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

12:20 p.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I just first want to tell my hon. friend that he does not have to scream and talk so loudly. It is bad for his health. He should cool down and take it easy. He is a good debater, but he has been screaming and shouting and that is not good for his health.

Coming back to the issue of senators, he was talking about the perks and all these things that senators have. I am simply amazed at how the NDP members think with their heads in the sand. They introduced a motion the other day to abolish the Senate, which they very well know is not going to happen. They want a referendum and other things. Yet when it comes to a practical solution which was put forward by the government to reform the Senate, the hon. member's party rejected it. Then he turns up in the House and screams about how the Senate is unresponsive.

Why do NDP members not use practical ways to get things done? Why do they always have to scream at the top of their lungs about how the sky is falling for something that is unattainable?

Perhaps the hon. member would like to reflect on that and support the government so that at least the reform of the Senate could go ahead so he does not need to lose his temper.

Opposition Motion—Electoral Financing
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for listening and commenting. I assure him my health is 100%, which I am sure brings great warmth to his heart and the hearts of all those on that side of the House.

I might also say that I was not angry. When I am loud, it is because the people of Hamilton have sent me here to deliver a message. Most of the messages are about things that outrage my constituents and therefore should outrage me.

Quite frankly, the hon. member did not spend one minute talking about anything to do with a defence. There is no defence over there at all for the alleged charges that have been made here in the House and outside this place. It is everything but the issues that are at hand. As long as the government continues to act in an undemocratic fashion, as long as it continues to act in a way that does not benefit my constituents in Hamilton, does not benefit my home community, members can count on two things: one, we will always stand up and oppose that kind of agenda; and two, as long as I am in this place, those members will always hear me.

Opposition Motion—Electoral Financing
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the motion before us is self-evident. It has to do with a particular case. The reason it is before us also has to do with the fact that it is reflective of other cases.

Let me remind the House that Marty Cheliak, the RCMP chief superintendent who supported the long gun registry was canned. Linda Keen, nuclear safety, was canned. Adrian Measner, the Wheat Board president, was canned. Pat Stogran, the veterans ombudsman, was canned. Sheridan Scott, Competition Bureau, was canned. Steve Sullivan, victims of crime ombudsman, was canned. Paul Kennedy was canned. Bernard Shapiro, ethics commissioner, was canned. Munir Sheikh, chief statistician at StatsCan, was canned. I have about seven or eight more, but I think members get the point.

The government has demonstrated by its actions or inaction that the Prime Minister is now at a point where he is abusing the power of being in government. He has decided that he is above the rules and above the law.

In this regard, the Federal Court of Appeal in a unanimous decision has found that the Conservatives have broken the law, the national party candidates, and indeed has charged four people.

I wonder if the member has any further examples of the abuse of power by the Conservative government.

Opposition Motion—Electoral Financing
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is a great question. I will approach it a little differently. The member made excellent points.

I would underscore that given what has happened to all the senior bureaucrats who dared cross the Prime Minister and the government, Canadians who are not part of the political debate but are weighing this and trying to decide whether or not there is something here should ask themselves if any senior bureaucrat in the federal prosecutor's office or in Elections Canada would dare to make up, manufacture or go on some kind of a wild goose chase against the sitting government in that context. The answer is clear that no reasonable person would be that foolish.

I would say, and one would expect me to me say this but I will try to rise above it for a nanosecond, that it says an awful lot about our system and those individuals that, even in this kind of assassination climate of senior bureaucrats, when something is wrong it is wrong and they are prepared to say so and take appropriate action. That to me speaks well of the sustainability of our democracy.

Opposition Motion—Electoral Financing
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am sure the voters of Hamilton Centre are very proud having heard their elected MP.

Sixty-five Conservative candidates claimed 60% of the rebate from the government for the phantom ad money that simply passed through their bank accounts. This means that local riding associations involved in this scheme received thousands in rebates for these phantom expenses. They received the rebate from Canadian taxpayers.

I ask the hon. member for Hamilton Centre, should this money be paid back? After all, this money came from ordinary Canadians. It is my tax money, the member's tax money, the money of all taxpayers. Should the candidates repay this money?

Opposition Motion—Electoral Financing
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, absolutely. At the end of the day, if the courts determine there was fraudulent activity, any money that was received under those circumstances needs to be paid back.

I am glad the member raised the point. Again, I am not a lawyer, but there are two main aspects. One is that this in and out scheme allowed the Conservatives to spend over $1 million more than the limit would allow. Remember that election finance control is one of the main foundations of our democracy.

The second aspect is that by the exercise of the money going in and out, technically it allowed the individual ridings that the money went into, albeit for less than an hour, to claim that amount of money that went out as an expense and to get the rebate. There is some question that some of the invoices that were used to justify that may be forged.

While the whole relationship between the funding of a national campaign and a local campaign may be inside baseball to a lot of Canadians, when it comes to the idea of falsifying and forging invoices to get money one is not entitled to, Canadians get that one.

