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House of Commons Hansard #141 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was conservative.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Madam Speaker, I believe that the Conservative candidates spent Conservative money on Conservative ads. All of the practices of the Conservative Party in every election have followed the rules. The Conservatives got results ethically, legally and in the same way as all of the other parties.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Madam Speaker, you have no idea how pleased I am to be speaking during today's opposition day. It will allow me to put the spotlight on some of the lines that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister has been feeding us during question period for the past two weeks. I believe, as does my party, that the Prime Minister, through the parliamentary secretary, is completely misleading the House, and that is serious.

The Conservatives are trying to make the public and members here believe that the case involving the CEOC and the Conservative Party is simply an administrative dispute. They seem to be saying that they are disliked by the CEOC, that all of the other parties did the same thing and that, really, it is unfair that the CEOC is picking on the Conservative Party. They would even have us believe that the CEOC's actions are politically motivated.

Today's issue is very important. The topic that we are discussing today, the topic that the Liberal Party chose to raise on its opposition day, is the final outcome of the case that is currently before the courts. The Conservative Party will launch an appeal. It is a question of guaranteeing independence and following the established rules when running for election.

This is what the Conservatives did. It is clearly laid out in the ruling, which I took the time to read. The Conservatives deliberately transferred funds—in order to pay for a national ad—to ridings and candidates that had not reached their spending limits, as set out in the Canada Elections Act, or to candidates who were not likely to reach their limit. The member for Beauce, who had nearly reached his spending limit, received an invoice that differed from the others, to ensure that he would not exceed his limit.

Listening to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, we are left with the impression that he is completely shocked and that all these insinuations are futile. However, before proceeding with the investigation, the Chief Electoral Officer and the Commissioner of Canada Elections already had their suspicions about the documents they had received to justify those expenses.

For the benefit of people watching, I would like to give a little background and explain what happened, so everyone understands. They took some money. They identified which ridings still had some spending room, namely, ridings in which the Conservative Party was unlikely to win, where less money was being spent. The campaign was almost over, they wanted to win and they did not have enough money to complete the national advertising campaign, so they took $1.5 million from 67 ridings. So those 67 Conservative candidates signed an agreement with their party, whereby the money would be given to the candidates, who would then turn around and give it back in order to pay the company that had been hired to create media placements and national advertising.

This is called cheating. The Conservative Party knowingly cheated in order to win. They knew what they were doing. That is serious. We do not encourage the Conservative Party to appeal this case, because it should respect the Federal Court of Appeal decision, acknowledge its offence and pay back what needs to be paid back.

When one is a candidate in a riding with little chance of winning, one might sign a letter because we tend to listen to our parties. It appears that these candidates signed a letter of agreement, but one person refused to sign it: the candidate in Brome—Missisquoi. He sensed that something was not right.

It must be said that this candidate was a knowledgeable lawyer capable of analyzing what he was asked to sign. He refused to sign. He even gave an account that was published in the papers last week, in which he stated that he knew it was a way to circumvent the Elections Act for improper purposes, and to win by cheating.

What is even more alarming is that there are ministers in the House who signed this letter and who went along with the in and out scheme. Today, they are caught up in the scandal. Conservative senators and organizers have also been charged by Elections Canada for breaking the law.

If we find ourselves debating the issue here, it is because, in question period, we are repeatedly given answers that make no sense and, above all, that mislead the House. It is often said the Conservative Party gets bad press abroad. I was really surprised to read what was published in France in Le Figaro about the matter we are examining today. It is worthwhile reading an excerpt to make our audience at home aware of the fact that this article is solely about the Conservative Party and the illegal acts carried out during the 2006 election campaign.

On March 2, 2011, Le Figaro, a major French newspaper, published an article that truly shows the negative image of Canada abroad.

Today the Canadian electoral authority formally charged the Prime Minister's Conservative Party and two senators from the governing party with fraud for allegedly concealing cost overruns during the 2006 election. The charges, laid at a time when many observers expect a spring election to be held, revolve around “a false or misleading statement” about the budget for the campaign that brought [the Conservatives] to power, writes Elections Canada in a press release.

According to this independent agency, the Conservative Party deliberately exceeded election spending limits—set at $18 million—by $1 million through an accounting scheme involving the right-wing party's local committees. The 2006 election is the one that put an end to the Liberal Party's reign and propelled [the Conservatives] into power.

That is what is being written in a newspaper in France. I will stop here because that is enough to see that the opposition parties understand that a scheme was used involving illegal activities. Analysts in France understand that as well. The Chief Electoral Officer understood that, as did the judge of the Federal Court of Appeal. There is only one party that does not understand the seriousness of its actions: the party being accused, in other words, the Conservative Party.

