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House of Commons Hansard #143 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was conservative.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Conduct of GovernmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Burlington.

Opposition Motion—Conduct of GovernmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, that is the problem with days like today. Opposition members do not take them seriously.

We need to remind the House that on the issue with Elections Canada, we have taken it to court and we have won. It was appealed and we lost, but we are continuing that process.

We believe we did the right thing based on the interpretation of the law at the time. When that interpretation changed, we changed our practice. There is nothing wrong with what we have done.

Opposition Motion—Conduct of GovernmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Madam Speaker, I fully agree with the hon. member. We are truly wasting our time here today. There is no question about that. The Bloc's motion is vague, far-fetched and totally false. Its premises are absolutely ludicrous. Unfortunately, it is not surprising to see the Bloc come up with such a silly motion.

That party is clearly trying to divert Quebeckers' attention. The things that matter to Canadians and Quebeckers are the economy and employment. Everything we have done over the past number of years has been aimed at improving the economy. Whenever the Bloc has had the opportunity to help Quebec families and businesses, it has always refused to do so.

I want to use my time to look at what our Conservative government has done for Quebec, and compare it to the Bloc Québécois' record of inaction, inefficiency and hypocrisy.

The Conservative government's top priority is growth, the economy and employment. Therefore, this is not the time to have a totally useless, opportunistic and costly election. Canadians expect us to focus on their priorities, and they certainly deserve so. That is why we are committed to tabling a budget later this month. The Bloc Québécois has already said it would vote against it, without having even read it, which is rather incredible. This budget will be the next phase of our economic action plan, which the Bloc has consistently opposed.It has essentially voted against all the investments that have been made in Quebec.

Of course, we totally reject the Bloc's motion. It is our government which introduced the Federal Accountability Act. Our government—as my colleague mentioned earlier—is extremely accountable. We are the ones who introduced and implemented this legislation. It goes without saying that we also comply with it.

We are getting results for every part of Canada and every part of Quebec. In particular, we gave Quebec a seat at UNESCO. We recognized that the Québécois form a nation within Canada, which is not insignificant. The Bloc says those are empty words without substance, but that is not true. The substance accumulates gradually. These things grow and improve over time, but we need to make a start, and that is what we did.

We have supported the infrastructure priorities of our towns and cities. I used to be a mayor and can say that the respectful, tripartite co-operation among the provincial, federal and municipal levels of government has yielded absolutely exemplary results in all regions of Quebec.

We have celebrated the history and culture of Quebec and Quebec City, especially through our major contributions to the 400th anniversary of Quebec City. In the weeks and months to come, we will have a chance to celebrate the anniversaries of a number of Quebec towns, especially during the summer, which is a happening time in Quebec. Once again, we will play a role in these anniversaries.

In demanding more than $16 billion in budgetary spending, as they recently did, the Bloc leader and his members have made themselves very clear. They are just looking for an excuse to reject the next federal budget and trigger elections, something neither Quebec nor Canada needs. That is all they really want, as they have shown on many occasions, especially over the last few weeks.

That is why the Bloc voted against the economic action plan twice, once in 2009 and once in 2010. It is totally unacceptable that members of Parliament elected by Quebeckers to represent them vote on the aspects that are most beneficial to themselves, especially in our own regions. There is definitely something wrong about that.

We have also taken action since the beginning of the global economic crisis to stimulate job creation and reduce taxes for the middle class and seniors, to improve the employment insurance program, and to help our companies ride out the crisis. Our actions have produced results in all regions of Quebec. But every time they had the chance, the Bloc voted against these measures, including the ones on employment insurance, even though they claim to be its great defenders. It is absolutely incredible.

Even before the worldwide crisis hit our shores, our government was taking action to reduce the taxes on job creators. The Bloc leader noted that these tax reductions had helped to create jobs, but still he voted against them. He said they were good, but he voted against them. It is incomprehensible. They voted against tax relief in December 2007. That is further proof of the blatant opportunism and hypocrisy of that party.

The Bloc is not concerned about the priorities and values of Quebeckers living outside the big cities, and in fact I am the proof of that. I come from a riding that was represented by the Bloc for 16 years, which produced absolutely nothing. If we look at the results achieved since I was elected, we see that it makes all the difference.

The Bloc does not work for Quebeckers outside the big cities. What it does is defend its own interests and a political ideology that produces absolutely nothing for Quebeckers.

