House of Commons Hansard #221 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was consumers.


Elimination of Partisan Government Advertising ActPrivate Members' Business

June 1st, 2015 / 11:05 a.m.


David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

moved that Bill C-544, An Act to amend the Auditor General Act (government advertising), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, my bill, which is supported by the Liberal Party of Canada, by my leader, and by my colleagues, is an attempt to increase confidence and to drive up trust in our Canadian democratic institutions and the way in which government as a whole operates. It is about accountability. It is about value for scarce taxpayer dollars. It is about helping Canadians have more confidence in the way we collect their hard-earned dollars and deploy or spend them on their behalf.

This bill, Bill C-544, is about amending the Auditor General Act to appoint an advertising commissioner to oversee government spending on advertising.

Everyone in this House, from all parties, I have heard, has heard from countless Canadians who are concerned about what can only be described as wasteful advertising spending. It is time to bring Canada's advertising rules into the 21st century, and the appointment of an advertising commissioner, as in other jurisdictions, would provide accountability for all Canadians. This legislation, should it be passed, and I am always hopeful that we can get all-party support in this regard, would apply to all future governments of any political stripe.

It is important to remind Canadians that this bill would permit legitimate advertising. There is a role and a purpose for government advertising. I will come to the details in a moment. What would be expressly prohibited, however, is the kind of partisanship we have seen, which infuses federal government advertising and has for the past nine years under the Conservative government. The common look and feel of government advertising is identical to the common look and feel of partisan political Conservative Party advertising and is happening at the same time as the government uses public resources for federal government advertising.

It is important to remove partisanship from federal government advertising, because it is anti-democratic. When public resources are used to try to increase the chances for political success in Canadian society, particularly only several months away from a national election campaign, it is unfair. When I described this bill to a group of grade 5 students recently, one of the students, a 10-year old, put up a hand and said, “To me, it looks like it is cheating”. It is hard not to agree with that simple description. It is about using public resources and harnessing them for an unfair advantage for a sitting government.

The other reason partisanship has to go is because we are now hearing increasingly from experts and from good, front-line, hard-working, dedicated public servants that this kind of advertising compromises the neutrality and objectivity of public servants and the public service. More and more senior managers are being compelled, forced, to take actions that they know are favourably disposed toward the party in power at the expense of the neutrality and objectivity they signed up for when they decided to become good public servants.

Look at any website operated by the federal government and take a look at the colours. Then go to the Conservative Party of Canada website and take a look at the colours there. This partisanship issue is one that every member in the House of Commons knows cuts to the bone of fairness and accountability.

There has been unanimous opposition to the government's continued advertising. Let us look at some of the headlines.

I will start with the Toronto Star: “Tory ad blitz goes simply too far”.

The Globe and Mail: “How partisan Conservative ads undermine the rule of law”.

The Canadian Press: “Cabinet secrecy blocks rationale behind government's advertising slogan”.

The National Post: “Canadians growing tired of [government's] Economic Action Plan call government ads 'propaganda' in recent survey”.

These draw heavily on eight polls conducted by the government's own Department of Finance.

It is also important to always juxtapose choices made by governments in the way they spend hard-earned taxpayer dollars with real needs in Canadian society.

We know that the current Conservative government has spent some $780 million, likely more by now, on advertising since its arrival. Let us take a look at some of the forms of advertising it has pursued.

The Conservative government paid over $12,000 per train car to shrink-wrap GO trains in downtown Toronto with Conservative blue plastic shrink wrap that had the slogan “economic action plan” splattered all over them. The Conservatives call that a message. Riders on GO Transit call it propaganda. The Conservatives spent $12,000 per car.

Let us take a look at one of the more egregious examples that I think highlights the need to take action in this area. The government has compelled municipalities and provinces around the country to spend $30 million to put up 9,850 billboards. We have now learned, through access to information requests and through working with municipalities, that municipalities were not able to get their federal infrastructure funding dollars unless they met a contractual condition, which was to put economic action plan billboards at the side of every project.

The federal government went to the provinces and said that it wanted a fed-prov agreement. Then it went to the cities involved and said that if they wanted any money, they needed to put up a billboard at their expense. That was $30 million for 9,850 billboards.

Let us talk about what that $30 million might do for Canadians at a time when there are scarce resources and so many credible needs in Canadian society.

Thirty million dollars buys 15 MRI machines. It pays for 500 registered nurses' salaries for one year or over 900 personal support workers for home care for one year. It pays for 10,000 hip, knee, and cataract surgeries. It pays for 4,250 insulin pumps for kids who are coping with type 1 diabetes and cannot afford the pumps.

It pays for 300 affordable housing units. It pays for one million bus passes for our seniors on pensions. It pays the tuition fees for 5,000 students. It pays for student jobs for 9,000 students over the summer.

Thirty million dollars pays for 15,000 doses of chemotherapy drugs for cancer patients fighting their heroic battles and waiting for their treatments. It pays for 46,500 injections to treat osteoporosis at a time when our aging population is showing more and more the effects of arthritis and aging.

Thirty million dollars also pays for 20 million meals at the school breakfast programs for hungry kids. It pays for 46 years of the eliminated community access program for any one province, where we were supplying Internet services in our libraries and community centres for those who could not afford the $70, $80, or $90 a month to be connected on the Internet. It pays for eco-energy retrofit grants for 6,000 homes.

It was $12,000 to shrink-wrap one train at a time when infrastructure funding is being cut 90% this year.

