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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—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my hon. colleague and thank her for her outstanding, comprehensive and extremely heartfelt speech. She aptly explains for us how these sorts of fraudulent and dubious tactics kill voter interest. In the end, this is a strategy that casts doubt on the very legitimacy of the members who are part of the government, since it is they who represent the voters. If the voters’ right to vote has not been respected, all of this is cast into question.

There is talk of engaging young people in the discussions so they can make their opinions known. How indeed can the involvement of young people be restored with this sort of enterprise?

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg NDP Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

I will tell you what must not be done: conduct a campaign of election fraud. That is the main thing not to do. If we want to inspire our youth and inspire our own generation and future generations to get involved in politics, we have to show them that their right to vote will be respected in future. To me, that is paramount. If we want to encourage public consultations and discussions, it starts with the right to vote. I would like to thank my colleague. I think that what we have here is a perfect example of what not to do.

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Ajax—Pickering Ontario

Conservative

Chris Alexander ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville has just spoken the words “election fraud”. If we had no proof that the party opposite is in the process of conducting a smear campaign, we have it now. Nothing has in fact been proven. The Elections Canada investigations have not been completed and she is already talking election fraud.

Her predecessor, another opposition member, lamented the voter turnout rate in Canada compared with the rate in the 1950s. Happily, the turnout rate was up in the last election. Does the hon. member not agree that to talk about election fraud at this time, with no evidence and no proof, would tend to discourage voters in a completely gratuitous and unnecessary way, and that she is complicit in this unjustified and truly deplorable smear campaign?

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg NDP Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, we saw an instance of election fraud just last year. It is not unusual to talk about it. It was in fact proven, and the Conservatives even pleaded guilty to the charge.

This is not the first time that election fraud has been raised in the House. Thirty-one thousand calls represent a real campaign. Is he saying that 31,000 Canadians are involved in a smear campaign? I think that those Canadians, who were denied the right to vote because they were misinformed as to the site of their polling station, will be insulted that the hon. colleague opposite is saying they are part of a smear campaign. I think they will be truly insulted.

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau NDP Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville on her excellent speech. There will be many more fine speeches from my colleagues over the next few minutes. This being International Women's Day, I would like to express my great pride in working alongside such great women. Every day we see the quality of the NDP caucus improving because of these women. First of all, I would like to wish every woman on the planet, regardless of her political allegiance, race or religion, a day that is filled with happiness, joy and smiles, and I hope there will be many other days like this one in the future.

Today, we are debating a motion that concerns respect for democratic rights and freedoms, which are extremely important in a country like ours, a civilized, industrialized country that has always been a leader in terms of democratic rights, and one that has even helped a lot of countries in the world make sure that their rights were respected. The right to vote for one party or another must be exercised in a free and enlightened way. It is a right that, in most democratic countries, is recognized in the constitution. In this country, it is recognized in particular in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

But throughout the course of human history and in today's society, many women have been victims of injustice and their rights have been violated. As I said earlier with great sadness, many people, and not just women, have died because they tried to vote or because they stood for election. This is very important today. Discussing this issue today, in 2012, is extremely important and it goes far beyond the scandal that we are dealing with these days. Yes, fraud is suspected. Let us call it a scandal.

Although the motion put forward by the hon. member for Hamilton Centre focuses primarily on strengthening integrity in our democracy, it has become necessary because of the alleged electoral fraud that went on behind the scenes during the last election campaign. What happened, exactly? First of all, there were the robocalls on election day or a few days before by people claiming to work for Elections Canada and giving out incorrect information about the location of polling stations. Then, calls were made to ask the voters who they were planning to vote for, and if the voters answered that they would not be voting for the Conservative Party, they received another call sometime over the next few days from someone who claimed this time to be working for Elections Canada and who provided totally misleading information about the location of the polling station. Finally, and this is what is most disturbing, supporters of other parties received harassing calls made by people claiming to be working for the party these people supported, the Liberal Party in this case. They were sworn at over the telephone at two o'clock, three o'clock or six o'clock in the morning. This is unacceptable in a civilized society like ours.

RackNine, a company that provides automated calling services and is often used by the Conservative Party, is one of the companies involved. The ties between RackNine and the Conservative Party are very strong. RMG is a company that works in voter contact, database management and fundraising for the Conservative Party and several other right-leaning groups, among others. The former Conservative campaign manager, Tom Flanagan, even attributed the Conservatives' 2006 election win to RMG.

