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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

Foreign Affairs and International DevelopmentCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Conservative Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development in relation to Bill C-61, An Act to provide for the taking of restrictive measures in respect of the property of officials and former officials of foreign states and of their family members.

Veterans AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs in relation to Bill C-55, An Act to amend the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act and the Pension Act.

The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House with amendments.

Government Operations and EstimatesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have two reports of the government operations committee.

I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the ninth report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates in relation to its study on Supplementary Estimates (C).

I also have the honour to present, in both official languages, the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates in relation to its study on the financing of renewable energy projects by the government. By this report, the committee wants to draw to the attention of the House a potential breach of its privilege and/or a possible case of contempt of Parliament and recommends it takes the measures it deems appropriate.

Contaminated Water in ShannonPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with empathy that I present a second round of petitions regarding the contaminated water in Shannon. Over 1,000 people are adding their names to those of the 23,000 people who signed the document I presented in June 2009.

It is clear this morning that this issue continues to affect people. We know that a trial is currently underway in the class-action lawsuit by people from the municipality of Shannon, who drank contaminated water for 22 years. The government knew that, but did not tell the public.

Therefore, I once again urge the government to do everything it can to contact as many people as possible who lived in Shannon and Valcartier. It must also be proactive, stop making attempts to obstruct this file and it must comply with the orders of this House and give access to the documents requested. We have asked the government to present these documents and it has not yet done so.

Lastly, if the government is truly acting in good faith, it must acknowledge its responsibility, compensate those who were contaminated and decontaminate the areas affected. It is clear that the government is waiting for the trial to end. However, it could have been proactive, which is what the public is asking for.

The EnvironmentPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to present a petition from folks in the Kelowna and Victoria area. This is yet another petition, with which our office has absolutely been flooded, from Canadians expressing serious and dire concern of the government's plans to allow an 1,100 kilometre pipeline for raw bitumen coming from Alberta to the port in Kitimat and then the supertankers that would carry that raw bitumen through the north coast in some of the most treacherous waters in the world. Some members in the House will be aware of the concerns expressed by people all along B.C.'s coast and into the interior.

The petitioners are calling on the government to finally enact in legislation the ban on supertankers on B.C.'s north coast, no longer providing the uncertainty both to industry and to communities.

The petitioners recognize the important and fragile nature of the north coast ecosystem, as even the Conservative government does from time to time.

The petitioners number in the many dozens.

AfghanistanPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, my petition is signed by dozens of Canadians and calls on the government to end Canada's military involvement in Afghanistan.

Ever since May 2008, when Parliament passed its resolution to withdraw the Canadian Forces in 2011, the Prime Minister stayed on track until the Liberals approached him and offered to support him to continue with an involvement in Afghanistan.

Committing 1,000 soldiers to this supposed training mission still presents a great danger to our troops and an unnecessary expense when we are looking at a $56 billion deficit. The military mission has cost us over $18 billion so far, money that could have been used to improve health care and seniors' pensions in this country.

In fact, polls show that a clear majority of Canadians want the military mission to end on schedule in July 2011. Therefore, the petitioners call upon the Prime Minister to honour the will of Parliament and bring the troops home now.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

March 8th, 2011 / 10:05 a.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 ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Opposition MotionPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.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 rise on a point of order with respect to the motion presented by the Liberal Party and the Liberal member for Beauséjour. Specifically, I would ask that you consider whether this motion is acceptable in light of the sub judice convention.

Today's motion passes judgment on a political entity and on four private individuals. It asks the House to serve as a judge and jury over a private civil matter that is 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 of Canada 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.

For those reasons, the motion is at odds with long-standing parliamentary conventions and practices. Let me explain further.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, the House has significant powers derived from its privileges and immunities. Perhaps the most important privilege is freedom of speech in parliamentary proceedings. While this privilege is normally associated with the right of individual members, it also applies to motions adopted by the House.

As O'Brien and Bosc state at page 91:

Generally considered to be an individual privilege, the courts have confirmed that freedom of speech is also a collective privilege of the House. Motions carried by the House are expressed collectively by its Members and therefore cannot be challenged in a court of law.