This tells us everything we need to know about the government's priorities. It is shamelessly using federal tax dollars to promote its brand, its common look and feel, its websites, and its Facebook ads. For heaven's sake, the Conservatives are even advertising now on Xbox.

This can all stop. The government, the party in power, can be put out of its advertising misery overnight. All it has to do is adopt the bill and create an advertising commissioner who is empowered to review advertisements before they go to print. The bill goes as far as empowering the advertising commissioner to actually ensure that before a print run is performed, before any government sends out an order to a print house to run, for example, 30,000 or two million pamphlets, it is approved in advance.

The government has lost its way. I think the Prime Minister has really lost his way in this regard. This is a person who came to Ottawa riding a horse called “accountability”. He railed against this for years. He railed against it while he was in office, and he railed against it while he was out of office. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation itself cannot understand why the Prime Minister is pursuing this kind of advertising policy, if we can call it that. It is also supportive of the bill and its measures.

We have a situation where we can do right and better by Canadians. We can look at the $760 million the government spent and ask, “Did we really get good value for money?”

The bill allows for important messaging. Yes, it allows a government to actually inform Canadians about tax measures or program expenditures or benefits they are entitled to. All of that is available, just not the way it is being done now.

A government would not be able to, for example, advertise measures that do not exist. We can all recall several years ago the Advertising Standards Council of Canada taking the government to task for running ads on television during sporting events for programs for job training that did not even exist. For those Canadians who follow playoff hockey, they are watching ads now. Each spot is a minimum of $100,000. There is no message. That would provide support for 300 student jobs over the summer.

It is important for us to remember when we talk about this kind of advertising that we need to juxtapose it against real needs in Canadian society. That is why I am bringing the bill forward. To go back to that theme, it allows for the important advertisements. If the government is recruiting staff, it is permitted. If the government is looking for contractors to do good work for the federal government, it is permitted. If it wants a message out on health crises, like H1N1 or the SARS crisis, that is permitted. If it needs a message to folks in southern Alberta during a flood, that is permitted.

All of this would go a great distance, to come exactly back to where I began, to drive up confidence and trust in the way all governments operate at a time when too many Canadians are despondent and disappointed and are checking out.

The House has an obligation to do everything it can to drive up confidence. I remain hopeful, and I ask my colleagues from all sides of the House to join us and support me in Bill C-544 so that we can do right by Canadians.

Elimination of Partisan Government Advertising ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Wladyslaw Lizon Conservative Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like the member to respond to the following findings of the Gomery report. The report states:

The Commission of Inquiry found:

Clear evidence of political involvement in the administration of the Sponsorship Program....

A veil of secrecy surrounding the administration of the Sponsorship Program and an absence of transparency in the contracting process....

The use of the Sponsorship Program for the purposes other than national unity or federal visibility because of a lack of objectives, criteria and guidelines for the Program.

Deliberate actions to avoid compliance with federal legislation and policies....

Certain agencies carrying on their payrolls individuals who were, in effect, working on Liberal Party matters.

The existence of a “culture of entitlement” among political officials and bureaucrats involved with the Sponsorship Program, including the receipt of monetary and non-monetary benefits.

Elimination of Partisan Government Advertising ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order, please. The hon. member for Ottawa South.

Elimination of Partisan Government Advertising ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, this gives me an opportunity to speak about other important elements in the bill that all sides should and could support.

For example, the bill would compel the advertising commissioner to ensure that any information to the public is about existing government policies, programs, or services that are actually available. It would inform members of the public with respect to “their rights and responsibilities under the law”. It would encourage or discourage “specific social behaviour”, for example, in the public interest. It would promote “Canada or any part of Canada as a good place to live, work, invest, study, or visit”. It would promote economic activities or sectors of Canada's economy. It would “include a statement that the item is paid for by the Government of Canada”. It would “not include the name, voice, or image of a member of the Cabinet, a member of the House of Commons, or a Senator”. It “shall not be partisan”. Finally, it shall not be used to “foster a positive impression of the governing party or a negative impression of a person or entity who is critical of the government”.

Together, we should be looking responsibly at these kinds of measures in 2015 to do right by Canadians.

Elimination of Partisan Government Advertising ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for bringing this bill forward. This legislation is very important to stopping the corrosive undermining of public trust by the abusive ads we have seen.

When the member's brother was the premier of Ontario, he brought forward legislation to Canada to stop abusive advertising. Therefore, I would like to ask the member if he has read the comments by the Ontario Auditor General about Kathleen Wynne's decision to undermine a bill that his brother brought through the legislature to stop the abuse of taxpayer's money with this kind of advertising. The Auditor General has raised serious questions about the undermining of this principle in Ontario. Has he read the report by the Auditor General? Does he believe that the present Liberal government is undermining the work that his brother did?

Elimination of Partisan Government Advertising ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to get on the record how incredibly proud I am of the work my brother did as the most successful Liberal premier in 75 years in Ontario. Namely, I would congratulate him for the bill that he brought, which has been in existence for 10 years. Right now there are debates going on in Ontario. That is a healthy thing because it is how our democratic system works. I understand that there is a push and pull right now, and there are all kinds of debates going on. However, they will come to ground.

The policy remains in Ontario. The advertising clearance process through the Office of the Auditor General remains in place. It is the only one of its kind in North America. In fact, it is the only one in the history of North America, and by that I mean Canada, the United States, and Mexico. There is no example elsewhere, besides a few state-level examples in Australia. It is an extremely progressive example for us to draw upon, which is exactly what I have done in drafting this bill.

