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House of Commons Hansard #84 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was conservative.

Topics

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 12 petitions.

Human Pathogens and Toxins ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-54, An Act to promote safety and security with respect to human pathogens and toxins.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Environment and Sustainable DevelopmentCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Bob Mills Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development in relation to Bill C-377, an Act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibility in preventing dangerous climate change.

Second, I have the pleasure to present the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. The report provides reasons for the committee not having completed its study of Bill C-377, an Act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibility in preventing dangerous climate change.

Mr. Speaker, the committee adopted clauses 3 to 9 with amendments, postponed clause 1, the preamble and the short title pursuant to Standing Order 75(1), and stood clause 2. The committee was unable to vote on clauses 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 due to a prolonged debate of over 20 hours on clause 10, which led the committee to an impasse.

As members will recall, the committee presented a report on April 14, 2008, arising from the debate on the bill, regarding inherent difficulties in the rules and procedures of the House. As a result of the impasse, the committee adopted a motion to the effect that the title, the preamble, clauses 1, 2, 10, as amended, 11, 12, 13 and 14 of Bill C-377, an Act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibility in preventing dangerous climate change be deemed adopted, that the bill as amended be deemed adopted, and that the chair report the bill as amended to the House.

I wish to note that as an indicator of the impasse, the report contains in annex four supplementary opinions.

I wish to thank all members of the committee for their willingness to find a compromise, allowing the committee to proceed in its important work.

Drinking Water Quality ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-538, An Act to bring the Food and Drug Regulations in line with the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality.

Mr. Speaker, this is an act to bring the food and drug regulations in line with the guidelines for Canadian drinking water quality. It states that bottled water must conform to the same strict standards as municipal tap water. Accordingly, bottled water should be regulated by the same guidelines as municipal water in the guidelines for Canadian drinking water quality.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Canada Transportation ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-539, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act (vibration and noise).

Mr. Speaker, I am introducing this bill to amend the Canada Transportation Act with respect to railway noise. Last session, the House of Commons came to an agreement in committee on a text that would strengthen the Transportation Act. Unfortunately, the Senate did not agree with us and amendments were necessary in order to pass the bill before the end of the session. This bill would return the text to the form unanimously agreed upon by the committee.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Income TrustsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 29th, 2008 / 10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to present another income trust broken promise petition at the request of the member for Kelowna—Lake Country. The petitioners would like to remind the Prime Minister that he promised never to tax income trusts, but he broke that promise by imposing a 31.5% punitive tax which permanently wiped out over $25 billion of the hard-earned retirement savings of over two million Canadians, particularly seniors.

The petitioners therefore call upon the Conservative minority government, first, to admit that the decision to tax income trusts was based on flawed methodology and incorrect assumptions, as was demonstrated at the finance committee; second, to apologize to those who were unfairly harmed by this broken promise; and finally, to repeal the 31.5% tax on income trusts.

Unborn Victims of CrimePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, a year ago, Aysun Sesen of Toronto was murdered and her unborn child also lost its life. That family was deeply hurt because the police could lay no charges in the death of the unborn child. The petitions that I am presenting today reflect that. These are mostly from Toronto, from her area, and they are from people who are asking Parliament to please enact legislation that would provide for a second offence when a pregnant woman is murdered and her child also dies or is injured.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Opposition Motion—Elections CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Business

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

moved:

That the House express its full and complete confidence in Elections Canada and the Commissioner of Canada Elections.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of my party, the Bloc Québécois, to participate in the discussion about this very important motion.

This motion is grounded first and foremost in democracy. Although this may seem quite ironic, the purpose of this motion is for the House of Commons to spend today reiterating its confidence in an independent, impartial organization whose neutrality is above reproach. That may indeed seem ironic.

Why will we be talking about a motion that asks the House to express its full confidence in Elections Canada and the elections commissioner? Because the party currently leading a minority government, the Conservative Party, has given us reason to believe that it does not have faith in Elections Canada.

We know that free and fair elections are the basis for any democracy. In some countries, the people do not have opportunities to choose their elected officials democratically. Here in Quebec and Canada, we do have that opportunity. Regardless of the party elected or the member or candidate in whom the people place their trust, that person is elected democratically. Nobody in this House was elected by citizens who went to the polls at gunpoint. We are legitimate.

