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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

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. I understand it is time for the Thursday Question. The hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I stood here in the same place last week and acknowledged that the government had gone a whole five sitting days without moving a time allocation motion and I encouraged the House leader of the government to continue that practice. Therefore, I am quite disappointed standing here today.

They moved not just one time allocation motion on Tuesday, but they moved two such motions. What they are doing is truly undemocratic. I urge the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons once again to put an end to this practice immediately.

For the coming week, there are a number of issues that are outstanding and unclear so I will list them.

I understand that we have a confirmation that Bill C-10 will come before this House for debate tomorrow and that the vote on Bill C-10 will be put off until Monday evening.

I further understand that Bill C-31, the attack on refugees bill, will come before the House on Tuesday. I would ask the House leader if that is still the case and if it will be before the House for the balance of the week.

With regard to other legislation, I will repeat a question I had earlier for him but never got an answer to. Where is Bill C-30, the Internet snooping bill? When will that be back before the House? Will we ever see it again or is the government just going to dump it?

Finally, could I have a confirmation for the House that the final supply day, which was originally scheduled for Monday, has now been put over to Wednesday and all the votes that will flow subsequent to that will be Wednesday evening?

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, with the encouragement and support of the opposition House leader, I will continue to try to engage all the House leaders and other parties in an effort to work on consensus approaches as to scheduling matters. I will make the observation that for a dance to work everyone has to be dancing. Therefore, I will continue to make my best efforts.

This afternoon, we will continue debating the opposition day motion from the hon. member for Hamilton Centre.

Tomorrow we will conclude debate on the amendments coming from the other place, on Bill C-10, the safe streets and communities act. We will have our final vote on this important legislation on Monday night. Bill C-10 will pass a number of important proposals that our government has put forward over the last five years that stand up for victims and for making our communities safer. I might add that Monday will be the 94th sitting day of the House, which means our government will have easily met our election commitment to make this bill law.

Also on Monday, the House will resume debate on Bill C-31, the Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act. We will return to this debate on Thursday and Friday.

Tuesday will begin with Bill S-4, the Safer Railways Act. This is an important bill that was nearly passed before the opposition forced an election last year. I hope we will see the debate conclude sometime Tuesday.

If we have extra time on Tuesday, the House will take up a second piece of legislation, Bill C-15, the Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act.

Wednesday shall be the seventh and final allotted day of the supply cycle. I might correct my friend that I do not think this has ever been designated in the House. We will debate a motion from the New Democratic Party and end the afternoon with two appropriations bills from the President of the Treasury Board.

The House resumed consideration of the motion, and of the amendment.

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to our opposition day motion. It is an extremely important motion and I am glad to hear it may have the support of all parties, although I am not so sure after hearing comments in question period.

If our motion is passed, it will give the Chief Electoral Officer the power he needs to get his job done. That is really what is at stake here, to ensure our most precious national institution is protected to the fullest extent possible. These tools are needed and have been requested and we believe our motion deserves firm support.

We need to get to the bottom of this so-called robofraud scandal, not just in this immediate instance but for a greater problem in Canada, which is citizen disengagement. Voter turnout is dropping in the country. In 1950 voter turnout was close to 80%. In the last election, it was just over 60%. That 20 percentage point drop should be a warning sign. All the bells should be going off that something is desperately wrong in Canada and it needs fixing.

At the current rate of decline, I can see voter turnout dropping below the 50% level some time in the near future. It was not too long ago that we used to poke fun at the United States for its low turnout levels. Now we are almost mimicking exactly the same levels of turnout. This is a huge problem and I propose that this is not due to apathy or disinterested citizens sitting on their hands. It is part of a large problem, which really has to do with the work of political parties. Currently, all parties contact supporters. That is the heart of this process and what we do throughout all campaigns, but there is a concerted effort often to discourage voters. Because resources are often so tight for campaigns, political parties tend to ignore non-voters.

This has a cumulative effect that was acknowledged by the Royal Commission on Electoral Reform back in the early 1990s. This cumulative effect means that our turnout will continue to drop lower and lower, and we have to do something to fix it. Unfortunately, very little from the very well-conducted Royal Commission on Electoral Reform was implemented. However, I have to compliment my colleagues across the room. They have done a couple of things that are worth noting. One is bringing in legislation for fixed election dates and tougher spending limits on political parties. Banning donations from organizations and unions was a good move, and I applaud that action.

In addition to the current problem of declining voter turnout in Canada, we have a new problem, one that has just emerged, and that is the possibility of fraudulent voter suppression. This is a huge problem. We can see parties ignoring voters, sometimes trying to discourage them with ugly pictures or harsh words, but fraudulent suppression is a much bigger problem. This is something new that has washed up on the beach of Canada and we need to give the Chief Electoral Officer sufficient powers to deal with it.