Given the motion presented today, allow me to repeat that the Bloc is trying to divert Quebeckers’ attention and is doing nothing, absolutely nothing, for Quebec. The Bloc members have done nothing and do not intend to do anything to help the economy. They have done nothing to create jobs in Quebec. They put the interests of criminals ahead of victims’ interests. That is another example of the elements they stand up for. They blocked our government’s efforts to make our streets safer and our communities more liveable. Here they sit in Ottawa, when in fact, 20 years ago, they said they would only be here for four years. Twenty years later, they are still here. We have to believe they have grown accustomed to their incomes and all the benefits, like the pensions when they leave office.

Quebeckers are not dupes. At least, the ones in my riding are not, that is for sure, because they decided that enough was enough.

The funny thing is that the Liberals and the NDP want to form a coalition. They already tried to do it, with a separatist, independentist party. When you think about it, it really is unbelievable. Ottawa is the national capital of Canada. There is a party that wants to separate Quebec from Canada and there are federalist parties that want to merge with it. It really is quite unbelievable. I imagine that in the next election, Canadians will remember that potential coalition. In fact, as we speak, those parties are again trying to create another one.

Debating this motion all day is a complete waste of time, and is pointless. It makes absolutely no sense to waste our time debating this question today. I sincerely believe that we can expect nothing from the Bloc Québécois, which has proved in the last 20 years that it is totally useless.

Opposition Motion—Conduct of GovernmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a question. He maintains that the Bloc does nothing in the Canadian Parliament, that our party has no logic and no legitimacy. I will take myself as an example. This is the sixth time that the people of Saint-Jean have voted for me. Does the member consider that the 30,000 people of Saint-Jean who elected me and who represent 50% of the constituents of the riding are fools who vote for someone without logic or legitimacy? This is my question.

Opposition Motion—Conduct of GovernmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Madam Speaker, I would be very happy to answer my colleague's question.

In my riding, people elected a Bloc Québecois candidate for 16 years. I have the highest respect for my Bloc colleague’s constituents and for the constituents of all our colleagues from the Bloc Québecois. Voters make a deliberate choice, which is theirs to make. However, when people understand that their choice is absolutely useless, they wake up. This is probably what is going to happen in most Bloc Québecois ridings in the next election.

Opposition Motion—Conduct of GovernmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Madam Speaker, I listened intently to my colleague's eloquent speech. I do have a question or two for the hon. member.

I have been here for just about two and a half years. In terms of the budget we put forward, the Bloc members voted against budget items that would have helped the people in Quebec, particularly in the Bloc ridings. Are they being effective for their constituents?

The Bloc members seem to want more and more. They want the government to stay out of Quebec. They want more money. However, they do not support any part of the economic action plan, which has been very helpful to Canadians right across the country, in all regions, including Quebec and the Bloc ridings.

Could my colleague respond to that question?

Opposition Motion—Conduct of GovernmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his excellent question.

The global recession we have experienced is, to the best of our knowledge, the worst economic crisis to hit the world since the 1930s. In relation to my colleague's question, I would say that Canada's economic action plan of the past two years was implemented regardless of political affiliations--who voted for whom and so on. Money was invested in all Quebec ridings in the most incredible way.

What is even more incredible is that members of the Bloc Québecois voted against initiatives aimed at increasing competitiveness and improving the quality of life in regions, which is the reason why they were elected to the House. But they voted against these initiatives.

I am trying to figure out what my reaction would be if I were a mayor or a citizen of the regions they represent. It must be really strange to see these elected representatives who are supposed to work for the best interests of their own neighbourhood, region or city vote against these measures. It is absolutely incredible. It is unacceptable.

Opposition Motion—Conduct of GovernmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to inform you, as I begin, that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant.

I have prepared a few notes, as is my habit when making a speech. I wondered what title I would use if I were to present a dissertation on the Conservative Party and democracy. I have decided to entitle my speech, “Conservative ideology is incompatible with democracy”. I will have only 10 minutes to try to defend my point of view. I will give six examples.

I will start by saying that we must never take democracy for granted. We are supposedly in the shrine of democracy here, where parliamentarians can express themselves freely. But since the Conservative government came to power we have seen a rather draconian shift in the importance of democracy. The Conservative Party gives us daily examples of how it deliberately sidesteps democracy. As I was saying, I have six examples to give.