There were a number of indications. The Chief Electoral Officer heads an independent agency. He was selected by the current Prime Minister. The CEOC is serious and recognized for his expertise. This gives Quebeckers and Canadians the assurance that federal elections obey the rules, and it gives people the assurance that our democratic rules are valid and are being followed.

When the Chief Electoral Officer received documents from the Conservative candidates, he began to have his doubts. In the ruling we can see that the local media buys by the candidates were actually made by the national party and the costs transferred to the ridings.

However, he had a nagging suspicion that the interests of the party and those of the candidates engaging in the in and out transfers largely overlapped. Everything was calculated so that no candidate and no riding would exceed their spending limit. Adjustments were even made to ensure that the limits would not be exceeded, and they were such that the Chief Electoral Officer could prove it when he read all of the documents that were handed over.

I say that because the documents were handed over. However, I must point out that, in order for the Chief Electoral Officer to be able to investigate, the RCMP had to search Conservative Party offices and seize documents that the Chief Electoral Officer deemed necessary to carry out his investigation. He had reasonable grounds to suspect that he did not have everything he needed to continue with his investigation. Therefore, he used legal means since the Conservative Party refused to co-operate and answer his questions.

It seems that it was easy to prove from the documents that some very precise adjustments had been made to ensure that candidates were under their spending limit and transferred $1.5 million to pay an invoice for national advertisements.

It was also clear that there was a small problem with the transmission of the invoice. The Chief Electoral Officer asked a number of questions about the invoices, particularly those from the advertising company, because these invoices did not look like standard advertising invoices. So he asked questions and analyzed the invoices. During his investigation he questioned someone whose name escapes me, who was managing media placement for the company. This person said—I read it—that the invoices had been altered and that his company had not decided what to put in or how to present the invoices. Throughout the process, a number of witnesses indicated that the Conservatives knew that what they were doing was not entirely above board and that they had even made an effort to hide their illegal activities. Various witnesses corroborated that point.

When the Prime Minister appointed the Chief Electoral Officer, he surely had good reason to do so and he recognized his abilities. Today, they seem to be saying that the Chief Electoral Officer is not doing such a good job. Furthermore, they are even questioning the amount of taxpayers' money being spent on prosecuting the Conservative Party. That is what bothers me the most. They are challenging the fact that the head of an independent organization—which has the important mandate of guaranteeing that the process is democratic—is conducting an investigation and going to court to ensure compliance with the Canada Elections Act. That is being questioned and it is very dangerous. They are beginning to criticize the person who has a very important position. They are insinuating that he has a political bias and that he targeted the Conservative Party outright while leaving the other parties alone. It is a very serious matter to plant such seeds of doubt in the minds of Canadians, and especially to call into question the money spent to prosecute the Conservative Party. The fact remains that a ruling has been handed down and it cannot be refuted. Illegal activities took place. The Conservatives should face the facts and agree to repay the amounts received by candidates.

They should admit that they made a mistake rather than continuing to fight the Chief Electoral Officer.

In our opinion, the Liberal Party of Canada set up some government programs to buy votes. There was the sponsorship program and the HRSDC transitional jobs fund, which allowed the Liberals to spend money in ridings held by political opponents and to sway voter sympathies. As we saw in Justice Gomery's report, which brought to light a complex system of kickbacks, the sponsorship program allowed the Liberals to add hundreds of thousands of dollars to its election spending.

The Conservatives have been caught at a different game. They decided to use what is known as the in and out scheme in order to circumvent the Election Act and spend more than the limit, in other words, to buy votes by cheating.

It is not difficult to see why Canadians do not understand why the Conservative Party is challenging the latest ruling and even trying to make us believe that the Chief Electoral Officer and the judge were off the mark and do not understand what transpired.

I would like to add that they went over their legal national campaign limit by $1.5 million. After two rulings, especially the last one, the Conservatives need to realize that the message could not be clearer. They should not take their appeal all the way to the Supreme Court. It is their right to do so, but the evidence is so clear that I truly hope they do not take that route.

To conclude, I would like to read an excerpt from an article by Ms. Cornellier of Le Devoir:

Phew, that was close! A Conservative victory would have meant a free-for-all in election campaigns. And perhaps as soon as this spring. All the parties could have assigned some of their national expenses to ridings where they already know they will not win and that spend far less than the legal limit. That would allow a party to offload some of its expenses and would give it the flexibility, on a national scale, to basically spend more than the legal limit. The only limit would be the party's bank account. National spending limits would become a joke, which would only hurt parties with less funding. And we all know which is the rich party these days.

We are clearly very happy with the Federal Court of Appeal's ruling. If a different ruling had been handed down, we would have had to question both the strength of our Elections Act and the idea that elections follow the rules and respect the institution.

The Bloc Québécois will support the motion that has been moved in the House today.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to give the member an opportunity to affirm her position.