Included in the allegations that are being widely investigated by Elections Canada is the issue of robocalls and live calls telling voters that their polling districts have moved or that the hours have changed. I have had reports of both of these kinds of calls in my riding of Burnaby—Douglas. One voter wrote me an email and said that he had received a robocall telling him that the hours had changed at his polling station. I was knocking on doors last Saturday and another voter told me that he received a call saying his election station had moved when it clearly had not. These two voters were smart enough to disregard these robocalls and go on their merry way to exercise their democratic right.

These are serious allegations and they really need to be investigated to the deepest possible extent. That is why the Chief Electoral Officer needs new powers and the tools to do the job necessary to get to the bottom of this. The investigative capabilities need to be strengthened to give the Chief Electoral Officer the power to request all necessary documents from political parties to ensure compliance with the Canada Elections Acts.

Thousands of dollars were spent on the Royal Commission on Electoral Reform. The documents make a great Friday night read for anybody in the House and they are worth going through. A panel of experts said that we were risking a serious democratic decline in Canada and that giving more power to the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada would be one of the key things that would make our democracy more secure.

Millions of dollars are spent on sending soldiers abroad, on sending election observers abroad to monitor elections in other countries to bring democracy to those countries. I do not see how we can do that with a straight face if our own Canadian democracy is facing one of the biggest scandals, if substantiated, that we have ever had in Canadian history.

That is the trick here. The Chief Electoral Officer needs the power to get a handle on this so he can assure Canadians that things are either okay and this is some kind of mistake, or that there is a real problem that needs to be investigated and either substantiated or disproved. We could then amend the Elections Act to stop this kind of thing from happening.

These are not the only problems with our democratic system in Canada. Not only do we have declining voter turnout in elections, but citizen participation between elections is also declining. They are often closely related.

I am proud to say that I recently brought forward a motion that, if passed, will change the petitioning process in the House. Currently, we only have a paper-based petition system. I am proposing that the House move to e-petitions. I hope my motion will be adopted. If so, this will allow citizens to become more engaged between elections. It will bring those people into the process who would not normally be brought into it. Under this proposition, citizens will be able to submit signed petitions online. The Conservative government in the United Kingdom passed a law that if a petition received over 50,000 signatures, that issue would be debated in the House of Commons. It would be debated outside of regular business hours to ensure it would not interfere with the regular business of the House. This gives citizens direct access to the democratic process. Its time has come in Canada.

We have had all these problems with robofraud and calls that should not exist and all the questions around that matter. Then we are back and forth on whether to give the Chief Electoral Officer investigative powers. We need to bring forward something positive and proactive to encourage citizens to participate in their governance in their communities. The e-petitions idea is something that we should pursue.

The opposition day motion proposes that Elections Canada investigation capabilities be strengthened to include giving the Chief Electoral Officer the power to request all necessary documents from political parties to ensure compliance with the Elections Canada Act.

We are also proposing that telecommunication companies that provide voter contact services during a general election must register with Elections Canada. That is such a great idea. It is something I have been studying my whole life. I am very excited that this may happen in Canada.

Our third proposal is that all clients of telecommunication companies during a general election must have their identity registered and verified. Technology has moved on. It used to be door knocking, sending letters around to folks, gatherings, getting people out to vote. We now have massive constituencies and millions of Canadians to communicate with so of course we are going to use telecommunications. In the 21st century we need a 21st century Canada Elections Act to cover this new technology to ensure it is working to the benefit of voters, not to their detriment.

This motion is extremely important. Yesterday I was of the opinion from what the Prime Minister said that it would have support, but today it is looking a little different. We will have to wait and see what happens when we vote on the motion. This motion is something I wholeheartedly support.

The robo fraud problem is grabbing the headlines. Once it is investigated and people are either sent to jail or fined, it will go away, but it will pop up again. In order to protect our democratic system, the most important thing to do would be to ensure that the independent officers who oversee our election processes are given the powers they need to get the job done.

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I want to correct a couple of things that the member said, because I know he would want to be absolutely correct in what he is saying.

He alleged that the voter turnout numbers were down in the last election. That is not correct. I would encourage him to check the numbers. In fact, some 900,000 more Canadians voted. I would like to think that is because our party introduced additional advance polling days and many Canadians took advantage of them. We are very proud of that. We think that providing greater opportunity for Canadians to exercise their democratic right was the right thing to do. We are proud to have done that.

In addition, the member is arguing for additional investigative powers for Elections Canada. We have indicated we have no problem with the motion. I do not know if the NDP is aware that the investigative authority of Elections Canada is quite broad. The former chief electoral officer, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, and the current Chief Electoral Officer have both been clear in indicating that they have all the investigative authority and ability they require.