First, let us talk about circumventing the rules on election spending limits. We have adopted certain rules in Canada, which are very different from those elsewhere in the world. I go regularly to the United States, where there are almost no rules. An American congressman is elected every two years. If he does not have $1,000,000 in his account at the start of the election campaign, he is considered beaten. But who gives the congressman his $1,000,000? Usually it is big corporations. This is an attack on democracy, because once the money has been received, and there is no ceiling there, people call and request favours. If someone has given us $100,000 or $200,000, it is hard to say no.

Here, we have established a different system, and it is important. We cannot spend more than so much for a party and for a candidate. When ways of circumventing that are found, that is an attack on democracy. That is precisely what the Conservative Party did with its scheme, its sleight-of-hand, in sending money from the national party to certain constituencies, which was then sent back to the national party. This scheme allowed the Conservative Party to spend $1.3 million more than the maximum permitted. That is playing with the rules of democracy, and it is unacceptable.

Now, I would like to talk about the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, who, using the property and services of Canadian taxpayers, sent a letter on his own letterhead to immigrant groups to ask them to contribute and be generous with the Conservatives. Who does he think he is, the pope of immigration? Does it mean that without him, you could be excommunicated? It is as though he has the last word on immigration. As though the Liberal Party, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP have no say on immigration. This kind of racial profiling is dangerous, because the minister knows full well it can have an impact on these groups. And for them, he is a sort of authority. Not only did he use his own letterhead, but he also used his office: his staff, paid for by taxpayers, participated in the operation. That is another attack on democracy. When a minister blurs the line between his role as a member of the party and his government duties, it becomes dangerous for democracy. The minister has been criticized, and he should understand that when he is caught doing something like that, he should not make an assistant take the blame. He has ministerial responsibility. He must take responsibility and hand in his resignation to the Prime Minister.

Now, I would like to talk about a minister who alters documents. We have the minister responsible for CIDA, who signed a document granting the funding requested by KAIROS, and who then, a few days later, had the word “not” added. This word was written in by hand on the letter. It is very clear to us that the minister signed the letter to grant funding.

Then, probably under pressure from the Prime Minister, she wrote “not” on the document, or someone close to her did. Once again, it is a matter of ministerial responsibility. This is an example of how they play with democracy.

First they say they will give the money, then they say the opposite. On top of that, they come out with all kinds of theories, all very confusing, to defend themselves, so confusing in fact, I would remind the government, that the Speaker of the House issued a ruling yesterday that said it is impossible to do that and that it does not work.

They are trying to mislead the House. In particular, they are trying to mislead members of the opposition. In a democracy, how are we supposed to do our job if the government is always trying to hide things from us and mislead us?

This minister should also tender her resignation to the Prime Minister, but she refuses do so. She is sticking to her guns and others have come to her defence. Every so often, regarding issues that have nothing to do with her case, she stands up to reply, to try to restore her reputation, but if you ask me, her reputation is beyond saving.

Let us turn our attention to the federal government that must now call itself the Prime Minister's government. That is a good one. Louis XIV said “I am the state”. The Prime Minister is saying “I am the government”. That might fly with Conservative backbenchers, but for the opposition, that is definitely unacceptable. Who does he think he is, this Prime Minister? A monarch? A king?

I would remind the House that although “monarchy” and “democracy” nearly rhyme, a monarchy is the antithesis of democracy. In a monarchy, a group of courtiers surround the king, and the people have no say. The Prime Minister must not think that such behaviour will be accepted. In my dissertation entitled “Conservative ideology is incompatible with democracy”, those are some examples.

While we are dealing with the costs of the proposed measures, perhaps I should talk about the Afghan detainees issue, because I sit on the Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan. We spent months asking for the documents, but the government refused to provide them on the ground that they included state secrets. Later, the law clerk of the House conducted studies and said that if the House of Commons is to fully assume its democratic role, the opposition must do its work. However, if the opposition is not allowed to do its work, there is a problem on the legislative side. That view was expressed by Mr. Walsh, the law clerk.

So, we kept pressing the issue and we eventually compelled the Speaker of the House to make a landmark ruling. Moreover, yesterday, the Speaker also ruled on the minister's behaviour and on the documents that are required to estimate costs and to determine whether the budget is sound. There again, the Conservatives got caught by the Speaker of the House of Commons regarding democratic issues.