What rules were broken? Provisions of the Canada Elections Act, including paragraph 281(g), which states:

281. No person shall, inside or outside Canada,

(g) wilfully prevent or endeavour to prevent an elector from voting at an election;

Paragraph 482 (b) states:

482. Every person is guilty of an offence who

(b) by any pretence or contrivance, including by representing that the ballot or the manner of voting at an election is not secret, induces a person to vote or refrain from voting or to vote or refrain from voting for a particular candidate at an election.

The Chief Electoral Officer even submitted a series of recommendations to the Speaker of the House of Commons on legislative reforms after the 40th general election. Among other things, he asked for the power to order that political parties provide any documents or information that may be necessary to verify compliance with the requirements of the act with respect to election expenses returns. At present only local campaigns must file documentary evidence to support their election expenses returns. In his request, the Chief Electoral Officer indicated that his provincial counterparts have this authority, and he also pointed out that political parties receive public funds based on their election expenses returns. It is very troubling to read such things.

What is the crux of the matter? It is about ethics and morals. The government has much to learn in that regard. It is disappointing that the government does not respect the will of 61% of the voters, who did not vote for the Conservative Party, its ideology and its complete lack of integrity.

I too have the feeling that in front of me is a party that totally rejects the results of the last election and that is doing and will do everything in its power—granted by only 39% of the voters—to make sure it never happens again. It is as if we were seeing the beginning of a dictatorship. It is as if this government wanted to put everything in place to make sure that people vote for it and that people comply with what the party dictates. Nevertheless, the current Prime Minister ran his election campaign on the importance of accountability for members of political parties, integrity and respect for the vote.

What point has the Prime Minister reached on this issue? He has reached a dead end. There has been no concrete action by the Prime Minister on the extremely important matter of making the voters more confident in our political system. Yes, he is the leader of his party, but he is also the Prime Minister of all Canadians. It is the Prime Minister's duty to uphold the integrity of the electoral process and the democratic system, to ensure that members of Parliament are accountable and that people's votes are respected. They are free to vote for anyone they want, and this freedom is guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

At present, the current government is doing nothing but throw the accusations back at the other parties. It is refusing to deal with the situation and is putting the blame squarely on others. We have seen the party in power follow a strategy aimed at distracting and confusing people ever since accusations were made against this government, which is totally disrespectful of the democratic values that are so dear to Canadians. As I said earlier, we were leaders in respecting democracy. Here in the House, we were able to debate legislation and to amend and adopt motions that were respectful of everyone's choices. We cannot do that anymore. This government has brought in 17 time allocation motions.

Between the Conservatives’ electoral fraud and the Liberals' unfair tactics, it is not surprising that Canadians think Ottawa is corrupt. Only the NDP respects Canadians and is determined to help Canadian families move forward. The Conservatives must start co-operating with Elections Canada and stop blaming everyone else, including Elections Canada, for this so-called election fraud.

The NDP not only wants to throw light on the deplorable situation that allegedly arose during the last election campaign, but it also wants to ensure that major reforms are made right now. The motion mentions six months, but we have to take action right now to ensure that this type of scandal never happens again. The government has done nothing to assist the investigation into the so-called election fraud during the last election or to make sure that what was done is never repeated.

That is why our motion would make it possible to strengthen the authority of Elections Canada by giving it greater powers to carry out its investigations. That is what we want. We will give our full support to this motion.

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague's comments were very passionate and he provided a good overview of this unfolding situation of alleged voter fraud and the calls that took place. I agree with everything he said, particularly the fact that the NDP has been very proactive on this issue and has brought it to the floor of the House of Commons.

I attended a big rally in Vancouver last Saturday. Hundreds of people came out, on two or three days notice, because they were so incensed and upset about the alleged election fraud, the calls that had taken place and the people who had been misdirected. We heard the Conservative government try to frame this as somehow isolated incidents or one person being fired. However, I can tell the member, and I am sure he knows, that there were 31,000 calls to Elections Canada alone.

I think people know this was quite systematic. Could the member respond to that? We are not dealing with isolated incidents; we are dealing with a systematic attempt in terms of what happened in the election.