I again ask my colleagues to come together so they can look their constituents in the eyes, particularly those who will run again in the next election, and justify the use of scarce federal dollars for advertising purposes.

Elimination of Partisan Government Advertising ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to speak on this issue of government advertising today.

Let me begin by stating that everything we do in our Conservative government is driven to ensure that our activities stand up to the highest level of public scrutiny. This includes our communications and advertising efforts to inform the public about programs and services we have in place to build a strong Canada. This makes me think of the work we do to help Canadians stay healthy and prevent the spread of infectious diseases, as an example.

It also makes me think of the work we do to support job creation and economic growth through our low-tax plan for jobs and growth, as outlined in Canada's economic action plan.

As part of these efforts, we want to ensure that Canadians are able to make the most of the programs available to them. This includes vital programs to modernize a broad range of infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, public transit, and parks. It also includes vital programs to support home ownership, help stimulate the housing sector, and improve housing across Canada.

We use a variety of means to expedite funding to individual Canadians and businesses. For example, we work closely with our many partners across the country, including officials in every level of government and countless stakeholders in industry, and, yes, we use advertising.

Advertising has played a key role in explaining the many programs that are part of our low-tax plan for jobs and growth. Like any responsible organization, we make use of advertising because we understand that programs to help Canada prosper cannot possibly work if no one knows about them. That is why we set out to tell Canadians and Canadian businesses what our plan can do for them. As part of our efforts, we have launched advertising campaigns. We have created a strong online presence, and we have travelled from coast to coast to coast to educate Canadians about the programs in place to help them. They need to know.

The communications policy of the government says, “In the Canadian system of parliamentary democracy and responsible government, the government has a duty to explain its policies and decisions, and to inform the public of its priorities for the country”. The policy also states, “The public has a right to such information”.

Our government takes its duty very seriously, and we are proud of the communications work we have done to ensure that Canadians have received timely, accurate, objective, and complete information about the programs and the services available to them.

Our plan to creating jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity for Canadians is clearly working, and this is something we can take pride in.

I would ask members to consider the following. The Canadian economy has posted one of the strongest job creation records in the group of G7 countries over the recovery, with over 1.2 million jobs created since June 2009. Over 90% of the jobs created since that time are full-time positions. Over 80% are in the private sector, and nearly 60% are in high-wage industries. Real GDP is significantly above pre-recession levels, the best performance in the G7.

Of course, we have balanced the federal budget as promised, and we are now in a position to fulfill our promise to help Canadians balance theirs. We just have to go around the world and listen to leaders and people in other countries to realize this, because they see Canada as a huge success story.

What does this all mean? It means that today we are in an even better position to weather new challenges.

Let me make an important point. The advertisements used to spread the word about our low-tax plan for Canadians have been done in a way that respects the principles of accountability and transparency. They have been done in a way that respects the existing framework of rules found in the government's communications policy and related administrative procedures. This includes the procedures in the management of advertising.

These procedures ensure that all advertising activities provide value for money and uphold the principles of the communications policy. We also require that all advertising is guided by the Canadian code of advertising standards, which defines government advertising as distinct from political advertising.

The procedures in place on advertising are a key part of good management. They provide detailed, step-by-step information to help federal departments and agencies manage advertising activities and ensure efficiencies and consistent practices across government. As well, they promote strong collaboration among the key organizations responsible for managing government advertising.

Our government is always looking for ways to ensure that its activities are well coordinated, transparent, and managed in a way that provides value for money for Canadians.

I can say that the bill before us today is not one of those ways. We already have a strong system in place. This is completely redundant. It is not clear that the additional financial resources and administrative requirements in Bill C-544 would provide value for money for Canadians. As such, the government will not support this legislation, and we encourage all members to do the same.

Allow me to reiterate that we already have a robust system in place. It includes safeguards to ensure the integrity of government advertising. This includes various mechanisms to ensure that communications across the Government of Canada are well coordinated, effectively managed, and responsive to the diverse information needs of Canadians.

I discussed several of these mechanisms earlier. They include the communications policy of the Government of Canada as well as the procedures for the management of advertising. Advertising is an essential way for the government to inform Canadians about issues that affect them. We continue to make use of this tool to better serve the citizens of this country.

Elimination of Partisan Government Advertising ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise representing the New Democratic Party on Bill C-544 put forward by my colleague from the Liberal Party. This bill is very important to re-establishing some level of trust with the Canadian public.

The other day in the House of Commons, I heard a Conservative backbencher stand to say that he was proud to be in the greatest House in the history of Parliament. I am hoping that was a case of exuberant naïveté because the opposite is true. What we have seen under the current government is a debasement of participatory democracy, the debasement of public institutions, and the corrosive effect on public trust from the increasingly blurry lines between what is supposed to be serving the public interest and the very narrow party interest of the government.

We have seen so many examples of this corrosive impact, but, for me, it was during the hockey playoffs. I saw an ad for a young woman who was getting a job, being retrained in the trades, and how important it was that she was starting her life over. On Monday morning, I was getting calls in my office from unemployed people asking me how they could benefit from this program. I had to tell them that this program did not exist, that the ad was lying to Canadian people, that taxpayers' money had been used to promote a program that did not exist.

