Mr. Speaker, first of all, since this is my first speech of the year, I would like to begin by wishing you and all my colleagues of the House and everyone at home all the best for 2015. We in the NDP have been anxiously awaiting 2015 for some time now; as everyone knows, this is an election year.
This year is particularly important to us, because it is time to do some housecleaning. We need to repair the damage caused by previous governments, both Conservative and Liberal. Furthermore, it is unfortunate that we have to start off the new year talking about scandals and about MPs and senators who have broken the law.
Bill C-518 amends the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act. In principle, we support the objective of taking retirement pensions and payments away from senators or members of the House of Commons who are found guilty of certain Criminal Code offences.
The scope of the bill was changed in committee. I will elaborate on that later. In fact, I want to say from the outset that the principle is good. Every Canadian who is watching us or follows politics has had enough of the scandals and are sick of hearing about Mike Duffy, for example, who committed fraud, or Dean Del Mastro, who was convicted of violating the Canada Elections Act. Then there are the Conservative and Liberal senators; my colleague mentioned Mac Harb. Let us not forget the sponsorship scandal that is still dogging the Liberals.
People have had it with all this corruption, this approach, the same old politics. That is why we support this desire to tackle the problem. It really is not right for a convicted person to be entitled to a pension or benefits. The bill includes a balanced provision whereby a convicted person could nonetheless collect the equivalent of his or her contributions to the pension plan with interest. Even if a person is convicted, they are still owed a certain amount. The problem is this government's approach.
As for last session's scandals, and most recently those involving the Conservatives, we see that the Conservatives used their majority on the committee to protect one of their own. After throwing Dean Del Mastro under the bus, they nevertheless protected his pension. The Conservative members had an exhaustive and specific list of offences and they made sure that Dean Del Mastro would get his pension. I find it deplorable that they massaged a bill, which was basically a good bill, to protect one of their own. That is completely unacceptable, especially when we know that the person in question was found guilty of violating the Canada Elections Act.
Indeed, the NDP's objective, which it continues to work towards by moving amendments and motions, is to expand the scope of the bill and to eliminate this gaping loophole that is protecting a Conservative member. This law must be enforced in an impartial and honest manner.
I will give other examples. What was initially proposed, and what we are calling for, was that federal legislation such as the Income Tax Act, the Parliament of Canada Act and all laws concerning the federal government be included in the scope of the bill.
Unfortunately, the Conservatives rejected the amendments we moved in committee, which only fuels cynicism. We have a bill with good intentions, that is, to punish those who commit fraud and violate the law. However, out of pure partisanship, the Conservatives—who, as we know, also have a majority in committee—decided to amend the bill to protect one of their own. That is completely unacceptable.
Furthermore, why were Income Tax Act offences not included? When I was the official opposition's national revenue critic, we moved a motion, which was studied by the Standing Committee on Finance, to combat tax havens and tax evasion. After negotiations, I managed to convince my Conservative and Liberal colleagues to tackle this issue, which is why we studied it in committee.
Unfortunately, the Conservatives' refusal to include Income Tax Act offences clearly shows their bad intentions. They agree to a study, but they refuse to punish tax evaders. I hope that this will change and that they will understand that this does not help them, even though they want to protect their friends. In this case, we are talking about Dean Del Mastro, but there are others. The Liberals did not take action when they were in power, and now the Conservatives are not doing anything either, even though they claim to be acting.
That is why I look forward to having an experienced leader in 2015 who will move things forward and fix the mess caused by Conservative and Liberal governments.
To come back to the bill, why does the government not want to go after those who break our laws? I am asking this question to my colleagues opposite. Why did they limit the scope of this bill, whose underlying principle was good, simply to protect one of their own? This will create loopholes for other fraudsters, who will be able to take advantage of the fact that offences under the Income Tax Act have been excluded from the bill.
That is rather surprising. Let us not forget that the Conservative government is the first government in the history of Canada to have been found guilty of contempt of Parliament. Clearly, this government wants to protect its friends and its MPs who break its own laws.
This brings us back to the matter of accountability. Senators are included in this bill. Everyone knows about the Mike Duffy, Mac Harb and Pamela Wallin scandals. These senators were appointed by this government, with the exception of Mac Harb, who was appointed by the Liberals. The NDP's position is clear: these senators do not belong in our democracy. The NDP believes that the outdated institution that is the Senate should be abolished, and we are going to make that happen.
In this case, why do the Conservatives want to protect one of their own, who has been found criminally responsible, by amending an bill that was commendable in principle and had the support of the opposition? We now have a watered-down bill, and this confirms what we have been saying all along: the government is once again letting senators and MPs get away with fraud.
If the government wants to be accountable and do something about this cynicism, which often arises as a result of the politicians themselves, why would it do such a thing? It is unacceptable. I hope that my colleagues opposite will consider and support our amendments.