I do have a specific question for the NDP. It relates to transparency. Why is it that our party provides transparent reports and gives a full breakdown of where we have spent money, but the NDP seems to rely on a single category called “miscellaneous”? Why is it not providing the same kind of transparency that other parties are providing to Elections Canada?

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, there are a few corrections I can make. The number I was quoting earlier was a percentage. The Elections Canada website tracks the percentage of voters who turn out during elections. In the 1980s, there was an 80% turnout. That is on the Elections Canada website. In the last election there was a 61% turnout. That is a 20 percentage point drop. In any other industry anywhere in Canada, if there was this kind of drop, there would be massive investigations to see why it was happening.

We get raw figures, and of course they will go up because the population goes up. That is just smoke to cover up what is going on here. It is extremely disappointing. The member should be more forthright with what he is saying and use percentages rather than raw figures. It is disingenuous.

I do know what I am talking about. I have been asked to testify in front of a number of commissions on electoral reform. I was an academic adviser to the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform in B.C. I know what I am talking about. That side does not.

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, it has taken almost a year for Elections Canada to get to this point in its investigation with respect to what happened in Guelph, and now in Nipissing—Timiskaming and Kingston. I am curious if the member thinks that maybe it has taken so long because of the lack of authority and power that Elections Canada has. It has to try and dig up all sorts of evidence from whatever sources it can and then it has to go before a judge to try and convince a judge whether it has the right authority, for instance, to look at the records of RackNine.

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, of course one of the main problems with investigating elections is under-resourcing. That is not a direct answer to the question, but it is something we should critically look at. We should ensure that these offices will not get their budgets cut because that would further impede their ability to investigate.

Also, it is clear that when the Chief Electoral Officer submits a report saying that he or she needs new powers to do his or her job, they should be granted. There is nothing more important in Canada than to make sure our democratic foundations are secure. They have been rattled and shaken. I knocked on probably 200 doors on Saturday in normally quiet neighbourhoods. That is what was on the lips of the people I talked to.

We have to get to the bottom of this. We have to ensure that the Chief Electoral Officer has the power to investigate these things in the future.

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on the motion brought forward by the NDP member for Hamilton Centre.

I would like to begin by stating that as the government that brought in the Federal Accountability Act bringing lasting and significant change to address accountability in government, we are not opposed at all to this motion. Our government fully supports transparency and accountability. It is for this reason that we in the Conservative Party have been open in making all of our records available to Elections Canada officials as they get to the bottom of allegations made in Guelph. Such actions as were alleged in Guelph are unacceptable and we will continue to do all we can to assist Elections Canada investigators.

However, the opposition parties are using this motion to yet again continue their baseless smear campaign with more unsubstantiated attacks in the House of Commons as well as in the media. Over the course of the debate today, they have made, and I am sure they will continue to make, more false allegations and launch more smears against Conservative MPs and candidates, and what is worse, the volunteers and supporters of our great party. It continues to be clear that those members do not have any information on which to base their attacks. Indeed, it is hearsay.

I would like to use my time today to speak about government action that brings true accountability and not to continue a baseless smear campaign for political advantage.

When I speak of accountability, our government is one of accountability. In 2006 when we first came to power, it was on a promise to bring back accountability to the way government works. That is exactly what we have done.

One of the first major pieces of legislation that our government brought forward was the Federal Accountability Act. In fact, I know Bill C-2 was the first bill brought forward by our government in 2006. The act, and its action plan, was one of the most comprehensive initiatives ever undertaken to address accountability in government and it has made lasting and significant changes to the way government works.

We strengthened and streamlined how government works in our country while making it more effective and more accountable to Canadian voters. Our actions helped to earn back the trust of Canadians in their government institutions. The Federal Accountability Act amended 46 existing statutes and created two new ones. Some of these changes came into force at royal assent on December 12, 2006, while others were subject to coming into force dates set out in the act or established by order in council.

The introduction of Bill C-2 was accompanied by the federal accountability action plan which organized the various elements of the Federal Accountability Act along 14 themes. As well, it set out related policy initiatives. We reformed the financing of political parties along with donation limits. We banned secret political donations, although the NDP has since elected to take some of those, it appears. We strengthened the role of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner and the Auditor General. We toughened the Lobbyists Registration Act and cleaned up government polling and advertising. We strengthened access to information legislation bringing crown corporations under the access to information legislation, as well as auditing and accountability within departments.

The record very clearly shows our Conservative government does not just believe in open government, we in fact have provided open, transparent and accountable government for each and every Canadian. Ours indeed is a government of accountability.

With respect to the current situation, since Elections Canada began looking into reports from the media and other sources about a specific case in the riding of Guelph, our government and the Conservative Party of Canada have been open and transparent with all of our records, making them available to Elections Canada so as to assist in its investigation. The Conservative Party did not organize or know about any such activities in the riding, but the opposition continues to launch baseless smear campaigns against our party. If the opposition members truly wanted to support Elections Canada and its work in this specific case, they would do as we have done and provide all of their records related to calls they made during the last election: absolute transparency.

