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House of Commons Hansard #49 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was senators.

Topics

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I am sorry to have to interrupt the hon. member. It is now time for questions and comments.

The hon. member for Rivière-du-Nord.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, since he still has a bit of time left, I would like to ask my hon. colleague to continue to list the names of some of the people who were appointed after the Conservative government was elected just over two years ago. I wonder if he can continue to give us the names of people who were appointed by this government.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her question.

We could continue with the matter of the partisan appointments of judges, and immigration and refugee board commissioners.

The Prime Minister changed the appointment process in order to be able to appoint the candidates of his choice. In the case of the appointment of judges, the Conservative government changed the composition of the selection committee in order to ensure a preponderance of votes. The four members of the selection committee who were appointed by the government hold the majority of votes, while there are only three seats for independent members who represent the Canadian Bar Association, the provincial bar and the provincial justice department. Thus, we have a committee made up of three independent members and four members appointed by this government that essentially control all the appointments.

Regarding the appointments of commissioners sitting on the Immigration and Refugee Board, the Conservative government again politicized the selection committee by reserving the right to appoint two of the seven committee members.

In both cases, the government abandoned the principle of appointments based on merit in order to have the flexibility to appoint either party cronies or people who share the same right-wing ideology.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to comment on a couple of the statements the member made.

When one is looking for capable, qualified people, it is a tough chore to automatically exclude everybody who has ever been involved in any form of support of a political party. The fact is that we urge our citizens to be involved.

The member mentioned Mr. Gouk, a colleague of mine who used to sit as a member of Parliament. He was appointed. Jim Gouk happened to have been an air traffic controller. He was more qualified than any of the other applicants. I do not know why anyone would disqualify him just because he happened at one time to have been a Conservative. I know where the member is coming from. It is a tough chore.

What I object to is when the Liberals used to appoint people whose only qualification was that they were members or supporters of the Liberal Party.

However, in this particular case, and it is one on which I have personal knowledge, there is probably nobody in the country as knowledgeable about air traffic control, having worked in that business and kept up to speed with it, than Jim Gouk.

I understand where the member is coming from as I used to sit on that side. One has some sympathy for the perception but in this case the perception is wrong.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member has indeed summed up the situation well. He spoke of one case. If there were only one case, it would not be a problem, but it is always the case. The government of Stephen Harper awarded a communications contract—

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Jeanne-Le Ber should think about not referring to other members by name, but rather by title or by the name of their riding. No need to read up on it, he already knows the rules.

The hon. member may finish answering the question put to him.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

I realized my mistake the moment I saw you rise, Mr. Speaker.

The Conservative government awarded a communications contract to Marie-Josée Lapointe, who was on this government's transition team. This contract goes against the spirit of the government's own Federal Accountability Act, since political staff are not allowed to receive contracts from the government in place for 12 months after they leave. The contract was eventually cancelled halfway through, following a hard fight in the House.

When Bill C-2 was passed, the point was raised also that the issue of whistleblower protection had not been covered. In addition, the reform of the Access to Information Act has yet to be covered. So, in terms of ethics, it is falling short.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Jeanne-Le Ber, who gave a fairly exhaustive list. I am certain that if we were to continue, we could go on for quite some time. But there are other things in this bill that we need to discuss.

For us in the Bloc, each riding, each candidate, is independent. Candidates are responsible for their own funding. Fundraising is the responsibility of the riding, not the national party. We are therefore responsible for raising money, but we cannot exceed certain limits, such as $1,000 per person.

In my riding, I do not receive $1,000 contributions. Very seldom does someone give $1,000. In fact, I have never received such a contribution in 15 years as a parliamentarian and five terms of office. People contribute $5, $20, $100 at spaghetti-thons and events attended by party members and people who take an interest in our work and come out to help us with the upcoming election campaign.

Election campaigns are coming fast and furious. We had elections in 2004 and 2006, and we could go to the polls again in 2008. It is not easy to raise money quickly, but you have to try. Sitting members and their executives have to do whatever they can. The law must be obeyed. We have passed a law on ethics. It is pointless if we do not obey it. People no longer believe in ethics, because of all the scandals that have occurred and will continue to occur. We have not seen the end of scandals.