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau NDP Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her excellent question.

Setting up a system for the type of calls that were made during the last election does not happen overnight. It takes more than two or three volunteers to put the pieces together and set up a system to harass voters and flood them with all kinds of calls, especially misleading calls. Putting all of those pieces together takes structure, a system set up by people who know what they are doing and are well aware of the consequences of their actions, actions that affect the outcome of an election.

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, so far over the course of these discussions in the last week or so we have heard the Prime Minister's parliamentary secretary give three explanations for the misdirected calls on election day.

First, he said that the opposition parties did it to themselves, trying to suppress their own vote. The second explanation was that it was Elections Canada making calls. Of course we know Elections Canada does not make calls. Third, he said that a party might have done it accidentally, trying to correct the information because polling stations had changed, which is in and of itself against the Elections Canada Act. Any information given about a change in a poll is for internal purposes only. Members are not to call people and tell them this.

Could the member comment on the responses the parliamentary secretary has given to us and the excuses he has used?

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau NDP Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government is playing at smoke and mirrors. It is trying to distract voters and people. When honest people who have lost faith in our electoral system hear that, they think that the system does not work. They wonder if there is any point, and they decide that they will not bother to vote because it is pointless and nothing ever happens.

The NDP is not okay with that. We will stand up, we will do politics differently in order to change things. That is why we are here, and that is why we will support the member for Hamilton Centre's motion.

The government is running around like a dog chasing its tail. I have always had a sense of humour. There is nothing logical about what is going on. The government is trying to distract and confuse people.

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think I am glad to join this debate. It is an unfortunate one, but it is here and we will have to get to the bottom of it. Whether we like some of what is being tossed around or whatever, it will have to be done. It did not come as a result of anything that Liberals did, that is for sure.

I am fortunate to have an opportunity to speak today. I am splitting my time with my great colleague from Guelph. Whoever was behind trying to prevent him from coming back here, I am so glad that person lost. We have a great member and we want to keep him here.

This morning, when I opened my newspaper, I was surprised and pleased to read that the government had finally reversed itself on an important issue of national electoral accountability. The headline optimistically spoke to the government's impending flip-flop on the issue of giving Elections Canada the investigative power for which it had clearly asked.

Despite this projection and my optimism that maybe this issue was going to finally be dealt with in a more positive way, the Prime Minister earlier today signalled he was preparing for yet another about face on something that was very important to Canadians. After stonewalling for weeks, the government has finally, but reluctantly, bowed to public pressure, maybe. We will see what happens over the weekend.

Members can understand the confusion about the Cons position. Just a couple of days ago, the Prime Minister stood in the House and attempted to convince Canadians, as he did with the in and out, that he was the only member who had heard nothing about Elections Canada's request for important new powers. That shocking and unbelievable statement was made following the coordinated and shameful actions of government MPs to block new and important audit powers for the Chief Electoral Officer. What could they possibly be afraid of if they are all so innocent?

What is the government's position at 4:25 p.m. on Thursday afternoon? Perhaps the government should just come clean and be honest about a few things. Media spending in the 2006 election, voter suppression in the 2011 election and its position on the matter of giving Elections Canada the power to sort this out quickly and decisively so we do not continue some of the rants that have gone on in the House today and other days.

The robocall and the voter suppression tactics used in the last election seemed to emanate from somewhere within the governing party. We are not entirely certain of all of the details, but rather than helping to dispel these concerns, the government has adopted a strategy, similar to what it has done before on the in and out and others, and that is deny, deny, distract and disguise. That is the game plan.

If only the government would stop stonewalling and start co-operating with those seeking to sort this out, this would not have to continue in the manner that it has today. The deny, deny, distract and disguise strategy, as the Conservatives clam up, has been a bit of a moving target, with answers changing continually to every question they are asked.

Let us talk about what we actually do know. When the government was faced with accusations in Guelph, the government fired a junior staffer, claiming that the 23 year old was a lone, partisan mastermind. He must be a brilliant individual to have done all of that. Then it moved to block the efforts of Elections Canada to compel documentation, and later claimed to know nothing about it. Then, as a distraction, again, it falsely claimed that the Liberal Party paid American firms to suppress our voters. Now that takes the cake for one of the most ridiculous statements I have heard in the almost 13 years I have been in the House.