Both parties opposite spent millions of dollars on hundreds of thousands phone calls during the last election, and they have thus far refused to disclose these details to Elections Canada officials. Why is this not their top priority instead of continuing their baseless smear campaign? Canadians need to ask themselves that very essential question. If any untoward behaviour is uncovered, the Conservative Party of Canada demands that all those responsible be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

As for the motion before the House today, to have the government table legislative amendments which would strengthen the powers of the Chief Electoral Officer in the wake of these exaggerated allegations, I am not opposed. However, it must be said that the Conservative Party of Canada has provided all of our information to Elections Canada to assist it so we can get to the bottom of what has happened in the investigation going on in Guelph. We do this willingly. There is currently nothing preventing the NDP or Liberal Party from giving over their own information willingly to Elections Canada officials. As the Prime Minister has stated, we have been very clear about the Conservative Party of Canada's activities. All the calls made by the Conservative Party are documented. All of those records are available to Elections Canada. We will be looking forward with great interest to see what documents exist on the NDP's and Liberal Party's telephone activities during the campaign.

The Conservative Party of Canada ran a clean and ethical campaign and would never tolerate such activities as have been alleged by the parties opposite. The Conservative Party was not involved with these fake calls in Guelph. If anyone on a local campaign was involved, he or she will not play a role in a future campaign. Voter suppression is extremely serious and if anything improper occurred, those responsible should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The job of a political party, and indeed our job as politicians, in a campaign is to get voters out to the polls. We do not engage in voter suppression.

However, the exaggerated allegations and baseless smear campaign which the opposition parties continue to press demean the millions of voters who cast legitimate votes in the last election. The opposition paid millions of dollars to make hundreds of thousands of phone calls during the last campaign. Before they continue with these baseless smears, opposition members should prove their own callers were not behind these reports.

The motion before the House lays out three points: Elections Canada investigation capabilities be strengthened, to include giving the Chief Electoral Officer the power to request all necessary documents from political parties to ensure compliance with the Elections Act; all telecommunication companies that provide voter contact services during a general election must register with Elections Canada; and all clients of telecommunication companies during a general election have their identity registered and verified. The Conservative Party is thus far the only party that has documented all calls during the campaign and made all of those records available to Elections Canada. Why are we the only ones who have done this? Yet the opposition members continue to run a baseless smear campaign against our government, launching false allegations against dozens of Conservative MPs and candidates.

I would like to take a few moments to address some of the facts in the opposition's allegations.

After weeks of unsubstantiated attacks in this place and in the media, it is clear that it has no information to back up its claims in this smear campaign. Canadians rejected this type of mud slinging in the last election.

In the case of the electoral district of Guelph, as has been stated previously, the Conservative Party of Canada has made available to Elections Canada all information in regard to our calls made during the campaign. It is obvious that the Conservative Party was not involved with the alleged calls in that riding. If something improper did occur, we expect that those responsible will be fully held to account.

The NDP and the Liberal Party have made a number of new allegations about similar deliberately misleading calls made in other ridings during the last election, in which we, the Conservative Party of Canada, categorically deny any involvement. However, when the interim Leader of the Opposition was asked eight times for evidence on CBC's Power and Politics, she was unable to provide any evidence at all. We have heard that from the member for Timmins—James Bay. We have heard it from the interim leader of the Liberal Party. They have no evidence. They are simply throwing out baseless allegations.

The NDP claim that South Shore—St. Margaret's received fraudulent calls. However, the NDP riding association president, Wolfgang Ziemer said it is not true. He said, “There's just no way that I can add any fuel to this fire, if there is a fire. I have no idea how the riding got on” the list.

The Liberals claim that Wellington—Halton Hills received fraudulent calls, but the Liberal candidate said it is not true. “Barry Peters said he doesn't recall hearing about any suspicious calls either while out door-knocking nor back at the office”. That was reported on Global News on Thursday, March 1.

The Liberals have claimed that in some ridings Liberal supporters received calls at inconvenient times that could be described as harassing from people who identified themselves as calling from the Liberal Party of Canada. However, the Liberal Party paid millions of dollars to make these calls and hired firms to say these exact scripts to Canadians, but the Liberals have not yet released the scripts, nor have they provided their call records. We have to ask why.

In the Liberal campaign in Haldimand—Norfolk, Bob Speller complained that harassing calls were being made on his behalf late at night, but his campaign paid First Contact $4,062 to make calls. The Liberal candidate in Niagara Falls, Bev Hodgson, has complained that harassing calls were made on her behalf at night. Her campaign paid First Contact $11,300. The same goes for the Sydney—Victoria Liberal candidate, Mark Eyking. His campaign paid First Contact $11,753.

