Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate. This is all about the Conservative Party's abuse of power and its belief that it is above the rules and above the law. That is a very serious statement to make, so I want to see if I can explain to the House and to Canadians why.
Four members of the Prime Minister's inner circle, including two Conservative senators, his former campaign director and the chief financial officer, face potential jail time after being charged with what amounts to electoral fraud as part of a $1.2 million scam to exceed national campaign spending limits in the 2006 election. As well, we found out today that the Prime Minister's current chief of staff, Mr. Nigel Wright, has also been associated with this scam. I listened to the debate all day today. The Conservatives have come back with one defence, and that is that everyone does it. That is patently false.
The motion before us encourages the Prime Minister to order the immediate repayment of any and all illegally obtained electoral rebates that were paid out to candidates of the Conservative Party of Canada as a result of this electoral fraud.
With regard to persons who have been charged, the motion urges the removal of all individuals, the two senators in particular who are facing charges for this fraud, from any position of responsibility within the government or the Conservative Party of Canada.
Let me see if I can explain in basic terms what in and out really means. If we really want to confuse people it is pretty easy with this one because parts can be left out. I will try to explain.
There was a transfer of $1.2 million to a large number of Conservative candidates in the 2006 election. That is legal because it is political money that is going to support the different aspects of a campaign. There is no problem with that. Then there was an immediate transfer of the same amount of money, $1.2 million, from those candidates back to the party. There is nothing wrong with that because there are no consequences. No receipting is involved. That money has already been receipted. It is simply within the political party system. No expenses are associated with that. It is basically a wash.
The transfer of the cash in and out has no consequences whatsoever and should not be considered in this debate. What should be considered is that the Conservative Party spent the legal limit of $18.3 million on its national advertising campaign. However, the party had more money and it had to figure out a way to get more of the cash spent during the campaign without getting charged with exceeding the limit for advertising.
The Conservatives came up with the idea that if their national advertiser, Retail Media, made the national ads it could provide an invoice. The Conservatives spent $1.2 million on it. If they had stopped right there they would have exceeded their limit. To get around that, the Conservatives made their own invoices and broke the $1.2 million down into smaller invoices and sent them to Conservative candidates. The overspending of $1.2 million was distributed among various candidates as if they had bought advertising. Although the cash had no impact on anything, the fact that they were able to transfer this expenditure among all of those candidates allowed those candidates to claim the invoice as an election expense.
Because advertising expenses are a legitimate election expense, they were then allowed to claim an election expense as a rebate, which is equal to 60% of the amount spent. Of the $1.2 million of invoices they gave to all the candidates, those candidates collectively charged election expenses of $1.2 million and received a rebate of $800,000.
Where did that 60% come from? It came from the taxpayers of Canada. They footed the bill for $800,000 just because the Conservatives figured out a scheme on how they could ratchet down the access cash they had into ridings and falsely claim them as election expenses.
It went to the courts. The government has said that this is an administrative dispute. The Federal Court of Appeal has looked at everything and, by unanimous decision, has said this constitutes electoral fraud. Four people have been charged. People are facing jail time. Moneys will have to be recovered. It is really a mess. Yet the government continues to be defiant and says that it will fight it in the courts.
The government will not pay for this. The Conservative Party will pay for the court case. However, as I said before, the Conservative Party gets its money from donations from taxpayers. That means this charade of playing it off in the courts will be paid for by the taxpayers of Canada. It is outrageous that Conservatives want to continue this all these years later. That is my breakdown.
If they are absolutely convinced that this is just an administrative disagreement, why did they filibuster the procedure and House affairs committee for six months? The committee tried to examine it and the Conservatives filibustered.
Then it was brought to the ethics committee and it was filibustered there again, but the committee finally got it on the floor. Then there were witnesses. What happened? The Conservative candidates and their official agents told those witnesses not to appear. Then the committee issued subpoenas? What did the Conservative Party do? It told the witnesses who were subpoenaed to ignore the subpoenas, to ignore the law. Then the Conservatives called an election to shut it down.
That brings us up to the 2008 election.
When the House resumed, what did the Conservatives do? It was not the Federal Accountability Act, I can assure everyone of that. The first thing they did was to produce a 200-page binder on how to disrupt committees and the House to make them look totally dysfunctional.
I am not sure of the rationale, but I think it is something like this. If the Conservatives make this entire place look dysfunctional, then everyone is treated the same, everyone is the same down at the bottom rung and nobody wins. They are happy with that because they believe they can beat other parties at the polls simply by the money they have to buy votes. That is my view.
As I have only one minute left, I would seek the unanimous consent of the House for an extra three minutes.