How does one explain to the Canadian people that the government is so cynical that it would lie to the unemployed and use millions of dollars of taxpayers' money to promote something that does not exist? This is the level of cynicism we see from the government.

Instead of serving the public interest, we have seen an increasingly dumbed-down message box from which the Conservatives believe they can spin the public. All members on the government side stand like marionettes, repeating the same dumbed-down talking points that are often misrepresentations and lies and completely contrary. If the sun is high in the sky, they will say it is a dark night. If it is a dark night, they will say the sun is in the sky, and they will repeat that message again and again. It is like All the King's Men, and the politician Willie Stark, who believed that if a lie was repeated often enough, it would somehow be true. To protect those lies—

Elimination of Partisan Government Advertising ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe it is unparliamentary to suggest or, in this case, to flat out accuse members on this side of the House of lying. I believe there are other ways of making the point. The member knows better, as he has been here since 2004. He should apologize and retract the unparliamentary language.

Elimination of Partisan Government Advertising ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Before I go to the member for Timmins—James Bay, I would remind hon. members that there are rules in place about what can and cannot be said. I was distracted for a moment and did not hear all of the comments by the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay. However, I will return the floor to him. If he feels remedial action is necessary, he can take it. The Chair would appreciate if he would be mindful of the rules.

The hon. member for Timmins—James Bay.

Elimination of Partisan Government Advertising ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker. I thank you for your intervention. I note my colleagues are very uncomfortable with the fact that we talk about the misrepresentation of facts under them. It strikes close to home. They think this is a matter of privilege. It does speak to the Potemkin democracy. I understand it is very unparliamentary to accuse someone of lying, and I never would do that, but it is perfectly parliamentary to lie within this tradition. This is a fact. We see the misrepresentation of fact again and again.

As I was saying, the people who can speak out about that misrepresentation are being silenced: the silencing of our scientists; the shutting down of independent organizations; the use of Canada Revenue Agency to go after everything from birdwatchers to environmental groups because they threaten the government's agenda; and, then, of course, the misuse of advertising. Between $750 million and $780 million of taxpayer money has been used to promote the same misrepresentation of facts.

I do not know what my colleague over there thinks is possibly true about telling people they can get a job through a job training grant when the job training grant does not exist, and taxpayer money is being used on that.

We need to rein in this corrosive, abusive power.

We see so many examples. The Prime Minister has created his own TV network like he is the great leader from North Korea or something, with these 24 Seven videos. The Conservatives go to Iraq and do not allow the media to film, but they have their own imbedded propagandists. What comes out of that is that the lives of soldiers are actually put at stake.

The member for Nepean—Carleton has acted as Mini-Me, deciding he would run his own propaganda videos, using taxpayer money and civil servants.

This is such a cynical abuse of the public trust. It has to stop.

I agree with my Liberal colleague that we need to bring in some kind of rule if we do not want to see this kind of abuse of taxpayer dollars year after year, staggering amounts of money, putting up billboards, shrink-wrapping trains, promoting job creation schemes that do not exist. This is not in the public interest.

My concern with my Liberal colleague's bill is that the model we have for putting in some kind of protection for the taxpayer is in the province of Ontario, which was brought in under the premiership of Dalton McGuinty, and that bill is being gutted right now. It is being gutted by the present Liberal premier, who was stopped by the auditor general for Ontario from using Liberal red all over government ads. The auditor general for Ontario has raised concerns about the Liberal government being able to strip the acts so it can run government ads, such as taxpayers paying for ads promoting the government during elections. It is a cynical abuse by saying that we will not do it as opposition, but if we get into government, we will do the same thing.

Canadians are tired of this. They need to see something better. They need to see Parliament rise and say that it will not only be about the party interest, that is not only the party in opposition squawking when it is convenient to squawk at government abuse, but then abusing the same system once it gets in power.

We saw this when the new leader of the Liberal Party promised he would be the defender of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and then folded like a cheap suit on Bill C-51. He said that the Liberals would have open nominations, that he would do politics differently. How long did that promise last? I do not even think it was week before the Liberal Party was into its first lawsuit with candidates.

The Liberal leader recently wrote to the leaders of all Canada's unions, saying that he supported union rights, while his own members were attacking collective bargaining on Parliament Hill.

These are the corrosive cynicisms that make people believe they should not trust politicians when they see naked self-interests being put ahead of fundamental principles.

The House needs to restore an accountable system that wins the trust of Canadian people. One of those steps would be my colleague's Bill C-544 to limit the ability of government to take taxpayer money and abuse the public trust with misrepresentations, propaganda and, in some cases, outright lies. We need to restore the powers of the independent officers of Parliament to hold parliamentarians to account. The Conservative government uses incredible powers of government to hold its enemies to account, to investigate its enemies, while promoting national secrecy for itself. The Privacy Commissioner now says that her office has been completely undermined, as well as her ability to ensure we have open access to information.

Why is this important? It is important because the ability of the Canadian public to hold politicians to account is a fundamental principle in restoring accountability and trust.

We will be going into what will probably be the nastiest, dirtiest election campaign in Canadian history. Already millions and millions of dollars are being used by the government in a massive airwaves war, supposedly to promote government programs when in fact it is promoting the narrow interests of the Conservative Party, with the same narrow tag lines and the same kind of coloured advertising. Canadians see through this. They see this is an abuse of the public.

We need to find a better system to ensure accountability. The partisanship and the airwaves war can continue, but it should not be done through the use and abuse of taxpayer dollars.