There is a pattern here: First Contact, First Contact, First Contact.

The Liberals have claimed these calls originated in the U.S., but the Liberal Party is the party that sourced its voter phone calls from the U.S. during the last election. A CBC investigation conducted during the campaign traced some of these calls, the calls that the Liberals have been complaining about, back to Liberal-affiliated call centres. The CBC traced these calls back to Liberal-affiliated call centres.

Let us not forget that this is the same Liberal Party that recently revealed that one of its own backroom operatives, Adam Carroll, was behind a dirty, sleazy, underhanded campaign of vicious, anonymous smears against the Minister of Public Safety. Yet this is just the latest in a long history of shady Liberal practices that indeed harm our democracy.

During the 2011 election, Liberals were caught and charged for stealing opponents' election signs, a violation of the Elections Act. Also during the 2011 election, Joe Volpe and a campaign worker were caught taking Green Party literature directly from people's mailboxes. It is ironic that Mr. Carroll, as I mentioned earlier, the one who committed the dirty, sleazy, underhanded attack campaign against the Minister of Public Safety, also happened to work on Mr. Volpe's campaign.

In 2004 the Liberal Party had callers running a push-poll, and you might remember this, Mr. Speaker, asking about how people felt about the Conservatives being taken over by right-wing Christians. It was outrageous. Actions like this even made Liberals like the current member for Scarborough—Guildwood condemn their party's activities.

We must not forget the sponsorship scandal where Liberals admitted taking envelopes filled with cash, which were never reported, and giving them to so-called orphan ridings to fund their campaigns.

It is up to these same Liberals to prove that these are not Liberal calls before they continue making their extreme, baseless allegations and undertake yet another vicious anonymous smear campaign against dozens of decent, upstanding Conservative MPs and candidates from the last election.

In conclusion, dirty tricks such as these led to the fall of the Liberal Party and to a clear call for more accountable governments. Here, our Conservative government was elected on a platform of accountability, and with the Federal Accountability Act we helped to earn back the trust of Canadians in their government institutions.

While I do not oppose the motion brought forward by the hon. member for Hamilton Centre, I strongly oppose and reject the baseless allegations and unsubstantiated smear campaign by the parties opposite.

Our government and the Conservative Party of Canada have been nothing but open and transparent with Elections Canada about all the calls made during the last election. On their part, the Liberals and NDP, as I have said many times in this House, spent millions of dollars on hundreds of thousands, and millions, I would argue, of phone calls during the last election. If the opposition truly wants to support Elections Canada, they should provide all of their records relating to the calls they made during the last election, just as the Conservative Party of Canada already has.

It is interesting that this debate has been brought to the floor of the House of Commons today. Of course, we know what the motivations of the member are in doing so, to further propagate the baseless, unsubstantiated smear campaign that we have seen in this House for some days. However, Canadians are not fooled by this. I have received messages from people from coast to coast to coast, from campaign volunteers, everyday people who got out and voted, people who are asking why the House of Commons is not concerned about their priorities. They want to know what is going on with the House of Commons.

It is clear that voter participation was not suppressed in the last election. The member who spoke previously was not fulsome in his answer in suggesting that he was talking about percentages while I was talking about numbers in absolute terms. He knows very well that the percentage of voters between the 2008 campaign and the 2011 campaign went up, not down. He knows that full well. He is just not providing that information to the House, and that is too bad.

We saw voter participation increase in virtually every riding in the country. That is wonderful, a great statement that we have in fact turned around a bit of a trend. We have turned it around, and how did we do it? We did it by providing more, not less, days to vote. We turned it around by encouraging each and every Canadian voter to get out and vote.

The Conservative Party did what other parties do. We contacted Conservative Party supporters and encouraged them to get to the polls. We won a strong, stable, national Conservative majority government and are proud of that. Based on that strong, stable, Conservative majority government, Conservatives are undertaking the priorities of Canadians by protecting the economy and providing more hope and opportunity for Canadians. We are focusing on the priorities of each and every Canadian, including protecting victims by bringing in new crime legislation.

Conservatives are also doing more than that. We are moving against past egregious acts, like the long gun registry. Other members have mentioned Nipissing—Timiskaming. I think the voters in Nipissing—Timiskaming spoke out loud and clear in the last election when it came to the long gun registry. We cannot forget about that.

We also cannot ignore the fact that the Liberal Party wants people to forget about what it ran on in the last election. That is why it is launching this baseless, unsubstantiated smear campaign. It ran a campaign of higher taxes and wasteful spending. At a time when Canadians are concerned about that, when they see foreign countries undergoing difficulties as a result of wasteful spending, that is what the Liberal Party ran on. That is why voters did not vote Liberal.