The Chief Electoral Officer and Elections Canada do a rigorous review of all elections. With regard to the situation that occurred in 2006, the Conservative Party put money in and immediately took it out, and then transferred its own expenses into a campaign so it could spend more on its national advertising campaign. It was a scheme. The Chief Electoral Officer said that no other parties or candidates were found to have violated the elections law in that regard. I would ask the member if that is her understanding.

Also, with regard to the Conservative member who said that one court was for and another was against, in fact it was a unanimous decision of the appeal court that said the Conservative Party broke the rules and was in breach of the Canadian Elections Act.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question. I completely agree with him. Given the Federal Court of Appeal's ruling, it seems perfectly clear that the Conservative Party violated the Canada Elections Act and was involved in illegal activities. It is clear to everyone, both here in the House and outside the House, except the Conservative Party.

I also agree with the hon. member's statement that the Chief Electoral Officer conducts thorough investigations; the same is true of his commissioner. In order for a complaint to be filed regarding the violation of a regulation, there must be proof, doubt and suspicions. I hope that I will have the opportunity to point out a few of these. Here is one example.

On December 6, 2006, an employee of Retail Media Group, the marketing company with which the Conservatives were working, raised doubts about the transfers that were being made to Conservative Party members. When he requested permission to learn more about the situation from the Elections Canada broadcasting arbitrator, he was told to wait because it was possible that the party would not want to speak to Elections Canada about it.

The CEOC had reasonable doubt as to whether the Conservative Party was abiding by the law. All sorts of evidence was circulating, which was gathered and submitted to the courts. This led to the Federal Court of Appeal's recent ruling that the Conservative Party did in fact violate the Canada Elections Act and was involved in illegal activities.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate the Bloc Québécois member on her speech.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister clearly stated that Elections Canada has exonerated the opposition parties in the in and out scandal.

I would like the member to explain why Elections Canada and the RCMP accused the Conservatives, and explain the difference between the opposition parties and the Conservatives.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

March 8th, 2011 / 11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, it would be difficult to answer that question in so little time, but I can say that Elections Canada found that their national advertising expenses had been deliberately spread out among ridings that had not reached their election spending limits. Thus, they passed on the bill for national advertising, which had absolutely nothing to do with local advertising or local issues. The ads promoted national themes.

The Chief Electoral Officer of Canada saw this and began asking questions, and very quickly realized that further investigation was needed. This is what we have read. So he wanted to consult other documents, which the Conservative Party refused to hand over. For a party that advocates transparency—so much for that idea. This party refused to co-operate with the Chief Electoral Officer, who simply wanted more information and answers to some questions.

So a search warrant was needed to seize documents from the Conservative Party headquarters. The parliamentary secretary said that we should not get so worked up, that the judge is completely “out to lunch” and that we are all wrong because all the parties use the in and out system, but that is completely false. Are the NDP, the Liberal Party or the Bloc Québécois in court right now, answering to the Chief Electoral Officer? Is the Chief Electoral Officer questioning our practices? Did he find us in violation of the Canada Elections Act during the 2006 election? No; only one party in this House is on trial—the Conservative Party, the governing party.

I must add that this is not the first time the Conservatives have tried to cheat. As we know, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism used departmental letterhead, his parliamentary office letterhead, for promotional purposes and to solicit funds. It seems that the Conservatives are getting in the habit of cheating and trying to get around the rules.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, when the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics held hearings on this matter in the summer of 2008, the committee had subpoenaed 31 witnesses who were Conservative candidates and had participated in the in and out scandal. It came out that the Conservative Party instructed them to disregard the subpoenas and not appear. Then the government called an election just to shut it down.

If this were an administrative disagreement, why has the government failed to show openness, accountability and transparency on this matter? If this is just an administrative disagreement, why not fully co-operate?

The reason, and I hope the member will have an opinion, is that the Conservatives were caught just like they were in all of the other incidents where the government has been accused. It is not simply about this one particular event, but the motion is about the character, honesty, credibility and accountability of the government which it has failed on all counts.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his question.

I think we agree since we share the same opinion on the Conservatives' attitude since coming to power. We all agree on their contempt for democratic institutions.

We can see a parallel with their refusal to have departmental staff appear to answer questions by members of the standing committees. We also saw what happened with the Minister of International Cooperation and her refusal to give funding to KAIROS; we also saw what the Minister of Natural Resources did to obstruct the Access to Information Act in his own department and what the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism did with regard to electoral financing.

The Conservatives are receiving a lot of criticism these days and are getting caught in their own game of cheating the law and not wanting to co-operate to clarify entirely justifiable debates.

In the “in and out” situation before us today, I believe that the claim that this was just an administrative error is intended to mislead the public and the House. Saying that the Chief Electoral Officer is attacking their party is an attempt to discredit the democratic institution that guarantees the legitimacy of our federal elections in Quebec and Canada.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, it is our intent to support the motion before us today. I say that because some may think it is rather obvious, but I also would be more comfortable with different wording. There were points of order made at the beginning about continuing to ensure that Canadians are innocent until found guilty, the presumption of innocence and so on.