However, motions, such as the one being debated today, can have a direct, real and personal effect on an individual and his or her reputation. Given the broad powers accorded to the House in this regard, the House has established practices and conventions to ensure that its powers are exercised judiciously and that due process is respected. As O'Brien and Bosc note at page 97:

The privilege of freedom of speech is an extremely powerful immunity and on occasion Speakers have had to caution Members about its misuse.

O'Brien and Bosc go on to cite Speaker Fraser's 1987 ruling where he stated:

Such a privilege confers grave responsibilities on those who are protected by it. By that I mean specifically the Hon. Members of this place. The consequences of its abuse can be terrible. Innocent people could be slandered with no redress available to them. Reputations could be destroyed on the basis of false rumour. All Hon. Members are conscious of the care they must exercise in availing themselves of their absolute privilege of freedom of speech. That is why there are long-standing practices and traditions observed in this House to counter the potential for abuse.

One practice observed by the House to protect the interests of individuals is the sub judice convention. As O'Brien and Bosc state at page 99:

It is accepted practice that, in the interests of justice and fair play, certain restrictions should be placed on the freedom of Members of Parliament to make reference in the course of debate to matters awaiting judicial decisions, and that such matters should not be the subject of motions or questions in the House.

O'Brien and Bosc go on to state:

The acceptance of a restriction is a voluntary restraint on the part of the House to protect an accused person or other party to a court action or judicial inquiry from suffering any prejudicial effect from public discussion of the issue.

As O'Brien and Bosc note at page 100:

The sub judice convention is important in the conduct of business in the House. It protects the rights of interested parties before the courts, and preserves and maintains the separation and mutual respect between the legislature and the judiciary. The convention ensures that a balance is created between the need for a separate, impartial judiciary and free speech.

The sub judice convention is well recognized by other procedural authorities as well. For example, citation 505 in the sixth edition of Beauchesne's states:

Members are expected to refrain from discussing matters that are before the courts or tribunals, which are courts of record. The purpose of this sub judice convention is to protect the parties in a case awaiting or undergoing trial and persons who stand to be affected by the outcome of a judicial inquiry. It is a voluntary restraint imposed by the House upon itself in the interest of justice and fair play.

The sub judice convention is not unique to this House. It is a recognized principle in Westminster.

As the 23rd edition of Erskine May states at page 436:

Subject to the discretion of the Chair and to the right of the House to legislate on any matter or to discuss any matters of delegated legislation, matters awaiting the adjudication of a court of law should not be brought forward in debate.

The British Parliament has gone further than Canada by articulating the sub judice convention through resolution. The latest resolution was adopted in 2001. Similarly, the sub judice convention has been codified in other jurisdictions, including Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, India and New Zealand.

In Canada, at the federal level, we have not had a need to articulate how the sub judice convention should be applied. Up until now, we have been able to rely on the common sense of members to ensure that we do not abuse our privileges. My fear, however, is that this will no longer be the case if today's motion should be adopted.

It is quite evident that the motion by the Liberal member for Beauséjour is contrary to the principle and practices of the House. It assumes there is a presumption of guilt and the House can pass judgment on individuals without any respect for due process.

As O'Brien and Bosc note at page 100:

--it is the Speaker who decides what jurisdiction the Chair has over matters sub judice.

In a ruling of March 14, 2008, Mr. Speaker, you quoted Bourinot and how he described the first principles of our parliamentary tradition as:

To protect the minority and restrain the improvidence and tyranny of the majority, to secure the transaction of public business in a decent and orderly manner--

At that time, committees were ignoring the usual practices and procedures of this House and you described the situation as verging on anarchy. The opposition was being reckless with their majority status back then and it has continued that irresponsible behaviour in its original demands for documents relating to Afghan detainees that could have jeopardized national security.