This absurdity is compounded by the actual fact that earlier this month, five years after the last campaign ended, the Conservatives finally admitted to coordinated and intentional wrongdoing in the 2006 election with their in and out. As a result of its inappropriate actions, the Conservative Party will be forced to repay taxpayers $230,198. Those are facts. We are not inventing it. We are not saying it. They are on the record, and it has just come out. The government is not appealing it. We all remember how Conservatives stood in the House and did the exact same thing, saying it was not true. They denied, distracted and disguised unlawful actions in another way.

It was not until the RCMP and Elections Canada executed a search warrant and raided Conservative Party headquarters that the truth started to leak out on that issue. I find it unbelievable that they would have to do that to a major political party in our country.

In the 2006 election the Conservative Party exceeded its spending limits by over $1.3 million. This illegal activity funnelled money from local campaigns to the national Conservative campaign to sidestep the rules as if to say, “Let's not break them too much. We'll just go around them”, so that no one would catch them. This coordinated and intentional scheme allowed the Conservatives to collect Elections Canada rebates that they did not deserve. Members will remember that we get money for every vote we get.

In November, in a related case before the criminal courts in Ontario, top Conservative officials pleaded guilty to four charges that they had knowingly violated the Canada Elections Act during the 2006 election. They were not members of the NDP or the Liberals, but four Conservatives who pleaded guilty. They were forced to pay the maximum fine possible under the Canada Elections Act. I guess they had not learned enough at that time.

These past actions have been verified by the courts, so forgive me if I have trouble accepting the new Conservative lines.

It is clear that voter suppression techniques were used in the 2011 election, as demonstrated by the firing of a Conservative staffer. So far, more than 30,000 Canadians have contacted Elections Canada with their concerns about the 2011 election.

Where does that leave us today? We have to get to the bottom of this clear affront to our most basic democratic right, the right to vote. This is critically important and something that all Canadians, all of us in the House and throughout Canada, value. People have lost their lives to provide us that right. Therefore, we should not sit back and allow votes to be completely skewed by election tactics.

The governing party has been convicted of illegal electioneering in the past, so it must co-operate with authorities in a way that will reassure Canadians that democracy is alive and well in our precious country. Elections Canada must be given the powers and resources it needs to get to the bottom of this scandal. We cannot wait five years as we did with the in and out scheme so the Conservatives can break more laws.

I suggest an alternative strategy for the Cons. If they are innocent, they should just co-operate. If they are guilty, they should come clean with Canadians.

What is on the table today? Elections Canada wants and needs the power to force political parties to verify their election expenses with detailed records and receipts. This is a very simple power that will help improve accountability for past as well as future elections. It is also a requirement already imposed on private Canadians for tax purposes. Why should the Conservatives or anyone else not have to prove their expenses before getting refund from taxpayers?

The question is this. Why is the government fighting this? If it has nothing to hide, let us put this behind us, move on and give Elections Canada the tools and resources it needs.

There is saying, “The truth shall set you free”. I know the Prime Minister's personal fondness for songs by the Beatles. During his last public medley, he serenaded the crowd by telling them “he gets by with a little help from his friends”. I would hope he might also take note of another appropriate John Lennon song titled Gimme Some Truth. In case he does not know the lyric, it simply goes like this, “All I want is the truth, Just gimme some truth”.

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member this question.

If allegations of election fraud were made against her, her party or anyone, would she not hasten to ensure that her party provided all the evidence to prove that those allegations were not true? Would she not want the Chief Electoral Officer to have the strongest mandate possible so that he would be able to quickly come to a decision on the issue and put an end to the situation? Does she think that the Conservatives' unwillingness to turn over the documents is logical when they could basically put an end to the allegations by doing so? What would be her attitude in such a situation?

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, those of us who have been around a while know that Elections Canada is starved for resources. That was before all of this. We could write a letter to Elections Canada and we would get an answer back in about six months telling us that it has received our information. It was a challenge to accept the fact that Elections Canada had enough resources. We know it does not have the resources. That is why the NDP motion today is so important. Elections Canada needs the freedom to be able to do what it needs to do in a fast and efficient manner, not drag something out for 5, 8 or 10 years.

