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

1:10 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in today's debate.

First and foremost, when discussing and debating this motion, we have to address the overarching issue which is that the motion is in direct contravention of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Earlier today I asked to have a ruling made before the vote on the motion takes place because it is serious. The Liberal opposition day motion calls upon Parliament to rule on a finding of innocence or guilt on an issue that is currently before the courts. That is not only inappropriate and unprecedented but it is extremely troubling.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms details in its doctrines the presumption of innocence for all Canadian citizens and that presumption of innocence is being violated today by the very motion that we are debating.

The opposition motion, if approved, would in effect be casting judgment on four individuals and a political party currently before the courts of this land in a dispute with Elections Canada. What right does this chamber have to act as judge and jury in a case that is before the courts of our land? What has become of democracy?

What has become of the respect for the rule of law if Parliament can now usurp the rights of individuals who wish to argue their case, to prove their innocence in a court of law? Why does the House now, apparently, have the right to discuss whether or not these individuals should be found innocent or guilty?

If the House votes in favour of the motion, and if the Speaker rules that the motion is in order, I have grave concerns that the decision today will have major ramifications on Canadians for generations to come. I am not overstating when I say that because how can we allow parliamentarians, who are law-makers, to act as judge and jury in any dispute? It is absolutely critical that the motion be defeated based on that reason.

If the opposition had chosen to rephrase its motion and either chastise the government, or condemn the government, or even bring forward a motion of non-confidence in the government for actions which it felt were inappropriate or perhaps even against the law, that would be acceptable. I would certainly argue against the motion, but I would not take issue with the fact that the opposition had a perfect right to bring forward that material and the motion before this place. But, that is not what the opposition has chosen to do. It is implicit in the motion that four individuals will be found guilty of an offence and that the Conservative Party of Canada will be found guilty of the offence based on the opposition's interpretation.

Regardless of what the courts of this land have to say in the matter, the Liberal opposition suggests that it and Parliament have the right to determine guilt or innocence instead of the courts. We simply cannot allow that to happen under any circumstances.

I mentioned earlier today that we have many lawyers in this place and if they were being honest with themselves and honest to all parliamentarians, they would be the first ones to admit that today's motion may be the start of a very slippery slope when it comes to the interference of parliamentarians with the courts. That is why we have courts of law. That is why we have judges whose job it is to examine evidence, rule on evidence and to ultimately be the arbiters of guilt or innocence in any dispute. It is not the role nor the right of Parliament to make those decisions. We create laws. That is what we are charged with doing. We are not there to interpret or administer the law. That is the role of the courts.

For years the Liberals consistently purported themselves to be the champions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. One of the current members of this place, the hon. member for Papineau, has a long family history with the charter because it was his father who introduced the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Parliament many years ago. Since that time, I can recall in debate after debate the members of the Liberal Party standing in their places and saying they are the defenders of the charter, that it is the only party in Canada that defends the charter vigorously.

Earlier today we heard comments from the member for Beauséjour referring to Conservative members as former Reform and Alliance members who have a complete disregard for the charter. Who has disregard for the charter now? Who has disregard for it when we see a motion from the Liberal opposition that, in effect, suggests we should ignore the charter and the presumption of innocence and simply make a decision based on partisan interests to determine the innocence or guilt of individuals and entities? It is completely unacceptable.

In debate today we have heard members opposite suggest that the Conservative Party was acting independently of Elections Canada and was the only party that has been in contravention of election laws. That is absolutely not true. In fact, there is documented evidence that every party in this place, every member whose party represents constituents and taxpayers, engaged in similar actions for two consecutive elections until Elections Canada came up with a new interpretation of the law. To suggest that the Conservative Party was the only party engaged in this activity is absolutely wrong and misleading.

However, that is not the primary issue. The primary issue is that the motion today is an affront to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms of this land. It should be dismissed and should be defeated. Anything less would be a total affront to democracy.