The tyranny of the opposition majority has been reckless and irresponsible in its demands for the production of documents that would breach cabinet confidence, and now the tyranny of the majority is being reckless and irresponsible with the long-standing practice and principle of parliamentary democracy, the sub judice convention, by passing judgment on individuals without any respect for due process.

I submit that the motion, as it is drafted, infringes on the sub judice convention and should be ruled out of order on that basis.

I realize that since the motion is before the House today and we may in fact have a vote tonight or, at the latest, tomorrow, it is imperative for you, sir, in all your wisdom, to rule on this matter as quickly as possible.

Opposition MotionPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I want to respond to that submission.

It is of no merit whatsoever and there is no Canadian authority that supports the notion that once a matter is before the court, this assembly in the House of Commons does not have jurisdiction to deal with the matter. That would be a total and absolute violation of our privileges as members of Parliament and this assembly.

In Canada we have a separation of the judicial branch, the legislative branch and the parliamentary branch. There is no authority and the parliamentary secretary did not cite any Speaker's ruling that would support the proposition that once a matter is brought before the court, this assembly is not allowed to discuss it.

Just think this through. In any situation that comes up, all a person would have to do is issue a writ in a court, originate a notice, and all of a sudden this House would be silent. The Canadian people would be silent. Parliament would be silent. There is no justification for that.

I have two points on this issue. First, the motion has been on the notice paper since last Friday. That is about 72 hours. Why was this point of order not raised before? Second, I do not know how many times questions on the issue in the motion have been asked in the House of Commons, but you would know, Mr. Speaker.

If the premise that has been advanced here today had any weight to it at all, then of course all those questions would also be out of order. Any issue that went before the courts would be out of order in this assembly. We have dealt with this situation many times before. We dealt with it in the Barbara George case; I dealt with that in committee. Even when we went through the sponsorship issue and the sides were reversed, that matter was in court. It was in court every day. We knew that. However, questions were asked and committee meetings were going on. The committee of inquiry tried to get hold of the proceedings before the committee but it could not because it would have been a breach of parliamentary privileges.

There is no authority for what the parliamentary secretary has stated. He cited some sentences of sub judice. I do not know what goes on in the other provinces, but he did not at any point in time refer to any instance in the 143 years this assembly has been in existence that we would change course, that we would become silent if somehow a matter were raised in court.

Mr. Speaker, I would therefore ask you to not allow this point of order.

Opposition MotionPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, my comments follow on those of my Liberal colleague who has properly argued the case against the parliamentary secretary in terms of what is disallowed, whether it is in front of the courts or not.

The members of the Conservative Party know that well because they themselves brought forward motions of a similar nature when issues were before the court. When in opposition, the Conservative Party also argued for a wide latitude in the use of supply day opposition motions, because they are an opportunity for opposition members to raise questions of the government.

Mr. Speaker, the central point I wish to raise is one which I am sure you will be looking at. O'Brien and Bosc on page 854 requires that:

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.

The government, in preparing its submission today to try to subvert the debate on the so-called in and out scheme, has attempted to curtail the ability of the opposition to have a fulsome debate as to what exactly happened. The implication is there are members sitting within the Conservative caucus who are implicated directly by the public prosecutor in this very matter.

The issue that is being raised is an integral one for all of us, which is that when we have elections in this country, they are fought fairly and within the limits of the rules. Spending limits, for example, are not exceeded. We have very clear and strict laws on this. The Conservative Party used a procedure, a scheme, in which money went in and money went out of bank accounts, sometimes within 12 hours. We know the Conservatives knew it was wrong but they did it anyway. Now we wish to have a debate about the integrity of the election that was fought under those types of misdeeds.

It seems to us that in testing the government on supply days, which is why we are here today, a wide scope and latitude is required. We need to have that. I am sure when the Conservatives return to opposition they will be arguing the same thing. It is not for the Chair to intervene on the scope of that, again except where procedural aspects are not open to reasonable argument. That is what our directive is in this place. That is how we craft ourselves. The Conservatives had all weekend to think about this. They are only bringing the argument forward at the eleventh hour with the hope to yet again subvert debate in Parliament.