Until there is a decision by Elections Canada, a lot of what has been going on in the past will probably continue into the future. I would expect the Conservatives would want to be helpful, get to the bottom of this and put it behind them.

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

March 8th, 2012 / 4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I find it absolutely over the top that the member is talking about this place and ethics. She has some explaining to do in her own right and for her own party. I will ask a question about procedure and House affairs and the bill before us.

She said it is very important that this legislation gets passed so the Chief Electoral Officer has these abilities. In previous meetings of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, the Chief Electoral Officer asked for these same powers. Guess who was in power at the time and guess who denied those same powers before? We have an awakening on the road to Damascus from someone whose ethics I question.

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, any time he wants to compare ethics, I am more than ready to do it. He can meet me outside and we will have that discussion, if he would like.

On the issue of ethics and my party, nobody in my party has been convicted of anything. He can throw his allegations around. Four Conservatives were convicted under the Canada Elections Act. No Liberal or NDP members were convicted, just Conservatives.

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was thinking about all of the Conservative donors. I am sure they are really thrilled with the payout of $283,000 from their donation base and then another $52,000 from their donation base. I imagine the next time the Conservatives call asking for money, it may not happen. Maybe donors will pass on donations for fines and settlements.

I want to ask the hon. member about her favourite preposterous argument put forward by the other side. Is it that Elections Canada did this, that the opposition parties suppressed their own votes, that polls sometimes change, that it was all orchestrated by political parties or that this is a smear by 31,000 Canadians?

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to go back to a comment made by one of the government members. Please excuse me as I do know which riding it was. Earlier the member talked about this kind of thing and the damage it does to Canadians' belief in democracy and to all of us who are politicians. Nobody wins with all of this. It is not a good thing when people make accusations about others. The fact is that for thousands of Canadians their votes have been denied them. They were blocked in a variety of ways. We are using hundreds of hours on an investigation that is critically important because the government will not be truthful and provide everything required to Elections Canada, including the resources.

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, for the last two weeks, this House has been seized, indeed gripped, with a very important issue. It strikes at the very core of why we are here, the prospect of electoral fraud after a comprehensive, sophisticated, nationwide, organized attempt to prevent Canadians from voting through suppression calls.

Voting is a sacred duty that we try to instill in our children from a very young age. This civic duty and engagement is part of our social contract as a democratic society. Yet sadly, election after election, voter turnouts are stagnant or decreasing as voters become disenchanted, cynical and disengaged. As a result, fewer and fewer Canadians vote. With organized groups attempting to subvert our right to vote, how can we blame them?

One of the last safeguards Canadians have is Elections Canada and the Canada Elections Act, an organization and legislation that distinguish us from, and cause our electoral democracy to be revered by, most other countries. Just weeks ago, before the controversy erupted over voter suppression robocalls, the Conservative government used its majority on committee to deny Elections Canada the additional powers it was requesting to undertake its important work as the elections watchdog. Surprisingly, or not, weeks later Elections Canada would be faced with over 31,000 people calling on it to examine fraudulent and malicious voter suppression calls that went out across the country throughout the election and on election day.

The motion before us today is calling on the government to equip Elections Canada, rightfully, with the tools to ensure that in all future campaigns it will be armed with the ability to investigate even more thoroughly. This would include granting the Chief Electoral Officer the power to directly request all necessary documentation from political parties, to ensure compliance with the Canada Elections Act, and to ensure that call centres and other telecommunications companies involved in the election are registered and that their clients are clearly identified.

On election day, almost a year ago, after knocking on doors and greeting people around the city, my wife and I arrived at my campaign office to find it in a state of chaos. My campaign staff were frantically answering the phone calls of hundreds of Guelphites who received fraudulent robocalls from a person claiming to be from Elections Canada. The caller informed them that, due to high voter turnout, their polling location had changed to the Old Quebec Street Mall. We rushed over as fast as we could with drivers to ensure voters were given the opportunity to get to their proper voting location. There is no telling how late we were for some voters.

I remember very clearly speaking to a young woman and her older father who had received the call. As the Old Quebec Street Mall was out of their way, they had made an effort to come out, only to discover they had been misled. Frustrated, they were turning away to go home when they saw me in the mall. The young woman explained to me that she and her father had stood in line, only to be turned away after getting a call changing their voting station. They were tired and frustrated. She needed to get her father home and they would not be voting in this election. I was saddened as I watched them go, knowing that something, someone or some group of ill-intentioned people had prevented them from voting. I did not know then that it was as pervasive, organized and sophisticated a campaign across Canada as it is now revealing itself to be.