Opposition Motion—Electoral Financing
Business of Supply
Government Orders

March 8th, 2011 / 1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I have a comment as opposed to a question.

One issue the member did not address was the constitutional element embedded in our country, which is we have the separation of the parliamentary branch of government versus the judicial branch. What is said in the House or a committee of the House cannot be used in any judicial body or other evidence-taking body in our country. The reason for that is because of the separation.

If we accept the member's premise, then Parliament would become not a separate branch of government, but would be subservient to the courts of our land. Any issue, question or challenge raised in the House, within hours, could be brought before the courts. If we accepted the member's premise, then the House would go silent for three, four, eight years until the judicial proceedings and appeals were heard.

That it is embedded in our Constitution. It is part of our constitutional framework and it should not be changed by the assembly today.

Opposition Motion—Electoral Financing
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I simply point out that the words spoken in the chamber have parliamentary privilege. They also can quite dramatically influence opinions of others, including courts of this land.

If Parliament, the elected body that makes laws, approves a motion which, in effect, says that individuals before the courts of the land are guilty in the eyes of Parliament and we the lawmakers find these individuals guilty, that is highly inappropriate. The member should know and respect that.

Opposition Motion—Electoral Financing
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the disease is starting to spread. This morning in the transport committee a similar type of attempt was made to stifle debate on the basis that the subject matter was not before the courts but before a quasi-judicial board, a taxi board in Toronto. On that basis, the chair ruled that the committee should not hear evidence.

Where do we draw the line? Will the government make this argument in every committee, as it is now in the House?

Opposition Motion—Electoral Financing
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am a glad I was asked a question by the NDP. I want to quote something. This is a direct quote from an email from a political party. It says:

Hi Phyllis,

We are told by communications folks in BC that these were radio ads with the Candidate's personal tag on the end--therefore a local expense to be reported under the Candidate's expense ceiling, regardless of who pays. For rebate purposes, we were asked to bill each campaign--in the case of VanEast, $2,612.00. The good news is that the Federal Party will transfer $2,600 to the Federal Riding Association as we agreed to pay for the ads. We hope that you are able to squeeze this in under the ceiling. Some expenses are not considered election expenses subject to spending limits, such as fundraising costs. Please have a look at the totals and get back to us if you think we have a problem.

This was signed by the federal party bookkeeper. This was an NDP email. The NDP was engaging in the same practices. Now it has the temerity to stand in the House and criticize and condemn the Conservative Party.

As I mentioned earlier, every registered party in Canada in the 2004 and 2006 elections engaged in similar practices because that was allowed under the law of the day.

There is no doubt that the only reason there is some question about the legality of this is because Elections Canada changed its interpretation. It did not change the law or the rules; it changed the interpretation without informing political parties of the change during the election in question.

Opposition Motion—Electoral Financing
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Crombie Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for LaSalle—Émard.

We all remember those ubiquitous Conservative commercials when the then leader of the opposition, now the Prime Minister, was shown in a mock interview. It is remarkable because it is one of the last times he would ever speak openly to the media, but also because of what was said. In the commercial, a scripted actress questioned the Prime Minister. She said, “It's like you get to Ottawa and no one can touch you. How will you change that?” The reply, “You change the people in charge, but you also change the system. The first thing I will do is pass the Federal Accountability Act. It is a real plan to clean up government”. We know how that turned out.

Those commercials seemed to run day in and day out. There they were, they played over and over again, blasting away at the government of the day, much like we see the commercials blasting today, a misuse of public money, may I add. The Conservatives told Canadians, “We're the good guys. We're whistle clean. We ooze honesty. Vote us in and not a single penny of public money will go offside”. We know how that turned out too.

There is a reason why those commercials ran day in and day out. It is because the Conservatives cheated. They spent $1 million more than they were legally permitted to do. There is no other way of looking at it than calling it what it is; it is cheating.

