Thank you, Chair.
This issue is one that I and my NDP colleagues take very seriously. I think it was a New Democrat who first raised the issue last week about the way some public office holders, some members of the governing party, were using these public announcements of government spending and attributing them to the Conservative Party or to themselves personally. It is a very serious issue.
I don't think anybody would deny the government the ability to promote the work that it's doing and the spending that it is putting into communities, but I think a line is crossed when that's directly attributed to a political party or to an individual public office holder or MP. That's not to deny that those folks don't have a role in advocating for government spending in their constituencies and have often played a role in ensuring that some of that money flows that way. That's all entirely appropriate, but to attribute it directly to the efforts of that individual or that political party specifically right down to the dollars and cents has crossed a very serious line.
I'm pleased that my colleague Peter Stoffer raised this last week with regard to some of these incidents that happened in his home province of Nova Scotia and that he raised it with the Ethics Commissioner. It is one of the complaints she has received and one of the reasons she is beginning her investigation.
I think there are some issues that need to be clarified in the motion, however. You pointed out the one issue, and the parliamentary secretary did as well. We need to be clear that we're dealing with public office holders. I think that phrase you mentioned should be included in the resolution after the phrase “Conservative members of Parliament”. I think we should add “who are public office holders” to that, to be absolutely clear.
You also highlighted the phrase “partisan use of public funds”. I think that's an interesting one, because it is confusing. For me, it's the issue of partisan attribution of public funds. I would be much happier if the word “use” were replaced by “attribution”, although there may be issues with the use of public funds to prepare these partisan mock cheques. I have heard allegations that some of those props were actually produced through parliamentary resources. It may be that we need to say “use and attribution” in that phrase.
Chair, I also want to speak to another issue, and that's the issue of confidence in the ability of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner to undertake this investigation. I'm concerned that for us to undertake this investigation or study immediately would reflect on our confidence in her ability to undertake the investigation that she's already told us she is engaging in. I am concerned that we not show any lack of confidence in her. There may be concerns about her mandate. There may be concerns about the extent of the legislation under which she has to operate and her ability to operate under that. But I do believe we should allow her to do her job before we undertake that and see what she comes up with. We'll see if she is able to come to a helpful conclusion to that investigation and see that there is a remedy she has available to her, given the complaints she's received. I know she has raised the point that she doesn't have a broad ethical mandate, but she does have some specific powers, and she has accepted the complaints she's received and announced that she's doing an investigation. It seems to me she does believe there is some area for her to be interested in in this situation already.
With all of those things in mind, I'm going to propose an amendment. I'd like to propose that in the phrase where it says “partisan use” that it be amended to add “and attribution of public funds”, so it would read “the study on partisan use and attribution of public funds”.
After “Conservative members of Parliament”, I'd like to suggest that we add “who are public office holders” at that point, so it would read “Conservative members of Parliament who are public office holders”.
I'd like to add at the end of the resolution the following:
In recognition of the investigation currently under way by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, that this study not commence until such time as the commissioner has reported her findings.