Some of the wording says it was an act of electoral fraud. I am not a lawyer but that is a serious word to use and has implications for legal processes in courts. The motion would order the government to repay, although this is not a binding motion. Because I have spent many years in parliament and have the greatest respect for the place and all members, I want to put on the record that I am not 100% comfortable with the way the motion reads. However, at the end of the day it is an opposition motion. We need to ensure there is as much latitude as possible for opposition. It is the only opportunity for us to put matters before the House and command the time of the House, so we want to keep it very broad. It is a matter of accountability. The primary function of opposition members is to hold the government to account.

The motion is not legally binding. It is our opinion. If the government votes against it and all opposition members vote for it, we will have expressed our opinion on the matter. Since it goes no further than that, I can live with the language and certainly live with the intent. I love the intent, but I can live with the language given the reasons I have mentioned.

Having been in politics for so long, my heart goes out to and I have some sympathy for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. I served on the Standing Committee on Public Accounts with him for a number of years when I first came here and know him well. He is a very intelligent member of Parliament, very feisty and ready to do battle at the drop of a hat, yet he is still a backbench member, although clearly someone who is “18 with a bullet” as was said in the radio business.

He reminds me very much of the current government House leader who in the Ontario legislature was the parliamentary assistant to the minister of labour under the Mike Harris government. Provincially we call them parliamentary assistants and here they are parliamentary secretaries. The first thing the government did and continued to do for the eight years it was in power was go after the labour movement. There was the poor parliamentary assistant, a rookie MPP, having to stand and defend the draconian attack on the labour movement. I remember similar feelings watching the current government House leader perform. I thought he was a sharp, smart fellow who clearly was going somewhere in politics, but was given the impossible job of trying to defend the Harris agenda of attacking the labour movement.

He was the poor MPP who had to go to the labour conventions. I remember one in Windsor where he had to have a police escort to get him into the convention, to get him to the podium so he could speak. As a courtesy at conventions the labour movement traditionally gives the guest speakers one of the convention bags. The government House leader carried that bag around for years because as far as he was concerned he earned it with blood and rightly so. That was a tough moment and a tough gig.

I say that for the member for Nepean—Carleton. Having to defend what is alleged to be illegal criminal activity on the part of a government, whose raison d'être is to go after the bad guys, is not an easy road to walk down no matter who one is. I offer up that sympathy.

On a personal level, if things continue to go that way, this is earning one's spurs, putting in one's time. If the example of the current government House leader is any example, then the member for Nepean—Carleton hopefully will get many more opportunities to reflect on matters that have a lot more positiveness to them than this.

Along the way, the government has been scrambling to grapple with the message box and massaging it as things have changed along the way. I find it interesting that the parliamentary secretary said that all of, what he termed, the in and out transactions on the part of the three opposition parties were entirely legal, that there was no problem. The parliamentary secretary said that the only thing the opposition parties were guilty of was hypocrisy.

If I have been following the bouncing ball correctly, the government has maintained it did nothing different than the rest of us. In other words, the Conservatives have done nothing different than what the Liberals, the Bloc and the NDP did. Yet the parliamentary secretary now says that what they did, and he is trying to say they did not do anything, is leave this one little gap, which is incredible thinking.

The gap is this. Elections Canada has an absolutely stellar reputation, not only with Canadians but all of us involved in politics and, quite frankly, internationally. The way we hold our elections, the rules we have, the non-partisan, professional arm's-length nature of Elections Canada is something we should be very proud of because we are lucky to have that. Ironically, if I understand correctly, the federal prosecutor was a creation of the current government.

What we are left with is Elections Canada, an internationally respected arm's-length parliamentary agency, and the federal prosecutor, who is too new to have that reputation. One would think the government at least believes it is a good idea to have one since it created the position. One would assume it supports the person and the work being done. The gap requires that, at best, Elections Canada and the federal prosecutor are wrong and, at worst, there is a conspiracy going on. There are a bunch of government bureaucrats running around trying to attack the government and bring it down.

The way they will do that is by manipulating the interpretation of the election laws and make it look like the sitting government defrauded the Canadian people. What a stupid plan that would be in this era of “H's” Canada. It goes after bureaucrats who are only doing their jobs. However, if a senior bureaucrat, who has been appointed by the government through and order-in-council, happens to damage the government, or its reputation or suggests it has done wrong, the government will chop off his or her head. That is what it does to bureaucrats who, in its mind, cross it.

Therefore, with all that, does any reasonable Canadian believe Elections Canada and the federal prosecutor have conspired together to create a false charge in the hope that, after all the court proceedings years down the road, would somehow be the undoing of the sitting government because the people at Elections Canada and at the federal prosecutor's office did not like the government? It makes no sense.