All the same, the democratic process that takes place during our elections has to be overseen by an organization. We cannot let the government or the party in power, regardless of who they are, decide how things are going to happen. We are responsible for keeping a close eye on the electoral process.

We know that the right to vote is not enough on its own. We need rules in order to hold free, democratic elections. For example—and this is with reference to the case currently before the courts—we need rules that govern contributions to political parties and that make it possible to prevent the electoral process from becoming hijacked by the money game. That means that parties have to play by rules enforced by an independent organization.

Here is another example that is more directly linked to the motion today. The rules that set limits on election spending are intended to make sure that the candidate with the best chances of being elected is the one who is most in tune with the wishes of the public, not the one who spends the most money to flood the country with partisan advertisements. In the Bloc Québécois, we feel that, in a democratic society, elections must not be bought.

I went onto the Elections Canada website, which lists the organization's values: a knowledgeable and professional workforce, transparency, responsiveness to the needs of Canadians involved in the electoral process, cohesiveness and consistency in administering the Canada Elections Act, earning the public's trust, and finally, stewardship and accountability in how the democratic process is managed.

The position of Chief Electoral Officer was created in 1920. Marc Mayrand, the current Chief Electoral Officer, is the sixth person to hold the position. I sit on the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, of which I am vice-chair, and, when Mr. Mayrand was appointed, even the Conservatives recognized his skills and professionalism. Now that Elections Canada, as an impartial referee, makes a decision that does not suit the Conservatives, all of a sudden, they start to discredit the individual and the institution.

Elections Canada has shown us time and time again that the concern for transparency is clear in everything they do. If the Conservatives had acted in a transparent way and had cooperated with Elections Canada in what is now called the "in and out affair", when the Conservatives shuffled money back and forth during the January 2006 election campaign, the police raid that we witnessed some ten days ago would not have been necessary.

Is it customary, is it normal that Elections Canada had to get a warrant from a neutral judge and use the services of a neutral police force like the RCMP? Is it normal for a police force to have to search the headquarters of a political party, the Conservative Party in this case? Does this happen all the time, or is this an exceptional case? This shows that Elections Canada was completely fed up with the Conservatives' unwillingness to cooperate regarding this scheme, which supposedly allowed the Conservatives to exceed the $18 million national spending limit by transferring $1.2 million in advertising expenses to local ridings.

The Prime Minister tells us that everything was legitimate, that everything was done according to the rules. If everything was done properly, why did the Conservatives refuse to cooperate with Elections Canada? Why did they not sit down with them and explain what they did and how they applied the rules? No, they preferred to use a strategy that was against the law, with the result that it is being challenged by Elections Canada, thus explaining the police raid.

The Conservatives made some grand promises of transparency. I am sure we all remember the 2006 election. People really doubted Liberal management and attacked their credibility. People took a hard look at the sponsorship scandal and said the Liberals ran their campaign with dirty money. The Conservatives, however, were going to be squeaky clean, irreproachable and transparent. I am sure everyone remembers the Conservative ads during the election campaign in 2006, not all that long ago. They said these ads were paid for with clean money. But would Elections Canada be challenging this if everything had been done legitimately?

A lot of Conservatives, including, yesterday, the Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board and the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, have defended themselves by saying that all the parties do it. So I would like you to explain for me, Mr. Speaker, why there are only 67 election reports by candidates, some of whom were elected as members and some of whom have apparently been appointed as ministers. Why are 67 Conservative election reports being challenged by Elections Canada?

I would point out that the election expense reports filed by the Liberals, the Bloc and the NDP after the 2006 elections have resulted in refunds. We got our refunds. That is too handy a defence. Saying that everybody does it so we do it too is just blowing smoke. I am sorry, but there is a dispute with Elections Canada, an independent, neutral and transparent body that oversees the democratic process and deserves to have our confidence. I am persuaded that in the vote tonight all parties will reiterate their confidence in Elections Canada.

Quebeckers and Canadians do not want to have an electoral system here like we can see in other countries. By their attitude, the Conservatives flaunt the election laws that are not to their liking. When Elections Canada’s decision does not suit the government, they attack Elections Canada. They complain about inappropriate treatment. I am sorry, but it is nothing of the kind.