We see a collection of failed Liberal candidates coming forward, stepping up and suggesting that something untoward happened and that this is the only possible way they could have lost the election. However, in virtually all of these ridings, certainly all of the ones I have seen mentioned, voter participation was up. More people voted, not less.

More of those people voted Conservative, because they saw us as the only party fit to guide this country through this difficult global economic time. They put their faith in the Prime Minister of this country. They put their faith in the Minister of Finance of this country. They put their faith in Conservative candidates from coast to coast to coast. They put their faith in those volunteers who were doing the hard work of knocking on doors. They put their faith in each and every person who came up them, friends and family, and said they were going to vote Conservative.

That is how Conservatives won the last election. We won it with hard work. We won it with dedication. We won it with a vision and a plan, an aspiration to make Canada even greater than it ever has been, because we believe Canada's best days are ahead.

As I have said, Conservatives have no problem providing additional authorities and supporting this motion that is before the House, but let us also be clear: ours is the party that is providing transparency, ours is the party that has brought accountability to Canadians, ours is the party that believes in open government, and ours is the party that is delivering on the promise that we made to Canadians. We can never forget that.

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, the argument presented by my colleague from Peterborough is nothing new. We have been hearing it for three days in question period. It goes like this: a shop is burgled, an individual is arrested and charged, and the person charged claims that he cannot be charged because first of all the owner of the shop has to prove his own innocence. This makes no sense. It is a totally fallacious argument.

I have a more specific question to ask the hon. member for Peterborough. He speaks of data that have been provided to Elections Canada. Certain things might be provided to Elections Canada that are not currently being provided. I am speaking in particular of the scripts that were used by the telemarketing firms in the employ of the Conservative Party. The question was put to the hon. member during a media panel, but I heard no satisfactory response. I would like to hear that response.

Does Elections Canada at present have the power to obtain those scripts? Has the Conservative Party provided them? If the Conservative Party has not provided them and Elections Canada does not have this power, is the motion moved today not relevant because it would give Elections Canada the capability to obtain this type of documentation?

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated, Elections Canada has informed the Conservative Party that it is undertaking a single investigation, and that is in the riding of Guelph. We have been very clear from the get-go that we will fully assist them in any regard.

Members do not have to take my word for it. They can look at what the former Chief Electoral Officer, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, and the current Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand, have said on this very matter. They have indicated that when they undertake an investigation, they do have all the investigative ability and authority required. They can bring in additional services and support from the RCMP should they need it.

We encourage them to do that because, ultimately, what all Canadians want is to have elections fought fairly and for anyone who undertakes anything untoward to be held fully accountable. Ours is the party that believes in justice. That is what we want in every aspect of Canadian society. We certainly want to see that in elections.

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, it would take most of my allotted time to respond to all of the outrageous allegations made in the member's speech, but I will say that the Conservative Party of Canada is the only party in Canada that has been charged and plead guilty and paid a fine for the in and out scandal and violating the Elections Act. It is the only one.

However, I would like the member to stand and look into the camera and say the following to the over 31,000 Canadians who have already written to Elections Canada, to Peggy Walsh Craig in Nipissing—Timiskaming, to Raymond Young in Sydney—Victoria, to Danny Boyle and veteran Donald Miller in Guelph, and to Eduardo Harari in York Centre, that they are just part of a smear campaign, that this never happened to them and that they were not misdirected at all.

I dare you to stand and speak to Canadians and tell them they are just part of a smear campaign.

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

I am presuming that the hon. member for Guelph is not asking me to look into the camera, but rather the hon. parliamentary secretary.

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

Here I am, Mr. Speaker, standing in my place and accepting the dare, not afraid. I am never afraid to stand up for what is true. I will not be intimidated.

I am not a person who made a determination, as the member opposite did, to join a party that stole some $363 million from Canadians in the sponsorship scandal, $43 million of which is still missing.

The member talked about the administrative discrepancy that we had with Elections Canada. That has all been set aside and has worked its way through. However, Elections Canada never undertook a single investigation of the Liberal Party. When members talk about convictions I would like to know, and maybe the member can indicate, which Liberal ridings accepted the stolen money in the sponsorship scandal, because Canadians would like to know that. Why did Liberal members never go to jail for it? They should have gone to jail.

I would like to know why the member decided it was appropriate to join a party that stole money from Canadians. It could have gone to health care, to long-term care, to all—

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Prince Edward—Hastings.

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Daryl Kramp Conservative Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, if I may direct these comments not just to the opposition but to the entire House, quite frankly, we are only as good as our name and our reputation. We are all taking a beating when this kind of slander and activity takes place in the House. If there is a particular crime, someone should wear the mantle for that. At some point that will happen through the legalities of the law and the examination by Elections Canada of whoever is responsible for this.

I would suggest to hon. members this kind of accusation and innuendo based entirely on hyperbole, not accurate information, does the entire House a disservice. It destroys the credibility of the nation and of the people who respected us to come here to do a job for them. I find it absolutely disgusting that we carry on this way.