The king, who sits to the right in front of me during question period, decided, on the issue of Afghan detainees, in seigneurial and royal fashion, to suspend our proceedings, to prorogue the House and to tell us to go home, this in the midst of an economic crisis. And we had to be content with that.

Incidentally, in the days and weeks that followed, the polls reflected the undemocratic decision made by this government. We are not a monarchy. We are a democracy, and the Conservative government must realize that.

The last example is the one to which I just referred. Indeed, opposition members are asking for studies that support the political choices that are going to be made in the budget. How much do prisons cost? Why is the amount set at $30 billion? How much will the F-35 cost? How does the government come up with that figure?

Finally, since I only have 15 seconds left, I am going to repeat the title of my essay, namely that the Conservative ideology is incompatible with parliamentary democracy.

Again, the title of my essay is “Conservative ideology is incompatible with parliamentary democracy”.

Opposition Motion—Conduct of GovernmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Madam Speaker, could my Bloc Québécois colleague explain to me why Conservative members claim in this House that members of the Liberal Party, the Bloc Quebecois and the NDP did the same things they did?

Why did the Royal Canadian Mounted Police raid only the Conservatives’ headquarters? Why were the Conservatives the only ones who faced criminal charges?

Opposition Motion—Conduct of GovernmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to sincerely thank my NDP colleague for his question, for this is a part of my remarks I forgot to read, and he is giving me the opportunity to do it.

The answer is easy. When complaints were filed, the RCMP and Elections Canada raided the Conservative Party headquarters. And now, the Conservatives would have us believe it is just a minor administrative issue. If the RCMP came into my place, at 439 Casavant Street in Saint-Jean, with its cavalry and Elections Canada to search the premises, and if I was charged afterwards, I would hardly be in a position to try to convince my neighbours it was just a minor administrative mistake. This is not what you would call a daily occurrence.

If the Liberal Party, the Bloc Quebecois and the NDP are not in the same situation, it is because Elections Canada does not think there is any problem. We are not the ones being targeted. It is the Conservative Party’s headquarters that was searched and it is the Conservative Party that was charged. The latest development is that the Federal Court has just ruled that Elections Canada and the RCMP were right. I hope this will end up before the Supreme Court of Canada. If it does, Louis XIV will probably proclaim that he is the government, he is the state and he will not bow to the Supreme Court of Canada. I can hardly wait for his reaction.

Opposition Motion—Conduct of GovernmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Desnoyers Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, first, I want to congratulate my colleague from Saint-Jean for an excellent speech that was very clear and specific. He talked about something that is important to me. There were several schemes aimed at hiding documents relating to torture in Afghanistan. Moreover, we want to know about major costs associated with prisons, but we cannot get them. We want to know the cost of the new fighter jets—this is an issue my colleague is following closely—but we cannot get anything. I would like to know what the member thinks of these issues.

Opposition Motion—Conduct of GovernmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, my colleague has focused on some points I touched upon in my comments. It is true it was extremely difficult to find a compromise with the government on the issue of Afghan prisoners. I want to congratulate my colleague who sits on the committee. The Bloc Québécois signed the agreement but is now thinking that if the government does not deal with this matter before April 15, it is going to withdraw from the agreement. That would be perfectly normal. We have been waiting for these documents for eight months. What is happening? I cannot ask any questions of my colleague who, as everyone knows, cannot say anything about this matter. Perhaps I could ask the judges why there is no progress. I know the committee is working diligently and I trust my colleagues. This is another example of the secrecy and the lack of transparency of this government.

Opposition Motion—Conduct of GovernmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, the election scandal of 2006 involved only one party being raided by the RCMP and being charged. No offences were committed by the Bloc, the NDP or the Liberal Party. And, guess what? It all stopped in 2006 because by the 2008 election even the Conservatives knew it was wrong and they did not do it again.

Opposition Motion—Conduct of GovernmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I repeat that the searches and accusations were focused on the Conservative Party and not at the other parties. I do not want the Conservatives to say that we did the same thing. Had that been the case, they would have formally complained long ago, but they did not. They knew that it was done legally on this side of the House and illegally on the other side.

Opposition Motion—Conduct of GovernmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

March 10th, 2011 / 1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Freeman Bloc Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Madam Speaker, the current Conservative government is hands down the most undemocratic government we have ever seen in Ottawa. Personally, I have been a member of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics since 2008, and I have lost track of how many files have been submitted to this committee concerning undemocratic behaviour by Conservative government members.