Another thing we find on the Elections Canada site relates to cohesiveness and consistency in administering the Canada Elections Act. If we want elections to be conducted as a democratic process, it is important that all candidates and all parties, without exception, have equal opportunities. There can be no elasticity: the fact that someone does not like the sovereignists in the Bloc wanting to break up Canada and establish their own country does not mean they can be treated differently. No! Behaving like the Conservatives are asking would mean having an asymmetrical democracy. The rules of the game have to be clear and they have to be the same for everyone.

The Conservatives can feign indignance about this all they like, but the public’s confidence has been seriously undermined. Speaking ill of an impartial body like Elections Canada is not how to do things in a democracy and makes the public skeptical about politicians, but particularly about the attitude of this Conservative Party. It is too handy to claim unfair treatment. The sole purpose of that attitude, intentionally criticizing and attacking credibility, is to conceal fraudulent activities.

I could tell you about the seven months of repeated filibusters we had at the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. The Conservative candidates went on and on about genuinely examining this issue. Well before the Elections Canada prosecution and the police raid, the Liberal whip had introduced a motion at the Committee on Procedure to bring this whole in-and-out scheme by the Conservative Party in the last campaign into the open. The Committee on Procedure has been paralyzed since September 10 and has really been unable to do its work.

Obviously, the Conservatives are trying to sweep the dust under the rug. Understandably, they are uncomfortable with what they did. Not only did the Conservatives knowingly set up a fraudulent scheme to claim rebates to which they were not entitled, but now, instead of apologizing, they attack the credibility of Elections Canada for blatantly partisan purposes.

Yesterday, during question period, the Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board told us: “Conservative candidates spent Conservative money on Conservative advertising”. He forgot to say that inflating the election spending limit for local candidates shortchanged citizens because the Conservatives received a 60% rebate when their expenses return was approved.

As a defence they say that Conservative advertising was paid for with Conservative money. We say that it was used to inflate the spending limit, hence the notion of dirty money in this case, because taxpayers, who are fed up with paying taxes, were shortchanged by 60% with these artificially inflated expenses.

In conclusion, I want the Conservatives to know that we have seen where they are going with this scheme. Instead of cooperating with Elections Canada, they have opted for confrontation. This stance forced Elections Canada to use an extraordinary remedy to have access to incriminating documents, which explains the police raid at the headquarters of the Conservative Party of Canada.

The Bloc Québécois reiterates it full and complete confidence in Elections Canada as an impartial, independent and transparent referee necessary to ensure democratic elections.

Opposition Motion—Elections CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Business

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the hon. member. Many questions come to mind but I will focus on one question. Does he believe that Elections Canada or the courts in our land are infallible? Can they make no mistakes at all?

I refer to the fact that in our court system pretty well everything the court rules on can be challenged on appeal all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. We know there have been a number of instances where Elections Canada made a ruling that was, subsequently in court, shown to be incorrect and it had to backtrack because it is not infallible, as none of us are.

Does the member think there should be removed from our legislation the ability to challenge in a court the rulings of Elections Canada as with many other committees and boards in the country?

Opposition Motion—Elections CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Business

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague's question directly in English, not because our interpreters are not competent, but because I have noticed that my knowledge of the other language has improved. Clearly, my colleague cannot make the same claim.

He is asking me whether an organization is infallible. We must accept the basic premise that our society is subject to the rule of law. The organization interpreted a rule of law in the same way for everyone. But his party does not accept Elections Canada's interpretation. That has nothing to do with whether or not the organization is infallible. We are asking the Conservatives to cooperate with Elections Canada when the time comes. Perhaps they will manage to convince Elections Canada and it will eventually recognize that its interpretation was incorrect.

I could use the mirroring technique and turn the question back to my colleague. Is the Conservative Party infallible? Is the Conservatives' interpretation the only correct one? Absolutely not. That is why a neutral, independent, non-partisan organization conducts the election in 308 ridings across Canada. That is what it means to recognize the rule of law.

Opposition Motion—Elections CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Business

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my Bloc Québécois colleague a question.

The Conservative Party is trying to find out whether Elections Canada may have made a mistake. I believe my colleague gave a good answer to the question.

If the Conservative Party is really sincere about its question, why are the Conservatives forced to use altered or even forged information in making accusations against the three opposition parties in this House?

