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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

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for that partisan attack. In fact, the Gomery inquiry, after extensive investigation, exonerated all members and all parliamentarians of the Liberal Party from any involvement in that situation. That is the opposite of what we have here when we have a minister of immigration whose own department appears to be complicit in partisan electoral analysis and fundraising, and when we have a party that has perpetrated partisan attacks through potential electoral fraud to gain more funds for its ridings and to overspend the budget in order to buy more partisan attack ads and steal the 2006 election.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, nothing is more fundamental to democracy than the independence of parliamentary institutions, having oversight and ensuring that our system has rules that are followed and adhered to.

In the time I have allotted I will talk about the in and out scandal and why it is such a concern, but moreover, why we as parliamentarians have to be deeply concerned about the trajectory, not just of this issue but of others, and its implications on democracy.

The in and out scandal is, at its base, an attempt to break election laws, laws that were put in place to ensure during a campaign every party was on equal footing, every party had limits and every party was allowed to spend a certain amount.

For one party to be able to break those rules to the tune of $1.2 million and to be able to go out and buy all kinds of additional ads and have resources that other parties are not afforded is not just wrong but, frankly, it amounts to electoral fraud, which means that the electoral process we had was uneven because one party was conferred an unfair advantage.

If we were to allow that to stand, if we accept the Conservative argument that this is just an administrative issue and we should not worry about it, what precedent would that establish? What message does that send?

If the people who make the laws flaunt the laws and if the people who make the laws say that no one really needs to follow the laws if they can find clever ways around them, how can we possibly have a strong democracy?

The Conservatives say that this is an issue faced by everybody. Only one party had its national campaign headquarters raided by the RCMP. Only one party had charges brought against senior organizers and senators in its party. Only one party has a paper trail of doctored documents to try break election laws. That party is the Conservative Party of Canada. Therefore, to suggest that everybody does it does not pass as anything more than empty rhetoric.

More than that, even after being caught, charged, taken to court by Elections Canada and the court tossing out the Conservatives' arguments saying that they were bogus and ridiculous, the Conservatives still stand in defiance. They still refuse to own up to what they have done or to acknowledge that what they did in the past was wrong. They refuse to own up to their error and to say that they never should have done it. Instead, they try to brush it off as unimportant.

I think it sends a terrible message and establishes an awful precedent. However, it is part of a bigger trend.

Recently a minister was charged with allegedly doctoring documents to make it look as though department officials were the ones who made the decision to cut funding to KAIROS when, in fact, those bureaucrats had done exactly the opposite. That minister was in committee and in the House and made comments that she did not know who altered the documents. She clearly misled Parliament because later she came back and said that she did know. For that, we are told that the minister is courageous and that the minister is a strong minister who we should all applaud for the work she is doing, even though the Prime Minister will not even allow her to respond to the questions that we pose.

Much bigger than that, though, is the trend that the government has of going after independent voices, voices that speak out and demand change. It started with Linda Keen. Linda Keen was the president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission who stood and said that the government was wrong in how it was handling radioactive isotopes that are critical in diagnosing cancer. However, because she spoke out and took an opinion, she was fired.

It continued with Paul Kennedy, the RCMP Public Complaints Commissioner who said that what was happening in the RCMP was wrong, that it needed to change, that there were important recommendations, from Iacobucci to O'Connor to the public safety committee, that were left unimplemented and that, without those changes, we would have other problems, either with tasers or with people who suffered like Maher Arar and Mr. El Maati, Mr. Nureddin or Mr. Almalki.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Yorkton—Melville is rising on a point of order.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to this debate since it began and note that the member for Mississauga South has risen three times on a point of order complaining about the relevance of speeches. I could say the same thing about the Liberal speeches at the present time. This is a soap box that the Liberals have set up for themselves to talk about every issue and, I appeal to you to ensure that they stick to the issue at hand, which they are not doing.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I thank the hon. member for his intervention.