The Bloc Québécois felt it was important to present the motion we are discussing in the House today because the Bloc is the vigilant party here in Ottawa. Since it arrived on the federal scene, the Bloc has never looked back and it has been committed to keeping watch over the federal government, no matter which party is in power.

In its day, the sponsorship scandal was the most significant breach of the rules of democracy that the Bloc had ever uncovered on Parliament Hill. Today the Liberals may be outraged and cry foul about the Conservative Party's undemocratic behaviour, but no one has forgotten that the Gomery commission proved that for years the Liberal Party of Canada also successfully trampled the basic rules of democracy to ensure that it remained in power in Ottawa.

The day after their minority government was elected in January 2006, the Conservatives wrapped themselves in a cloak of integrity and transparency. We had hoped that they had learned a lesson and would keep their promises, but it was all just smoke and mirrors. In fact, over the past five years, this minority government has continued to develop slick schemes, each more unacceptable than the last, to ensure that it would keep control of power and act as though it were a majority. This government rivals the Liberals in the art of misleading parliamentarians and the people they represent.

The Bloc Québécois is presenting this motion today simply because it believes there is an urgent need to unmask the Conservatives' undemocratic behaviour and denounce them loud and clear in this Parliament, which is the most tangible symbol of democracy in our society.

In our parliamentary system, Parliament is the ultimate representation of democracy, freely expressed during an official election. The government that takes office must serve Parliament and the public and ensure that all elected members can fully represent their constituents. We are dealing with a minority government that, since taking office in January 2006, has been playing hide-and-seek with Parliament and constantly tries to obstruct Parliament's rules. This attitude weakens democracy, provokes crises that breed cynicism and destroys the average citizen's trust in politicians.

The Bloc Québécois has always been committed to fighting against any attacks on democratic institutions, any abuse of power by the government, any affront to the autonomy of independent institutions, any undue restrictions on access to information, and any hindrance preventing elected representatives of the people from fully representing their constituents.

Since January 2006, there has been overwhelming evidence to show that the Conservative Party does not want to abide by democratic rules. Allow me to name just a few instances of that: prorogation of Parliament on two occasions despite the wishes of the majority of the elected representatives; control over information delivered to the media on the decisions and activities of Parliament; the in and out process used during the 2005-06 election campaign to establish a national ad campaign paid for by local candidates, a process deemed illegal by Elections Canada; boycotting of certain parliamentary committees, specifically the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, on which I sit, through multiple absences, refusals to provide required documents and filibusters to block the work of the committee; the control by the Privy Council Office over sensitive access to information requests addressed to the government, an attitude we also see in the departments. For example, an employee at the Department of Public Works ordered officials to unduly delay publication of documents that were comprising to the government.

Let us not forget the scandalous imposition, by the Prime Minister, of a directive to his employees and employees of all ministers prohibiting them from appearing before parliamentary committees, specifically the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, which was investigating the control exerted by the offices of Conservative ministers over access to information requests.

With regard to controlling access to information requests, the Information Commissioner is currently conducting a formal investigation of three ministers, and we are still waiting for the results.

All these facts clearly show that the people can no longer trust the Conservatives to restore access to information. The Conservative government demonstrated the extent of its culture of secrecy during the last parliamentary session, when the Speaker of the House had to demand that it produce the documents on allegations of torture in Afghanistan.

The most recent misstep in terms of respect for democratic rules was made by the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, who showed a clear lack of judgment as the person responsible for immigration in Canada. As a number of my colleagues have already pointed out, he participated in a partisan activity involving cultural communities and newcomers, even though he is responsible for ensuring that everyone is treated equally. He acted more like a Conservative minister of propaganda for ethnocultural communities. That is the true nature of this Conservative government, which claims to be transparent and responsible. It is a government of propaganda that has proven to be very good at manipulating information and voters.

Being ethical and transparent is a question of will. No rule can take the place of political will and vigilance. The best example to date of the excesses of Conservative propaganda is the unbelievable directive that was sent to public servants late last year stating that, in federal communications, the words “Government of Canada” should be replaced by the Prime Minister's name followed by Government. The directive was from the Prime Minister's office.

We checked and found that, since December, the expression “Name That Cannot Be Said In The House Government” has spread like wildfire in public departmental communications. You practically do not see “Government of Canada” any more. But the “Name-that cannot be said-in-the-House Government” now oversees us. Must we all be transformed into Harry Potter to defeat He Who Must Not Be Named? Stay tuned.

