

Unlike the Conservative Party, our party is convinced that Canada's federal government—