This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #92 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was elections.

Topics

Opposition Motion--Canada Elections ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Laurie Hawn

Shame on you, Mr. Speaker.

Opposition Motion--Canada Elections ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Not you, Mr. Speaker.

--where the Conservative Party ultimately had to pay, I think, two hundred and some thousand dollars as an admission of guilt.

Why should Canadians believe that the Conservatives are treating this issue seriously when their past record clearly demonstrates that they want to drag things out and confuse the matter?

The point is that there was some form of a conspiracy. Will you not acknowledge that fact? Thirty thousand Canadians is not a small number of Canadians to call Elections Canada.

Opposition Motion--Canada Elections ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. I would just remind the hon. members to direct their questions and comments through the Chair.

Opposition Motion--Canada Elections ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am quite glad my hon. colleague raised the issue of past records and past practices because I would like to ask my friend about the $40 million that is still missing from the Liberal sponsorship scandal. The money is somewhere. If I take the same approach as my friends in the opposition about allegations, we can only assume that the $40 million ended up in the bank accounts of some Liberal candidates somewhere in Quebec. That is what the opposition would say. I am not about to make any such allegations but I am suggesting that if the member opposite wants to talk about past records and past practices, he should look in the mirror.

Opposition Motion--Canada Elections ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, before anything else, I would like to say that I will be sharing my time today with one of my colleagues.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise in the House to speak to the motion brought forward by my colleague from Hamilton Centre and seconded by my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent. I would like to congratulate them on the work they have done on this very important issue, which is quite crucial for our democracy.

The motion before the House is extremely important, because it sets out various ways of strengthening the integrity of our democracy. The motion seems to me to be necessary, given the way the scandal of the fraudulent calls in the last election campaign has mushroomed. Today, according to all the information that is being collected every day from my colleagues in the NDP, from the Liberals and from individuals affected by this situation in various ridings in the country, nearly 60 ridings may have experienced a problem with fraudulent or harassing calls.

Basically, calls made to voters, whether it is a person at the end of a line or a robocall, are not a problem in themselves. Many parties use them to give people information or to ask them to go out and vote on election day. So far, there is no problem. However, when people are misinformed, when people pretend to be calling on behalf of Elections Canada to redirect voters to a polling station that quite simply does not exist, the situation becomes problematic and has to be dealt with fairly quickly. More and more people are contacting Elections Canada every day to complain about harassing or even fraudulent calls received during the last campaign.

I have to pause here to say that it is my colleague from Burnaby—Douglas with whom I will be sharing my time.

As I said, more and more people are calling Elections Canada every day to express their concerns about the situation that we are speaking out against today. Some people say they received calls at inappropriate times, very late at night or on religious holidays. Other people are saying they were called by blatantly rude people who introduced themselves as supporters of one party in particular and who then asked them for contributions or tried to find out whom they were going to vote for. And people even received calls from individuals claiming to work for Elections Canada who directed them to new polling stations on the pretext of a last-minute change, when no polling stations had been relocated. We can assume that the fraudulent calls we are talking about here were made simply with the goal of preventing some voters from exercising their fundamental right to vote. This situation is completely unacceptable.

The right to vote freely, without any constraints and according to one's conscience, is an essential component of democratic societies. It is a constitutionally protected right under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Any attempt to interfere with the election process is a violation of the citizens' basic right to freely express their political choice, and it undermines confidence in our electoral system, which is meant to be democratic.

For a number of years now, corruption, scandals and dirty tricks in politics have generated a great deal of cynicism among the public and have deterred people from voting and expressing their political position. How can we hope to see people regain confidence in Canada's political system and actively participate in elections when unscrupulous individuals organize such election fraud schemes?

Elections Canada claims to have had about 31,000 contacts with citizens who are very worried and concerned about these fraudulent calls across the country. While these contacts are not necessarily all complaints as such, it is clear that Canadians are concerned about this direct attack on Canadian democracy. They want answers and they want to be sure to be represented by people who were elected legitimately. They also want clear rules to ensure that such a situation never occurs again.

The motion introduced by the hon. member for Hamilton Centre seeks precisely to address the concerns and the requests that were clearly expressed by Canadians. It includes three main components. First, that Elections Canada investigation capabilities be strengthened, to include giving the Chief Electoral Officer the power to request certain documents from all political parties. Such a request could be made when needed, if a problematic situation exists, or if there are some concerns.

The motion also asks that all telecommunication companies that deal with political parties and provide voter contact services during a general election be registered with Elections Canada. Lastly, it asks that all clients of telecommunication companies during a general election have their identity registered and verified.

The motion would allow Elections Canada to really be able to fulfill its obligations under the Canada Elections Act. It would provide Elections Canada with the proper tools to investigate when facing anomalous situations or suspecting electoral fraud, as is the case now.

