House of Commons Hansard #92 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was elections.

Topics

Opposition Motion--Canada Elections Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Trottier Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to election spending the purpose of the Canada Elections Act is really to make sure that no one can buy an election.

We do a good job, I would say, on this side of the House in raising funds. We are very transparent in the sense that every campaign puts together its financial return, which is audited at the local level and again by Elections Canada. There are some thorough controls in place to make sure there is no untruthful or inaccurate information.

I know there are perhaps several members of the official opposition who did not run campaigns and yet ended up in the House of Commons and, I guess, good for them. However, for those of us who did work hard and identified our voters and encouraged them to vote, this is what we do: We call them, we ask them if they will support us, and then we remind them at the advance polls and on election day to please vote.

Opposition Motion--Canada Elections Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, can the member give us his complete assurance that under no circumstances whatsoever did the Conservative Party or any of its operatives actually authorize the phoning of citizens to identify them so that if they were identified as not Conservative, they would be called at a later date and told to vote at another location?

Opposition Motion--Canada Elections Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Trottier Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, I can tell the hon. member for Winnipeg North what happened in Etobicoke—Lakeshore. That is something I had some responsibility for and a hand in winning.

What we did was to organize volunteers, very thoughtful people who spent a lot of their time, dedicating time away from their families, to volunteer on the campaign. We also engaged call centres with good reputations and who do good work. We always tell our voters that we are calling on behalf of the Conservative Party of Canada and ask them to please support the Conservative candidate. In this case, that was me.

In a world of finite resources, volunteer time and money in this case, we would not waste time calling voters who told us not to talk to them.

Opposition Motion--Canada Elections Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and put my oar in the water on a matter that goes to the heart of why I and many other people are here. That is the democratic right of Canadians to participate in elections and debate without fear of intimidation or fear of receiving misinformation or otherwise being subject to the kinds of fraudulent actions that are being considered in this most recent case involving the Conservative party in a number of ridings across the country.

I want to commend my colleagues, including the member for Hamilton Centre for moving this important motion and the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent for seconding it. It is a critically important motion because of what we have seen happening with our democracy in the country over the past number of years.

I listened to an earlier speaker talk about the days of nylons and rum. He went back to roasting pigs and barrels of rum. It is not a very pretty sight when we talk about that. The province I come from has its own history of how elections were conducted, but we have come some considerable distance, I would say, or at least that is what we want to tell the world. We have come a considerable distance in our country at living up to the democratic ideals and principles that we love to discuss with other countries around the world. We often see the Prime Minister and members on the other side when they are in other lands almost shaking their fingers at other countries, suggesting that they should be as democratic as we are, that they should adhere to the kinds of principles and moral standards with which politics is conducted in our country. Then we come up against the kind of situation we are facing now.

Why is the motion before the House at this time? Within the last few months the Chief Electoral Officer appeared before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and made a series of recommendations. He asked for, among other things, the power to require political parties to supply every document or piece of information deemed necessary to verify compliance with the requirements of the act with respect to the election.

Those recommendations came to a vote in the committee. The New Democratic Party voted in favour of those recommendations. The Liberal party, the third party, also voted in favour of those recommendations. Lo and behold, the government, which has a majority on the committee, refused to allow the committee to strengthen the Chief Electoral Officer's power of investigation and ability to proceed in this manner.

That is why we are here today, because we want to get to the bottom of this and give Elections Canada the authority to quickly get to the bottom of any similar cases of electoral fraud in the future and, hence, prevent their recurrence.

I would like to take a few moments to talk a bit about what we can do now, or maybe what we need to do about things that have happened just recently.

I will tell the House why this is so important to me. I first ran for office back in 1991. I was successful, thanks to the good people of Halifax Atlantic. I have been in this business for 13 years.

The key factors which motivated me throughout my time of getting into and continuing in politics, as well as now getting in at the federal level, were the desire to do everything I could to make our political system and our democracy more effective, as well as ensure that voters and citizens felt that it was worth their while to participate. By that, I do not only mean they should only vote, but they should feel somewhat compelled to participate in debates and raise concerns with members of government or their elected officials. On many occasions, when speaking in high schools to young people, when speaking to Canadians of all ages and certainly when speaking to those in Dartmouth—Cole Harbour where I have had the most opportunity, I have even suggested that I feel it is somewhat part of our responsibility as citizens to actively participate in the political process.

Right now upward of 40% of the population are eligible to vote but do not. Between 75% and 80% of young people between the ages of 18 and 33 do not participate in the political process. They do not vote, nor do they become engaged. That is crazy and it is wrong. Why are they not participating?

I have asked the young people in Dartmouth—Cole Harbour what we can do to give them a better sense that it makes a difference for them to participate. They have talked about the fact that their politicians need to engage with them, that they need to solicit their opinions, that they need to take their comments seriously and help them see some of their wishes and dreams reflected in government policy and debate. They want to know that they matter. As well, when a political party or politician runs for election and makes certain commitments, they want to see those commitments fulfilled in an honourable and respectful manner if they are elected. They do not want them to just respond to the people who actually cast ballots for them, but represent the principles of our democracy and all of the people for whom they have been elected to represent. When people come to my office in Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, I do not check to see if they can prove they voted for me before my staff and I will try to help them or intervene on their behalf.

It is somewhat troubling the way the government perceives that it should not act on the basis of the 39.6% of the population that voted for the Conservatives. In our parliamentary democracy, the majority wins. In this case, they have the majority of the seats in the House. That does not mean they represent the majority of Canadians. It means they were elected by not quite 40% of the population. There is 60% of the population that did not sign onto whatever their campaign booklet called for that time.