I would urge the member for Ajax—Pickering that while he may stray into other areas, the bulk of his remarks should address the substance of the motion before the House.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would argue that what I am talking about is fundamental to the motion we are dealing with today. Let us consider the fact that this is not an isolated, one-off instance. If it were to be held out as a mistake, a one-off occasion that could easily be explained as one error, that would be one thing. However, it is part of a broader trend.

At stake in the House are the very institutions that ensure that our democracy is kept viable and strong, that we have strong independent oversight, that agencies like Elections Canada are able to set and enforce rules to make sure that fairness is maintained and that our system of democracy is kept healthy. There could be nothing more germane than going over examples of the government attacking those institutions as part of a broader pattern.

Mr. Kennedy, for talking about the changes needed at the RCMP, was let go. He did not want to go but was let go. We have not heard a word from his replacement in over a year, someone who has disappeared into the ether, a former Conservative fundraiser with no experience with the national police force and who is doing his job by not saying a thing or demanding changes.

Munir Sheikh, the head of Statistics Canada, who refused to have words put into his mouth to the effect that he supported the idea of ending the long form census when he had thought no such thing, was effectively forced out of his job because he would not buy the government's talking lines.

And the following were fired as well: Colonel Pat Stogran, the Veterans Ombudsman; Peter Tinsley, the chair of the Military Police Complaints Commission; Richard Colvin; and Steve Sullivan, who said that the government's plan for victims was unbalanced and would not work. Marty Cheliak, head of the Canadian firearms program, was also fired. And there is Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

Consider the pattern. When looking at Elections Canada and the way the rules are being flaunted, not followed and essentially waived off as insignificant, we see that it is part of a trend and pattern that must be arrested and expunged.

Here are the fundamental questions. What if we let this stand? What if we allowed these attacks on the independent institutions that oversee Parliament to stand? What if we put a stamp of approval on them? What if Canadians do not stand up and challenge them? What is to stop a future prime minister from going the next steps and eliminating all of the lights that shine in dark corners and give us insight into what is happening, that ensure that when Canadians are making decisions in elections they are doing so with facts, and that when Parliament is making a decision in the House, it is doing so with accurate and viable information?

If we do not fight to protect the laws that are put in place by agencies like Elections Canada, then we will watch everything fall like a row of dominos. When we stand in the House and are forced to vote on bills that have no costing and no information provided, we are already seeing those dominos falling. When we see the independent officers of Parliament, one after the other, being knocked out and replaced with people who refuse to speak out, who refuse to do anything but carry the government talking points, we are walking into a situation that we cannot get back from.

This motion is about the in and out scandal, but it is about much more. It is about protecting the institutions that maintain strong and healthy democracies, and we have to take a stand.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the theme is expanding a little but I know that members are not going to waste the House's time.

Speaking about wasting the House's time, from January 2008 until March 2008, this matter was before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, which is supposed to look at electoral issues; it is in its purview. That committee was filibustered by the Conservatives, who did not want to deal with the issue. In fact, that committee did not meet after March. For six months it did no work because the government did not want an examination done of what actually happened.

The issue then went to the ethics committee and witnesses were called. The Conservatives told witnesses not to appear. Witnesses were subpoenaed and the Conservatives told them to ignore the subpoenas.

The question for the member is this: If the Conservative Party believes this is just an administrative dispute, why has it not co-operated fully with Parliament, with its committees, with Elections Canada and the prosecutor to make sure that all of the facts are there so that we can resolve this issue and get on with the business of the House? That is what we should be doing.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member raises an excellent point. If this is such a minor issue and the Conservatives have nothing to hide, why are they blocking all of the processes that would provide us with the answers that we need to get to the bottom of it?

I would also point out that people do not get charged and do not get threatened with jail time on administrative issues. It is no longer an administrative issue when someone faces the possibility of going to jail.

The Conservatives have talked about this as just an accounting issue. Similarly, accountants are not in the practice of falsifying documents to break rules; and when they are, they are charged. We would no more accept an accountant who tries to cook the books to get a particular outcome to deceive shareholders than we would a political party trying to break the rules and move around the numbers to try to garner an unfair, illicit advantage in a campaign.