Mr. Speaker, we ask for your careful consideration of this, but obviously New Democrats are in favour of this debate going forward.

Opposition MotionPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to take up too much time because I want to ensure that the Liberal Party has enough time for its opposition day.

I would simply like to add that, in addition to the quotation from page 854 of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, as cited by my NDP colleague, there is the following quote from page 100: “The practice has evolved so that it is the Speaker who decides what jurisdiction the Chair has over matters sub judice.”

For weeks now the opposition has been raising the issue of the in and out scheme.

Mr. Speaker, you have never found that to be a problem during question period, even though part of this issue is before the courts.

And by extension, I believe that the motion presented by the Liberal Party is entirely in order. My reasoning is supported by the quotation on page 854 as well as the fact that over the past weeks you have not intervened during question period to say that our questions about the in and out scheme were out of order.

I urge you to accept the Liberal motion so that we can move on to the debate.

Opposition MotionPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I will be brief. I do not want to re-argue the case and the submission I already have made. I think it speaks for itself. I will just speak specifically to a couple of points brought forward by my hon. colleague in the official opposition.

He mentioned that there is no example of other jurisdictions that have adopted a sub judice convention. That is completely wrong. There are three jurisdictions in Canada. Provincially, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec have all adopted the sub judice convention which would prevent this type of motion from coming forward.

Similarly, as I pointed out in my intervention, there are other jurisdictions throughout the world that have adopted this provision and even stronger provisions against motions similar to this being brought forward.

Last, my hon. colleague from the Liberal Party asked why we did not bring forward this point of order earlier. He is quite correct that the motion being debated today was put on the notice paper last Friday. However, as an experienced parliamentarian, he should know that it is not until 5 p.m. the day before an opposition day that a motion is confirmed for debate. There was an opportunity for the Liberal Party to bring forward a different motion for debate today. We did not know that until late yesterday afternoon. Therefore, this morning was the first opportunity for our government to present this argument.

Opposition MotionPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I thank hon. members for their submissions on this point.

I will consider whether the motion should be subject to a vote at the end of the day. But for now, I believe I will put the motion for today's debate before the House.

I do not think the motion on its face, to me, is out of order. I will examine the arguments the parliamentary secretary has put forward with respect to the statements in the motion and their possible determination of issues. I will look into that during the course of the day and come back to the House later.

If I find that the motion oversteps certain boundaries relating to the sub judice convention, which has not been applied rigidly in this House at any time, then I can always say that the motion will not be votable at the end of the day. In the meantime, I believe the debate can proceed on the matter.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

moved:

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, and that, further, the House calls upon the Prime Minister to: (a) order the immediate repayment of any and all illegally obtained electoral rebates that were paid out to candidates for the Conservative Party of Canada as a result of the “in and out” fraud; and (b) remove all individuals facing charges for this fraud from any position of responsibility within Government or the Conservative Party of Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by saying that I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague from St. Paul's, who will be giving a very important speech on the character of the government and what the election spending scandal reveals about the character of the Prime Minister and other Conservative Party leaders.

The motion today does something very important. It allows the House to express itself on a matter which has been known as the in and out election scandal, but it goes further than that.

The motion invites the House to form an opinion that the totality of the evidence around this scheme and this scandal constitute electoral fraud. It calls on the Prime Minister, as head of the government, to order that any taxpayers' moneys obtained illegally as a result of this in and out election scandal be immediately reimbursed to the Receiver General. It calls for any taxpayers' money that was obtained illegally as a result of this scheme be reimbursed to the Canadian people. The motion calls on the Prime Minister to remove the individuals who are facing quasi-criminal charges as a result of a decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions to remove these individuals from positions of authority within the Conservative Party and within the campaign apparatus of the Prime Minister's party.

Many observers and many commentators have noted that the whole nature of the in and out election scheme is difficult for many Canadians to understand. It is largely a dispute around election spending legislation and the desire of the Conservative Party in the 2006 election to get around those spending limits. I am hoping in the few minutes I have that I might simplify for members of the House the basic essence of this scheme.