Opposition Motion—Electoral Financing
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague has made reference to the Conservative message more generally in the past. A lot of people recognize that it was the party that talked about transparency and accountability and accused the Liberals of scandals in the past. Yet what we see and hear and are debating today is a different story.

I would like to hear not just about the hypocrisy but the shame in the governing party exercising the very actions that it spoke against so strongly.

Opposition Motion—Electoral Financing
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the most important aspects is the member for Churchill is asking an important question. I want to use the fact of her being here at all as my response to her. The member was elected to this place, the same way we all were, but she cannot be a Canadian senator because she is not yet 30. That is how archaic and out of touch the Senate is. That is why the fact that senators are involved in this alleged crime makes it even worse.

Opposition Motion—Electoral Financing
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Ajax—Pickering.

A worrying trend has emerged in Ottawa. There is a gradual and unprecedented undermining of our electoral and parliamentary processes. The current Conservative government's slow, insidious assault on our democracy is lowering the bar on the time-honoured way that politics is done in Canada. This is being accomplished by overriding and circumventing the rules of fair play and accountability, and slowly, bit by bit, changing the standards and expectations of our democracy.

This process is not unlike the cautionary tale of the frog placed in a pot of water sitting on the stove top. The hapless frog does not notice the slow incremental rise in temperature of the water until it is much too late. The result is inevitable. The frog gets cooked.

Canada's very identity is tied to our democratic form of electing representatives, our form of government and the role of Parliament in representing citizens. This has been the result of a centuries long and determined struggle by many people.

Our democratic principles of openness and accountability, of civility and fair play have made us who and what we are as a country. Over time these have made Canada the envy of the world, an inclusive, prosperous and peaceful nation where we recognize the fairness of basic rights and equality of all Canadians regardless of their worldwide origins.

The Conservative government's pattern of deceit gnaws at democracy's edges. A minister wrongly blamed bureaucrats for her decision to cut funding to the church-backed charity KAIROS, doctoring documents and misleading the House of Commons. The Prime Minister prorogued Parliament to hide information on Afghan detainee torture. Cabinet ministers have refused to reveal how many billions of taxpayer dollars will be needed to pay for their crime bills and their prison expansion plans. Civil servants are muzzled. Independent officers of Parliament are fired when they disagree with government ideology. NGOs are punished. Now, top Conservative officials are facing criminal charges for election fraud in the 2006 campaign.

Each of those examples is important, but the pattern as a whole of the undermining of democracy is what I am most concerned about.

The members of this institution over time have a long history of fighting for what is right. That is what I was elected by the citizens of Vancouver Quadra to do. I hope that is what the members opposite were elected to do, to fight for what is right, to protect others, to protect the environment. I think of: David Anderson and the Species at Risk Act; Judy LaMarsh, the first Liberal woman cabinet minister, who fought for women's equality; MPs who fought for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, health care, pensions, seniors, children, poverty.

What we have here, and what is so egregious, is Conservative members and ministers are fighting to defend what is wrong. They are fighting to defend their abuse of power day after day after day. This in and out election fraud is wrong. It may be proven to be illegal. If the Director of Public Prosecutions is filing charges, that means there is a substantial chance of conviction.

What is being alleged? I would say it is $2 million in pure electoral fraud: $1.2 million in spending over the legal limit, that is $1.2 million in illegal advertising by the Conservative Party in the 2006 election; forging fake invoices to cover the tracks; and then another fraudulent acquisition of $800,000 in ill-gotten gains by bilking taxpayers.

For me the term “money laundering”, another dirty, illegal activity, comes to mind. What is money laundering? One, it is placement, cash introduced into a financial system, illicit cash. That would be the $1.2 million. Two, it is layering, such as, complex transactions to camouflage the illegal source. That would be the doctored invoices and the ridings being asked to be complicit in this. Three, it is integration, acquiring wealth generated by the transaction of the illicit funds. That would be the $800,000 to be paid by taxpayers back to those ridings. This sure smells a lot like money laundering.

In British Columbia there are a number of MPs and executive council who are implicit in this, including the President of the Treasury Board and the former government whip. Seventy ridings were implicated, a dozen in British Columbia alone. This is a critical issue at the heart of our democracy.

I want to talk about what may seem like a sidetrack and that is Darwin's theory of evolution. It is no longer a theory. There is no scientific refuting of this understanding of species evolution. One of the understandings is that individuals in a species co-operate and they also compete. They compete within their group, but if they do not co-operate enough, then their group will lose in the competition to another group. Whether it is dictyostelium amoebae, ants, wolves or humans, we all compete and co-operate.

What stops us from competing or undermining those in our own group to the detriment of the group and our evolutionary survival? It could be called a “cheater detection system”, which is exactly what we are talking about with all of these abuses of power of the Conservative government. It is cheating and undermining the cheater detection systems of our parliamentary and electoral processes. The direction in which Canada is going under the government is bad for Canadians. I will give a few examples.