Yesterday, I listened to the Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board. In committee, the Conservatives repeatedly levelled the same accusations against us, saying that all the parties—the three opposition parties and they themselves—committed the same sin. However, we know full well that the Bloc Québécois, the NDP and the Liberal Party of Canada did not use this method during the most recent election.

What does my colleague think? If Elections Canada made a mistake, why does he think the Conservative government has to use altered information to make its case?

Opposition Motion—Elections CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Business

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, it boils down to the weakness of the Conservatives' arguments. That is the typical reaction of someone who has no good arguments, someone who is not on solid ground. My training as a lawyer and my experience in court have taught me that. When the lawyers opposite me knew they did not have a case, they found ways of fiddling with the truth by attempting to interpret the rules of law to suit his case. Fortunately, the situation was remedied when the judges handed down their verdicts.

This is the approach used by those who have a guilty conscience. Instead, the Conservatives should face reality and admit that they used the in and out scheme to the tune of $1.2 million in the 2006 election campaign and exceeded the $18 million spending limit.

We have a series of e-mails in which the ad-buying agency, on the verge of exceeding the $18 million limit, wondered what to do. At that point, the Conservatives dreamed up the strategy of invoicing the ridings for $1.2 million for local advertising when, in fact, the content was the same as that in national advertising and there was nothing local about it.

Opposition Motion—Elections CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Business

10:35 a.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable Québec

Conservative

Christian Paradis ConservativeSecretary of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, my colleague spoke of the rules of law—I know he is a lawyer by training. He knows very well that there are legal proceedings underway, there are concurrent proceedings before the courts. The courts are involved; the judges will have to decide. However, some people seem to enjoy finding the Conservative Party guilty even though the matter is before the courts.

In these proceedings, the Conservative Party has co-operated with Elections Canada and yet they showed up with a search warrant. Even more surprising—and this is what I would like my colleague to comment on—what about the fact that a Liberal Party cameraman was on the scene even before the RCMP?

We can talk about the rules of law or fine principles, but there is a practical matter that is very surprising, if not frightening. I would like his views on this.

Opposition Motion—Elections CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Business

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am unable to answer as to the presence of one or any cameraman. My question to the member who referred earlier to cooperation between the Conservative Party and Elections Canada is: Why was a search necessary then?

If I volunteer to show him my bank book and show him my Caisse populaire passbook, that is cooperation on my part, and he is welcome to come and see it in all good faith. But if he has to seek a search warrant from the RCMP to check my bank account, is that cooperation? That does not make sense. It is complete nonsense.

I would have liked the parliamentary secretary to tell this house whether or not he is among the 67 under investigation by Elections Canada. Did he get a refund?

Opposition Motion—Elections CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Business

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite engaged in considerable outrage but what would he say if we told him the truth, which is that no request by Elections Canada was denied by our party? Everything it asked for it received. It was quite inexplicable for Elections Canada to show up with the RCMP. There was no reason for that. How would he respond?

Opposition Motion—Elections CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Business

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, if there was free access and cooperation, why did the RCMP have to conduct a search? That is because there was no cooperation. This is an attempt at putting up a smokescreen, but it is not working. We are not buying it—

Opposition Motion—Elections CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Business

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the President of Treasury Board has the floor.

Opposition Motion—Elections CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Business

10:40 a.m.

Nepean—Carleton Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, today's dispute arose from the fact that Conservative candidates spent Conservative funds on Conservative advertising. This process was helped along by a series of transfers to and from the national party and its local candidates.

All parties do precisely the same thing to help finance local campaigns but Elections Canada decided that it would single out just one party. Therefore, our party took Elections Canada to court. We put all the documents on the table and planned to have a fair hearing before the courts.

However, one day, before it was set to face questioning over its conduct, Elections Canada decided to interrupt that court proceeding by barging into Conservative headquarters with Liberal Party cameras in tow.

Let us then break down the accusation that Elections Canada is making. We will break it down into four questions.

First, is it legal for the national Conservative Party to transfer funds to local ridings? Yes, it is perfectly legal. We will see examples later of millions of dollars that the other parties transferred from the national party to local candidates.

Second, is it legal for local candidates to run advertising with national content? It is not only legal but a right guaranteed by the Charter, which allows local candidates to say what they want in their advertising. In my entire political life, I have never seen a local campaign that did not mention national issues.

