Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have a few moments to rise on the first day the House is back for the 2015 winter session. Some have suggested that it may be our last session. As a few people in my riding have said to me, it is about time that we have a chance to get rid of these rascals and replace them with an NDP government and make some real changes for Canadians. In the meantime, we still have to deal with some of the legislation that is before us to try to correct some of the egregious errors the current government has made and to try to make sure that the concerns of my constituents in Dartmouth—Cole Harbour are properly represented.
I certainly recognize the intent of Bill C-518. Canadians have completely lost patience with public officials breaking the law and the public trust and expect government to do something about it. Unfortunately, Bill C-518 in this regard simply does not meet the standard that I think the sponsor of the bill might have expected it to.
Nova Scotia, as a result of a spending scandal back in 2010, has introduced a similar bill that would go further. It deals with a couple of the issues that we have raised before in both committee and here in debate. One issue in particular is the whole question of retroactivity, to make sure that MPs and senators are not able to duck out when they feel they are going to be okay doing so, even though it is pretty clear, whether a conviction has gone through or not, that they have in fact broken the law and public trust.
Other parts of the bill in Nova Scotia would ensure that a former spouse or spouse of the public official in question would be entitled to the amount of the pension that he or she would normally have been entitled to. Likewise, the government would still have the right to garnishee the pension if there were amounts owing to it. I think members would agree that these are two extremely important provisions as they relate to the question of balance and fairness.
Constituents of mine in Dartmouth—Cole Harbour have seen the Province of Nova Scotia move forward in this regard to put an end to public officials breaking the law and public trust and still being able to benefit from pensions and other entitlements they may have enjoyed as the result of holding that particular office. The Government of Nova Scotia was successful in doing that. The people of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour applaud the intention of the bill before us and want to see it go through. They want to see us move forward in this area, and we have had some discussions with them about our concerns with the bill.
We want to see a bill like this pass, but we are concerned about the weaknesses we have already identified. Therefore, we have presented a couple of amendments to the bill.
We say to the government that if it is truly serious about making sure that this legislation would do what the government says it would, there are two particular problems. The first is that it basically wrote out the fact that former MP Dean Del Mastro would have been covered by this legislation. The government rewrote the bill so that he would, in fact, be absolved, that the bill would not touch him. That is wrong, and I think Canadians recognize that it should not be the case.
The second thing is that, with this bill, rather than setting the terms of what should be required, the government has listed a number of different laws that would need to be broken. It is cherry-picking what laws specifically need to be broken for this bill to apply. It has also exempted such legislation as the Canada Elections Act, specifically. What we have said in our motion, to make it very clear, is that it is wrong for the government to be picking and choosing the laws. Experts have told us this. We need to make sure that the provision in this is sufficiently clear that it deals with the issue of breaking the law and breaking public trust.
The amendment is really important. It says:
ceases or has ceased to be a member and who, on or after the day on which this subsection comes into force, is either convicted of an offence under the Criminal Code mentioned in subsection (4) or sentenced to a term of imprisonment of five years or more for an offence under any other Act of Parliament, if the offence arose out of conduct that in whole or in part occurred while the person was a member...
It says “any” act of Parliament. This idea that members can break the elections act, as former MP Dean Del Mastro did, and get away with it just does not make sense. I have heard that from my constituents. If we are serious about bringing in laws that will end this practice and hold officials accountable for doing this, we need to deal with that.
The second thing is the whole issue of retroactivity. We are suggesting that we add in the following:
ceases or has ceased to be a member and who, on or after the day on which this subsection comes into force, is either convicted of an offence under the Criminal Code mentioned in subsection 19(4) or sentenced to a term of imprisonment of five years or more for an offence under any other Act of Parliament, if the offence arose out of conduct that in whole or in part occurred while the person was a member...
My message to the government is that the people of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour support the intention of Bill C-518, but they are saying let us not pretend and agree to accept legislation that pretends do something but then really does not. It would excuse some members of the government benches, for example, or the Senate, at the same time that the government is trying to say that it will deal with the whole question of ethics and integrity in government and hold people to account.
I have indicated to my constituents that if that is the intention, and if the government recognizes this principle and our amendments to this bill, maybe we will get to a point where we are able to pass a bill that does what it sets out to do. That is the message that my constituents have asked me to bring here to the House. I hope the government is listening.
I hope we can do something to actually make this bill work to hold public office holders accountable who have broken the law and the public trust.