We will support the bill. I encourage my Liberal colleagues to call on their provincial colleagues in Ontario to stop the Wynne government from stripping the basic bills in place right now that prevents her from doing such blatant, naked, partisan advertising. While they are at it, they should also call on the premier to stop the privatizing of Ontario hydro. Did the premier not run on a plan to be a progressive premier? She is doing stuff that would make Mike Harris blush. I ask my Liberal colleagues to do the right thing and at least call her out on that.

Elimination of Partisan Government Advertising ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Emmanuel Dubourg Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to speak in favour of Bill C-544, which was introduced by my colleague from Ottawa South. This bill would eliminate partisan advertising. I would like to thank my colleague for drafting and introducing this bill. I believe that it is in Canadians' interest.

I will not respond at length to the comments by my NDP colleague. He said he supports the bill, which makes sense. However, he talked about the Liberal Party's approach with respect to our leader's integrity and the measures he has put forward since coming here to clean up and clear up certain situations, from the Senate to nominations. I will not say much about that because when it comes to using public money for partisan advertising, we must not forget that the NDP spent millions of dollars in parliamentary money on totally partisan purposes. Several NDP members have to reimburse that money as soon as possible.

This bill is about condemning the fact that most of the advertising done is partisan. Since coming to power, the Conservative government has spent close to $750 million on advertising, much of which has been partisan. Meanwhile, programs that are absolutely vital to the federal government, from health to defence to public safety, are being sacrificed in the name of a balanced budget that is a long time coming. Even as the government's budget is exploding, it is spending $750 million on ads.

The Conservatives spend money with no regard for Canadians' interests. They use Canadians' hard-earned money for partisan purposes. They have repeatedly used that money to broadcast extremely partisan ads on television during the priciest time slots, such as during the Super Bowl and the Stanley Cup playoffs, when a 30-second ad costs over $100,000.

Meanwhile, people are suffocating under the Conservatives' ideological cuts. First, let us look at the Canada Revenue Agency, in an area I am very familiar with. The Conservatives will not reveal which services are being cut at CRA, and instead have created a special communications team to put a positive spin on what they are doing.

When each taxpayer pays his or her taxes during tax season, which just ended, they are not contributing to the Conservative Party; they are paying their fair share to fund public services. This includes immigration services. We learned last week that wait times are out of control, but the Conservatives refuse to talk about these matters.

I want to remind the House that the riding I represent, Bourassa, is very ethnically diverse. We have many services in the area of immigration, which is why some of the data posted on the Department of Citizenship and Immigration website was very shocking. Between 2007 and 2014, there was a 73% increase in wait times for spouses and children, a 146% increase for family reunification and a 546% increase for parents and grandparents.

The Conservatives do not necessarily talk about that and I am not here to encourage them to spend taxpayers' money on disclosing that information. However, it must be said that in reality, things are quite different. All the ads and billboards the Conservatives are spending money on seem to be partisan in nature. This is an election period, and partisan ads are what the Conservatives are really interested in.

They talked about immigration and all sorts of measures. However, when it comes to jobs, they even cancelled youth employment programs. It is summertime and young people need work. How much money is dormant in the coffers? On top of that, we should mention the advertising that the federal government is doing for programs that do not even exist.

It is therefore important to take the necessary measures and to say enough is enough, that we will now set up a structure to ensure that such advertising is done in good faith rather than for the Conservative government's partisan purposes. Infrastructure was another area where we saw this. There are so many areas where this government went off track, but they do not talk about that.

Lastly, my colleague's bill also requires that all advertising be submitted to a third-party review process for approval and to ensure that it is an appropriate, proportional, and even prudent expenditure of public funds. It is important to first speak out against these kinds of situations and also recognize that it takes an impartial person to confirm that these ads truly meet the needs of the public.

The Conservatives have proven that they have no problem wasting taxpayers' money, and Canada's democratic system is suffering as a result. No party, be it the governing party or not, should be able to buy an election. The studies have been very clear. Political advertising works. That is why we have very specific limits on our campaign spending. However, when a government picks the pockets of taxpayers to run a partisan advertising campaign just a few months before the election, every Canadian citizen pays the price.

A few months ago, this government said that politicians are too partisan to oversee the activities of our security intelligence agencies, an issue that should transcend partisan politics. It is impossible to escape the irony of a government that then turned around and claimed that a politician, a minister in this case, was the right person to determine prison sentences for criminals given life sentences. It is clear, however, that the issue of releasing a criminal into society could easily become politicized.

Now, if the government members oppose my colleague's bill, that would mean that we should trust politicians to ensure that these ads do not serve the government's political interests. I find that hard to believe.

I will conclude by asking all of my colleagues in the House to rise above the fray, recognize that taxpayers' money should be used for taxpayers and not for the political party in power, and vote in favour of this bill to put an end to partisan ads paid for by taxpayers. Canadians deserve greater transparency.

Elimination of Partisan Government Advertising ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Willowdale Ontario


Chungsen Leung ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalism

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak on the subject of government advertising. I am proud to say that I am quite pleased with our government's accountability, responsibility, and transparency.

Let me just say that one of the main issues before us today is whether Bill C-544 would bring more accountability to our system of government. Making government more accountable and responsible to Canadians is a goal that we can all get behind, but it is not clear whether this bill would lead us in that direction. It includes new financial resources and administrative requirements that would not provide value for money for the taxpayer. As such, the government cannot support this legislation, and I urge all members to vote against it.