Third, is it legal for local candidates to purchase advertising from the national party? Yes, it happens all the time, especially in the Bloc. I will quote examples of millions of dollars being spent by local candidates to purchase products from the national party.

Fourth, is it legal for local candidates to pay for advertising that ran outside their own constituencies? Yes, it is not only legal, it is unavoidable.

I would like to elaborate on these four points of the debate. Is it legal for a national party to transfer funds to local ridings?

I want to start by giving an example. The Bloc Québécois transferred some $732,000 to its local candidates in the 2006 elections and about $1.5 million in the 2004 elections. If they think that is illegal, they should apologize now to the voters of Quebec and Canada for having broken the law.

The Liberal Party itself, according to Andrew Coyne, a very prominent Canadian author, has reported that the Liberal Party transfers in the neighbourhood of $1.5 million from its national campaign to its local campaign. These millions of dollars in transfers, which happen regularly in campaigns, are designed to help local candidates finance their operations. Oftentimes those local candidates do not have the money to do so and parties are therefore permitted to step in and help.

That brings me to the second question: Is it legal for local candidates to run advertising with national content? It is not just legal; it is standard practice. Let us review the candidate handbook of Elections Canada. It reads:

Election advertising means the transmission to the public by any means during an election period of an advertising message that promotes or opposes a candidate, including one that takes a position on an issue with which a registered party or candidate is associated.

These are the rules that candidates must follow in buying advertising. They indicate that a candidate can support or oppose a national party in those ads.

Members do not have to accept my interpretation. I will now quote the then chief electoral officer, Jean-Pierre Kingsley. In his report on the 1997 election he stated that, “It is perfectly permissible for local campaigns to expense advertising with national content”.

He was writing in the section of the report dealing with rules related to the blackout. There used to be at a time in Canadian elections a blackout on national advertising in the last 48 hours before the polls closed. That meant that on the Sunday before and the Monday of an election national parties were not allowed to run advertising.

However, there were no such constraints on local campaigns. In other words, local ads were allowed in the last 48 hours of an election; national ads were not.

Naturally, this raised the question of what constituted a national ad and what constituted a local ad. Would it be the content of the ad that determined which level claimed the expense or reported the ad? If there was national content, would it necessarily be considered a national advertisement? If the content was discussing local issues, would it then necessarily be considered a local advertisement? According to Mr. Kingsley, no. It was the tag line on the ad that determined whether it would be counted nationally or locally. Let me quote from the 1997 report:

The content of the advertisements accepted was subject only to the freedom of expression guaranteed by the charter. As a result, a number of individual candidates purchased time on the day before and on the actual day of the election. Since the time purchased was often used to run national advertisements with local tag lines, this rendered the prohibition somewhat ineffectual. In other words, because these national advertisements had local tag lines [wrote Kingsley] they became local and were no longer subject to the national limits on advertising.

Mr. Kingsley did not like the fact that national ads could be rendered local with the addition of a mere local tag line. He did not like the way the rules were written. However, it does not matter what he wanted the rules to be. What matters is what the rules were.

I understand that Mr. Kingsley and Elections Canada might recently, in the last several months, have changed their mind, changed their interpretation. I tell them, and all Canadians, that it is not their role to change the rules after the game has been played. I understand they have now amended, retroactively, the candidate handbook in order to forbid the practice that our party engaged in. However, they did that after the election was over and they, therefore, cannot apply those new rules retroactively.

The third question is: Is it legal for local candidates to purchase advertising from the national party? Yes.

According to Andrew Coyne, the local Liberal campaigns purchased $1.3 million in goods and services from the party in the last election without provoking Election Canada's wrath. Second, local candidates purchase advertising and other products from national campaigns all the time.

There is another example from the Bloc. It billed its local candidates $820,000 for the 2006 elections and $936,000 in goods and services for the 2004 elections.

The Bloc is very familiar with this practice as well. In fact, the Bloc transfers large numbers of dollars from the central campaign to local candidates and then those local candidates transfer back large numbers of dollars to purchase products and services from the national campaign. This benefits the Bloc because it allows those local candidates to claim refunds on moneys that were originally in the hands of the central party. But, it is allowed.

