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House of Commons Hansard #136 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was funding.

Topics

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government's refusal to freeze the assets of the family of Ben Ali, the former Tunisian dictator, remains a complete mystery. We know that Ben Ali's family owns assets in Quebec, including a house in Westmount. The Prime Minister's attitude is rather strange. We want an explanation.

Why is the Prime Minister refusing to freeze the assets of the former Tunisian dictator when he has frozen the assets of the Libyan dictator, Gadhafi?

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, as we have explained repeatedly, we are seeking justice for the people of Tunisia by freezing the assets of the members of the former regime.

To date, and under the law, we do not have the necessary information to do so. However, we are actively working on freezing the assets, as we have already done in the case of Libya.

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, in Libya's case, they did so on 24 hours' notice. It was certainly not Gadhafi who forwarded the documents detailing the assets of the Gadhafi clan.

Why are they not doing the same for Tunisia? Ben Ali owns a house that we have seen on television. Why become an accomplice? Are there Conservative party members with ties to Ben Ali? Is that the bottom line? We want to know.

He should give us a straight answer and freeze their assets because we will never be able to do so if, in the meantime, the money has been hidden away in tax havens.

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, seriously, this government is not defending the Ben Ali regime. We lack information about the necessary international sanctions, like the information we had in Libya's case. I encourage the Bloc leader to ask for an explanation from our lawyers.

I can say that we are looking for means to increase our authority, and we will ask Parliament to give the government more authority to really freeze the assets of members of former regimes.

Political FinancingOral Questions

March 1st, 2011 / 2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, by stating that the serious charges laid by Elections Canada against the Conservative Party are merely administrative issues, the government continues to deny the facts. According to the director of public prosecutions, we are talking about misleading statements and illegal activity.

Is the Prime Minister not just proving his guilt in this situation by hiding behind excuses?

Political FinancingOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, this is an administrative issue. The Conservative candidates spent Conservative money on Conservative ads. The national party also transferred funds to its candidates, of course.

How did Elections Canada know about this? We told them. Why not? It is legal. It is ethical and all the parties do it. We will continue to defend our case before the courts.

Political FinancingOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are masters of hiding behind half-truths so that they do not have to take responsibility for their actions. That is what happened in the case of the misleading statements made by the Minister of International Cooperation on the KAIROS file and that is what is happening with the in and out scheme criticized by Elections Canada.

Will the Prime Minister admit that he violated the Canada Elections Act in the same way he is knowingly bending the truth?

Political FinancingOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to tell the truth. This is an administrative dispute that we are having with Elections Canada. The Conservative candidates spent Conservative money on Conservative ads. The national party also transferred funds to its candidates. How did Elections Canada know about this? We told them. Why not? It is legal. It is ethical and all the parties do it. We have a very solid case and we will defend it before the courts.

Political FinancingOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives can try to spin this as “administrivia” all they like, but the truth is they are being prosecuted on charges for illegal and unlawful election cheating. The Conservative senators are facing potential jail time. Conservatives are facing charges, not allegations.

The Prime Minister fired the member for Simcoe—Grey based on allegations. Why will he not take responsibility here and why will he not clean up his party when it comes to election financing laws?

Political FinancingOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, as I have said, this is an administrative dispute for five years over the question of whether certain election expenses are defined as local or national. This is a difference of opinion.

We will continue to argue these matters before the courts, but we have been very clear that we have always respected the rules as they were understood at the time. When interpretations of those rules were changed later, we changed our practices, and already did so in the 2008 year.

Political FinancingOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, taking liberties with the electoral laws that govern our democracy is very serious. The Prime Minister could force an election in the coming weeks. He just promised not to reuse the in and out scheme to exceed spending limits during the next election.

In doing so, did he not admit that he made a mistake in 2006?

Political FinancingOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, as I already said, we always followed the rules as they were interpreted at the time. When the interpretations changed, we changed our practices. Even during the 2008 election we did not use in and out financing, as Elections Canada determined after the 2006 election. We will always follow the rules in place. I hope that all of the parties that used in and out financing will also comply with the new interpretations.

