Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform you that I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the member for Drummond.
I am pleased to join the debate today to reaffirm the full and complete confidence of the Bloc Québécois and, I hope, of this entire House, in the work of Elections Canada.
We know very well that our democratic system is recognized around the world for its transparency, its fairness and its integrity. This is why teams created by Elections Canada are often invited to supervise voting in other countries, the Ukraine and Haiti being two recent examples.
If Elections Canada’s expertise has become a touchstone internationally it is mainly because voting in Canada is conducted within a very strict legal framework that allows the different parties to compete on an equal basis during an election campaign. Generally speaking, everyone respects the legal framework, which allows us to hold elections that are fair and democratic.
Obviously, it happens that some candidates make mistakes, through error or ignorance of the law. That is why we have Elections Canada; to monitor the parties and candidates, to ensure that no one abuses or infringes the law.
To ensure democratic elections, the people at Elections Canada have to feel that they have the trust of Parliament, of the candidates and the voters. If that trust is broken, the quality of our democratic life is affected.
For several weeks now, the Conservatives, in particular the member for Nepean—Carleton, have implied that Elections Canada is prejudiced against their party. As long as he was fantasizing, the member might also have said that Elections Canada is a nest of Liberals and horrible separatists. Why not go all the way?
Such remarks constitute an attack on the quality of democratic life. They create the impression that the agency has lost its independence. Allow me, Mr. Speaker, to record my disagreement in that respect.
What is happening right now is a beautiful example of the principle, “If you do not like the message, shoot the messenger.” In fact, since the election in the winter of 2005-06, the Conservatives have run out of ways to justify the things they did. The Conservative Party tried to get around the rules. They thought they were above the law and now they are clumsily trying to justify their actions. But there is no doubt in my mind about what happened.
The Commissioner of Canada Elections was doing his job when he refused to reimburse the expenses of 67 Conservative Party candidates, since the expenses were in violation of the Elections Act. Elections Canada maintains that the Conservative Party developed a system to surpass the authorized spending limits for a political party by having some candidates pay for national advertising.
Of the 67 candidates who allegedly helped their party surpass the authorized limit, several are from my region. In my riding of Compton—Stanstead, one of my opponents was caught up in this shady affair.