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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

4 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the opposition day motion that reads, in part:

That, in the opinion of the House, the Conservative Party of Canada's “in and out” electoral financing scheme was an act of electoral fraud and represents an assault on the democratic principles upon which Parliament and our electoral system are based....

It goes on to name some consequences.

As others have said before me, this is about the in and out scheme of the Conservative Party of Canada that occurred in the 2006 election campaign which fraudulently took money and transferred it around. I will get into more detail on that later.

From a high of $49,999 to one riding to slightly over $2,000 in another, and some 67 ridings in all, it was a major scheme to get around the national advertising rules. The plan was simple enough. It was to send money to individual ridings for the purpose of buying advertising, only the advertising being purchased was for the national not the local campaign.

In an article today in the Globe and Mail, Jeffrey Simpson summed this up probably better than anyone. He backgrounds it in about half of the article and I will quote what he had to say in looking back at that election campaign. He says:

Yes, the Liberals were wounded, but they weren't done. They were running their own nasty TV ads warning darkly of Mr. Harper's hidden agenda.

We certainly know that is true. There is certainly one of those.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. I would ask the hon. member to remember that he cannot name sitting members in the House.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

My apologies, Madam Speaker.

Mr. Simpson goes on to say:

On TV and on platforms, the two parties were battling, ad for ad, charge for charge. But as the campaign wore on, the Conservatives were running out of money, or at least money they could spend under election financing rules. They needed every dollar they could find to buy more ads.

What did they do? They had to find a scheme to get money. They had overspent in the first few weeks of the campaign. They had a week left to go so they had to find a scheme by which to get around the election rules.

Jeffrey Simpson went on to say:

It was, as the appeal court said, a “scheme.” Now the director of public prosecutions has charged four Conservatives, including two senators, with having organized the scheme.

I think Mr. Simpson sums it up pretty well in the Globe and Mail article.

The CBC also reported:

The plan was apparently hatched in the midst of the campaign as the national Conservative Party was reaching its legal spending limit of about $18 million, but wanted to spend more on advertising.

The CBC report went on to provide a brief example of how the scam, this money-laundering scheme, worked. It said:

Individual Conservative candidates had their own legal election expense limit of about $80,000, and lots of them weren't planning to spend anything close to that amount.

We all know that a lot of candidates do not spend close to their amount.

To understand what happened next, I will take the case of one Ontario Conservative candidate. Her campaign had not spent anything near the allowable $80,000 limit for the riding. The party sent her campaign $29,999 on the strict condition her campaign immediately transfer the same amount of money back to the national party. In return, the party issued an invoice showing her campaign had just bought local advertising worth $29,999. The party used the money to continue its mostly national advertising blitz, while the local candidate later got to claim a 60% rebate on her expenses from the government. In her case, that meant a cheque for $18,000 from taxpayers for local advertising that never happened.

This was achieved by sending the money to the riding, having the candidate or duly appointed officer sign off on the receipt of the money and then immediately send the money back to the national campaign. By doing this, the Conservatives were able to exceed the legally mandated spending ceiling under the Elections Canada Act in their attempt to buy the election. However, even worse, through that they were able to fill the coffers of some of the local riding associations with funds being returned for expenses at the local level that never happened. There is no question about it. The fact is that this is plainly illegal. It is election fraud, short and simple. The Conservative Party has been up to election fraud.

What do the Conservatives do now? As they usually do, they try to change the subject. They organize a public relations campaign claiming that this was an administrative error, an accounting error, and nothing more. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is no accounting error. This is no administrative error. This is electoral fraud. All we need to do is walk down that hall and we will see two of the people who have been rewarded for coming up with this scheme and have been able to buy that national advertising during the last week of the campaign. We will find down that hall two senators who were involved in this scheme. We will find two others at the senior levels of the Conservative Party who were involved in this scheme of electoral fraud.

For the Prime Minister to stand and talk about law and order, it is not about laws for everybody else and different laws for him and his party. Everybody should have to respect the Elections Canada Act and that party obviously did not and they have been charged as such.

The Conservatives claimed, as did the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, that the party had every right to send money to local campaigns. It is interesting how he fails to mention that the requirement for the ridings getting the money was that they were obligated to kick it back to the centre. I wonder why? I wonder why the parliamentary secretary forgot to place this part of the transaction on the record in the House that they were obligated to kick it back. That is the catch. It was certainly a scheme that was cooked up by the party in order to raise money for its election campaign.