The Conservatives do not see it that way. They call it an administrative disagreement. That may have held water if the Federal Court of Appeal had not unanimously ruled against their argument. Their excuses may be believable if the Office of the Federal Director of Public Prosecution had not charged the architects of the plot and called their actions illegal activity.

While the Conservatives were cheating the system, they ran on a message and on a platform of accountability, transparency, all those great words they use. From the Conservative election platform book called “Stand up for Canada”, the Prime Minister stated, “Only one party can deliver the change of government that is needed to bring political accountability to Ottawa”.

At the very same time that document was being printed, Conservative officials in Ottawa were shaking down candidates and their official agents all across the country.

Liberato Martelli, a 2006 Conservative candidate for Bourassa, stated, “I was told it would be deposited and quickly withdrawn”. It sounds like in and out to me. He said:

I was told there would be invoices but I never saw them...When I joined that party, I believed its vision at the time...I came to the realization they don’t have as much integrity as they claim”.

Joe Goudie, a 2006 Conservative candidate for Labrador was one of those called. He stated:

It most certainly did smell to me… for a national party, or any kind of a political party to benefit in what I perceived to be an underhanded manner, using not just my campaign but many others across the country, left me with a feeling of being used.

Now let us not lose sight of the timeline. This scheme to overspend and effectively cheat is going on at the precise time that the Conservatives are running a campaign on the theme of accountability, transparency and integrity. How incredulous is that?

This is important, not just for its perfect irony, but for the fact that their entire argument for power was a sham. It was a scam and a scandal, and it is a scandal today.

Remember the Prime Minister's own words, “The first thing I will do is pass the Federal Accountability Act. It is a real plan to clean up government”. Here we are, five years later, scandal after scandal with the Conservatives.

Ministers have refused to provide Parliament and its officers with documents and information needed to perform our jobs properly, to function within our jobs. An international cooperation minister admitted to altering documents, but refused to stand and be accountable to Parliament and to answer questions in Parliament.

An integrity commissioner sat on her hands. She colluded with the Prime Minister's Office and then was given a half-million dollar golden parachute, a golden handshake. She was then called out after reviewing only seven cases. Now there is a gag order on her as well.

Also, the Prime Minister's Office has exercised unprecedented control over the non-partisan and professional bureaucracy.

The Prime Minister believes he is the modern-day Sun King, declaring that the Government of Canada must be referenced in his name, “the Harper government”.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on government advertising—

Opposition Motion—Electoral Financing
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I remind the hon. member that we cannot use proper names when referring to members. We can use their riding or title.

Opposition Motion—Electoral Financing
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Crombie Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on government advertising used for partisan promotion. Appointments of Conservative cronies have been made to boards, agencies, commissions and especially the Senate.

We have had the smearing and the sacking of agency heads, ombudsmen, whistleblowers, or anyone who would shed some light on Conservative wrongdoing. The Conservatives silence dissent.

It has been one scandal after another and it has to be as exhausting for the Conservatives as it is for us. It is no wonder the government's legislative agenda is so light. It is constantly fighting new scandals and cannot concentrate on the demands of governing.

We are over here begging for accountability, begging for the truth and all we get are silenced ministers, staffers being thrown under the bus, or excuses being made for their behaviour.

We have heard Conservatives say today, and they would want us to believe this, that, “everybody does this”. That is false. Conservatives are the only party facing charges. It is the only party that had its headquarters raided by the RCMP. It is the only party with a paper trail of fake invoices to be explained. The Conservatives could not even spell the word “invoice” correctly for goodness sake.

We did not cheat and overspend in an election campaign. We did not forge documents to claim unqualified expenses. The Conservatives did. They are the ones who need to answer for these actions.

Conservatives are desperately trying to downplay this as an administrative issue, which would be laughable if it were not so absurd, or that Elections Canada is targeting them for some sort of vendetta. We all know that no one holds a grudge like Elections Canada for goodness sakes. Earlier today, the Conservatives tried an arcane procedural argument to argue that Parliament did not have the right to debate this issue at all.