In the weeks following the election, I submitted a list of 80 names we were able to record on election day, with comments and in some cases call display numbers from their phones. These 80 electors had received a robocall from someone purporting to be with Elections Canada misdirecting voters to the wrong polling station. These events were reported in Guelph media but did not break nationally until recently. That is what prompted Canadians from coast to coast to recall the events of that day. We now know that the number which showed up on so many call displays was that now-infamous 450 area code, from a disposable cell phone bought under the name Pierre Poutine, registered to a Separatist Street in Joliette, Quebec but used in Guelph. Of course, this is a ridiculous pseudonym cribbed from a restaurant in Guelph. The phone made two calls to Conservative call centre RackNine, one presumably to set up an account and the other to record and distribute the malicious and fraudulent call which misled voters on election day.

Pierre Poutine was not the only Guelph connection with a relationship to RackNine. A campaign staffer for the Conservative candidate also had an undisclosed commercial relationship with RackNine. This is illegal under the Canada Elections Act.

Days after the story broke, just weeks ago, the Conservative government was all too happy to throw a 23-year-old staffer under the bus. The Minister of National Defence declared the case closed once this young man had taken the rap. Interestingly, the staffer denied his involvement. He called on the real guilty party to come forward. Of course, we have learned in the past couple of weeks just how far reaching these fraudulent calls were that were made across the country. We know now that this was much too complicated an operation for a lone Conservative partisan in Guelph to execute.

In my riding, voters were misdirected to the Old Quebec Street Mall, while in Saanich--Gulf Islands, British Columbia, voters were misdirected to St. John's United Church. In Sydney, Nova Scotia, the other side of the country, voters were asked to travel 30 kilometres out of their way to vote in New Waterford. This happened in ridings throughout Canada. This required organization with a national scope, significant financial resources and access to a national list of electors who had been identified as Liberals, NDP or Green supporters, or people who would not say how they were voting.

The Conservative Party wants Canadians to believe that this is all an unsubstantiated smear by the opposition. It cannot deny the evidence offered by over 31,000 Canadians who complained about these calls in recent weeks, or the thousands who called their candidates on election day.

Take for instance Arnold Dodds, from Kingston, who reported receiving a phone call soliciting his support for the Conservative Party during the election. He said he was a Conservative supporter, but because Conservatives unnecessarily closed a prison farm he would no longer be voting Conservative. Not surprisingly, he received a phone call on election day misdirecting him to the wrong poll. Similarly, Peggy Walsh Craig was sent to the wrong poll in Nipissing—Timiskaming, just as Raymond Young was in Sydney—Victoria, Cape Breton.

Therein lies the pattern across Canada. The Conservatives may accuse these individuals of unsubstantiated smears, but aside from the denial and allegations clearly betraying their own insecurity, there is no way that so many Canadians are inventing such a malicious electoral fraud. Since opening its investigation in Guelph, Elections Canada has expanded its investigation to include Thunder Bay, Kingston and Nipissing--Timiskaming.

What is clear from the fallout of the scandalous behaviour in the last election is that the Canada Elections Act needs to be retooled to better equip Elections Canada investigators. Politics is now a professional industry of marketers, communications experts and subterfuge imported from the neo-conservative movement in the United States. The Conservative Party has created an atmosphere in Ottawa and across the country where it is acceptable to smear an opponent. It did it to Michael Ignatieff. It did it to the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville. Taliban Jack was a Conservative creation. Most recently, it suggested that those who were opposed to its wholly inappropriate Internet monitoring bill were friends of child pornographers. There is no good policy for them, just politics.

For the good of the state of our democracy, we need these changes. If we are going to make this work, we will need to equip the CEO of Elections Canada with the tools necessary to ensure effective oversight and compliance with the financial reporting of political parties. In particular, Elections Canada, and the CEO specifically, should have the power to obtain documentary evidence from political parties regarding the documentation of expenses. That way the Conservative members would no longer be able to hide behind their tired talking points that it is up to the opposition to provide documents, clearing ourselves of the ridiculous charge of suppressing our own vote.