What is clear is that we already have a number of safeguards in place to ensure the integrity of advertising, which include robust planning and reporting mechanisms. Through the “Annual Report on Government of Canada Advertising Activities”, for example, we provide a summary of major campaigns, expenditures, and general information on the advertising and management process. This important accountability report is posted publicly for all Canadians to see. In addition, all allocations from the central advertising fund are reported quarterly on the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat's website.

We also ensure the integrity of advertising by ensuring that it is well coordinated and transparent. For example, a federal department must co-ordinate its advertising with the Privy Council Office and Public Works and Government Services Canada. As required by the procedures for the management of advertising, departments must align their advertising activities with government priorities, themes, and messages.

The government takes this duty to account for its activities and expenditures very seriously. We are intent on ensuring that every taxpayer dollar that we spend is spent wisely and openly.

I firmly believe that our actions speak for themselves. Indeed, over the past few years, the government has undertaken a number of measures to help strengthen accountability, transparency, and oversight in government operations. These measures include the development of a robust regime of a proactive disclosure of information on government operations by departments and agencies, which allows government and public sector officials to be held to account.

Another very important milestone was the implementation of the Federal Accountability Act of 2006 and its companion action plan. Through the Federal Accountability Act and action plan, we implemented numerous measures to make our public institutions more transparent and accountable. Together, these two documents provide assurance that the powers entrusted to the government are being exercised in the public interest.

The Federal Accountability Act includes a number of measures, but let me just focus on a few today.

Through the act, for example, we created a new standard of accountability for the financing of political activities. We did that by reducing the maximum annual contribution by individuals to political entities and by prohibiting unions and corporations from making political contributions. We also banned secret donations to political candidates by prohibiting electoral district associations and parties from transferring money to their candidates from a trust account.

We also strengthened the Access to Information Act by extending its reach and scope. As a result, more government institutions than ever before are subject to the act, including departments and agencies, crown corporations, and wholly owned subsidiaries.

We also strengthened the role of the Auditor General of Canada. Thanks to the Federal Accountability Act, the Auditor General now has the authority to follow the money by inquiring into the use of funds that individuals, institutions, and companies receive under a funding agreement with any federal department, agency, or crown corporation. This change has strengthened the role of the Auditor General as an independent and reliable source of information. It also helped to reassure Canadians that their government is using their tax dollars wisely.

In addition, under the act we strengthened auditing and accountability within departments by clarifying the managerial responsibilities of deputy heads within the framework of ministerial responsibility and by bolstering the internal audit function within departments and crown corporations.

In short, we have strengthened accountability in every corner of government and for all Canadians and businesses that receive government funding.

Canadians work hard, pay their taxes, and play by the rules, and they expect accountability and transparency from their government. This is why we continue to pursue opportunities and support efforts that promise to make our public institutions more transparent and accountable. This includes ensuring that Parliament and Canadians are better informed about public spending.

We have achieved this by improving financial reporting, which has admittedly changed significantly in recent years.

For example, each department and agency now publishes its own annual financial statement on the full nature and extent of its activities. This innovation has been in place since 2006, and it is one of the key ways the government demonstrates accountability for its use of public funds.

It has also contributed to Canada's leadership in financial reporting. Indeed, very few jurisdictions publish annual financial statements at the departmental level.

The government is committed to meeting the high expectations of Canadians, and we will continue to explore and implement new ways of providing accountability for Canadians. After all, accountability is the foundation of Canada's system of responsible government. It is key to assuring Parliament and Canadians that public resources are used effectively and efficiently.

The good news is that we have achieved a great deal. As the Prime Minister has said, “Canada now has one of the most accountable systems of government in the entire world and this is something Canadians are rightly proud of.”

This is indeed a proud record of achievement, and I can assure my hon. colleagues that supporting the bill before us today will not contribute to that record.

It is not clear whether its new administrative and financial resources requirements would provide value for money to taxpayers, as promised. I urge all members to join me in voting against the bill.

Elimination of Partisan Government Advertising ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Resuming debate.

The hon. member for Chambly—Borduas has nine minutes left.

Elimination of Partisan Government Advertising ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


Matthew Dubé NDP Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is more time than I thought I had. This will allow me to tell some of the anecdotes that I wanted to share in this debate on my Liberal colleague's bill concerning government advertising, which seems to be increasingly partisan. For example, consider the 2011 election when the Conservative Party slogan was used in the election advertising.

For those watching at home, the bill would give the Auditor General more powers. That was done in Australia and Ontario, despite the best efforts of the Ontario Liberals to relax the law in recent months. This bill would give the Auditor General more powers to check advertising content in order to ensure that it is not partisan.

This is a really interesting issue because it affects the average Canadian during the playoffs, for example. The playoffs are not over yet, despite what I heard today. When there is no Canadian team left, we sometimes forget that the playoffs can last a fairly long time. The Stanley Cup finals will start this week.

On a more serious note, two months ago I went to visit my father in Beloeil to watch the hockey game with my father, stepmother, younger sister and two brothers. At one point, my father went into another room where he could still hear the TV. During the commercial break, we heard the same government ad not twice, but three times. When my father came back into the room, he asked whether he had really heard the same government ad three times. I told him he had, and that that was how the government was spending his money. He asked me how much these ads had cost and I told him that we were talking about several million dollars.

