Mr. Chair, that is exactly what I was proposing to do.
First, I would like to introduce Gisèle Dupuis, Director of Operations, Office of the Leader of the Opposition; Raoul Gebert, Chief of Staff of the Leader of the Opposition; and James Duggan, chair of the New Democratic Party's legal committee. They are here with me in the event more specific and technical questions are raised, and the time for this meeting will be better used if they are allowed to answer those kinds of questions.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I have not appeared before a parliamentary committee in a long time. I did so dozens of times when I was minister because parliamentary committees usually have to study government activities.
I understand that the members of this committee are quite keen to learn how to serve Canadians better and how these best practices are within the rules. The NDP is totally transparent, and we believe in and practice accountability.
I'd like to take this opportunity to contrast our approach with the approach of the Conservatives. For example, Stephen Harper, Maxime Bernier, and Stockwell Day, all refused to appear in front of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security about security breaches caused by the Conservative government. Christian Paradis and Lisa Raitt refused to testify in front of the government operations committee about illegal lobbying activities involving them. Of course, the Prime Minister won't be testifying before this committee concerning the use of the Conservative Party database in thousands of illegal robocalls during the 2011 election, constituting electoral fraud on a level never seen before in Canada.
Those are the direct findings of a very highly respected federal court judge, Richard Mosley. Of course, we all know the level of respect the Harper government shows our judiciary. I could go on, but it's an interesting contrast in transparency, accountability, and respect for our democratic institutions, and Canadians will be the judge.
I'm here today because in 2011, four and a half million Canadians voted for the NDP and four and a half million Canadians stated there was a need for change and that it was time to do politics differently. Under the leadership of Jack Layton, that's what we ran on and that's what we set out to do because after 30 years of Liberal and Conservative corruption, scandal, and mismanagement, from the Liberal sponsorship scandal to the Prime Minister's chief of staff paying $90,000 in hush money to silence a sitting senator, Canadians deserve better.
In the wake of the orange wave, the NDP faced the major challenge of hiring and setting up political staff for 58 members in Quebec. The task of hiring and training more than 150 people to serve Quebec was enormous.
That is why, in June 2011, the new NDP members from Quebec decided, at Jack Layton's suggestion, to pool their resources. Our objective was to help them set up their offices and provide local support to members to assist them in their riding duties and, for some, in their roles as members of our shadow cabinet. The ultimate aim was to provide better service to the public and to be more directly involved with and more attentive to citizens. These were all parliamentary duties.
For example, parliamentary employees prepare direct communication products and manage media relations and community relations to support official opposition members.
There was also a genuine need to create a francophone environment so that we could create products in French to provide better support for our Quebec members.
Our parliamentary staff does parliamentary work. Our party staff does party work. Our parliamentary staff are involved in direct communications, media relations, and stakeholder relations, all functions in support of MPs and the official opposition.
That was all put in place following extensive consultations with the House of Commons administration, including its legal services, finance services and the officers of the pay and benefits service. There was so much consultation that pay cheques were delayed until November 2011 when they could be approved.
Hiring for the Montreal region began in August 2011. The hiring process was conducted in accordance with the procedure established at the time under the collective agreement between the New Democratic caucus and Local 232 of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, or CEPU. All members of that bargaining unit perform parliamentary duties only.
Employees who perform non-parliamentary duties belong to Local 225 of the Office and Professional Employees Union, or OPEU.
The respective duties of those bargaining units are very clearly defined and determined. Competition notices are always published according to prescribed periods. Obviously, the points of hire are clearly indicated.
This decentralization of services to Montreal and Quebec City was a major success. That is undoubtedly why we are here today: we were too successful.
Members can rely on constant support whether they are in Ottawa or in their ridings. This enhanced regional capability increased the efficiency of our teams, the scope of our consultations and the reach of our communications.
We also know that while the Conservatives were opening more and more regional ministerial offices—17 as of now, in fact—the NDP had to continue to adapt. As part of our duties as the official opposition, we have to monitor the work of the government on the ground in order to hold it to account. So, as the new—