What does make sense is that all the transactions of the Liberals, the Bloc and the NDP were legal, appropriate, accounted for and signed off by Elections Canada. When Elections Canada looked at the Conservative transactions, they were different.

One of my Liberal colleagues, the member for St. Paul's, spoke about the allegations of forged invoices. Some of this money was in bank accounts in less than an hour.

The truth, it would seem, is the Conservatives are in a lot of serious trouble. That is why I opened my remarks by commenting on the member for Nepean—Carleton, who has this impossible task in question period and here today to try to defend this. If members will notice, there really was not much defence. There were a lot of points of order to try to get the member to speak to the motion, because he wanted to talk about everything but. Why? They do not have an excuse. They do not have a good defence. They got caught.

The other part of the motion speaks to senators, two of whom have been charged, stepping down while the charges are in place.

It is interesting. I think most of us would accept that if there were cabinet ministers, or even parliamentary secretaries, with this kind of cloud hanging over them, there would be pressure and I suspect they would step down. Every instance I have ever experienced, whether here or in the Ontario legislature, when a minister was charged with anything that was at all deemed serious, not a parking ticking but a very serious charge, he or she immediately stepped down to preserve his or her dignity. I have seen where the minister has never came back and I have seen where the minister has been exonerated and brought back to exactly the same position.

Senators, and it hurts me to say this, are members of the upper house. They are all honourable. They all get that title, which only cabinet ministers get. They have incredible power over there. It is highly appropriate that the majority of the House would call on senators, appointed or otherwise, to do the right thing, to do the honourable parliamentary thing, and at least step aside. We are not saying to give up the pay or anything else at this stage, but show the respect that not only the House and that place deserve but the respect that Canadian people deserve.

It speaks to how frustrating it is when we cannot hold senators to account. When we take a look at who is there, let us remember that the two senators who have been charged are both full-time senators, getting all the benefits, the pay and everything else. They have all but full-time jobs as Conservative Party operatives, which are nicely paid for by the Canadian people.

I want to take a moment to also remind members in this debate, and any Canadians who might be watching, just how partisan the Prime Minister and the government are in everything they do, especially when it comes to the supposed independent senators in that other place. I will not name names because that is not my issue. However, I will give the dates and give a little description of some of the people who the Prime Minister has put into what is supposed to be a non-partisan, independent sober second thought chamber.

On February 27, 2006, a Tory organizer was appointed to sit in cabinet as a Quebec representative. We all remember that. Do members remember when nobody would be appointed to the Senate who had not been elected? That was the first.

On January 2, 2009, a red letter day for a lot of lucky Canadians, a former director of the Progressive Conservative Fund, who chaired Tory leadership and policy conventions, was appointed.

On January 2, 2009, and this is one of the people charged, the Conservative national campaign director for the 2006 and 2008 elections was appointed to the Senate.

On January 2, 2009, a fundraiser and former chair of the Conservative Party fund, another person who has been charged, was appointed.

I want to mention a quote that senator said on the floor of the Senate on November 27, 2010. He said, “I want to tell you that I do not admit to being a bagman; I proclaim it”. He also said, “I love politics but never had the time to become a candidate”.

How many people watching this also love politics, but life gets in the way, the job, the kids, taking care of parents, earning money, all those little things that we little people in Canada have to think about? I am sure they would love a chance to be in that other place if all they had to do was show their love of politics but did not have the time to be a candidate. What arrogance.

I will give more on that big red letter day of January 2, 2009. These folks had a great 2009.

A former Conservative MP, who was defeated in the 2008 election, was appointed to the Senate. That MP was elected to this place, the people did not like the job the member did, was fired, but is now back in a law-making seat, having been put in through an appointment. That is independent, sober second thought all right.

On January 2, 2009, another unsuccessful Conservative in the 2008 election was appointed. It appears that an individual gets two shots when a Conservative candidate, one through the legitimate way, through that door, and then the other way, through the back door down the hall.

More were appointed on January 2, 2009. That was a record-setting day. Never have so many senators been appointed on one day. I stand to be corrected, but I do think that was the date. The current Prime Minister has the title. Another individual appointed on that date was a former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister from New Brunswick.

On January 2, 2009, another unsuccessful Conservative candidate in the 2006 election became a senator and won the greatest lottery in the world, where it is not only cash for life but the individual can make the laws of the country. What a deal. All people have to do is know the Prime Minister really well.

I will mention just a couple more because I like to do it.

On January 8, an unsuccessful Canadian Alliance candidate in 2000 made it to the gilded cage.

On January 14, 2009, another former Progressive Conservative MP was appointed.