In 2006 the Conservative Party decided that it was going to hit the limit for national advertising and campaign spending, the limit set by legislation passed by the House, so it needed to develop a scheme to circumvent that spending limit and therefore attempt to get an unfair advantage over other parties that were following the election spending limits at the time. In essence, the Conservative Party decided at that point to break the law.

The Conservative Party transferred money from the national Conservative Party to 67 Conservative riding associations, the 67 that we know about and that Elections Canada has identified. The party transferred money. That in and out of itself is not the problem. Part of the government's great effort to confuse the public is to say the issue is about the transfers. The issue is not about the transfers. The Conservative Party can legitimately transfer money to those 67 ridings. What was illegal and illegitimate is what then followed.

Those ridings had to immediately transfer the money back to the national party. They had to sign a transfer order before they received the money. The party probably did not have enough confidence in its local riding associations not to try to keep the money. The party wanted it transferred back to the national campaign committee, and that group in Ottawa then had all of the decision-making authority over how that money would be spent. It was spent on advertising in different regional or national markets.

The party tried to pretend that somehow this was a decision of a particular Conservative candidate. For example, the riding of Lac-Saint-Louis in Quebec was one that had received some of this money, transferred it back to the national party, and then effectively lost any decision-making authority over how the money was spent.

After the 2006 election the Chief Electoral Officer refused to approve the use of taxpayers' money for the reimbursement of these expenses. He made this determination after a careful audit and after careful interviews with candidates and official agents of the Conservative Party who admitted they had no idea where the advertising money was going to be spent. They had no say on how that money should be allocated. Based on those interviews and an extensive investigation, the Chief Electoral Officer determined that the Conservative Party should not be allowed to milk $800,000 of taxpayers' money as part of the electoral refund process for expenses which he determined were not legitimate.

The matter was then brought to the court by the Conservatives. In a desperate attempt to delay a finding of guilt, in an attempt to confuse the issue and probably in an attempt to desperately milk that $800,000 that they had promised to their local riding associations, the Conservatives said, “Do not panic. We will go to court”. That was a desperate act to try to cover up a very thorough and extensive investigation and decision by an independent authority of the House with the responsibility to administer the election system.

This is an important point, because the court has ruled that the Conservatives did not have the right to claim—since the election commissioner conducted an investigation—that what they did was legal.

However, last week, a panel of three Federal Court of Appeal judges unequivocally ruled that the Conservatives acted illegally. The only people who believe that the Conservatives did nothing wrong are the Conservatives themselves.

In the meantime, we have seen the Conservatives' true colours. They have repeatedly insulted Elections Canada and that agency's employees whose mandate, which comes from this House under the legislation, is to ensure fair election practices in Canada. Often when people are wrong regarding arguments of substance, they tend to insult others. That is what the Conservatives are doing.

The Conservatives had refused to hand over documents to Elections Canada. That is why the RCMP needed a search warrant, issued by a judge, to go into the Conservative Party headquarters to get the documents.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister rises in this House and says that the Conservatives have disclosed everything to Elections Canada and that the reason Elections Canada is aware of this practice is because the Conservatives came forward. It is odd that Elections Canada needed to ask a judge for a signed search warrant after evidence submitted under oath to that same judge established that the Conservatives had not disclosed certain things. What was found in that search? They found a series of falsified documents that the Conservatives had tried to hide. That is what convinced the Director of Public Prosecutions to lay these quasi-criminal charges against the Conservatives.

The result of this scheme is that the Conservatives tried to cheat in a national election by spending over the legal limit. They attempted to milk almost $1 million from taxpayers by refunds to which they were not entitled. This is not a decision only of Elections Canada, it is a decision of a unanimous three judge panel of the Federal Court of Appeal.

Four top Conservatives are now facing quasi-criminal charges, including the possibility of landing in jail or facing massive fines and the Conservative Party itself is also facing these charges.