There are currently 67 cases involving Conservative members only. Only Conservatives are involved. The Liberal, the Bloc and the NDP members have all had their expenses reimbursed. Of those 67 cases, three Conservative ministers are currently involved in legal action. You have to wonder. Certainly, we will vote for this bill, even though we are more or less in favour of some things, because we need it and more. Otherwise, the Conservatives might continue to do anything.

The other important aspect is that the party has no control over candidates' expenses. If I decide to borrow $50,000 or $60,000, I do not have to ask my party for permission. I can do so in my own name, spend the money and never pay it back. It becomes the party's responsibility. The party has to come after me to recover the $50,000 or $60,000.

If 67 cases are being filed against these 67 Conservative members in this situation, that is one expensive legal bill. Money is being wasted for nothing and they are displaying a total lack of ethics, which is unacceptable. Election campaigns must be run within our means. For example, if I collect $30,000 or $35,000, I will organize my campaign to stay within the budget I have. End of discussion. We will not use as many signs. We will work with the money we have and campaign with the money available to us that we honestly collected. That is extremely important.

It is true that it is difficult to campaign, but we always manage to do so by means of fundraising events and by helping fellow MPs with riding expenses. That is how we manage to get enough money to see a campaign through.

Of course, we do not collect $20,000-dollar or $30,000-dollar donations, since that is against the law, but we know that is done on the sly, which is unacceptable. This must stop. The law must be obeyed. This must never happen again: 67 Conservative members being sued. We did not make that decision. The Chief Electoral Officer, whom the Conservatives appointed themselves, decided there was a case that should be prosecuted.

Obviously, any bill that can improve the situation or make all the members of this House a little more ethical must be supported.

As my colleague said, it is unfortunate that the committee already adopted three motions unanimously, and then all of a sudden they are no longer in the bill. They are there, but they have been changed. This is dangerous, because it leaves us open to a repeat of things that have happened in the past, which would not be good.

Can we not run clean campaigns? Hanging more signs will not get more people elected. It is not because a person has fewer signs up that people will not vote for him; that is not true. If we do our job the way we are supposed to, if we properly represent our constituents, if we provide good services for our constituents and do a good job here, in the House of Commons, I do not think a voter would hesitate to vote for a candidate because he is missing three or four signs. If the voter knows that I have been honest and that I obtained financing honestly, he will encourage me and encourage my ideologies.

It is too bad that the three motions that were adopted in committee are no longer there in the same form. That is often how things are done here. Everything is changed, everything is altered, and then they try to downplay it in order to act unethically. That is not acceptable to anyone in the House. It is also undesirable because it destroys what confidence our electors have. They are already very sensitive and concerned about whether we are doing clear, clean, accurate work.

We could shed light on all our finances. In my riding, people can find out who gave me donations over $100. We have lists and they are available. Everyone should do it like that. That should be how it is done everywhere. In this way, we cannot be accused of being unethical. I think it is high time that things changed around here.

For 15 years I have been watching my colleagues in action and have seen some of the so-called in and out schemes. There are so many it can scarcely be imagined. For us, though, it is forbidden. The Bloc Québécois has been applying Quebec law for a long time because we want to abide by this ethical code, which is very important. We want to show that we are responsible because we do not want to put our party in an embarrassing position. Our party is therefore very clean and clear in Quebec. We have actually already campaigned on this issue. People can check at any time, therefore, whether our election campaigns have been conducted properly or not.