I think the following is an extremely important point and it blows me away that the government will not acknowledge it: the idea that we have fair, balanced and equal elections should be a fundamental precept of our democracy.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Daryl Kramp Conservative Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, earlier today in this discussion the parliamentary secretary stood up and gave a lengthy list of activities that have taken place on the part of all parties in this House, similar and/or identical activities to those alleged by the opposition right now.

I am not sure if the public is aware that committees are controlled by the opposition. It has the numbers in committee, so it can basically dictate what it wishes to do. A suggestion was put forward by the government to have the committee evaluate each party identically so that members could judge the way to go to deal with the issue. The opposition parties said no. They just wanted the Conservative approach to be investigated, but as far as their activities were concerned, no, they did not want an investigation.

I just say that what is right is right, what is wrong is wrong, and what is fair is fair. We are all in this together. We are all parliamentarians and we should be subject to the same rules and obligations. I do agree with that.

However, why would we be afraid to have an open book policy for each and every party in this place? It is a bit hypocritical to condemn one particular party for doing the same thing that another does itself, and for that other party not to admit this or to open its books.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is not me who is making these accusations. It is the RCMP that raided the Conservative Party headquarters. It is the law enforcement officials who laid charges against senior Conservative organizers and senators. There is also the fact that only one party has a demonstrated paper trail of doing this. Therefore, the notion that we should investigate everyone and use committee time to go after them when there is no evidence that anyone but the Conservative Party did this is to distract Parliament and to waste time.

We need to look at the independent agencies that are responsible for overseeing these matters, which have determined that the Conservatives have broken the rules. For having done so, the Conservatives are now facing charges and potential jail time. And because they have done so, we need to investigate this matter.

However, the Conservative Party would like to waste as much time as possible, searching out every possible corner so that it delays this matter for as long as possible.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre.

Hon. colleagues of mine on this side of the House have spoken previously about the fact this motion is regrettable in several important ways. It is clearly a partisan attempt to play politics and games and to mislead with mistruths. It prejudices the outcome of a long-standing dispute and honest difference of opinion between the Conservative Party and Elections Canada officials. I would like to speak to the actions of those officials and to the strong laws that govern election financing in this country.

The Canada Elections Act outlines the clear rules of the game, so to speak. These are the envy of other countries, as they help protect the integrity of our system.

When our government took office in 2006, we introduced the Federal Accountability Act, which further strengthened the rules surrounding the financing of political entities. These changes took big money out of federal politics. They are what Canadians expect and deserve.

What is at issue in the matter currently before us, and soon, we hope, back in court, is whether certain expenses should be counted as local or national. On this point there is an honest difference of opinion. The Canada Elections Act restricts the sources of money that political parties and candidates can use. The main source of revenue of registered parties and candidates is usually the contributions they receive from their supporters. Other sources of revenue include the partial reimbursement of electoral expenses that political parties and candidates receive following an election; the quarterly allowances that are given to political parties, which are calculated on the basis of the number of votes the parties received in the last election; and strictly regulated transfers received from entities of the same political family.

Since the coming into force of the Federal Accountability Act, unions and corporations have not been allowed to contribute to political parties and candidates any more. And certainly, someone cannot make contributions in any calendar year in excess of $1,100 to a registered political party. The same amount can be given in any calendar year to a registered association or to a candidate supported by a registered party.

Elections Canada publishes on its website all of the returns it receives from registered parties and candidates. This is a bid to make the system transparent and fair. We support that. We have said so repeatedly, and our actions in that regard speak volumes, which make the actions of certain Elections Canada officials in their treatment of this matter all the more curious.

It would appear that Elections Canada told the media details of the investigation into this matter, something that is highly unusual for any federal agency. Emails obtained under access to information showed that Elections Canada officials were totally preoccupied with the leak.

However, at committee, Mr. Marc Mayrand of Elections Canada was less than forthcoming about who conducted the internal review into this alleged leak. He later admitted that he had been mainly responsible for conducting the review, and he had to correct the record when he was asked how many people knew in advance that the police investigation was entering a new phase. At first he said three. Later he said five. The fact is that Elections Canada conducted an investigation of itself in connection with this alleged leak.