The local campaign of the NDP member for Vancouver East in the 2006 election also participated in an in and out operation. In this case, the third party media invoices were made out to the national party rather than the official agents of the local candidates. A group of Vancouver area candidates for the NDP came together, bought advertising, but it was all organized by the central party. None of these local campaigns had any contact with the advertiser. They did not even get a direct invoice from the advertiser. They simply purchased the ads from the national party, but claimed it as a local expense entitling them to the refunds that Elections Canada provides to local candidates.

There is an invoice from the national office of the NDP to the official agent for the member for Vancouver East for her campaign that reads “Election period radio advertising paid by the federal party” in the amount of $2,612. This invoice was paid to the national office by the local campaign by a cheque dated March 31, 2006. That same day the local campaign received a transfer of funds from the NDP national office for $2,600, virtually the same amount as the invoice. What happened was that the national party bought a national advertisement for 11 candidates in the Vancouver area. The national party coordinated all of the ad buy. The national party paid for the advertisement, received the invoice in its name from the advertising companies, and then billed the local campaigns.

In the case of the member for Vancouver East, not only did the national party bill her campaign but it actually sent her a cheque so that she could pay for that bill. The money came from the national party, went to her local riding association, followed by an invoice from the national party for almost exactly the same amount of dollars. The money went into her account, out of her account, and paid for an advertisement that she did not organize, that she was not involved in securing. But interestingly enough, this in and out operation did not raise any curiosity at Elections Canada.

All of this information is well documented and the in and out nature of this specific transaction is set out in an email to the campaign from the NDP national office which states in part, “The good news is that the federal party will transfer $2,600 to the federal riding association as we agreed to pay for the ads”. So the national party, in writing, says it will pay for the ads, it will transfer the money into the local account to pay for these ads, and the local campaign gets to claim them as an expense and achieve a refund. Local campaigns purchase products including advertising from national campaigns all the time. It is a regular occurrence.

The fourth question: Is it legal for local candidates to pay for advertising that also ran outside of their constituencies? Yes, it is not only legal. It is unavoidable. I represent southwest Ottawa in the House of Commons and I have purchased radio advertisements in the lead-up to elections here in this city. It is impossible for me to purchase broadcast advertising exclusively in my constituency. Ottawa stations run deep into western Quebec and in the opposite direction almost to Kingston.

In other words, when I buy a radio advertisement in my constituency, it probably gets broadcast into about 15 constituencies around the area. It is not possible to block the radio signal and ensure that it only runs in my own personal constituency. However, I am still allowed as a candidate to claim it as a local expense even though it had a broad reach to listeners in other ridings.

Let me summarize the situation. Elections Canada implies that the Conservative Party transferred party funds to the local ridings, the local ridings purchased advertising from the national party, this advertising had a national content, and in some cases, advertising ran outside the ridings in which it was bought. My question is: where is the offence?

I am going to repeat the questions. First, is it legal for the national Conservative Party to transfer funds to the local ridings? Yes. It is not only legal, it is standard practice.

Second, is it legal for local candidates to run advertising with national content? It is not only legal, it is a right guaranteed by the Charter, which allows local candidates to say what they want in their advertising, as Mr. Kingsley said.

Third, is it legal for local candidates to buy advertising from the national party? Yes. It happens all the time. I just provided numerous examples of local candidates for the Bloc Québécois purchasing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of goods, services and other things from their national party.

Fourth, is it legal for local candidates to pay for advertising that ran outside their own constituencies? It is not only legal, it is unavoidable, as I just described using my own riding as an example. My advertising has to run outside the boundaries of the riding I represent.

We could go on and discuss examples of where other parties have engaged in exactly the same practices. I will refer to the member for Beauséjour who, in addition to being a fine, hard-working member of Parliament, followed the same practices that we did in the last federal election when he bought common advertisements with other members of the New Brunswick Liberal team. Let me cite an example.

The member of Parliament for Beauséjour and the other New Brunswick Liberals joined in a regional media buy in the 2006 election organized by the national party. The copy of the cheque provided by Elections Canada from local official agents, the local financial officers in the campaigns, for the member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, who also participated in the buy, is made out not to the newspaper in which the ad ran, but it is made out instead to the Liberal Party of Canada. In other words, the Liberal Party did the purchasing of this advertisement. The Liberal Party of Canada purchased the ad.