We need to bear in mind that the Prime Minister, long before he was elected, attempted to challenge the manner in which campaigns had been financed. He has never been one who has accepted the rules that the rest of the country live by. As president of the NCC, he found himself on the wrong side of a Supreme Court ruling which found against his efforts to undermine our election financing laws.

It is apparent that we have a Prime Minister who believes that if he does not consider the laws legitimate he can ignore them. However, he and the party are devious enough to attempt to hide it. There is a lack of moral courage at the very core of that party, not to mention integrity.

Let us consider for a moment two things. The first is that the Conservatives have, by practising this fraud, bought themselves an election. The Federal Court of Appeal has ruled unanimously with three judges against the government and its lunatic scheme that this is an administrative matter.

In closing, I will make on last point. The Chief Electoral Officer, the Commissioner of Elections, the director of Public Prosecutions and an entire three judge panel of the Federal Court of Appeal have now taken action against the Conservatives in this election fraud.

It is time for the Government of Canada, the Conservative Party of Canada, to own up to the wrong it has done, to stop playing Pro games here and to kick out those two senators down the hall, fire those two Conservatives and let us get on with integrity and honesty in this place.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Madam Speaker, I listened to the member's speech intently and heard a lot of bluster about money coming in and money going out, and how people were trying to avoid Elections Canada rules.

When I look at the Elections Canada reports for in and out money in the Liberal Party, I find that on January 5, 2006, in the riding of Malpeque, an amount was transferred in from the Liberal national Party for $5,350. It did not even take a day before the $5,350 were transferred back out on January 5. So money was going into that riding and out of that riding. I am wondering if that money was claimed for election expenses at the end of that campaign.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, I am most pleased to answer that question because this is the kind of game that the members on that side play. They talk from their propaganda notes from the PMO and, in trying to create a defence for themselves, they change the topic.

This was not transferred in and out illegally. The moneys we are talking about here in the 2006 election fund—

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Let me suggest this to you over there. Talk to Elections--

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. I understand this is a pretty intense debate but I ask hon. members to restrain themselves. I would ask the hon. member who is speaking to make his comments through the Chair.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

I would tell the members opposite, through you, Madam Speaker, that if they think there is something wrong in my riding, they can go to the federal prosecutor and find out that what I did was legal.

What I am talking about is a scheme that was designed to transfer money that the Conservatives were using and to kick it back illegally for a national campaign. That is why the Conservative Party has been charged and no other parties have, because other parties abided by the Canada Elections Act and the rules. The Conservative Party of Canada did not and has been so charged.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Madam Speaker, I have been following this debate very closely, as I am sure thousands of people have from across the country have. For me, the issue really is one of trust and accountability, which is what the Conservatives ran on in 2006. This is one issue that really is the tip of the iceberg.

Let me remind the House of some of the others. There were documents altered in the KAIROS scandal; there was the renaming of the government in the name of the Prime Minister; critics were silenced; and there were the issues of the integrity commissioner; the West Block renovation scandal; and the $130 million spent on advertising for the economic action plan.

What all of this is doing is undermining the confidence that Canadians have in the government. It is very similar in a cumulative way to the sponsorship scandal under the Liberals. What I am profoundly worried about is the cynicism about the electoral process that will result among the Canadians who are watching this House.

I want to ask the member for Malpeque whether he has any suggestions on how to restore confidence in this very chamber and democracy in Canada. I would suggest that as a result of the sponsorship scandal and the cumulative effect of what we are seeing now with the in and out scandal and all the others, this confidence has been severely undermined.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, the member's preamble to the question certainly showed how long the list is of the falsehoods and dishonesty of a government that ran on the theme of accountability. The Federal Accountability Act is itself a farce because there is no accountability on that side of the House. Access to information is being denied more often than not in many cases. The list goes on.

There is something that is not often talked about. We have the biggest cabinet in Canadian history now, a full-sized cabinet with many staffers. What do the 500-plus staffers whom cabinet ministers have around them do? As we have seen from the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, they are using their offices for propaganda purposes to target communities and votes. That is what they are doing with that money.

There is clearly no accountability with the government. It should own up to what it did wrong and support the Liberal motion in the House. That—

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please.