This directive turns out to be the best piece of political propaganda from the Conservative Government of Canada. Today, the Bloc Québécois wishes to warn citizens and have them truly understand the dangerous drift that has threatened our democracy since the Conservatives came to power in Ottawa.

Imagine if this Conservative government won a majority in the next election. I cannot envisage it without shuddering. Action is urgently needed. Our democracy is in jeopardy.

Come next election time, Quebeckers will know that they can no longer count on the government of the person who I cannot name in the House if I wish to abide by the essential rules of any effective democracy.

Opposition Motion—Conduct of GovernmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Madam Speaker, there was a lot of torqued up and over-the-top language in the member's comments. There was also quite a bit of revisionist history.

I served on the committee to which the member referred. We heard from quite a number of witnesses. In the summer of 2008 the committee heard a lot of evidence about how the Bloc Québécois transferred money from the central party into the ridings and back to the party. From the best we can see, the leader of the Bloc Québécois is the first person to have used this method. He was in fact referred to as the creator, or the father, of the transfer from the main party to the association and then back to the party.

Perhaps the member could comment on whether she or any of her colleagues have ever used the technique designed by her leader?

Opposition Motion—Conduct of GovernmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Freeman Bloc Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question and for the information he provided. Before answering, I would like to also thank the NDP members here today who spoke so loudly during my speech that I had a hard time hearing myself. I would like to thank them for listening; it was very kind. Madam Speaker, it would have been kind of you to call the members to order.

I will now respond to the very interesting question about in and out schemes and the fact that the Bloc Québécois was the creator of such schemes. I would like to remind the hon. member of the Conservative Party that, had the Bloc Québécois been guilty of wrongdoing of this sort, the Conservatives would have been the first to complain and to send the RCMP to investigate and check all of our ridings' books. That did not happen. The only party that was investigated, that had its books checked and that was charged in a case that was brought before the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal is the Conservative Party and no other.

The bottom line is that, despite the fact that they have been abusing democracy for many years, they are no longer even capable of admitting their mistakes, which are now recognized by the courts.

I do not know if they will have the gall to take this as far as the Supreme Court at the public's expense, but it is shameful to circumvent the most fundamental democratic rules of a parliamentary system in such a manner. Circumventing the electoral laws to divert money for unnecessary advertising is a crime. If another party had behaved in such a manner, rest assured that it would have already been subject to a search. The Conservatives are the only guilty ones and they must take the blame.

Opposition Motion—Conduct of GovernmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on her speech. The Conservative government has made a habit of resorting to this culture of secrecy by refusing to provide information, or by providing it in very small doses. Now, it is democracy that is being impaired. It is really disturbing to hear that public servants were told to replace “Government of Canada” in public announcements with the Prime Minister's name followed by the word “Government”. Louis XIV used to say “I am the State”. The Prime Minister also thinks he is the State.

What does my colleague have to say about this autocratic, centralizing and undemocratic government?

Opposition Motion—Conduct of GovernmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Freeman Bloc Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Madam Speaker, the expression “I am the State” says it all. We are no longer in the British parliamentary system as we know it. We have become a kind of royalty. Someone suddenly decided here that he would be a king. We must call to order all elected members, and particularly Conservative members, and remind them that we are in a democratic parliamentary system. All elected members have the right to speak, particularly in a minority government. The Conservatives should recognize their status and they should work with their fellow members in a diligent and proactive fashion.

Opposition Motion—Conduct of GovernmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Brossard—La Prairie may begin her remarks, but I will have to interrupt her at 2 p.m.

Opposition Motion—Conduct of GovernmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Alexandra Mendes Liberal Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to begin by thanking the hon. member for Joliette, who sponsored today's motion. I am going to preface my remarks with a proverb from my country of origin. It says that a fish dies through the mouth, and this government is clear proof of that. After promising so much about transparency and accountability, it has ended up taking the bait.

Over the past 24 hours, we have witnessed a remarkable series of events, and it is very appropriate to debate this motion today. We cannot help but notice this increasingly obvious pattern on the part of the Conservative government, which is to ignore the will of Parliament and, particularly, to ignore the best interests of Canadians. We see a government that is not governing but keeping us in a permanent election mode.