As today is International Women's Day, I am reminded of a famous message that mothers around the world use day in and day out to their children, “It's easier to tell the truth and take responsibility than continue to hide. The truth will always come out in the end”.

The motion we are debating today provides the opportunity for the House to declare, after five years since this scheme was committed, with all the evidence and testimony that has been delivered, that the scheme was electoral fraud. It calls for the Conservatives to order all tax money obtained illegally to be returned immediately to the people of Canada. It calls on the individuals charged in this crime to be fired.

These demands are simple and reasonable and they are what Canadians expect. They should not be forced by the House to be executed.

Opposition Motion—Electoral Financing
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the statement by the hon. member from the other side of the House. I find it totally amazing that the member could talk about partisan appointments to the Senate when we know the Liberal Party has been the forebearer of any appointments to the Senate, and always very partisan.

However, what will the hon. member's party do with respect to the ad scam? We know there was some funnelling of funds through the ad scam process into the Liberal Party. We know it only paid back $1 million. However, there are still $40 million missing that the Liberal Party stole from Canadians.

Is the member prepared to show the way to help the Liberal Party return the $40 million to Canadians?

Opposition Motion—Electoral Financing
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Crombie Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not even sure where to begin with the fantasy that member has woven.

The truth is this. When the Conservatives reached the $18 million spending limit, they then found a way to transfer another $1.3 million to 67 ridings that had not spent their $80,000 limit. Then those riding associations were to receive a rebate.

Let me make this very simple for people to understand. At this time of year, people are filling out their tax returns to the Canada Revenue Agency. Would any Canadian earning a salary of say $40,000, $50,000, or $60,000 believe that it would be right and ethical to receive a tax rebate, a tax credit, for more than they earned that year? No they would not. They would know it would be unethical, and that is exactly what this is equivalent to.

Opposition Motion—Electoral Financing
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from the Liberal Party for this discussion today.

As we know, 65 Conservative candidates claimed 60% of their rebate from the government for phantom money that passed through their accounts. This means they collected taxpayer money to pay for their campaigns.

The previous speaker from the Conservative Party said that the opposition members were going down a slippery slope. I think that slippery slope is on the other side of the House.

I would like the hon. member to comment on the slippery slope that is occurring on the other side of the House.

Opposition Motion—Electoral Financing
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Crombie Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are many things that could be commented on, and quite rightly so.

Four members of the Prime Minister's inner circle, two of them senators and one of them his chief bagman, have been charged in this scheme. We absolutely need to get to the bottom of this.

I would like to add something about exceeding the legal spending limits. Spending limits are put in place to ensure there is a level playing field, that massive amounts of money, that massive and uncontrolled election spending as we see in the United States cannot occur here, so that it is equal and level for everyone.

In short, they cheated. They cheated in the 2006 election. Those Conservative riding associations were claiming hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars that they were not entitled to claim because they were based on funds that were essentially illegally laundered. This is laundered money, money that was laundered through their accounts.

Opposition Motion—Electoral Financing
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the issue is there seems to be a pattern of abuse of power and somehow a belief that the Conservative Party is above the laws of Canada. A simple example is when witnesses were asked to come before committee and the government actually told them to ignore the subpoenas. It is a right and a privilege of parliamentary committees to call for witnesses, to subpoena them. The government decided to put itself above the law and told them to ignore the law.

I wonder if the member has any comment on that.

Opposition Motion—Electoral Financing
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Crombie Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from the neighbouring riding of Mississauga South for the question. In fact, that is exactly where I wanted to go. I want to highlight a list of abuses the government has undertaken, abuses of power, abuses of democracy.

First is the Minister of International Cooperation and the forging of a document. Second is the former public sector integrity commissioner, who had over 200 cases to analyze and review, who received a half a million dollar severance package after receiving only--

Opposition Motion—Electoral Financing
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order. The member's time has expired.

The hon. member for LaSalle—Émard.