We must be responsible. We cannot simply borrow money left and right. Think of the people who cannot get paid back. Think of the people who borrowed money like Bob Rae, who borrowed $705,000. Just think what will happen if he fails to pay this money back. It is unethical and that cannot be accepted. I wish we could open the books of the Conservatives across the aisle and see how they conducted their campaign in 2006. There could well be some big surprises and maybe one of the biggest scandals ever witnessed in the House.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

February 12th, 2008 / 5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been discussions among the parties and I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of this House, during consideration of Bill S-220, An Act respecting a National Blood Donor Week, a member, other than the member for Mississauga--Brampton South, may move the motions for concurrence at report stage and third reading.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-29, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (accountability with respect to loans), as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Rivière-du-Nord for explaining to the House how it is possible to collect funds honestly. We all practice this way of doing things. However, I wish to thank her for explaining it to the House because I believe that this is not the practice of all parties in this House.

An amendment such as the third amendment to this bill makes it possible to be truly Machiavellian. For very honest parties, it would mean that candidates could put their party into debt. The parties that want debt to be incurred at the beginning could very well tell the candidates to take on debt that the party would pay back later. That could be disastrous for both sides.

I would like my colleague from Rivière-du-Nord to tell us about the horrible consequences of adopting the amendment and how the members' monies could be manipulated.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Brome—Missisquoi.

That is probably what happened. We will know more after the inquiry. At this point, the entire Conservative Party is the subject of an inquiry. I believe that the party told its members to borrow money that it would pay back. That is downright illegal. Furthermore, it distances candidates from the people. Being close to the people means organizing all kinds of events, such as cocktails for business people and less costly events to attract people, to invite them to meet us so they can get to know us and understand our political party and what we have to offer.

In my opinion, that is a better way of doing things, much better than taking out a $60,000 loan that the party will pay back later and campaigning with that money. That is totally illegal and unacceptable, and it is not at all close to the people. That is not what people are looking for. When they find out about things like this, it reflects badly on all politicians. That is the problem. We all pay for that. It makes us all look like thieves, even though we are not. The Bloc has never done that kind of thing. As I said earlier, we raise funds in accordance with Quebec law that has been in place for 30 years.

The sad thing is that this affects how people see politicians. Voters now think we are the lowest of the low; they like us less than car salespeople. Imagine that. We have a lot of catching up to do. We have a lot of work ahead of us. We need ethics, and we need it now. This bill has sidestepped ethics yet again. Yes, we will vote for the bill because it has some good things in it. However, the Conservatives are still trying to get around some issues so they can do what they did in 2006 once again.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine for a brief question or comment.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

I will be very brief, Mr. Speaker. My Bloc colleague's speech was quite interesting.

I would like to ask her if she has other examples, besides the 67 MPs, of unsuccessful Conservative candidates suspected of having violated the Canada Elections Act in 2006, based on a ruling by the Chief Electoral Officer and not the opinion of the opposition parties.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The member for Rivière-du-Nord has 30 seconds left.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague. I will be very brief as I do not have much time remaining.

I cannot provide all the names. However, just imagine that three ministers, people who manage huge budgets every year, committed fraud or are under suspicion of fraud. This is very serious. We are talking about people who manage taxpayers' money. It is incredible: 67 members of Parliament. We will see how this plays out.

This may be why the Conservatives are in a hurry to hold an election: to hide what exactly happened in 2006 and to prevent it from coming to light. I can say one thing for certain: we will be watching them in the next election campaign.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to participate in the debate on Bill C-29, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (accountability with respect to loans).

Several members have already talked about this bill and have explained its principal objectives, one of which is to create a uniform and transparent disclosure system for all loans to political entities, including mandatory disclosure of terms and the identity of all lenders and loan guarantors. I would point out that such provisions already exist in the Canada Elections Act.

The previous government formed by the Liberal Party of Canada passed a bill on election financing that sought to limit the role of corporations and unions in election financing, initiating the most significant contribution limit reduction in Canadian history.

This bill targets funding for candidates in leadership races, byelections and general elections, but the law passed under the previous Liberal government already contained Elections Canada's requirements for loan disclosure.

During the last Liberal leadership race, which took place in 2006, all candidates for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada exceeded Elections Canada's requirements for the disclosure of loans under the Canada Elections Act.