Elections Canada has been very vigorous in investigating our party. Elections Canada certainly should not let the Conservative Party investigate itself, but why would Elections Canada and Mr. Mayrand think that it is appropriate that they personally investigate themselves? In the interests of time, I will leave that question before the House, except to say there are questions in parliamentarians' purview that have never been answered clearly to this day.

To quote the Ottawa Citizen columnist, John Robson:

The more I watch this stuff...the more convinced I am that if there's a scandal here, it doesn't involve the Tories.

Canada is a country where the rule of law prevails and where the presumption of innocence is guaranteed. People have the right to fair and equitable processes and will make the appropriate representations before the court, not before the House. It would not be appropriate to discuss the facts of this case further. The House cannot substitute itself for the judicial system in making the determination the motion seeks to make.

I therefore urge all hon. members of the House to oppose the motion.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Conservatives around precedents.

There was a member of the cabinet in the House of Commons who was alleged to have done something wrong. She now sits as an independent. The Prime Minister removed her from cabinet and then quickly thereafter removed her from the party. Conservative senators who will be in the Conservative caucus meeting tomorrow had the public prosecutor and the RCMP banging on their door. They have been charged. Of course they have to go before a court and the charges have to be proved. Does it not seem to my hon. colleague somewhat strange, if not hypocritical, for the Conservatives to kick out some people who were under allegations and were never charged with anything, as in the case of the member who is now an independent, whereas they are comfortable having in the caucus other folks who have been charged by the public prosecutor who is an arm's-length non-partisan public official? They are being charged with defrauding the Canadian people in the midst of an election. That is pretty serious for those of us who are concerned with democracy.

Is my friend not concerned with his party's seemingly hypocritical stance on one person being alleged to have done something wrong and tossed out of caucus but two Conservative senators, who are bagmen, are being allowed to stay and advise the Prime Minister?

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister recently said in the House that the Conservative Party acted under the law as it saw it and understood it at the time. When it was clear that Elections Canada had changed the interpretation of the law, the Conservative Party adjusted its practices in the 2008 election. We have followed practices since that time to ensure that our party maintains the law of the land. We respect the law and we will continue to respect the law of the land.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to hear that the member has indicated his party wants to respect the law and will fully co-operate with the police agencies which have charged four people in this regard.

During the hearings before the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics the Chief Electoral Officer, Mr. Marc Mayrand, appeared before us and he was asked if anyone in the Conservative Party, in its fundraising wing, in its electoral campaign offices, ever contacted Elections Canada to ask whether the party's proposed scheme was legal under the Canada Elections Act. His response was “no”. All communications, voice as well as written, were checked, but there was no evidence whatsoever that the Conservative Party had even asked whether or not its scheme was going to be within the law of the land.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am wondering if the Liberal Party at the time of the ad scam asked for permission to take the funds and redirect that money to the party. We know that the Liberal Party had to pay back $1 million. Canadians know that there are still $40 million missing that the Liberal Party funnelled into the party. It was Canadian taxpayers' money. I do not understand why the Liberal Party thinks it has the audacious right to be the most righteous party in the land when in fact it is the only party that actually stole money from Canadian taxpayers who want their $40 million back.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in today's debate.

First and foremost, when discussing and debating this motion, we have to address the overarching issue which is that the motion is in direct contravention of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Earlier today I asked to have a ruling made before the vote on the motion takes place because it is serious. The Liberal opposition day motion calls upon Parliament to rule on a finding of innocence or guilt on an issue that is currently before the courts. That is not only inappropriate and unprecedented but it is extremely troubling.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms details in its doctrines the presumption of innocence for all Canadian citizens and that presumption of innocence is being violated today by the very motion that we are debating.

The opposition motion, if approved, would in effect be casting judgment on four individuals and a political party currently before the courts of this land in a dispute with Elections Canada. What right does this chamber have to act as judge and jury in a case that is before the courts of our land? What has become of democracy?

What has become of the respect for the rule of law if Parliament can now usurp the rights of individuals who wish to argue their case, to prove their innocence in a court of law? Why does the House now, apparently, have the right to discuss whether or not these individuals should be found innocent or guilty?