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Gatineau, Foreign Affairs; the hon. member for Windsor West, the Census.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time today with the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles.

I rise to take part in the debate on the motion presented by the Liberal member for Beauséjour. I have to wonder if he wrote the motion himself or if it was just handed to him by the office the Liberal leader. Unfortunately, there seems to be a trend around this place, both in the House and committees, for members of the Liberal Party to bring forward motions that are outrageous in their scope and nature.

When our party was in opposition, I can tell members that we would never have brought forward such a motion because we respect Parliament and we respect the priorities of Canadians.

Getting back to today's debate, I want to begin my remarks by stating that I find the text of today's motion very troubling. As my colleague pointed out earlier today, today's motion passes judgment on a political entity and on four private individuals. It asks the House to serve as judge and a jury over a private civil matter currently before the courts. Specifically, it makes a finding of fraud. It asks the Prime Minister to direct the financial affairs of a political party; it asks the Government of Canada to remove individuals from employment; and, similarly, it asks the Conservative Party to do the same.

I find these proposals contrary to the principles and values of a mature democracy. In Canada, we respect the rule of law, which includes due process and the presumption of innocence. For these reasons, the motion is at odds with long-standing parliamentary conventions and practices.

With that said, let me address the issues in the motion before the House today.

We completely reject the partisan motion brought forward by the Liberal Party. It is a clear attempt to play partisan politics. Unlike the Liberal Party, our Conservative government is, and will remain, focused on the real concerns of Canadians. It is a shameful that at a time when our economy is coming out of a tough recession and is slowly recovering, the Liberal Party brings forward a motion like this one today, instead of focusing on the real needs of Canadian families.

Canadians are rejecting the approach of the Liberal leader. That fact we can see throughout the last few weeks and months. Why is that? It is because Canadians know that the Liberal leader did not come back to Canada after being out of this country for many years because he cared about the interests of Canadians. Today's motion is proof that he is looking at his best interests and not the interests of Canadians, and that is a shame.

However, let us contrast the Liberal Party's approach with that of our Conservative government. While the Liberal Party would rather play partisan games, we are focused on the economy and bringing forward the next phase of Canada's economic action plan on March 22.

As for the matter currently before the courts, we will appeal the decision made recently by the Federal Court of Appeal. As the Prime Minister and his parliamentary secretary have recently said in this House, this is an administrative dispute with Elections Canada. It has been going on for five years. The dispute is whether certain expenses should be counted as local expenses or national expenses. There certainly is a difference of opinion. We acknowledge that we have a difference of opinion with Elections Canada.

The Conservative Party of Canada acted under the law, as it understood it at that time. When it was clear that Elections Canada had changed its interpretation of the law, the Conservative Party had adjusted its practices in the 2008 election campaign.

Another very important fact is that these were Conservative dollars, donated by Conservative supporters. The funds were used for Conservative ads by Conservative candidates.

I also want to bring to members' attention a story from the Ottawa Citizen dating back to July 2008.

In 2008, the Chief Electoral Officer appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister read into the record an email. I would like to read into the record that email from the Ottawa Citizen of July 18, 2008. It states:

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 email was signed by the federal party bookkeeper. However, it was not an email from the Conservative Party but an internal email from the New Democratic Party.

The Phyllis in question was Phyllis Loke, the official agent to the NDP MP for Vancouver East. They were both involved in a transfer of funds that exactly paralleled the practice that the Conservative Party engaged in for advertising purposes. This was common practice.

The email in question was from the NDP national party bookkeeper, Lucy Ladouceur. She--

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. The hon. member for Portage—Lisgar.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Madam Speaker, the NDP's national bookkeeper, Lucie Ladouceur, sent this email to an NDP candidate. It has all of the characteristics that the Conservative transaction had.

This email was in the possession of Elections Canada. I am sure we will now see some investigative reporting by some of the media, who will also realize that these same practices were commonplace and paralleled by other parties. The email was filed with Elections Canada, and we obtained it from them through the Access to Information Act.

As John Robson from the Ottawa Citizen said at the time:

The more I watch this stuff...the more convinced I am that if there's a scandal here, it doesn't involve the Tories. But nobody seems to care. The opposition want a scandal, the press want a scandal...let's not bore ourselves with details—

However, let us also see what other supporters of the opposition say.