The Conservatives pretended to campaign on accountability. It was a joke. In that very election they were engaging in an elaborate scheme to get around the limits.

In closing, the Conservatives inexcusably claim that this is an administrative dispute, an accounting misunderstanding. We could use that same argument to say that the likes of Vincent Lacroix and Earl Jones were caught up in an accounting disagreement. The whole Enron affair in the United States was nothing more than an accounting dispute, a financial glitch.

There is no administrative prison. When someone faces quasi-criminal charges, it is because the Director of Public Prosecutions has determined that there is a great deal of evidence. That is the case for the Conservatives. There is a great deal of evidence suggesting that there was a strategy to get around the Canada Elections Act and steal an election.

One day, the government's lame excuses will be heard in court and these people will be judged.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Madam Speaker, I want to expand further on the point of order I raised that the motion is completely out of order and should be ruled accordingly. I find it curious that the Liberal Party of Canada, which has among its several members one from the riding of Papineau, whose father was, frankly, the architect of what we know as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, would actually have the temerity to stand in the House and bring forward this motion. Section 11 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms speaks of the rights of individuals to have their day in court and the presumption of innocence before the courts. Yet the motion before us today basically encourages the House, through a vote in this place, to find guilty those who have not yet been through due process in the court of law. In other words, the Liberal Party is purporting that this place has more authority than the court of law in this country.

There are many lawyers in the House. I wonder how they feel about the motion. Does my colleague, who is a lawyer, agree that Parliament should have the authority over a court of law when determining guilt or innocence?

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Madam Speaker, it is always a bit rich to see Conservatives, former members of the Reform Party and the Alliance, talk about their respect for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Those of us on this side of the House for a long time have thought that those members simply find the Charter of Rights and Freedoms an inconvenience. We saw that when the member for Vaughan in his byelection campaign admitted that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was a nuisance when he was a senior police officer in Ontario. The irony never seeks to escape me.

My colleague pointed out to the House that I am a lawyer by training. Am I uncomfortable with the House pronouncing itself on something as fundamental as the ethical standards of the government? The answer is no. Am I uncomfortable with this motion that somehow the House should substitute its opinion for the decision of the courts? Of course that is not the case. No one other than the parliamentary secretary has suggested something so ridiculous.

We are saying that the House has an obligation to hold the Conservative Party and the Conservative government to account for a massive electoral fraud. At the end of the day, members will also be held to account in a court of law and may face jail time as a result of their behaviour.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, the government continuously pronounces its innocence based on the fact that, according to the government, everybody does this, that what is going on is just ordinary politics, the usual way campaigns are run. Government members think there is some personal vendetta against them. I am not quite sure where they get the argument that there is motivation to single them out, because any government agency that would be stupid enough to attack the sitting government of the day on anything but a rock solid legal case would be crazy, especially with that crowd.

Could the hon. member help members in the House and the public who are watching understand the difference between what the Conservatives are charged with and the regular things that parties do during campaigns?

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Madam Speaker, the member for Hamilton Centre is absolutely right. One of the great big falsehoods the government has been propagating is that every other party does it. Its members have repeated it over and over again, as if by repeating the falsehood that somehow it becomes true.

The Conservative Party is the only party facing quasi-criminal charges. Four senior Conservative operators, including two who sit in the other place, are facing quasi-criminal charges. No other party has that proud record.

The Conservatives' headquarters was the only party's headquarters raided by the police following a court signed mandate, a search warrant. Again, no other party has that ignominy.

The Conservative Party is the only one that has been found by the Director of Public Prosecutions to have voluminous evidence of wrongdoing and a paper trail of fake invoices. That is its record, nobody else's.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Madam Speaker, my colleague provided a good explanation of the in and out financing scandal. I will show that this is a perfect example of the abuse of power by the Prime Minister, who believes he is above the law.

Government expects citizens to obey the law. Citizens should be able to expect government to obey the law as well. They should also expect political parties who want to form the government to obey the law, particularly in an election based on the need to increase transparency and accountability. I believe this goes right to the character and integrity of the Prime Minister and the Conservative Party of Canada.