Canadians who voted for me also have important things to say. They also have good ideas. There are things that think need to be done for our country and our communities. They expect the government to pay attention. Just because a citizen did not vote Conservative does not mean that individual is less of a Canadian. This is part of the issue the opposition has had with the government. The Conservatives always stand and say that a majority of Canadians voted for them, so therefore they can do whatever they want. That is wrong. Less than a majority of Canadians voted for the Conservative government. That kind of stuff turns voters off.

That is why I and my colleagues on the official opposition benches received over four and a half million votes in the last election. That is why we are so determined to do everything we can to try to restore some sense of accountability, decorum and responsibility to the political process.

We have heard from the government on the recent issue of people getting misleading calls, about being misdirected, about getting illegal calls. The calls were illegal because the callers indicated they represented Elections Canada when in fact they did not. The government says that it is doing everything it can to assist Elections Canada. It has been trying to turn the problem around to the opposition, saying that we should be as helpful.

Canadians understand this. Why do we not believe the Conservatives when they say that they have done everything right, that they are assisting in every way, shape and form? We only have to go back a couple of days to when the government finally admitted it was wrong with respect to the in and out scam. It pleaded guilty and paid upward of a quarter of a million dollars in fines as a result.

What is the in and out issue? The in and out issue started after the 2006 election. It took Elections Canada about five years to finally get to the point where the Conservative government admitted that it did something wrong and paid the fines accordingly.

The investigation took far too long. It took five years and cost taxpayers almost $2 million because the Conservative Party of Canada did what it is doing right now. Members stood in their places and said day after day that they did not do anything, that somebody took on a vendetta, that somebody was trying to smear them, somebody was providing inaccurate information. They pleaded their innocence. They took Elections Canada to court and spent millions of dollars defending themselves to no avail. They finally recognized they were done like dinner and admitted their guilt and paid the fine.

Opposition Motion--Canada Elections Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

That's clearly false.

Opposition Motion--Canada Elections Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

The member opposite says it is completely false. Why did they pay some $263,000? I guess it was a donation. It was in and out. I do not know what it was.

The point is the government does not have any credibility when it comes to giving Canadians the straight goods. That is the bottom line.

I woke up this morning and one of the first things I did, as I usually do, was scan the newspapers and I read an article in the Toronto Star written by a columnist I have a lot of respect for—

Opposition Motion--Canada Elections Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Of course you do.

Opposition Motion--Canada Elections Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

A columnist who is very well respected even though the members opposite are trying to degrade her reputation. However, her columns appear across the country in different newspapers and different publications because they are sound, well considered and contain an incredible amount of wisdom.

What she said in the article today was true, but there was a level of cynicism that it represented. The article said that the tactics of the Conservative government, whether it be the in and out, or proroguing government, or being held in contempt of Parliament, or now this case of voter suppression, it represented an attitude or mentality that was working, she suggested, that the base of Conservatives' support was holding and that it would be ever thus.

When I read it initially, I was discouraged about what it meant, but then I did not accept it for one second. I do not believe Canadians are that cynical. I do not believe Canadians will stand by and watch the Conservative Party hijack the democracy in our country. Canadians deserve better.

The member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour and his colleagues in the opposition are going to work tirelessly every step of the way and we are going to defend the interests of Canadians and their right to the kind of democracy that is going to ensure their rights are respected and these kind of tactics will be no more. That is what we are going to do.

My time is running out, and I know members opposite would like me to have more time. Perhaps we can find another opportunity to have this discussion. However, in all seriousness, it is extremely important that we get this done and get it right. The very foundation of our democracy is at stake. We need to stand up for democratic principles and we need to start right now.

While I support the motion and think it has incredible merit and should be supported by all members of the House, we need to ensure it is amended to some degree to capture the current controversy in which we are involved. Therefore, I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting the words: “in all future election campaigns”.

Opposition Motion--Canada Elections Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

It is my duty to inform hon. members that an amendment to an opposition motion may only be moved with the consent of the sponsor of the motion. I therefore ask the hon. member for Hamilton Centre if he consents to the amendment being moved.

Opposition Motion--Canada Elections Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to give consent to this excellent amendment. It only strengthens my motion.

Opposition Motion--Canada Elections Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

The amendment is in order.

Opposition Motion--Canada Elections Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

March 8th, 2012 / 1 p.m.

Cambridge
Ontario

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Minister of State (Science and Technology) (Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario)

Mr. Speaker, I was not opposed necessarily to the original motion, but I am a little concerned with this amendment. One would think those members could have gotten together on their motion as they have done with their smear tactics.

Would the amendment, or the original motion as a stand-alone, allow Elections Canada to investigate the illegal contributions which the NDP took from unions?

Also, we have learned that people can only contribute a certain amount to a candidate. The Liberals have come up with an interesting way of getting illegal contributions in the sense of loans. People lend them, in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars which the Liberals do not repay. Elections Canada cannot determine if that is a scam, a loan or a contribution.

Would the member confirm for me if this amendment would allow for Elections Canada to investigate those two things as well?

Opposition Motion--Canada Elections Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, the interesting thing is that Elections Canada did not need this additional power in order to deal with the spurious allegations that were made by the government with respect to those issues. It brought the matter to the attention of the New Democratic Party. The New Democratic Party provided any information that was available readily. We worked with Elections Canada. We corrected whatever administrative errors there might have been. We acknowledged the fact that there were mistakes. We corrected those mistakes.

Why does the parliamentary secretary not act the same way? Why will his government not stand up and take responsibility for once?

Opposition Motion--Canada Elections Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I think it is imperative that we tell the truth in this House. Obviously, the Conservative Party has done just that and again the member infers it was—

Opposition Motion--Canada Elections Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Order. That is not a point of order. It is a matter of debate. I am sure there will be many other opportunities to raise such questions and comments.

The hon. member for Bourassa.