Not only are the Conservatives systematically cheating and breaking the law, we have a Prime Minister who is alleged to have bribed a dying MP or had been implicit in bribing a dying MP for his vote. The immigration minister was recently caught having developed a strategy on fundraising for targeting ethnic Canadians through his ministry, through public funds. We have ministers who have signed-off on multi-million dollar--

Opposition Motion—Electoral Financing
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

James Moore Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Could you clarify the rules about decorum in the House of Commons? Is it in the Standing Orders that it is okay for a member of Parliament to falsely accuse other people of committing crimes in the House of Commons, which the member opposite just did? She directly accused the Prime Minister of this country of committing a crime. Does she think that is appropriate decorum in the House of Commons?

Mr. Speaker, can you clarify the rules as to whether members of Parliament can actually accuse people of committing crimes in the House of Commons with no evidence whatsoever and just smear people's reputations, which is what the member for Vancouver Quadra seems to be doing in a very classless typical way?

Opposition Motion—Electoral Financing
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Calling into question the integrity of hon. members is out of order. I would urge the member from Vancouver Quadra to keep that in mind as she concludes her remarks.

Opposition Motion—Electoral Financing
Business of Supply
Government Orders

March 8th, 2011 / 12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, with regard to that point of order, I clearly used the word “alleged”. There were allegations and they are in print.

Not only is the government systematically cheating, or alleged to be cheating, it is also undermining the cheater detector systems that have been built into our democracy that are part of the fabric and character of Canada.

There is a list of examples and I will give just a few.

Peter Tinsley, the chair of the Military Police Complaints Commission, had his tenure ended over the Afghan detainee controversy. His office is a cheater detector system and he was calling out the government.

Robert Marleau, Information Commissioner, eventually resigned because of government blockage of relevant documents regarding the public interest. The government's systematic secrecy around documents is also undermining an important cheater detection system, which is the transparency of information.

Dr. Arthur Carty, National Science Advisor to the Prime Minister, was dismissed after advocating for an evidentiary science policy. A scientific basis for decision-making is a good cheater detection and the government does not like it.

As the official opposition, we use every parliamentary tool available to stop these abuses of power, these offences, and to raise the alarm. The Conservatives' secrecy, deceit and excessive control will only breed cynicism and apathy in the public, corroding Canada's national sense of civility and civil engagement.

An eight-year-old constituent came to Parliament to meet me and he was in awe of Parliament and our institutions. We need to protect and maintain them for his generation.

Like the hapless frog sitting in the pot of ever-hotter water, the results of inattention or passivity toward the health of Canada's democracy and the government's abuses will be very hard to undo. Fortunately, Canadians are beginning to notice: prorogation, cut to the census, information secrecy, KAIROS and now the in-and-out scam, alleged election fraud.

Thankfully, Canadians are feeling the heat and that is important because the very character of Canada is at stake.

Opposition Motion—Electoral Financing
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think the member's conclusion is the one that I hope and I know many members of this place hope we would focus on. The matter before us is just one example of where an abuse of power has led to acts that appear to be illegal when the Federal Court of appeal says that the laws were breached.

The member is also well aware that it is not just that the Conservative Party in the 2006 election overspent by $1.2 million. It is also that the candidates who had these expenses improperly transferred down to them received rebates on them. Some of those ridings actually received the rebate before the audits were complete and the breach of the elections law was discovered. The government has refused to co-operate with Elections Canada. This is just another example of the Conservatives not wanting to get to the bottom of it. They think it is an administrative difficulty but there is no evidence that they have taken any action whatsoever to help the House clean up this mess, because they cannot do it.

Opposition Motion—Electoral Financing
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member is quite correct in his observations. The Conservative government's pattern is not one of mistakes nor of well-intentioned ministers with staff who are doing the wrong thing. This is actually the pattern of a government and a party that believes that the end justifies any means and will undertake any means if it thinks it can get away with them. Now, some of these means that are unethical and possibly illegal are being uncovered and light is being shed on this approach, this very undermining of democracy that I have been describing.

Opposition Motion—Electoral Financing
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague's speech and, unfortunately, the partisan smears and attacks, and they were beneath the member who I have worked with in the past. I am surprised at this partisan motion that has been brought forward when Canadians are faced with some of the toughest economic challenges they have had this century. We could be spending our time talking about how we could be improving the economy and yet the Liberals bring forward this motion.

Since she has decided to raise this issue, I have a question for her. Historically, not too long ago we had something called the Gomery inquiry. Out of that inquiry, we found that there was something called the “ad scam” and the Liberal Party was forced to pay $1 million back to the Canadian people. However, we are still waiting to find out what happened to the other $40 million.

I was hopeful today that the member could update the House on what the Liberal Party is actually doing to find that $40 million that is still missing and what she has done personally to encourage her leader to bring it forward so Canadians can know where their tax dollars have gone.