If the House votes in favour of the motion, and if the Speaker rules that the motion is in order, I have grave concerns that the decision today will have major ramifications on Canadians for generations to come. I am not overstating when I say that because how can we allow parliamentarians, who are law-makers, to act as judge and jury in any dispute? It is absolutely critical that the motion be defeated based on that reason.

If the opposition had chosen to rephrase its motion and either chastise the government, or condemn the government, or even bring forward a motion of non-confidence in the government for actions which it felt were inappropriate or perhaps even against the law, that would be acceptable. I would certainly argue against the motion, but I would not take issue with the fact that the opposition had a perfect right to bring forward that material and the motion before this place. But, that is not what the opposition has chosen to do. It is implicit in the motion that four individuals will be found guilty of an offence and that the Conservative Party of Canada will be found guilty of the offence based on the opposition's interpretation.

Regardless of what the courts of this land have to say in the matter, the Liberal opposition suggests that it and Parliament have the right to determine guilt or innocence instead of the courts. We simply cannot allow that to happen under any circumstances.

I mentioned earlier today that we have many lawyers in this place and if they were being honest with themselves and honest to all parliamentarians, they would be the first ones to admit that today's motion may be the start of a very slippery slope when it comes to the interference of parliamentarians with the courts. That is why we have courts of law. That is why we have judges whose job it is to examine evidence, rule on evidence and to ultimately be the arbiters of guilt or innocence in any dispute. It is not the role nor the right of Parliament to make those decisions. We create laws. That is what we are charged with doing. We are not there to interpret or administer the law. That is the role of the courts.

For years the Liberals consistently purported themselves to be the champions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. One of the current members of this place, the hon. member for Papineau, has a long family history with the charter because it was his father who introduced the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Parliament many years ago. Since that time, I can recall in debate after debate the members of the Liberal Party standing in their places and saying they are the defenders of the charter, that it is the only party in Canada that defends the charter vigorously.

Earlier today we heard comments from the member for Beauséjour referring to Conservative members as former Reform and Alliance members who have a complete disregard for the charter. Who has disregard for the charter now? Who has disregard for it when we see a motion from the Liberal opposition that, in effect, suggests we should ignore the charter and the presumption of innocence and simply make a decision based on partisan interests to determine the innocence or guilt of individuals and entities? It is completely unacceptable.

In debate today we have heard members opposite suggest that the Conservative Party was acting independently of Elections Canada and was the only party that has been in contravention of election laws. That is absolutely not true. In fact, there is documented evidence that every party in this place, every member whose party represents constituents and taxpayers, engaged in similar actions for two consecutive elections until Elections Canada came up with a new interpretation of the law. To suggest that the Conservative Party was the only party engaged in this activity is absolutely wrong and misleading.

However, that is not the primary issue. The primary issue is that the motion today is an affront to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms of this land. It should be dismissed and should be defeated. Anything less would be a total affront to democracy.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

March 8th, 2011 / 1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I have a comment as opposed to a question.

One issue the member did not address was the constitutional element embedded in our country, which is we have the separation of the parliamentary branch of government versus the judicial branch. What is said in the House or a committee of the House cannot be used in any judicial body or other evidence-taking body in our country. The reason for that is because of the separation.

If we accept the member's premise, then Parliament would become not a separate branch of government, but would be subservient to the courts of our land. Any issue, question or challenge raised in the House, within hours, could be brought before the courts. If we accepted the member's premise, then the House would go silent for three, four, eight years until the judicial proceedings and appeals were heard.

That it is embedded in our Constitution. It is part of our constitutional framework and it should not be changed by the assembly today.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I simply point out that the words spoken in the chamber have parliamentary privilege. They also can quite dramatically influence opinions of others, including courts of this land.

If Parliament, the elected body that makes laws, approves a motion which, in effect, says that individuals before the courts of the land are guilty in the eyes of Parliament and we the lawmakers find these individuals guilty, that is highly inappropriate. The member should know and respect that.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the disease is starting to spread. This morning in the transport committee a similar type of attempt was made to stifle debate on the basis that the subject matter was not before the courts but before a quasi-judicial board, a taxi board in Toronto. On that basis, the chair ruled that the committee should not hear evidence.