We also see a government that is prepared to sacrifice political assistants and public servants while claiming to bring accountability. This has to be a dismal failure for a political party that campaigned by swearing that accountability was the most important thing for any elected member of this country. We have before us a government which, in marked contradiction with that commitment, is consumed by power, is imposing a monitoring regime and is manipulating the truth shamelessly.

Let us come back to the facts, nothing but the facts, by looking at 10 recent situations involving abuses of power by the Conservative regime.

First, there was the refusal to disclose the costs related to tax cuts, megaprisons and the F-35s.

Next, the Conservative regime was unable to respect the majority motion of the House of Commons that asked it to provide, by March 7, all the details concerning its plans to spend billions of dollars on tax cuts for businesses, prison expansions and untendered stealth jet fighters. Hiding these costs undermines the credibility of the whole budget. We must get answers to these questions before the budget is tabled. The member for Kings—Hants sent the question to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and asked that it report to the House before the budget is tabled.

Third, there were in and out schemes during elections. The Prime Minister's inner circle is accused of a $1.2 million scheme for exceeding the allowed election spending limits and buying more advertising. High-ranking Conservative operators "transferred" money to local campaigns, money that was then "returned" to them. Now, they are facing serious accusations that could lead to imprisonment. When the candidates claimed the transfers to get $800,000 more in repayments from the taxpayers, Elections Canada said, "Enough!"

Fourth, we had the decree by the “H” government to the public service. The Prime Minister is using public resources for partisan causes by forcing employees of the federal public service to replace the words "Government of Canada" with "the H Government". Canadians know that it is not the Prime Minister's government. The government belongs to all Canadians.

Fifth, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism's "very ethnic" fundraising letter—

Opposition Motion—Conduct of GovernmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I am sorry to interrupt the honourable member, but it is now 2:00 p.m., and we need to move on to statements by members. The member will have 16 minutes to continue her remarks later this afternoon.

International Women's WeekStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Tilly O'Neill-Gordon Conservative Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, with this year's International Women's Week, we are proud to recognize women and girls who continue to achieve economic, social and democratic progress in Canada.

I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all the women in the riding of Miramichi, to those who have paved the way for all of us and, most certainly, those special women who are well over 100 years old, and my riding has been blessed with a few.

Sadly, last month Muriel Morris passed away in her 104th year. Here is what her obituary read:

Her joy, kindness and dignity in dealing with wins, losses, set-backs and challenges was a trait that impressed all who knew her and a legacy passed to those who loved her.

Muriel Morris has made an indelible imprint on all of us. She will live on in every act of kindness, grace and dignity. Her memories and stories will enrich our lives long after she has passed.

PickeringStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, in March 1811, at Thompson's Tavern in Brougham, the first meeting of the township of Pickering was held and a new municipality born.

Two hundred years later, the now city of Pickering is kicking off its bicentennial year.

Born on Rougemount Drive, I have watched our small suburb grow into a booming community 100,000 strong. Now among the most diverse in Canada, it has one of the highest percentages of young families in the nation.

Pickering is rich not only in its diversity of people but also in its landscape. From large tracts of prime agricultural land to historic hamlets, like Brougham, Whitevale, Cherrywood, Greenwood and Claremont, Pickering has retained its small town character and heritage even as it expands.

In this bicentennial year, I call upon the government to finally respect and celebrate our history rather than tear it down, to recognize heritage structures on federal land, invest in them and stop their neglect and destruction. Two hundred years of history deserves no less.

I congratulate Mayor Ryan and members of council on an exciting year of celebrations ahead and wish then a happy bicentennial.

Canadian Jewish CongressStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, in March 1919, over 200 delegates elected by some 25,000 Jews met in Montreal, at the Monument-National, headquarters for the St-Jean-Baptiste Society of Quebec, to participate in the first assembly of the Jewish community in Canada.

This great democratic assembly led to the creation of the Canadian Jewish Congress, an organization that has played an important role in the fight for equality, civil rights, human rights and immigration policy reform in this country. The congress remains an important mouthpiece for the Jewish community, on both the national and international levels.

The goal of the Jewish Congress is to protect and improve the lives of Jews in Quebec, Canada and abroad. As part of its mandate, the organization helps develop an environment of mutual respect that fosters interfaith and cross-cultural dialogue. I should point out that in 2009, the Canadian Jewish Congress changed its name in Quebec to become the Quebec Jewish Congress.

Long live both of these organizations.