That this House denounce the conduct of the government, its disregard for democracy and its determination to go to any lengths to advance its partisan interests and impose its regressive ideology, as it did by justifying the Conservative Party's circumvention of the rules on election spending in the 2005-2006 election campaign, when the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism used public funds to solicit donations to the Conservative Party, when the Party used taxpayers’ money to finance a pre-election campaign under the guise of promoting Canada’s Economic Action Plan, when it changed the wording in government communications to promote itself, when it showed that it is acceptable for a minister to alter a document and make misleading statements to the House, when it refused to provide a parliamentary committee with the costs of its proposals, and when it improperly prorogued Parliament.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by saying that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Québec.
It would be impossible to go over all of the abuses listed in this motion in just 10 minutes. I will not bother rereading the motion, since you just did such a good job.
First of all, I would simply like to remind the House that we think it is very clear that the Conservative government's ideology is harmful to democracy. We see this every day.
Second, it is also very clear that the Conservative Party does not like to abide by democratic rules and that it sees Parliament as an obstacle to be circumvented. In fact, we saw this twice when the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament and once when an election was called, all just so the Conservatives could not be held accountable to the opposition, to parliamentarians.
Third, the government likes to take an autocratic approach. We have seen several examples of its utter disrespect for parliamentarians and democratic institutions. Such examples include its recent refusal to hand over documents needed by the Standing Committee on Finance to carry out its work, its refusal to hand over uncensored documents concerning allegations of torture in Afghanistan, until the Speaker issued a ruling on this in April 2010, and its refusal to allow ministerial staff to testify before committees. These all show a clear lack of respect for parliamentarians and democracy.
Again yesterday, Mr. Speaker, you issued two rulings concerning events listed in the motion. I hope I have time to come back to them later. If I do not have time to revisit them, I am sure my hon. colleague from Québec will have the opportunity to discuss them further.
And fourth, that entire regressive ideology can be seen not only in this contempt for democracy, but also in the government’s desire to advance a hidden agenda. We can sometimes see aspects of that hidden agenda peeking over the horizon, for example when backbench MPs are used to try to reopen the debate about pregnancy choice and when they use backbench MPs to promote the government’s desire to dismantle the firearms registry.
Instead of holding open debates, they prefer to bring changes in through the back door. Here is another example: bills dealing with changes to the Senate, changes that are totally unconstitutional, as virtually all our experts have told us. Because the Conservative government is not able to do what it wants to do directly, it does it indirectly, constantly using half-truths and approximations and never hesitating to misrepresent the facts. Unfortunately, we often see examples of this during question period and statements by members.
What is pretty unbelievable is that during the 2005-2006 election campaign the Conservatives and the Prime Minister portrayed themselves as the ones who wanted to distance themselves from the obfuscation and lack of transparency of the Liberals. They wanted to make themselves the champions of transparency, integrity and accountability.
After the sponsorship scandal, the Conservatives wanted to show that they were an honest alternative to a party that had agreed, for no reason other than to try to buy off Quebeckers after the 1995 referendum, to divert public funds not only for partisan purposes, but also to enhance the federal government’s visibility, in addition to greasing the palms of a number of advertising agencies.
The Conservatives portrayed themselves as the ones who were going to wash whiter than white. The fact is that the Conservative washing machine has been broken for several years, since 2006. Not only is the machine broken and no longer getting things so white, the opposite is in fact true; the works have come apart and there is oil on the clothes. The longer it goes on, the dirtier the clothes in the Conservative washing machine look, and the dirtier they will keep getting. It all started with the 2005-2006 election, when a scheme was put in place to exceed the national limits on advertising spending by using the space left over by 67 candidates who all, to my knowledge, come from Quebec.
So we have transfers made from Conservative Party headquarters to ridings, which in turn paid bills, because of decisions made at the national level. There are no problems transferring funds from the national level to the ridings, or vice versa. We do it all the time. But the law says that those transfers must be made in accordance with the Elections Canada rules. That was not the case in this 2005-2006 situation. So we hope the Conservative Party will pay back the $200,000 it got itself, fraudulently, from Canadian taxpayers, and that it will also drop its legal actions. This is not an administrative dispute, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons say. We are talking about fraud here, I would remind you. The director of public prosecutions has called it fraud and producing fake invoices, and on that point, former Conservative candidates have testified to illegal acts committed to obtain illegal refunds, as I said just now.
There was another misleading statement made, in particular, by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister. He said that if the Chief Electoral Officer was aware of the Conservatives' scheme, it was because the Conservative Party gave him the information. What does he take us for? We all remember watching the news and seeing the RCMP raid on the Conservative Party's headquarters—clearly at Elections Canada's request—to retrieve the papers and emails necessary to expand upon existing evidence.
The Conservative Party never co-operated with Elections Canada. It did everything it could to try to delay the final decision, particularly through court action. The Conservative Party's failure to co-operate is the most obvious evidence of its guilt. Sooner or later, the Conservatives must be accountable for their actions.
I would like to read several excerpts from the Federal Court of Appeal's recent ruling, which dismissed one of the Conservative Party's cases against Elections Canada. Paragraph 93 reads as follows:
A key concern of the CEOC was the failure of the candidates to submit documentary evidence of the existence or terms of a contract with RMI [Retail Media Inc.] under which the advertisements were purchased by the candidates directly, or by the Party as the agent of the participating candidates. Indeed, the Party conceded that no contractual document between RMI and the candidates or the Party existed.
Hence, the scheme had absolutely no legal basis. I will read two other paragraphs. Unfortunately, I realize that I am going to run out of time. Paragraph 102 states:
The CEOC could reasonably regard the bases on which the costs of the RMB [regional media buys] were allocated as indicative more of a cost-shifting arrangement than an agreement by the participating candidates to purchase advertisements from RMI, either directly or through the Party.
The last two lines of paragraph 103 state:
...when the Party asked candidates to participate in the RMB, it was close to its permitted spending limit, a consideration that would make attractive a scheme to shift to candidates the cost of additional advertising with national themes.
Clearly, this is very serious. It is just as serious as the use of House resources by the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism to solicit funds in order to target certain ethnocultural communities. I hope that a number of my colleagues will have the opportunity to come back to this over the course of the day.
It is just as serious as the misleading statements by the Minister of International Cooperation, who flip-flopped. On April 23, 2010, in response to a question on the order paper, the minister said that the decision not to fund KAIROS was made by CIDA. On December 9, 2010, in committee, she said the opposite, that it was her decision.
I will conclude with this last point. On December 9, 2010, in committee, she said she did not know who added the word “not” to the document on funding for KAIROS. On February 14, 2011, in this House, she said that the word “not” was added at her direction.
That is the true face of the Conservative Party. The Conservatives have spun a web of deceit just to stay in power. That is unacceptable.