That is not at all the case for the current Prime Minister. He has refused to disclose the identities of those who funded his campaign for the leadership of the Conservative Party in 2002. The Conservatives, as we have seen so many times on other issues, are trying to deceive Canadians.

In the previous session of Parliament, Bill C-29 was Bill C-54. When the Conservative government introduced this bill, it gave misleading information about the current legislation on political party financing, and the Conservative members continue to mislead Canadians every time they talk about Bill C-29. The Conservatives imply that the current legislation—I am not talking about their bill, but about the legislation in effect today, which was adopted by Parliament when the Liberal Party of Canada was in power—allows secret loans and that candidates are not required to disclose a loan, the amount of that loan, the name of the creditor or the name of the guarantor.

Under the legislation that is in effect today and has been since 2004, candidates must provide Elections Canada with information on all loans they receive, whether they are running for the leadership of a party or in a byelection or general election.

Canadians get annoyed when they cannot trust what their own government is telling them.

During the last election campaign, this Conservative government boasted and said it was whiter than white, whiter than snow, and that it would be accountable, transparent and open. Canadians just have to read and listen to what the government is saying about the current legislation on financing for political parties and candidates. It is claiming that someone running for the leadership of a party today or last year or the year before could borrow money without having to disclose who the creditor was, how much the loan was for or who the guarantor was. It is sad.

This government is going even further. With its bill, the government wants an association or party to be held responsible for a candidate's unpaid debts, even if the local riding association or the party was not aware of the loan and had not guaranteed it. It would be like having a brother in another city who takes out a loan. I do not know my brother borrowed money, but because we have the same last name and share the same blood and DNA, I would automatically be liable for the loan. I would have to repay his loan if he went bankrupt and did not repay it.

The opposition parties have amended this bill. The governing party has even amended its own bill, which is interesting. I would like to provide some information about that.

The Conservative government proposed an amendment to its own bill, thereby admitting that its Bill C-29—which had been Bill C-54 in the previous session of Parliament—was not perfect. The Conservatives proposed amendments to ensure that loans and suretyship contracts paid back during the same calendar year are not included in the total calculation of donations for that year. Consider the following example. If an individual loans $1,000 to a candidate in February and the candidate pays that amount back in April, the individual who loaned the money would be permitted to guarantee another $1,000 before the end of the fiscal year. This was not included in the original bill. The Conservative members put forward an amendment because it made sense and was reasonable. All the parties—the NDP, the Bloc Québécois, and the Liberal Party—all supported the government's amendment. The Liberal Party, supported by the Bloc, proposed an amendment to make it possible to make donations every year to candidates for party leadership and not just a single donation to one particular candidate, as set out by existing legislation. This was because a leadership race can extend over more than one calendar year. Finally, the Bloc, supported by the Liberals and the NDP, put forward an amendment that removed one clause of the bill that required political parties to pay back any loans incurred by its candidates that were not paid back to the creditors. As if a candidate could take out a loan without notifying officials from the party or riding association.

It was suggested that he or she could then declare bankruptcy and the party would be forced to pay back any debts incurred, even if the party had not approved the debt from the beginning. The Conservatives opposed that amendment and introduced the motions at the report stage for—

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I regret to interrupt the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine. The hon. member for Joliette.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member referred to an amendment introduced by the Bloc Québécois, saying that it was supported by the NDP and the Liberals at committee. Is it always like that with the Liberals? Does she know if the NDP changed its position?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I honestly believe that the NDP still supports the bill as amended in committee and reported back to the House. We would have to check how loyal that support is, however. Loyal is not necessarily a word I use often in reference to the NDP. I find that NDP members are not always very loyal to their own party's constitution. In Quebec, we can see sovereigntists run for the NDP, which is the most centralizing party I have ever known. I was so shocked. I realize that this does not address directly the question, but it does address it in part.

The NDP claims to be a federalist party, yet it recruits sovereigntists to run for and represent the NDP in Quebec. I would like the leader of the NDP and the new member for Outremont to explain that contradiction to the Quebec people, be they sovereignists, nationalist or federalists. How can they explain such a contradiction?