Democratic ReformOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, with Conservative senators and officials up on election charges and with a cabinet minister facing the scandal of doctoring documents before the House of Commons and misleading Parliament, no wonder so many Canadians feel that something is broken in Ottawa.

The Prime Minister could do something about this by supporting New Democrats' practical plan for making Parliament work better for Canadians. Let us finally ask Canadians about abolishing the Senate and about reforming our electoral system. Will he support our doable proposals on this front?

Democratic ReformOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I must admit that we do not always associate a practical plan and the NDP in the same sentence, but what the leader of the NDP suggests is the abolition of the Senate. I know there is much sympathy in the country for that. The reality is that would involve reopening the Constitution and getting a unanimous resolution, which is unlikely.

We do have a practical plan to allow for Senate elections and the limitation of senators' terms. I would encourage the NDP and all those others with practical plans to support that practical plan.

International Co-operationOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is now obvious the Prime Minister never believed in the accountability he once preached. In 2008 he told his ministers that they must, “be present in Parliament to answer honestly and accurately about their areas of responsibility”. Yet day after day, question after question, the minister responsible for CIDA sits there, refusing to tell the House and Canadians who told her to cut funding for KAIROS.

How can she remain in her position as minister when, by her silence, she refuses to be accountable to Parliament?

International Co-operationOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the minister has spoken to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, where, 11 times, she was very clear that she was the one who made the decision with respect to not giving the $7 million grant. She also made it very clear just last month that it was her decision.

I would encourage the member opposite from Vancouver Centre to look at that.

International Co-operationOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, what kind of lesson are Canadians to draw from this obfuscation, that if ministers do whatever the Prime Minister says, the consequences simply do not matter, that the Prime Minister can break his word on accountability of ministers with impunity?

The Minister of International Cooperation sits behind the Prime Minister dutifully, day after day, and is not allowed to answer.

Is it the Prime Minister's position that women in his cabinet should only be seen and not heard?

International Co-operationOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the member wants to talk about integrity. That specific member, who was a minister, wants to talk about misleading the House. That is the member who said, “As we speak, crosses are burning in Prince George”. She has a lot of chutzpah.

International Co-operationOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to add that, at that point, this minister had the ministerial responsibility to resign.

The Minister of International Cooperation is so proud of her decision—which was very courageous as far as her colleague the House leader is concerned—that she continues to remain silent on the issue. She was so brave in making this decision that she wanted to have us believe that it was actually bureaucrats who made it.

Has the Minister of International Cooperation become a woman without a voice who does not have the right to respond to questions in this Parliament?

International Co-operationOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the minister said no such thing. What she did say last year before a standing committee of Parliament was that she was the one who made the decision not to provide a $7 million grant to a particular non-governmental organization. This is something she repeated just last month in this place.

The minister has always made the right decisions. The member has always stood up for international causes around the world, whether it is in Haiti, or in Afghanistan or in Africa. She is doing a heck of a good job.

International Co-operationOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, we would love to hear her speak in the House now. Day after day, the Minister of International Cooperation remains silent, sitting behind the Prime Minister, leaving the responsibility of defending her decisions to others.

Did she give up the extra $70,000 that comes with her so-called ministerial responsibilities? Is she still part of cabinet? Did she turn in the keys to her limousine?

International Co-operationOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, let me tell the member what the Minister of International Cooperation works so hard at. She has worked tremendously hard at rebuilding earthquake-damaged Haiti. She has worked tremendously hard on dealing with the challenges that women in Afghanistan face. The minister has—

International Co-operationOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

International Co-operationOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order, please. The government House leader has the floor. We will have some order.

The hon. government House leader.

International Co-operationOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Conservative

John Baird Conservative Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, the minister has not just played an important role, but this minister has played an instrumental role in the maternal and child initiative brought forward at the last G8. This initiative will save literally millions of lives, and it is because of the great leadership of the Minister of International Cooperation.