My question is for the parliamentary secretary. I agree that we do need to get to the bottom of this. The Conservative Party is willing to put forward the information it has. In his opinion, why will the opposition parties not simply produce their lists and information so that we can deal with this in an honest, open and transparent manner?

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated earlier, I believe that when they do provide that information to Elections Canada it will actually be found that the Liberals have in fact made these calls themselves.

I hear the Liberal Party member asking why they would want to suppress their own vote. If the Liberals did not want to suppress their own vote they never would have run on the platform they did in the last election. It was a campaign based on wasteful spending, higher taxes and not even remotely related to the priorities of Canadians. That is what the Liberals ran on.

If there is one thing that has hurt this nation, that has shook it to its core, more than anything in my lifetime, it was the Liberal sponsorship scandal that caused Canadians from coast to coast to coast to question their government and question officials. It was an egregious crime and Liberal MPs probably should have gone to jail. I would like to know why they did not.

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary was almost moving when he spoke to us of the Conservative volunteers. We have volunteers in my constituency. The people who work the phones are there for the entire duration of the campaign, and sometimes they get paid in pizza. What is increasingly evident with the Conservatives is that it is not volunteers we are talking about. The unscrupulous tactics that were used were used by RMG and RackNine. Those companies are paid; they are not volunteers. There is a direct connection to the Conservative Party. The parliamentary secretary made a link to the sponsorship scandal. When he was in opposition, he was most vocal in calling for a public inquiry into the sponsorship scandal.

What happened with the Liberals was successfully brought to light, but why does he not want to shed light today on what happened with the Conservatives by conducting a public inquiry and providing more powers to Elections Canada?

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I said, the past and current Chief Electoral Officers have both been very clear in indicating that they have the investigative ability and authority to look into this matter and these allegations. We put our faith in them, and we do believe that when the truth comes out the Conservative Party of Canada will be vindicated.

What is not clear is whether the opposition parties, after all the mudslinging and unsubstantiated smear campaign that they have undertaken, will apologize to the good members of the House. Hon. members in this House have had their names smeared by the parties opposite. I think it is absolutely reprehensible what they have done. I would hope that at some point, when the truth comes out, they will stand in place and apologize to the good members of the House, the hon. members who did not deserve this kind of smear campaign.

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary should listen to his colleague and stop smearing the opposition. When you slip on a banana peel, you have to admit to getting dirty. Canadians want the whole truth. They want this government to provide all the documentation necessary for a fair and equitable investigation. The most equitable way to do that is to seek the truth, not to accuse the hon. members opposite and sweep the whole thing under the rug. The Conservatives have to face up to their responsibilities.

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I agree that when one slips on a banana peel one is dirty. The NDP slipped on a banana peel when it tried to illegally direct money into the Broadbent Institute just this past fall. It had to return cheques as a result of Elections Canada looking into the matter. Very clearly, it knew it was making infractions against the Canada Elections Act.

Members of the NDP also robodialed a Quebec member's riding some months ago without identifying themselves, which is against the law according to the CRTC. They might want to look into that. They also have robodialed my riding and the ridings of other Conservative members very recently making phoney allegations about the intent of legislation. These efforts are ongoing on the part of the NDP members. They are not lily white. In fact, we stand accused by parties that undertake the exact actions that they pretend to dislike.

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg NDP Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the House that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Compton—Stanstead.

I am pleased to have an opportunity to rise today to share my thoughts on an important issue that goes to the heart of the legitimacy of this House, democracy.

Old habits seem to die hard with the Conservatives. One year later, almost to the day, another scandal on electoral fraud has broken out. I am starting to have serious misgivings about the democracy in which we live.

It discourages me when I see the extent to which this electoral fraud seems to be par for the course for this government. Over recent years, this government has tried an increasing number of strategies that push the limits as to what is acceptable and what is unacceptable in Canadian politics. The government was found guilty only last year of electoral fraud during the 2005–2006 election. This five year dispute, categorized as “administrative” by the Prime Minister himself, smacks of growing contempt by this government towards Canada's democratic institutions.

This perception has been reinforced by the behaviour of this Prime Minister during last year's debacle. As reported by numerous university professors, who were signatories to an op-ed published in La Presse on April 25 of last year, and I quote:

His most virulent attacks were reserved for the judges that he described more than once as “activists” who meddle in politics. In saying this, it is in fact he [the Prime Minister] who was politicizing the administration of justice. This is a dangerous and slippery slope at the bottom of which it is not judges who have the most to lose. [...] When the time has come that judges have to fear the criticism, and even the reprisals of political leaders, the rights of everyday citizens will hold hardly more weight than those of the state. Never before have our leaders dared to venture in this direction.