The Chief Electoral Officer intends to use his new investigative powers in the same way as the Auditor General of Canada currently uses his, in other words, to only request documents required for certain specific audits, on an as-needed basis, and not to systematically call on political parties to provide documentation for every election expense. This is not an overly intrusive process. However, it ensures that Elections Canada has the powers required to properly enforce the Elections Act, as per its mandate.

Currently, the Chief Electoral Officer does not have these powers. He is therefore limited in what he can do when it comes time to determine whether certain expenses comply with the Elections Act. No documentation is required to justify election spending. Moreover, any audits carried out by external auditors are solely accounting exercises that are not designed to determine the legality of election spending, as that is the purview of Elections Canada.

Elections Canada must determine whether election expense reports provided by parties comply with the provisions of the act. In fact, it is on the basis of these reports that parties receive public funds to cover a portion of the cost of their campaigns. With this in mind, I believe that it is essential that Elections Canada have adequate investigative powers so that it can determine whether there has been any misappropriation of public funds, which is often the case where electoral fraud is concerned.

Elections Canada is a designated body that ensures transparency in the electoral process and improved accountability when it comes to the disbursement of public funds to Canada's political parties. So that Elections Canada can fulfill this role and effectively carry out its duties, this body must have all the necessary tools, and it is our responsibility, as parliamentarians, to see that it does.

After the 40th general election, the Chief Electoral Officer submitted a series of recommendations to the Speaker of the House of Commons. It is on the basis of those recommendations that the motion moved by my colleagues was drafted. The New Democrats and Liberals agreed to these requests at the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. However, the Conservatives—who are in the majority on this committee—rejected the recommendations on the pretext that they would prefer external auditors to carry out the tasks that should be the purview of the Chief Electoral Officer. We, in the NDP, believe that a non-partisan body must carry out these audits.

For a party that believes it is blameless and that has been complaining that it has been the victim of a smear campaign, its current attitude, which involves accusing and blaming the opposition, is incomprehensible. When people have nothing to hide, there is no need to scratch around for evidence, as they have no problem providing documentation and co-operating fully with Elections Canada, as the NDP has undertaken to do, is already doing and will continue to do throughout the rest of the investigation, and as other parties have undertaken to do.

The Conservatives ask us to take them at their word, but since they have already been found guilty of electoral fraud, they have lost their right to be taken at their word, and they must now substantiate their allegations.

I hope that they are going to support the amended motion.

Opposition Motion--Canada Elections ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am curious about the member's opinion. These fraudulent calls on election day were very specifically misdirecting people to different voting polls. In some cases, these voting locations did not exist. It happened in Nipissing—Timiskaming to Peggy Walsh Craig; in Sydney—Victoria to Raymond Young; in Guelph to Danny Boyle, who was sent to the Old Quebec Street Mall. In Kingston Arnold Dodds was sent to St. Joseph's Catholic Church. It happened in Windsor—Tecumseh and Saanich—Gulf Islands.

I am curious about this. Do you think this is the work of one rogue person or multiple rogues out there who never communicated with one another and all came up with that idea on that same day, or do you think there was some centrally organized effort on the part of the culprits?

Opposition Motion--Canada Elections ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I am really not obliged to express an opinion on the matter.

The hon. member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier.

Opposition Motion--Canada Elections ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question, which raises some very important considerations relating to the situation now before us.

In my view, it is absolutely incomprehensible to blame a 23-year-old, working in a member’s office, for an operation of such scope as to affect nearly 60 ridings. We simply cannot blame this person, who in any case has spoken up and said that he was not responsible.

I think that Elections Canada must be able to have access to all the necessary documents from all political parties in the House, including the government. This will enable it to conduct the necessary investigations, ascertain the full extent of the fraud, and determine the organization that was necessary to carry out this operation.

Opposition Motion--Canada Elections ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau NDP Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her excellent speech.

I would like to ask her what makes a motion such as this so important in terms of ethics and respect. More and more voters are simply avoiding election campaigns. They want nothing to do with politicians or with federal, provincial or even municipal politics. If we can strengthen Elections Canada’s powers to make voting more honest and to ensure that choices are respected, that could make things better for us here. It could make voting more vital, more serious.

So what makes this motion today so serious and so important?

Opposition Motion--Canada Elections ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Compton—Stanstead for that very important question. I also thank him for his energy and for the passion he demonstrates when he speaks in the House.

I am happy to have the opportunity to return to the whole question of cynicism and the significance of a vote. I touched upon this briefly in my speech, but it is something that is tremendously important to us. It speaks to the viability of our political system, of our democracy, which depends on voters’ confidence in our electoral system.

When they express their choice, voters must be certain that they will be respected and that the process will take its course without certain individuals or certain organizations attempting to interfere with the vote and the electoral process.