Robin Sears, a longtime advisor to the Liberal MP for Toronto Centre, as well as a longtime New Democrat, had this to say about the matter on the CTV news channel on February 25:

It's a load of nonsense—the guys at Elections Canada have a few bricks short of a load. Every party plays games with moving money around, have always done, will always do. What's a national ad, what's a local ad? It's nonsense. It's time we got back to things Canadians care about.

I am very surprised to be in agreement with a staunch NDPer like Robin Sears, but he hit the nail on the head with comments like those.

It is quite evident that the motion by the Liberal member for Beauséjour is contrary to the principles and practices of the House. It assumes there is a presumption of guilt and that the House can pass judgment on individuals without any respect for due process. Regardless of one's partisan support or opinion on the political financing issue being debated, I think Canadians would agree that the motion is very troubling when put in this perspective.

I submit that in a mature democracy such as Canada, we ought to respect the rule of law and due process before condemning anyone. I say this to preserve the credibility of the House, as well as the reputation of all of its members. Our democratic values require that the rights of the individual are not subject to the tyranny of a majority, in this case, the opposition or its coalition majority.

I therefore encourage all members to stand up for our democracy and reject the motion.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Madam Speaker, I was disappointed by my hon. colleague's speech because she ought to know better. She ought to know there is a difference between local and national advertising. To the rest of us, and probably to her, it is actually obvious. If we had asked her before that election, she would have made the distinction very clearly. Now she is trying to deny that one exists.

The fact of the matter is that there is a difference between what other parties might do in terms of transferring money from the local level to the national level, or vice versa, and doing so for the purpose of exceeding the spending limit on what one is allowed to spend on advertising nationally. That is what happened with the Conservative Party.

It is not an accident that the director of public prosecutions of Canada, the top crown prosecutor in the country, has decided to lay charges against four senior Conservatives that could result in jail time. That is a very serious matter and that member ought to understand it. She ought to take crime seriously. However, the Conservative regime seems to have a pattern of rewarding wrongdoing, such as making two of those Conservatives senators.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Madam Speaker, the Liberals are very familiar with their own party operatives being in jail for criminal charges. We were never so. Sadly, in the sponsorship scandal, criminal charges were laid and in fact people were prosecuted and put in jail.

The member brings forward an interesting point about local versus national ads. That certainly is a disagreement we have with Elections Canada. We have been forthright with it, that we disagree and we are talking, discussing and bringing this forward in court.

What is interesting, and I find it quite questionable and I have been asked by a lot of my colleagues, is this. When it came to money going in to NDP ridings, for example, and the money going out again, or in the case of the Liberals, where money went into their ridings and then out again to the national campaign, did they claim the 60% rebate from Elections Canada?

I am sure we will look into that as well as possibly some more investigative journalists because it was common practice. The NDP put money in, took money in and the Liberals put money, took money out and then claimed the 60% rebate.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to ask my colleague from Portage—Lisgar this. The first position that her party took was the paranoid delusion that Elections Canada was somehow full of crypto-Liberals and they were persecuting the Conservative Party and nobody else because of what they did. This attitude that everybody does it has been disproved time and time again.

However, the Conservatives switched from that original stance of the delusions of persecution, where they had the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs channelling Saint Sebastian with the arrows in his noble chest as if they were being persecuted by Elections Canada, to an almost as ridiculous notion that everybody else is just as bad as they are.

We have a saying in Manitoba that they should fix health care, not elections, and that is—

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I would like to give the hon. member for Portage—Lisgar equal time to respond.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Madam Speaker, I can see my Manitoba colleague from Winnipeg Centre has had a little chamomile tea since yesterday, when I debated with him. He personally attacked and attacked me. It was shameful and disappointing.

However, let me proceed to what the issue is and what has the opposition parties so angry. The fact is they moved money from their national campaigns to their local campaigns and then moved the money back from the local campaigns to the national campaigns and claimed the 60% rebate on it. They want to say it is not true. The proof is on the Elections Canada website.

We also wonder what Elections Canada is looking at when it sees this information before all of us in the House and indeed all Canadians.

Speaker's RulingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

March 8th, 2011 / 4:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Before we resume debate, I am prepared to rule on the point of order raised earlier today by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons concerning the applicability of the sub judice convention to the supply day motion proposed by the member for Beauséjour.