Integrity means that one acts with principles. Accountability means that somebody is watching and that one will try to do one's best. However, this comes to an almost sociopathic or psychopathic end in that what is right is regarded as what one gets away with and what is wrong is what one is caught doing, and that when one gets caught doing something wrong, one says that everyone else is doing it.

Spending limits matter in the democracy in our country. The restrictions on party spending were put in place to limit the influence of money on the outcome of elections and to level the playing field. It was viewed as undemocratic that a party with the most money would win because of the money it was able to spend.

We are also concerned that throughout the Conservative's defence, the truth has been a serious victim. Even the parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister had said that the Conservatives alerted Elections Canada to the in and out scheme. That is not true. An Elections Canada auditor noticed the unusual pattern of wire transfers and then a Conservative candidate and several campaign workers explained how the national party had instructed them in the in and out scheme. One of them called the transactions, “in and out”, and that is where this scandal got its name.

It is also extraordinary that when they were caught doing this, the Conservatives had the audacity to go to court to get their ill-gotten dollars back in spite of what we now understand. For example, in the books of the riding of Hull—Aylmer, it had $12,000 in its account at the beginning of the election, but after a transfer from the national party of $50,000 or so, it ended up with $36,000 at the end of the campaign. Clearly it was $24,000 better off with taxpayer dollars from a falsely obtained rebate.

It is also not true that other parties did the same thing. As my colleague said, there is only one party being charged with this. There was only one headquarters raided. There is a very big difference between this and the legitimate transfers to or from a riding association to central headquarters. That is fundamentally different from what happened here, where a party ended up being able to exceed a spending limit and ended up with taxpayer dollars in Conservative riding associations.

This is a party and Prime Minister for whom the end always justifies the means. If you or I were asked by the Canada Revenue Agency to show our books, then we would show our books. This party had to have its headquarters raided, from which sloppily forged invoices were found. The company in question, Retail Media, was able to say that those were not their invoices and that they were indeed forged.

I would like to set the context. This is a Prime Minister who never liked election spending limits and actually went as far as the Supreme Court as the president of the National Citizens Coalition to try to fight against limits on third party advertising in an election. I think this Prime Minister never really liked Elections Canada and saw them as a certain irritant in the way. Of course, he comes from a province where there are no spending limits.

Let us go back in time to November 28, 2005 when there was a vote of non-confidence in the House. From November 25 to January 23, there was a writ of 55 days long. That is 20 days longer than most writs. It seems that at that time the Liberals had a five to ten point lead in the polls and were in strong minority territory.

In mid-December, someone in Conservative Party noticed that they were actually close to the spending limit and thought, “Oh my word, what are we going to do?” Here, I want to take members to some dimly lit office here on the Hill with a Blofeld-like character, the evil genius and arch enemy of goodness, fairness and democratic principles, who came up with a big idea.

The idea was that the campaign would use and in and out scheme. Moreover, what if there were a big bonus of an extraordinary media buy and another big bonus of money actually ending up in poor riding associations? That was is in a campaign whose platform talked about standing up for accountability and banning secret donations to political candidates.

As the Ottawa Citizen said in its editorial on March 4:

Campaign spending rules are in place for a reason: to ensure a reasonably level "playing field" during a campaign. Because one candidate may not reach his or her limit doesn't mean the party should be able to overspend on the national campaign as a result.

....the Appeal Court ruled that “the Respondents' interpretation could weaken compliance with the limits set by Parliament on the amount of money that candidates can spend on their election and can recover by way of reimbursement of public funds. Abuses could well proliferate, and the statutory objective of promoting a healthy democracy through levelling the electoral playing field undermined.”

We know that the party and the Prime Minister must have known that not everyone thought this was in the rules. In fact, its previous candidate, David Marler, a lawyer who ran for the party in 2006, turned party officials down when asked to deposit money in his campaign account and almost immediately remove it for national advertising. About 66 other candidates agreed to the request, but not David Marler. As he stated:

It always seemed to me that the in-and-out was irregular and illegal.... It is gratifying to note that the Federal Court (of Appeal) has come to the same opinion, which always seemed to me to be obvious. I think they’re doing the right thing by prosecuting the alleged offenders.