It was recently announced that $7.5 million had been set aside, but that does not include the approximately $70 million that has been spent in recent years. That is some pretty extravagant spending.

Obviously, during a hockey game, these ads play over and over and cost a lot of money. We repeatedly saw the same ads, and my family thought that it was absurd that all of the programs announced were accompanied by an asterisk and the disclaimer that those programs were subject to parliamentary approval. It is ridiculous to have such expensive ads for programs that have not yet even been approved by Parliament.

The government will argue that it is no big deal since it has a majority. That shows just how much arrogance and partisanship is wrapped up in those ads. To top it off, the programs are not even available to people yet.

Of course, as others have pointed out in this debate, some of the ads are for programs that do not even exist.

Those programs are a problem because, as we have also mentioned, that money would be better spent elsewhere considering all of the money the government spends and the cuts it has made. For example, we are trying to help people in our ridings who spend hours on hold with Service Canada. There have also been cuts to veterans' services and the CBC, among others. Cut after cut, they keep telling us that it is about accountability and a balanced budget.

In my opinion, that message is a very hard one for people to hear and accept. When they watch television, they see ads. The ads are all over the Internet and on YouTube too. People also see economic action plan signs on the side of the highway all over the place making a big show of the government's so-called record. This is very worrisome.

Every political party understands that, when it is in power, it has a responsibility to spend taxpayers' money wisely. Obviously, that sometimes includes making tough budgetary choices, but the public has far more respect for those choices if the government does not turn around and spend the money on advertising, especially during an election year, but that goes without saying.

The advertised programs are the cornerstone of the Conservative Party election platform, which makes it harder for the public to accept such spending. The number of times we hear people talk about this brings me back to what I was saying at the beginning of my speech. Everyone is talking about this, even those who do not follow politics very closely. They see that something does not add up in the way the government is using money for its ads, especially, as I said, in the context of reduced services.

This is even more troubling when we listen to question period. It is often a sorry spectacle of Liberals and Conservatives debating who was the worst government when it comes to certain issues. Immigration is an example of an issue where they wonder who was the biggest failure. Partisan advertising is another example of that, really. It is nothing new and the Conservative government insists on following the sorry example of the previous Liberal governments when it comes to misspending on advertising and all the fees that come with it. Canadians are concerned about this, which is all the more reason for us to support this bill.

It is also important to mention the Australian example. A law was passed in 1995, but it was recently amended, in 2010, because there was a problem with the auditor general's mandate with respect to the approval of government advertising and ensuring that the advertising is not partisan. Thus, the work in committee will be extremely important so that we do not make the same mistakes and to ensure that, by giving these powers to the Auditor General, he or she will be able to properly do this work and make sure that the advertising is not partisan. This is very worrisome issue. As I mentioned several times, Canadians are concerned about it.

In closing, it is important to point out that this just makes Canadians more cynical. When we go door-to-door and talk with the people in our ridings, we often see that they are cynical. That has been one of my greatest disappointments since going into politics. Using public money for partisan advertising of a party's record, instead of using it to inform Canadians of what the government is doing, only fuels cynicism.

That is a very good reason to pass this bill and put an end to this practice. Of course, we must do our job in committee to ensure that the Auditor General can do what we are asking him to do with this bill.

Elimination of Partisan Government Advertising ActPrivate Members' Business



The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

Opposition Motion—Financial Code of ConductBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON



That, in the opinion of the House, the government should ban all pay-to-pay practices by banks operating in Canada, through the enactment of a mandatory financial code of conduct to protect consumers.

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the member for Beauport—Limoilou.

It is an honour to stand here in this place today on behalf of the good people of Davenport in the great city of Toronto, and in fact on behalf of all Canadians who are upset to the point of anger over unfair pay-to-pay fees. A pay-to-pay fee is a fee a customer is charged just for the right to pay their bill. This is patently unfair, and it plays out in a variety of different ways. Today, we are discussing, specifically, the banks.

Colleagues in the House will recall that the NDP led a very strong campaign to ban pay-to-pay fees, and due to that pressure the government introduced, in its last budget, the one before this one, measures to ban pay-to-pay fees on telephone companies, ISPs, telecommunications companies and cable companies. However, it did not include banks in that ban. Of course, when that did not happen, banks were free to do what they wanted with pay-to-pay fees, and we have seen them increase and expand.

Right now, pay-to-pay fees, just on transactions, just on statements that are mailed to people's houses, are worth about $180 million a year. That is $180 million that Canadian consumers have to pay the banks, the big five, just to get their statements in the mail. This is outrageous. It is ridiculous. It is unfair.

Today we have an opportunity to finally close the door on this unfair practice that Canadians from coast to coast to coast agree is unfair. I am sure my colleagues across the way on the government side have heard from their constituents about these fees. It is time for all of us to do the right thing, do what we were sent here to do, and that is fight for, protect and speak up for Canadians who sent us here, who we represent.

Banks are some of the most powerful corporations in the country. There are very few institutions that can stand up to a bank. An individual small business, an individual person, a hard-working Canadian, has a tough time doing that. However, that is what we are here to do. That is what we can do today.

I invite my colleagues from all the parties to support this motion to ban pay-to-pay fees. I want to read a bit of a letter that I received on this issue from a woman named Cynthia in my riding, a small business person, who said:

I have multiple accounts with TD Canada Trust and have been a customer with them for 30 years(!).

Now, this is what we call customer appreciation.

