Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the motion on electoral financing and accountability moved by the hon. member for Beauséjour.
Today I would like to explain to Canadians, and to this House, the falsehoods presented in this motion, according to which our democratic principles were allegedly attacked by the current government during the financing of the election campaign.
First, I would like to take a moment to present the facts. There is currently an administrative dispute between the Conservative Party and Elections Canada. The issue is whether expenses should be considered national or local. This type of transfer is common practice among the parties and is entirely legal.
It is in no way an attack against democracy, and this type of unjustified accusation is not only irresponsible, but also a waste of precious time in the House of Commons when Parliament could be debating issues that are truly important to Canadians, like the economy.
On the contrary, the motion moved by the hon. member for Beauséjour has to do with a dispute over the administrative interpretation of the fact that Conservative candidates spent Conservative funds on Conservative advertising. What is more, the false and misleading accusations by the hon. member for Beauséjour are somewhat surprising, coming from the Liberal Party, which still owes $40 million plus interest following the sponsorship scandal. Taxpayers' hard-earned money was redirected to the Liberals' coffers.
In fact, it is this Conservative government that strengthened democracy in Canada by making accountability and transparency a priority. Our actions show Canadians that we are working in their interests.
More specifically, I would like to focus on our accomplishments with regard to electoral administration and financing. I would also like to underscore the major reforms in the Federal Accountability Act, which our government passed to put an end to the long-standing corrupt practices of the previous government.
Among other major improvements, the Federal Accountability Act prohibits political contributions by corporations, unions and associations and reduces the influence of big money within our electoral system by changing the individual contribution limit from $5,000 to $1,100.
By eliminating the anti-democratic influence that the wealthy could potentially exert, these reforms guarantee that our democratic system treats all Canadians equally. We are ensuring that the voices of all Canadians are heard.
Our government is the one that eliminated the influence of big money, not the one that was caught trying to claim some of that big money. The elimination of the influence of money in the government and the substantial amendments made to the lobbying regulations are perhaps the most significant changes that our government has made, and they illustrate our government's priorities and character.
In addition to key reforms to restore the fairness of the political financing system, our government also took measures to reduce the possibility of electoral fraud. Before we made these key changes, an individual could vote, no questions asked, if his or her name was on the voters list. Identification was not required unless an election agent, the candidate or the candidate's representatives had reason to doubt the person's identity or his or her right to vote. In order to address this shortcoming, our government took steps to require voters to present a piece of ID and proof of residence.
Our commitment to a fair election process is perfectly illustrated by the changes we made to protect law-abiding Canadians who work hard to prevent potential voter fraud. These types of measures protect the integrity of our electoral system by ensuring that the person requesting a ballot is actually the person who is entitled to it.
We also took measures to improve the administration of the election process. For example, when we required voters to present ID at the polls, we also made other changes to improve the accuracy of the National Register of Electors.
Clearly our government is committed to an open, transparent and accountable democratic process, and its actions continue to improve Canada's reputation as one of the most respected democracies in the world.
While we have achieved a great deal over the past five years, there is still considerable work to be done to ensure that Canada remains a world leader in democracy. We continue to take action to strengthen the Federal Accountability Act, making the most of our principles of transparency and accountability. While we have taken steps to ensure that politicians are not influenced by those with deep pockets who give too much money, our legislation still allows those people to lend too much money. In order to stop that practice, we introduced the Political Loans Accountability Act to impose new requirements concerning transparency and tighter restrictions on lending practices.
While there are limits on contributions, there are no limits on the amount an individual can lend, and this government wants to fix that. Under the Political Loans Accountability Act, parties and candidates would have to apply for a loan from a financial institution for any amount beyond the annual contribution limit and pay commercial interest rates, just as ordinary citizens must do. This is something the Liberal Party clearly cannot understand.
Lastly, the bill would prevent candidates from walking away from the repayment of the loan, a practice that the Liberals continue to use, which illustrates their contempt for the rules. Some four years after the 2006 Liberal leadership race, six Liberal members still had not paid back their loans, despite an 18-month extension, according to a National Post article on January 5, 2010. What did Elections Canada do?
If the Liberals want to talk about attacks on democracy, I would like to ask the members for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, Parkdale—High Park, Willowdale, Vancouver Centre and Eglinton—Lawrence to explain to Canadians why they explicitly violated Elections Canada's financing rules despite the generous extension Elections Canada granted them.
Do they believe they are above the rules? If there was any wrongdoing, it was committed by the Liberal members who did not obey Elections Canada's rules regarding campaign loans. That is an indisputable fact. What did Elections Canada do?
Our government is proud of its unmatched commitment to accountability and transparency. Be it through the Federal Accountability Act, through legislation to improve the electoral process or through tougher rules on political loans, this government is committed to giving Canadians an accountable democratic process. Our record speaks for itself. If the Liberals want to talk about democracy, I would love to join in the debate. The root of the word democracy is “power of the people”. And by people, I mean Canadians—the parents who work hard and whose priorities include the economy, high-quality jobs and the promise of a bright future that is filled with hope for our children.
Instead of using an opposition day to talk about creating jobs for Canadians or about measures to ensure that our economy is stronger than ever, the Liberals are wasting their time making irresponsible, reckless and, most importantly, false allegations about the Canadian government.
The member for Beauséjour should focus on creating jobs in the aerospace industry and supporting the investments made by our government in businesses in his riding instead of acting as a pawn for the Liberal leader, who is pushing his own agenda. We all know that he is not interested in Canadians. He is only thinking about himself.
Even Robin Sears, the former NDP campaign director, told CTV News Channel on February 25, 2011, that it was time to get back to the issues that matter to Canadians. Canadians are worried about the economy, as is our government. It is unfortunate that the Liberals are only worried about themselves.