A press review by Manon Cornellier published in Le Devoir on March 3 demonstrates the furor with which Canadians are reacting to this new scandal.

Canadians are fed up, frustrated and indignant. Their confidence in the electoral system has been even further shaken. Who can blame them when increasingly scandalous revelations are being systematically disclosed? How can the government accuse the opposition parties, which are representing the real concerns of Canadians, of orchestrating a smear campaign, when we are aware of the dubious tactics employed by this government?

The general indignation felt by Canadians in all regions of this country shows the extent to which Canadians are becoming increasingly cynical about politics and about our government. I am particularly concerned by the serious consequences that this growing feeling will have for our future generations.

I am pleased to be one of the 20 or so young members of this House, because I hope that our involvement in politics will restore hope to Canadian youth. We have to let them see our commitment, and above all our integrity.

How is that possible when this government continues to act so inconsistently? It abolishes the firearms registry. It changes the census rules, citing the violation of people’s privacy, among other things, but has no hesitation about introducing a bill that is potentially dangerous to individual rights and freedoms: Bill C-30. It is completely baffling.

We must acknowledge, at all costs, that this scandal shows us that the electoral landscape is no longer the same in Canada. The age of innocence, of trust, has unfortunately come to an end. Canadians are witnessing a scandal that shows just how much some people will play with the electoral system in order to prevent people from participating in an institution that is fundamental to our rights and freedoms. This is serious, it is sad, it is disappointing and it is deplorable.

In Canada, there used to be good faith, over and above our political differences. We all agreed that respect for democracy and freedom of expression was fundamental. Clearly, that is no longer the case. The election fraud scandal shows us that there are players who will not hesitate to subvert the system in order to give voters false information and harass them.

This is not just an issue of robocalls. It would have been the same scandal if the method used had been an email or a letter. It is election fraud, which is deplorable, and the use of communication methods to misinform voters and affect their participation.

The NDP is proposing something very important in today’s motion. The NDP is proposing that we take strong action to find the guilty parties and restore Canadians’ confidence in the electoral system.

This is a bold motion whose only purpose is to give the Chief Electoral Officer additional powers so he can get to the bottom of this scandal. Canadians all across the country would think that a motion like this is essential. I am pleased to learn that the government is going to support it. However, this government has proved that it is afraid of the outcome of an investigation, afraid to discover who is responsible for the election fraud that insulted so many Canadians. Why such cowardice on the government’s part?

Losing the confidence of the electorate is the real issue here, because losing the confidence of the electorate means losing one’s own legitimacy in this House. If the people view their own electoral system—the pillar of the democratic foundation of this country—with cynicism, and observers are worried about respect for the independence of the judicial system, how can we allow machinations like these to be repeated? It is the responsibility of the government to prevent scandals like this from taking place. This is one more example in a long list of cases of mismanagement of public funds.

I thought of my constituents as I rose today. They are the ones who are the biggest victims in all this. This is an affront to the fundamental rights of people to participate, express themselves and organize in a democratic and participatory community. Thanks to their right to vote, the people of Terrebonne, Blainville and Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines, just like the people of Guelph, Nipissing-Timiskaming and elsewhere, have the chance to directly influence federal politics just once every three or four years. It is a very important time for them, because an election makes them think about their collective future, their dreams and their values. Those thoughts, that discussion, that participation are sacred. Voting means having the right to think and express oneself. The five-week election campaign is when the greatest number of people get involved.

My constituents are very concerned and rightfully so. What are they going to think about the quality of our democracy from now on? How can I tell them with confidence that their fundamental right to democratic expression will be respected in future?

I want to point out that in Terrebonne, Blainville and Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines there are a number of veterans who risked their lives to give us this sacred right. There are women—and today is International Women's Day—who fought for the right to vote. In this House, unfortunately, we are in process of debating whether that right to vote was violated. I find that unbelievably sad. People were outraged when Maurice Duplessis had dead people voting for him. I wonder which is worse: doing that or preventing the living from voting.

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, a previous speaker, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, said that this was exclusive to Guelph and yet we know there were calls to constituents of Nipissing—Timiskaming, Kingston and the Islands, Saanich—Gulf Islands and Windsor—Tecumseh, all of the same nature. They were calls to identify voters as not supporting the Conservatives and then being followed up with a call on election day to tell people to go elsewhere than their regular poll.

Does the member think that could possibly be the concoction of one rogue person or was it a collaborative effort? Would it have required connections to the only party that would have that kind of voter identification system?

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg NDP Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Guelph for his question. Thirty-one thousand people called Elections Canada. This is not a matter of just one constituency in particular. Those 31,000 calls could not all have come from Guelph or Nipissing; they came from all over. That is why this motion has been moved today. Elections Canada needs more powers to investigate this matter. We must give it those powers. I am pleased to see that the Conservatives will support this motion because we need to get to the bottom of this.