Where do we draw the line? Will the government make this argument in every committee, as it is now in the House?

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am a glad I was asked a question by the NDP. I want to quote something. This is a direct quote from an email from a political party. It says:

Hi Phyllis,

We are told by communications folks in BC that these were radio ads with the Candidate's personal tag on the end--therefore a local expense to be reported under the Candidate's expense ceiling, regardless of who pays. For rebate purposes, we were asked to bill each campaign--in the case of VanEast, $2,612.00. The good news is that the Federal Party will transfer $2,600 to the Federal Riding Association as we agreed to pay for the ads. We hope that you are able to squeeze this in under the ceiling. Some expenses are not considered election expenses subject to spending limits, such as fundraising costs. Please have a look at the totals and get back to us if you think we have a problem.

This was signed by the federal party bookkeeper. This was an NDP email. The NDP was engaging in the same practices. Now it has the temerity to stand in the House and criticize and condemn the Conservative Party.

As I mentioned earlier, every registered party in Canada in the 2004 and 2006 elections engaged in similar practices because that was allowed under the law of the day.

There is no doubt that the only reason there is some question about the legality of this is because Elections Canada changed its interpretation. It did not change the law or the rules; it changed the interpretation without informing political parties of the change during the election in question.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Crombie Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for LaSalle—Émard.

We all remember those ubiquitous Conservative commercials when the then leader of the opposition, now the Prime Minister, was shown in a mock interview. It is remarkable because it is one of the last times he would ever speak openly to the media, but also because of what was said. In the commercial, a scripted actress questioned the Prime Minister. She said, “It's like you get to Ottawa and no one can touch you. How will you change that?” The reply, “You change the people in charge, but you also change the system. The first thing I will do is pass the Federal Accountability Act. It is a real plan to clean up government”. We know how that turned out.

Those commercials seemed to run day in and day out. There they were, they played over and over again, blasting away at the government of the day, much like we see the commercials blasting today, a misuse of public money, may I add. The Conservatives told Canadians, “We're the good guys. We're whistle clean. We ooze honesty. Vote us in and not a single penny of public money will go offside”. We know how that turned out too.

There is a reason why those commercials ran day in and day out. It is because the Conservatives cheated. They spent $1 million more than they were legally permitted to do. There is no other way of looking at it than calling it what it is; it is cheating.

The Conservatives do not see it that way. They call it an administrative disagreement. That may have held water if the Federal Court of Appeal had not unanimously ruled against their argument. Their excuses may be believable if the Office of the Federal Director of Public Prosecution had not charged the architects of the plot and called their actions illegal activity.

While the Conservatives were cheating the system, they ran on a message and on a platform of accountability, transparency, all those great words they use. From the Conservative election platform book called “Stand up for Canada”, the Prime Minister stated, “Only one party can deliver the change of government that is needed to bring political accountability to Ottawa”.

At the very same time that document was being printed, Conservative officials in Ottawa were shaking down candidates and their official agents all across the country.

Liberato Martelli, a 2006 Conservative candidate for Bourassa, stated, “I was told it would be deposited and quickly withdrawn”. It sounds like in and out to me. He said:

I was told there would be invoices but I never saw them...When I joined that party, I believed its vision at the time...I came to the realization they don’t have as much integrity as they claim”.

Joe Goudie, a 2006 Conservative candidate for Labrador was one of those called. He stated:

It most certainly did smell to me… for a national party, or any kind of a political party to benefit in what I perceived to be an underhanded manner, using not just my campaign but many others across the country, left me with a feeling of being used.

Now let us not lose sight of the timeline. This scheme to overspend and effectively cheat is going on at the precise time that the Conservatives are running a campaign on the theme of accountability, transparency and integrity. How incredulous is that?

This is important, not just for its perfect irony, but for the fact that their entire argument for power was a sham. It was a scam and a scandal, and it is a scandal today.