I would like to thank the hon. parliamentary secretary for raising this matter, as well as the hon. members for Charlottetown, Skeena—Bulkley Valley and Joliette for their interventions.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons argued that the motion as drafted contravened the sub judice convention and should be ruled out of order on that basis.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, at page 100, makes reference to the Speaker’s discretion in the application of the sub judice convention:

In 1977, the First Report of the Special Committee on the Rights and Immunities of Members recommended that the imposition of the convention should be done with discretion and, when there was any doubt in the mind of the Chair, a presumption should exist in favour of allowing debate and against the application of the convention. Since the presentation of the report, Speakers have followed these guidelines while using discretion.

In addition, as hon. members are aware, over the years the Chair has given considerable latitude in the wording of supply day motions. House of Commons Procedure and Practice, at page 854, states:

The Standing Orders give Members a very wide scope in proposing opposition motions on supply days and, unless the motion is clearly and undoubtedly irregular (i.e., where the procedural aspect is not open to reasonable argument), the Chair does not intervene.

This may explain why there are examples of this kind of motion coming before the House in the past, notably one proposed by the then member for MacLeod, Mr. Grant Hill, on February 16, 2004, and another proposed by the hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie on April 14, 2005. Both motions were proposed after the government of the day had established a public inquiry to look into the matters referred to in the motions.

Nevertheless, with these procedural principles in mind, the Chair has carefully reviewed the motion currently being debated, with particular attention to how it relates to court proceedings to determine whether the sub judice convention ought to apply.

There are two kinds of court proceedings at issue. First, in terms of the civil aspect of the matter, a unanimous court decision has been rendered. At this hour, no appeal has been filed. Until further steps are taken on that aspect of the question, there is no possible application of the sub judice convention at this time.

With regard to the reference to criminal charges filed against certain individuals, a close reading of the motion reveals that they are properly referred to as “individuals facing charges”. The motion does not comment on their guilt or innocence. The question of whether persons charged should be able to continue to hold positions in government or a political party, which is the point addressed by the motion, is not covered by the sub judice convention.

That being said, out of an abundance of caution, the ordinary practice of the House in respect of matters which may be sub judice has been for the Speaker not to stop debate, but rather to caution members in their choice of wording. Along with a number of my predecessors, I have frequently advised the House to proceed judiciously when debating matters that are, or might be, sub judice.

In addition, the wording of the motion before us contains the key words “in the opinion of this House”. If adopted, it would serve merely as an expression of the opinion of the House rather than compel the government to take any action. It is also important to note that the motion is general in nature, lacking in specifics about related proceedings.

For these reasons, I have been prepared to allow the debate on the supply day motion to proceed and I rule that it can continue to the expiry of the time provided for the debate, at which time the question can be put.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles Québec

Conservative

Daniel Petit ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

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.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Madam Speaker, I find it highly rich that the individual who just made the speech talked about accusing others of only being in it for themselves after the Prime Minister rebranded the government in his own name.

I would also like to point out that in his speech he talked about the measures the government has taken regarding Elections Canada. In my opinion, he described it as being very prescriptive in what it should be doing. However, I believe the nub of the issue here is certainly the behaviour by which the parties either follow these particular rules that it has laid down or try to circumvent them.

In this particular case, what has happened is that the practices of the central party calls into question whether it was following the rules or running up against the wall to find out how far it could go to get around them. Obviously, it did not work out, the party surpassed them and now that is being called into question.

I would like to point out that a lot of people in this situation were called on the carpet and were innocent. My colleague from Labrador spoke of Mr. Goudie and his financial officer who had no idea they were perhaps running against the law that was set down. There was innocence on their part and they got in trouble.

I wonder if the member could comment on that. Has he received comments from others about the fact that they were involved in this and had no idea?

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Madam Speaker, through you, I would like to tell my colleague that, first of all, I did not understand his question, and second of all, he spoke about things that did not really have to do with his own motion.

Why did Elections Canada not take action against the six Liberal MPs who missed the 18-month refund deadline? A backbench member of Parliament would get a slap on the wrist. There are six on the Liberal side who did not get a slap on the wrist. That is what he should answer for.

Why did Elections Canada not take action against those six Liberal members and why, now, are they accusing us of making in and out transfers, something that they themselves did? They made just as many. It is still legal and we will prove in court that it is.