In that sense, the motion moved by my colleagues is tremendously important, because it provides certain guarantees of verification. We will be certain that a non-partisan body will be able to make the necessary verifications and ensure that the law is respected.

Opposition Motion--Canada Elections ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her excellent speech.

At present we need to strengthen the investigative capabilities of Elections Canada. However, I have a question that follows on the excellent motion by the NDP. What does my colleague think about the actual accountability of Elections Canada? The NGO Democracy Watch says that there are plenty of investigations, but that afterward there is not much information about the reasons, results and decisions of Elections Canada.

Opposition Motion--Canada Elections ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her excellent question, which takes this whole matter to another level.

I think that, with more extensive investigative capabilities to gather more information, it will subsequently be easier for Elections Canada to issue results and to follow up on investigations. It is for this reason that it is important to extend Elections Canada’s powers, so that it can seek out the necessary documents and ensure that they are not hidden and shelved and that any evidence of fraud does not disappear.

Ontario Junior Citizen of the Year AwardsStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Kyle Seeback Conservative Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate several young people from the great city of Brampton who have been chosen as nominees for the 2011 Ontario Junior Citizen of the Year Awards.

Each year the Ontario Community Newspapers Association recognizes individuals between the ages of 6 and 17 who are working to make a difference in their communities and around the world. These exemplary individuals go above and beyond what is expected of someone their age. They look past their own needs and inspire those around them to give rather than to take. They are truly the leaders of tomorrow.

Young people are chosen from across the province each year for this prestigious award. I am pleased to say that this year Brampton had eight nominees: Stacey Noronha, Anna Akoto, Dhruv Bhalla, Althea Camarillo, Shekhar Kumar, Hersh Bansal, and Raineisha Griffith, and Ashmandeep Kroad.

I congratulate each and every one of them and wish them the best of luck in the future.

International Women's DayStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I am happy to stand with my colleagues as we join people and nations around the globe to celebrate International Women's Day.

As young women, we have made many gains from our mothers and grandmothers. However, our work is not done and things are not getting any easier for women in Canada.

Since 2006, women in Canada have been the victims of a systemic attack. We have seen the slashing of funding for women's groups, the cancellation of funding for women's advocacy groups, the closure of 16 Status of Women Canada offices, the abolishment of the court challenges program, the elimination of pay equity, the scrapping of the long gun registry, a constant attack on unions and collective bargaining rights, and no child care funding initiatives. What is next is an attack on pensions and OAS, public service job cuts, cuts to services for Canadians, and the building of more prisons. Canadian women deserve better.

New Democrats are proud of the number of women and young women in our caucus who will continue to fight to protect the rights of women and work toward a Canada with gender equality.

Markham Stouffville HospitalStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to talk about some more good news in my community and to wish Markham Stouffville Hospital a happy 22nd birthday.

When Markham Stouffville Hospital opened 22 years ago, it was built to serve a community of some 77,000 people. Today it serves over 330,000 people in the Markham Stouffville and Uxbridge areas.

The hospital is undergoing a large expansion which will see more operating rooms, 100 new patient beds, and of course something that is very dear to me, an expanded maternity ward. My two daughters, Natalie and Olivia, were born there. Because of the great service of the doctors and nurses, I have two healthy, wonderful children.

The Markham Stouffville Hospital is one of the greatest hospitals in the province of Ontario. My community raised millions of dollars to support the expansion.

I wish a happy 22nd birthday to Markham Stouffville Hospital. I thank the hospital for all the great work it does for our community.

International Women's DayStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, today is International Women's Day and men and women in all parts of Canada are gathering to celebrate equality rights. 2012 also marks the 30th anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the document that codified many of the legal rights we are celebrating today.

Earlier this morning I met with a group of people, and I was truly inspired by the energy and strength in the room. For example, there was one group of young people from Queen's University who woke up at 4 a.m. just to be here today to celebrate the accomplishments of women.

That dedication is exactly the kind of spirit that has helped to advance the cause for equality rights over the past century. It is exactly the kind of spirit that will ensure advances continue to be made in the future.

On behalf of the people of York West and all Canadians, I am proud to stand to pay tribute to those past trailblazers for equality, and I am excited to tip my hat to the pioneers of tomorrow.

Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International AirportStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport has shown the power of privatization in the transportation field.

Airports Council International announced in February that Ottawa finished first in North America, and second in the world among those airports serving two to five million passengers a year.

This airport offers $2.2 billion in economic impact, and 10,000 direct and indirect jobs. I congratulate its employees and its brilliant CEO, Paul Benoit.

As respected columnist Mark Sutcliffe pointed out, since privatization 15 years ago, the airport has doubled its passengers, tripled its revenue, and gone from a dilapidated money loser to a money maker that is among the best of its kind in North America.

Much needed spending reductions in the coming budget offer us the chance to free up the economy, privatize more and see more success stories, just like the Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport.