The contents of the ad, which I have seen by the way, are entirely national in scope, with the exception of a small, local tag line. Here is where it gets very interesting. While the member for Beauséjour is mentioned in the tag line as having paid for the ad, the advertisement says that he and his campaign paid for it, despite that fact, there is no apparent listing of any payments for these ads from the election return that that member of Parliament and his campaign submitted to Elections Canada. I do not know if he went on to correct that mistake later on, but there is an ad that ran in the last election in New Brunswick which says that he paid for it. It was not paid by him, at least not originally, and it was not counted in his election return as having been covered by his campaign.

I do not know if that means there was a transfer from the national party to help pay for the advertisement. We know that transfers happen very regularly in the Liberal Party. There was over $1 million in transfers during that campaign. I am not sure if those expenses are hidden somewhere else, but what is very clear is that a national party organized a nationally focused advertisement in the New Brunswick area, that there were numerous members of Parliament who participated, that the invoice from the advertising company went to the Liberal Party and not to the local campaigns, and that the local campaigns then purchased the ad from the national party. These are all the same characteristics of the alleged breach for which Elections Canada carried out its visit to our office.

I have a whole book full of examples, and there are many more outside of this book, of where parties and members of this House have engaged in transfers, have bought products from their national parties, have run national content in locally expensed advertisements, have done all of the exact same things that Elections Canada accuses the Conservative Party of Canada of doing.

It is for that reason that our party is confident in its case. That is why we have taken Elections Canada to court. We want it to uphold the rules as it has in the past interpreted them so that we can get on with the job of continuing to provide good, solid, honest government for the Canadian people.

Opposition Motion—Elections CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Business

11 a.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have two questions for my colleague.

First, since he keeps talking about regional advertising and seems to approve that approach, I would like him to explain to me how come the Conservative candidate in the riding of Hull—Aylmer, in Western Quebec, was involved in advertising in Quebec City in the last election.

Second, I will again use as an example the riding of Hull—Aylmer, where the candidate received almost $50,000 from the Conservative Party and included that amount in his list of expenses. Since about 60% of these expenses are reimbursed by Elections Canada, it means that about $30,000 of this $50,000 would have been reimbursed by Elections Canada using taxpayers' money.

I would like to know if, according to the Conservative Party's practices, this $30,000 now belongs to the Hull—Aylmer Conservative riding association or if the riding association or the candidate in the last election had to return the money to the Conservative Party of Canada.

Opposition Motion—Elections CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Business

11 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

First, the member asked me how a candidate in Hull—Aylmer could have bought advertising seen in Quebec City. I am not aware of this particular case because I did not follow that campaign. However, I can certainly tell him, as I said earlier, that it is nearly impossible now to buy ads that are seen only in the region where they are bought. In Quebec, many television programs are broadcast throughout “la belle province”. If the candidate bought an ad in Hull, it is very possible that all Quebeckers may have had the pleasure of seeing it.

Second, he talked about the reimbursement of expenses. I think he said that that particular candidate was reimbursed by Elections Canada. If Elections Canada did decide to reimburse the Conservative candidate in Hull—Aylmer, it certainly was an excellent decision and I would congratulate Elections Canada for following its own rules for once.

Opposition Motion—Elections CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Business

11 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would expect a minimum of intellectual honesty from the Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board. I would also like to settle the matter once and for all. When he quotes the report published after the 36th general election by the former Chief Electoral Officer, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, he should quote the whole paragraph and not only the sentence that suits him. That would make a big difference. By quoting only parts of sentences one can give a false impression.

I want to come back to the issue for one last time to have it on the record. The Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board must quote the whole Kingsley report. Since he probably does not know, I will inform him that Mr. Kingsley was commenting on the Somerville v. Canada (Attorney General) case from 1996, which had been heard in the Alberta Court of Appeal. By the way, Somerville was suing the Attorney General in the name of the National Citizens Coalition, a group that the present Prime Minister knows very well because he took Elections Canada in court.

That case he quotes was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1997, in the Libman v. Quebec (Attorney General) case. So, let us get our facts straight.

I would like the Conservatives to stop playing the victim and saying that all parties did it, in order to justify their own actions. We have all had our election expenses reimbursed after producing our election reports, but not the Conservatives.

Opposition Motion—Elections CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Business

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is why we are suing Elections Canada. All parties do the same thing, but Elections Canada chose to target only one.

I have here some very interesting documents. Canadian taxpayers should know that the Bloc finances its local campaigns almost entirely with funds from the national party.