Remember the Prime Minister's own words, “The first thing I will do is pass the Federal Accountability Act. It is a real plan to clean up government”. Here we are, five years later, scandal after scandal with the Conservatives.

Ministers have refused to provide Parliament and its officers with documents and information needed to perform our jobs properly, to function within our jobs. An international cooperation minister admitted to altering documents, but refused to stand and be accountable to Parliament and to answer questions in Parliament.

An integrity commissioner sat on her hands. She colluded with the Prime Minister's Office and then was given a half-million dollar golden parachute, a golden handshake. She was then called out after reviewing only seven cases. Now there is a gag order on her as well.

Also, the Prime Minister's Office has exercised unprecedented control over the non-partisan and professional bureaucracy.

The Prime Minister believes he is the modern-day Sun King, declaring that the Government of Canada must be referenced in his name, “the Harper government”.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on government advertising—

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I remind the hon. member that we cannot use proper names when referring to members. We can use their riding or title.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Crombie Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on government advertising used for partisan promotion. Appointments of Conservative cronies have been made to boards, agencies, commissions and especially the Senate.

We have had the smearing and the sacking of agency heads, ombudsmen, whistleblowers, or anyone who would shed some light on Conservative wrongdoing. The Conservatives silence dissent.

It has been one scandal after another and it has to be as exhausting for the Conservatives as it is for us. It is no wonder the government's legislative agenda is so light. It is constantly fighting new scandals and cannot concentrate on the demands of governing.

We are over here begging for accountability, begging for the truth and all we get are silenced ministers, staffers being thrown under the bus, or excuses being made for their behaviour.

We have heard Conservatives say today, and they would want us to believe this, that, “everybody does this”. That is false. Conservatives are the only party facing charges. It is the only party that had its headquarters raided by the RCMP. It is the only party with a paper trail of fake invoices to be explained. The Conservatives could not even spell the word “invoice” correctly for goodness sake.

We did not cheat and overspend in an election campaign. We did not forge documents to claim unqualified expenses. The Conservatives did. They are the ones who need to answer for these actions.

Conservatives are desperately trying to downplay this as an administrative issue, which would be laughable if it were not so absurd, or that Elections Canada is targeting them for some sort of vendetta. We all know that no one holds a grudge like Elections Canada for goodness sakes. Earlier today, the Conservatives tried an arcane procedural argument to argue that Parliament did not have the right to debate this issue at all.

As today is International Women's Day, I am reminded of a famous message that mothers around the world use day in and day out to their children, “It's easier to tell the truth and take responsibility than continue to hide. The truth will always come out in the end”.

The motion we are debating today provides the opportunity for the House to declare, after five years since this scheme was committed, with all the evidence and testimony that has been delivered, that the scheme was electoral fraud. It calls for the Conservatives to order all tax money obtained illegally to be returned immediately to the people of Canada. It calls on the individuals charged in this crime to be fired.

These demands are simple and reasonable and they are what Canadians expect. They should not be forced by the House to be executed.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the statement by the hon. member from the other side of the House. I find it totally amazing that the member could talk about partisan appointments to the Senate when we know the Liberal Party has been the forebearer of any appointments to the Senate, and always very partisan.

However, what will the hon. member's party do with respect to the ad scam? We know there was some funnelling of funds through the ad scam process into the Liberal Party. We know it only paid back $1 million. However, there are still $40 million missing that the Liberal Party stole from Canadians.

Is the member prepared to show the way to help the Liberal Party return the $40 million to Canadians?

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Crombie Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not even sure where to begin with the fantasy that member has woven.

The truth is this. When the Conservatives reached the $18 million spending limit, they then found a way to transfer another $1.3 million to 67 ridings that had not spent their $80,000 limit. Then those riding associations were to receive a rebate.

Let me make this very simple for people to understand. At this time of year, people are filling out their tax returns to the Canada Revenue Agency. Would any Canadian earning a salary of say $40,000, $50,000, or $60,000 believe that it would be right and ethical to receive a tax rebate, a tax credit, for more than they earned that year? No they would not. They would know it would be unethical, and that is exactly what this is equivalent to.