Thérèse CasgrainStatements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman NDP Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, today being International Women's Day, I wish to recognize the important contribution made by the women of Quebec on the long, hard road towards gender equality in Canada.

In Quebec, if there is one name that is synonymous with that struggle, it is of course Thérèse Casgrain. This great woman was at the heart of every battle and debate in what was at the time a rapidly changing society. She fought for many causes that redefined society.

Her efforts later brought her into the political realm, with the NDP, among other parties, and she was appointed to the Senate in 1970.

Most importantly, however, Thérèse Casgrain left all women a legacy to carry on and one over-riding duty: to continue to work towards true gender equality.

That is why I am pleased to pursue the same goals as the organization founded by Ms. Casgrain, the Fédération des femmes du Québec, which advocates for the right to abortion, pay equity and women's safety, to name a few. Together, we can continue her fight. Let's get the job done.

Harriet TubmanStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, March 10 marks the 99th anniversary of the death of Harriet Tubman, an inspirational figure who risked her life many times to rescue slaves. Through the bravery of this woman and others working on the Underground Railroad, thousands of former slaves escaped to Canada and to my riding of St. Catharines to begin their new lives.

In the 1850s, Harriet attended the BME Church on Geneva Street, which was a meeting place for the civil rights movement. The BME Church still stands in St. Catharines and it remains active.

The church is asking this House to proclaim March 10 as Harriet Tubman day to commemorate the work she did in rescuing people from slavery and campaigning to abolish slavery in America. Canadians are proud of the role that Harriet Tubman and her supporters in St. Catharines played in advancing the cause of freedom. I ask my hon. colleagues for their support.

On the very day we are celebrating International Women's Day, Harriet Tubman was a woman who showed what leadership was all about, regardless of sex, religion or colour. She was an amazing woman who stood for what we have today, freedom in our country and in North America.

Science and TechnologyStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Wai Young Conservative Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, two weeks ago Vancouver hosted the largest international gathering of leading scientists, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, or AAAS, conference. For the first time in over 30 years, the conference was held outside the United States. A new record was set in that attendance rose from 9,000 to over 12,000 participants.

It was during this conference that one of the world's leading subatomic physics laboratories, Vancouver-based TRIUMF, announced a major breakthrough with a new technology using cyclotrons, already available in hospitals, to successfully produce medical isotopes without needing uranium or nuclear reactors. This development allows hospitals with existing cyclotrons to make the isotopes they need locally on site, which will reduce the wait time for critical diagnostic tests.

TRIUMF credits much of this success to the ingenuity of its team and the foresight and the strong financial support of this government.

I invite members to join me in congratulating TRIUMF for its leadership and for this amazing new discovery.

Representation of Women in PoliticsStatements By Members

March 8th, 2012 / 2:05 p.m.

NDP

Djaouida Sellah NDP Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, despite a record number of women elected to the current Parliament, Canada still ranks poorly internationally when it comes to the representation of women in politics. I would like to point out that Canada ranks behind Afghanistan.

The UN estimates that a critical mass of 30% women is needed in order for them to have an impact on public policy. However, in Canada, we have not yet passed the 25% mark.

There are only so many ways to improve the situation. The political parties have to take measures to encourage the election of women.

The NDP has tools in place, and the results speak for themselves, with 40% of our caucus being women.

Every party should do its part for women's equality, and the Conservative Party should—

Representation of Women in PoliticsStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Saint Boniface.

International Women's DayStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, Canadian men and women are all invited to celebrate International Women's Week, and especially International Women's Day, which is today.

Our theme this year is “Strong Women, Strong Canada — Women in Rural, Remote and Northern Communities: Key to Canada's Economic Prosperity”.

This theme reminds us that we live in a very large country, where one in five women lives outside major urban centres.

To support this theme, the government is taking action. In fact, the Minister for Status of Women has announced support for new projects to support women living in communities outside Canada's urban centres. These projects aim to reduce violence against women and girls and increase their economic security. We all must play our part to deliver on the theme of “Strong Women, Strong Canada”

Status of WomenStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, despite mounting cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women and children, the government still ignores calls for a national inquiry by the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, the Native Women's Association of Canada, Sisters in Spirit, Amnesty International and the women's families. The Liard Aboriginal Women's Society is pleading with the government to restore funds for its programs addressing the high rates of violence and drug and alcohol abuse, attributed in particular to the impact of residential schools.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission reports paying out double the anticipated compensation claims for abuse suffered at the residential schools. They call the schools an assault on aboriginal children, their families and their culture, and on self-government and sustainability. They said we should restore funding to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation in this budget.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women have decried Canada's inaction on the poverty and violence suffered by aboriginal women.

Again, I implore the government to open Canada's doors to the UN investigators and as a show of good faith call the long-awaited national inquiry into—

Status of WomenStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. The hon. member for Calgary East.