Tom Flanagan has talked about the alleged ad laundering scheme, and many have indeed called this money laundering. In the Brandon Sun, Mia Rabson reported that:

Former Manitoba Conservative MP Inky Mark said his party was wrong to claim $1.3 million in national advertising expenses paid for by its local candidates in the 2006 election.

Mark spoke out immediately afterwards and said that “It smelled”. He recalled:

I asked what was the point.... It just didn't make any sense.

Mark said that he believes they asked him to accept about $8,000 but that:

From my point of view, if I took the money and pretended I spent it and then made a claim for it with Elections Canada, that's wrong.

I guess Conservatives thought it was a brilliant scheme and that Elections Canada was stupid, but they had the audacity to ask for the rebates back, which is evident when we see the books of the Conservative riding association in Hull—Aylmer.

The Conservatives would like Canadians to believe that it is just an accounting dispute. That is not true. Accountants are not usually accused of forging invoices or fleecing taxpayers of $800,000 by having Conservative ridings apply for rebates of inflated election expenses.

The Conservatives would like us to believe that this is a standard practice. That is not true. The Conservative Party is the only party facing such charges, the only party whose headquarters was searched by the RCMP, and the only party that left a trail of forged invoices that it must now explain.

What is also very telling in terms of character is to see the intimidation that took place, with the leadership calling people who had refused “idiots” and “turds”. There were emails between these riding associations, particularly the one in Oxford, where the campaign manager, a former police officer, felt uncomfortable doing this.

Liberals think that is an extraordinary testimony to the lack of character and it seems a little suspicious that one of the accused was tweeting last week that:

Anyone who thinks PMSH was that deeply involved in campaign is an idiot. Campaigns make millions of decisions in 35 days.

I think there are at least two “not”s missing in that. To go around calling people idiots just seems part of the game.

Parties—

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order. The hon. member's time has elapsed. Perhaps she will have an opportunity to complete her comments in questions and comments.

The hon. member for Oshawa.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, I do want to thank my colleague for her speech. I know she was speaking quite passionately. I have worked with her in the past and I know she does hold herself in the highest ethical regard, as well as this entire House.

The member wanted to go back in time, and I was wondering if I could remind her of an historical fact. There was something called adscam or scandale des commandites and something called the Gomery inquiry. It was an ongoing inquiry into the misappropriation of funds. There were some results that came about after that inquiry. I believe the Liberal Party had to return $1 million to the Canadian taxpayers.

My question to the member is, can she outline in detail what the Liberal Party has done to recover the other $40 million? Has she done anything personally to encourage her leader to recover this money that was lost to Canadian taxpayers because of a scandal that occurred under a previous government's watch?

I think we would just like to have an update to see how that is coming along.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to remind the hon. member that Justice Gomery had a number of recommendations that the Conservative Party put into its platform but has pretty well carried out none. It was very important that the appointments commission do a number of things that Gomery said must be done. However, the Conservative Party was more than happy to pick that up and put it into their platform and then carry forward.

This is the most secretive government in the history of Canada. We have gone from being first under the Liberals to last under the government in terms of secrecy and redacted documents. Frankly, no sitting Liberal in either chamber has ever had these kinds of charges laid against them.

Opposition Motion—Electoral FinancingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from St. Paul's for her remarks.

I find it passing strange that the government members, in their first response to the co-lead off speech of the official opposition on the day of the latter's motion, slam the Conservative scandal with a Liberal scandal. The best argument they have to defend their own scandal is to raise the previous scandal.

My question directly for the member, however, is about her saying that the government had the “audacity” to ask for dollars back and her reference to “forged invoices”. I would like to ask the member if she would expand a little bit on the linkage between the alleged forged invoices and the audacity of the government not only to overspend by $1 million but to claim the rebates too.