What happened in Guelph was fundamentally disheartening because it discouraged so many people from voting. When I was back in the riding last week I was speaking with Donald Miller. He told me he received one of the robocalls fraudulently misleading him to the Old Quebec Street Mall. Tired, exasperated and not completely mobile, he gave up and decided not to vote. On election day I sent out a phone message to supporters and our local radio station began warning listeners in Guelph that the robocalls were false and to go and vote at their original location. This man, who served his country in the navy during the second world war, told me he mustered up the strength and decided to vote. He would never let these people get away with trying to take away a right he had fought and bled for.

This is why the Canada Elections Act requires amendment. We owe it to Canadians, like this veteran in my riding, and to Canadians across the country, to never let such an abomination occur again. We must get to the bottom of the who, what, where, and why of these robocalls. It is imperative that we institute the appropriate measures to prevent something so horrible from happening again.

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

François Lapointe NDP Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, first and foremost, I would like to tell the hon. member for Guelph that he has my full support in the battle to find out what happened in his riding, which will likely be a long process. The first pieces of evidence submitted are absolutely inadmissible and unacceptable.

I would like to know what the hon. member thinks about two things. I heard a political commentator say that, under the law, impersonating an Elections Canada official is like impersonating a police officer.

I would like to hear the hon. member's reaction to this analysis and to another thing that I found very interesting. I would like to point out that, for the past few days, the Conservatives have been changing their tune. They started by saying that these were unsubstantiated smears, but for the past two days, they have been talking about exaggerated allegations. Things are getting interesting.

I would like to hear the hon. member's reaction to these two things.

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, first, impersonating an Elections Canada officer with the sole purpose of diverting someone away from doing something that our country's men and women died for, the right to exercise a vote, is absolutely despicable.

Second, in response to the second part of the member's question, the Peggy Walsh Craigs of the world from Nipissing—Timiskaming, the Raymond Youngs from Sydney—Victoria who were asked to go to New Waterford 30 kilometres away, the Danny Boyles and Donald Millers who were told to go to the Quebec Street Mall, the Arnold Dodds in Kingston who were told to go elsewhere, and the Eduardo Hararis in York Centre who were misdirected. Those are just some of the thousands of people who never had their opportunity that day to vote. Some of them did not vote. We will never be able to tell who was so confused or frustrated that he or she declined to exercise his or her most sacred right on that day.

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Daryl Kramp Conservative Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, I can tell the hon. colleague across the floor that should there be any situation in Guelph that is deemed to be inappropriate, I will be truly sorry, as I think every member in the House would be, because that is not what we stand for.

However, what I am concerned about right now is the allegation of 31,000 complaints. There is no one in the House and most people do not know that those were solicited from party hacks on form letters and that the vast majority of those are not real complaints but are solicited.

I will back that up with a document that I have, which is really disturbing. This was put forward by the member for Wascana who said, “We are concerned about this. Send us your money. Send us $5. Let me use this as a fundraiser for the Liberal Party and, of course, don't send your information or concern to Elections Canada, send it to the Liberal Party of Canada so we may share with media outlets or in mass communications such as email blasts”, i.e. robocalls.

The Liberals are suggesting that now rather than putting the information forward to Elections Canada. How could the hon. member suggest that we would report to the Liberal Party rather than Elections Canada. He knows fully well that we have asked for full disclosure from the Liberal Party of Canada and it has been refused to this date. Why will it not be forthcoming?

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, unashamedly, I can say that the rest of us in the House are Boy Scouts when it comes to raising funds based on issues. You did it with the Wheat Board, you did it with the gun registry, send us money, send us money. How dare you point across the House and accuse us of doing something like that? That is just shameful.

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

An hon. member

How dare you.

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order, please. If members cannot control themselves, they should remove themselves from this chamber.

Once again, I would ask the hon. member for Guelph to address the Chair and not his colleagues in the chamber.

The hon. member for Guelph.

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I shall, absolutely. The point is that people were deprived of the right to vote that day because they were misdirected to polls that did not exist or they ought not to have gone to. The crux of this argument is that someone, and we would suggest that the fingers are pointing to the party opposite, misdirected these voters, not just in Guelph but on a national scale in ridings across the country.