August 27, 2009, another unsuccessful Conservative in the 2008 election was appointed to the other place. The former president of the Conservative Party was appointed on that day as were the Quebec co-chair of the Prime Minister's leadership campaign and the Prime Minister's former press secretary. The list goes on. It is so depressing.

Let me turn now to this whole issue of—

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order. The member is out of time. We will move on to questions and comments. The hon. member for Calgary East.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Calgary East Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I just first want to tell my hon. friend that he does not have to scream and talk so loudly. It is bad for his health. He should cool down and take it easy. He is a good debater, but he has been screaming and shouting and that is not good for his health.

Coming back to the issue of senators, he was talking about the perks and all these things that senators have. I am simply amazed at how the NDP members think with their heads in the sand. They introduced a motion the other day to abolish the Senate, which they very well know is not going to happen. They want a referendum and other things. Yet when it comes to a practical solution which was put forward by the government to reform the Senate, the hon. member's party rejected it. Then he turns up in the House and screams about how the Senate is unresponsive.

Why do NDP members not use practical ways to get things done? Why do they always have to scream at the top of their lungs about how the sky is falling for something that is unattainable?

Perhaps the hon. member would like to reflect on that and support the government so that at least the reform of the Senate could go ahead so he does not need to lose his temper.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for listening and commenting. I assure him my health is 100%, which I am sure brings great warmth to his heart and the hearts of all those on that side of the House.

I might also say that I was not angry. When I am loud, it is because the people of Hamilton have sent me here to deliver a message. Most of the messages are about things that outrage my constituents and therefore should outrage me.

Quite frankly, the hon. member did not spend one minute talking about anything to do with a defence. There is no defence over there at all for the alleged charges that have been made here in the House and outside this place. It is everything but the issues that are at hand. As long as the government continues to act in an undemocratic fashion, as long as it continues to act in a way that does not benefit my constituents in Hamilton, does not benefit my home community, members can count on two things: one, we will always stand up and oppose that kind of agenda; and two, as long as I am in this place, those members will always hear me.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the motion before us is self-evident. It has to do with a particular case. The reason it is before us also has to do with the fact that it is reflective of other cases.

Let me remind the House that Marty Cheliak, the RCMP chief superintendent who supported the long gun registry was canned. Linda Keen, nuclear safety, was canned. Adrian Measner, the Wheat Board president, was canned. Pat Stogran, the veterans ombudsman, was canned. Sheridan Scott, Competition Bureau, was canned. Steve Sullivan, victims of crime ombudsman, was canned. Paul Kennedy was canned. Bernard Shapiro, ethics commissioner, was canned. Munir Sheikh, chief statistician at StatsCan, was canned. I have about seven or eight more, but I think members get the point.

The government has demonstrated by its actions or inaction that the Prime Minister is now at a point where he is abusing the power of being in government. He has decided that he is above the rules and above the law.

In this regard, the Federal Court of Appeal in a unanimous decision has found that the Conservatives have broken the law, the national party candidates, and indeed has charged four people.

I wonder if the member has any further examples of the abuse of power by the Conservative government.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is a great question. I will approach it a little differently. The member made excellent points.

I would underscore that given what has happened to all the senior bureaucrats who dared cross the Prime Minister and the government, Canadians who are not part of the political debate but are weighing this and trying to decide whether or not there is something here should ask themselves if any senior bureaucrat in the federal prosecutor's office or in Elections Canada would dare to make up, manufacture or go on some kind of a wild goose chase against the sitting government in that context. The answer is clear that no reasonable person would be that foolish.

I would say, and one would expect me to me say this but I will try to rise above it for a nanosecond, that it says an awful lot about our system and those individuals that, even in this kind of assassination climate of senior bureaucrats, when something is wrong it is wrong and they are prepared to say so and take appropriate action. That to me speaks well of the sustainability of our democracy.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am sure the voters of Hamilton Centre are very proud having heard their elected MP.

Sixty-five Conservative candidates claimed 60% of the rebate from the government for the phantom ad money that simply passed through their bank accounts. This means that local riding associations involved in this scheme received thousands in rebates for these phantom expenses. They received the rebate from Canadian taxpayers.

I ask the hon. member for Hamilton Centre, should this money be paid back? After all, this money came from ordinary Canadians. It is my tax money, the member's tax money, the money of all taxpayers. Should the candidates repay this money?

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, absolutely. At the end of the day, if the courts determine there was fraudulent activity, any money that was received under those circumstances needs to be paid back.

I am glad the member raised the point. Again, I am not a lawyer, but there are two main aspects. One is that this in and out scheme allowed the Conservatives to spend over $1 million more than the limit would allow. Remember that election finance control is one of the main foundations of our democracy.

The second aspect is that by the exercise of the money going in and out, technically it allowed the individual ridings that the money went into, albeit for less than an hour, to claim that amount of money that went out as an expense and to get the rebate. There is some question that some of the invoices that were used to justify that may be forged.

While the whole relationship between the funding of a national campaign and a local campaign may be inside baseball to a lot of Canadians, when it comes to the idea of falsifying and forging invoices to get money one is not entitled to, Canadians get that one.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague has made reference to the Conservative message more generally in the past. A lot of people recognize that it was the party that talked about transparency and accountability and accused the Liberals of scandals in the past. Yet what we see and hear and are debating today is a different story.

I would like to hear not just about the hypocrisy but the shame in the governing party exercising the very actions that it spoke against so strongly.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the most important aspects is the member for Churchill is asking an important question. I want to use the fact of her being here at all as my response to her. The member was elected to this place, the same way we all were, but she cannot be a Canadian senator because she is not yet 30. That is how archaic and out of touch the Senate is. That is why the fact that senators are involved in this alleged crime makes it even worse.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Ajax—Pickering.

A worrying trend has emerged in Ottawa. There is a gradual and unprecedented undermining of our electoral and parliamentary processes. The current Conservative government's slow, insidious assault on our democracy is lowering the bar on the time-honoured way that politics is done in Canada. This is being accomplished by overriding and circumventing the rules of fair play and accountability, and slowly, bit by bit, changing the standards and expectations of our democracy.

This process is not unlike the cautionary tale of the frog placed in a pot of water sitting on the stove top. The hapless frog does not notice the slow incremental rise in temperature of the water until it is much too late. The result is inevitable. The frog gets cooked.

Canada's very identity is tied to our democratic form of electing representatives, our form of government and the role of Parliament in representing citizens. This has been the result of a centuries long and determined struggle by many people.

Our democratic principles of openness and accountability, of civility and fair play have made us who and what we are as a country. Over time these have made Canada the envy of the world, an inclusive, prosperous and peaceful nation where we recognize the fairness of basic rights and equality of all Canadians regardless of their worldwide origins.

The Conservative government's pattern of deceit gnaws at democracy's edges. A minister wrongly blamed bureaucrats for her decision to cut funding to the church-backed charity KAIROS, doctoring documents and misleading the House of Commons. The Prime Minister prorogued Parliament to hide information on Afghan detainee torture. Cabinet ministers have refused to reveal how many billions of taxpayer dollars will be needed to pay for their crime bills and their prison expansion plans. Civil servants are muzzled. Independent officers of Parliament are fired when they disagree with government ideology. NGOs are punished. Now, top Conservative officials are facing criminal charges for election fraud in the 2006 campaign.

Each of those examples is important, but the pattern as a whole of the undermining of democracy is what I am most concerned about.

The members of this institution over time have a long history of fighting for what is right. That is what I was elected by the citizens of Vancouver Quadra to do. I hope that is what the members opposite were elected to do, to fight for what is right, to protect others, to protect the environment. I think of: David Anderson and the Species at Risk Act; Judy LaMarsh, the first Liberal woman cabinet minister, who fought for women's equality; MPs who fought for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, health care, pensions, seniors, children, poverty.

What we have here, and what is so egregious, is Conservative members and ministers are fighting to defend what is wrong. They are fighting to defend their abuse of power day after day after day. This in and out election fraud is wrong. It may be proven to be illegal. If the Director of Public Prosecutions is filing charges, that means there is a substantial chance of conviction.

What is being alleged? I would say it is $2 million in pure electoral fraud: $1.2 million in spending over the legal limit, that is $1.2 million in illegal advertising by the Conservative Party in the 2006 election; forging fake invoices to cover the tracks; and then another fraudulent acquisition of $800,000 in ill-gotten gains by bilking taxpayers.

For me the term “money laundering”, another dirty, illegal activity, comes to mind. What is money laundering? One, it is placement, cash introduced into a financial system, illicit cash. That would be the $1.2 million. Two, it is layering, such as, complex transactions to camouflage the illegal source. That would be the doctored invoices and the ridings being asked to be complicit in this. Three, it is integration, acquiring wealth generated by the transaction of the illicit funds. That would be the $800,000 to be paid by taxpayers back to those ridings. This sure smells a lot like money laundering.

In British Columbia there are a number of MPs and executive council who are implicit in this, including the President of the Treasury Board and the former government whip. Seventy ridings were implicated, a dozen in British Columbia alone. This is a critical issue at the heart of our democracy.

I want to talk about what may seem like a sidetrack and that is Darwin's theory of evolution. It is no longer a theory. There is no scientific refuting of this understanding of species evolution. One of the understandings is that individuals in a species co-operate and they also compete. They compete within their group, but if they do not co-operate enough, then their group will lose in the competition to another group. Whether it is dictyostelium amoebae, ants, wolves or humans, we all compete and co-operate.

What stops us from competing or undermining those in our own group to the detriment of the group and our evolutionary survival? It could be called a “cheater detection system”, which is exactly what we are talking about with all of these abuses of power of the Conservative government. It is cheating and undermining the cheater detection systems of our parliamentary and electoral processes. The direction in which Canada is going under the government is bad for Canadians. I will give a few examples.

Not only are the Conservatives systematically cheating and breaking the law, we have a Prime Minister who is alleged to have bribed a dying MP or had been implicit in bribing a dying MP for his vote. The immigration minister was recently caught having developed a strategy on fundraising for targeting ethnic Canadians through his ministry, through public funds. We have ministers who have signed-off on multi-million dollar--

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

James Moore Conservative Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Could you clarify the rules about decorum in the House of Commons? Is it in the Standing Orders that it is okay for a member of Parliament to falsely accuse other people of committing crimes in the House of Commons, which the member opposite just did? She directly accused the Prime Minister of this country of committing a crime. Does she think that is appropriate decorum in the House of Commons?

Mr. Speaker, can you clarify the rules as to whether members of Parliament can actually accuse people of committing crimes in the House of Commons with no evidence whatsoever and just smear people's reputations, which is what the member for Vancouver Quadra seems to be doing in a very classless typical way?

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Calling into question the integrity of hon. members is out of order. I would urge the member from Vancouver Quadra to keep that in mind as she concludes her remarks.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, with regard to that point of order, I clearly used the word “alleged”. There were allegations and they are in print.

Not only is the government systematically cheating, or alleged to be cheating, it is also undermining the cheater detector systems that have been built into our democracy that are part of the fabric and character of Canada.

There is a list of examples and I will give just a few.

Peter Tinsley, the chair of the Military Police Complaints Commission, had his tenure ended over the Afghan detainee controversy. His office is a cheater detector system and he was calling out the government.

Robert Marleau, Information Commissioner, eventually resigned because of government blockage of relevant documents regarding the public interest. The government's systematic secrecy around documents is also undermining an important cheater detection system, which is the transparency of information.

Dr. Arthur Carty, National Science Advisor to the Prime Minister, was dismissed after advocating for an evidentiary science policy. A scientific basis for decision-making is a good cheater detection and the government does not like it.

As the official opposition, we use every parliamentary tool available to stop these abuses of power, these offences, and to raise the alarm. The Conservatives' secrecy, deceit and excessive control will only breed cynicism and apathy in the public, corroding Canada's national sense of civility and civil engagement.

An eight-year-old constituent came to Parliament to meet me and he was in awe of Parliament and our institutions. We need to protect and maintain them for his generation.

Like the hapless frog sitting in the pot of ever-hotter water, the results of inattention or passivity toward the health of Canada's democracy and the government's abuses will be very hard to undo. Fortunately, Canadians are beginning to notice: prorogation, cut to the census, information secrecy, KAIROS and now the in-and-out scam, alleged election fraud.

Thankfully, Canadians are feeling the heat and that is important because the very character of Canada is at stake.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think the member's conclusion is the one that I hope and I know many members of this place hope we would focus on. The matter before us is just one example of where an abuse of power has led to acts that appear to be illegal when the Federal Court of appeal says that the laws were breached.

The member is also well aware that it is not just that the Conservative Party in the 2006 election overspent by $1.2 million. It is also that the candidates who had these expenses improperly transferred down to them received rebates on them. Some of those ridings actually received the rebate before the audits were complete and the breach of the elections law was discovered. The government has refused to co-operate with Elections Canada. This is just another example of the Conservatives not wanting to get to the bottom of it. They think it is an administrative difficulty but there is no evidence that they have taken any action whatsoever to help the House clean up this mess, because they cannot do it.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member is quite correct in his observations. The Conservative government's pattern is not one of mistakes nor of well-intentioned ministers with staff who are doing the wrong thing. This is actually the pattern of a government and a party that believes that the end justifies any means and will undertake any means if it thinks it can get away with them. Now, some of these means that are unethical and possibly illegal are being uncovered and light is being shed on this approach, this very undermining of democracy that I have been describing.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague's speech and, unfortunately, the partisan smears and attacks, and they were beneath the member who I have worked with in the past. I am surprised at this partisan motion that has been brought forward when Canadians are faced with some of the toughest economic challenges they have had this century. We could be spending our time talking about how we could be improving the economy and yet the Liberals bring forward this motion.

Since she has decided to raise this issue, I have a question for her. Historically, not too long ago we had something called the Gomery inquiry. Out of that inquiry, we found that there was something called the “ad scam” and the Liberal Party was forced to pay $1 million back to the Canadian people. However, we are still waiting to find out what happened to the other $40 million.

I was hopeful today that the member could update the House on what the Liberal Party is actually doing to find that $40 million that is still missing and what she has done personally to encourage her leader to bring it forward so Canadians can know where their tax dollars have gone.