They charge $2 for EACH account statement.

I 've opted for online billing, but I need to print out copies for my records, so I end up paying for ink and paper to print my own bills. Either way, I lose.

Many in my riding have their own businesses. I represent a riding with many small, micro-entrepreneurs who are trying to make a living, oftentimes out of their own homes. She goes on to say:

I have my own business. I can only laugh at the idea that my customers would be agreeable to me charging them for printed invoices.

When was the last time any of us went to a restaurant, for example, and when we got the bill had to pay for the bill, too? That is what is happening. It is a big business; $180 million.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre found in a survey that it did that almost 40% of Canadians said they were not comfortable or could not use online billing, and 74% said they disapprove of companies charging extra for bills or statements.

Let us talk about who this would affect the most. It would affect those who do not have Internet access, seniors, persons with disabilities, many people for whom English or French is not their first language, and people who do not want to bank online for a variety of good reasons. In a sense, it affects communities that are already at some level of disadvantage in our society, and it is our job to ensure that they are treated equally and fairly.

These are unfair charges, and they are allowed to happen because the current government has opened the door for them. Whenever we talk about pay-to-pay fees here, the government rebuts the idea by touting the code of conduct under which the banks are governed. I am sure the government will do that today. However, what the Conservatives will not say, but what we will remind them of today, is that the code of conduct that they trumpet is a voluntary code of conduct. Let us imagine if the commute of Canadians watching this today was governed by a voluntary code of conduct. I can only imagine what Highway 401 would look like if it was governed by a voluntary code of conduct, but that is basically what we have going on here with the banks.

Why would the government not ensure that banks were following a code of conduct that is mandatory, not one that the banks can pursue by choice? When it is by choice, we see consumers having their pockets picked time and again while the Conservative government stands by and watches it happen and essentially allows it.

We have an opportunity today to do something very important for consumers right across the country.

A couple of weeks ago, one of the five big banks—which, by the way, just posted over $2 billion in profits in its recent quarter alone—announced that it would charge extra pay-to-pay fees just for the right to make a mortgage payment, a student loan payment, or a credit card payment. It wanted to charge an extra bit of money just to pay a bill, until a huge outcry both on the street and in the House of Commons forced RBC to back down.

However, that did not stop it and all of the other five big banks from increasing fees on everyday transactions. Someone told me recently that when they took out $40 at a bank machine, they were charged $4.50 to take out their own money. That is outrageous. We need to have a serious conversation about what is and is not fair.

It would be one thing if these businesses were in distress, but how is it that the government allows Canadian banks, who are all posting over $2 billion in profit every quarter, to nickel-and-dime hard-working Canadians? Shame on the government.

Today we have the opportunity to do the right thing by hard-working Canadians who have to play by the rules, make ends meet, and work hard. They do not deserve to have their pockets picked in this way. Today we have an opportunity to right this unfair practice.

I look forward to this debate today and to this House agreeing tonight that we will end pay-to-pay fees forever.

Opposition Motion—Financial Code of ConductBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his intervention today and for his work on this file.

My question to him is quite simple. I would like him to expand upon how this motion would help small businesses in our communities. I know that a number have had several challenges with respect to negotiating fees and costs related to payments made through MasterCard, Visa, and a series of other operators. I would like him to expand upon the small business advantages that would happen with respect to this motion.

Opposition Motion—Financial Code of ConductBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is indeed an issue that affects consumers and small businesses.

Right now, many small businesses are just snowed under by a preponderance of transaction fees when customers use credit cards or debit cards. We have long been calling for a cap on these fees. This would make a big difference for small businesses.

When we talk about small businesses, I think it is important that we qualify what some of these small businesses are. Many of these businesses, including the one that I referred to earlier in my speech, are operating on micro-thin profits. These fees sometimes make the difference between whether they go into the red or stay in the black from month to month.

Opposition Motion—Financial Code of ConductBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, both for small business and the average individual, transaction fees have a very important impact on our middle class in terms of disposable income. Other opportunities might be there if there were a few more constraints on the fees charged by financial institutions.

Could the member provide some further comment as to what else we could do to make these measures much more all-encompassing in terms of the different types of fee structures that are in place, in particular for small businesses? As he has pointed out, the consumer ends up having to pay for these fees far too often.

Opposition Motion—Financial Code of ConductBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the first speeches that I attended with Jack Layton was around the issue of capping ATM transaction fees. We have long called for a cap on those fees, and the cap should be 50¢. We have done a lot of work on this aspect and we know that 50¢ is a fair fee, both for the institutions and for the consumer. I think that should have wide support here in this House.

However, today we are focused on pay-to-pay fees. We are focused on these because they are particularly egregious and really do target vulnerable communities, and it is just plain wrong and unfair.

Opposition Motion—Financial Code of ConductBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Davenport for bringing this important issue forward. I know that he and other members, such as the member for York South—Weston, have been great advocates on this issue.

In fact, the reason RBC was forced to rescind or reverse its decision on these fees was that members like these actually went and stood in front of RBC branches with petitions and frankly shamed the bank into moving backwards on that decision.

I remember a show that was on CBC Marketplace in 2013 called “Canada's Dumbest Charge”. Of course, pay-to-pay fees was one of the top contenders for the dumbest charge in Canada. Of course, the kind of advocacy work that CBC does might be one of the reasons the government keeps trying to undercut it and remove its funding.

I would like to ask the member if he saw that show and what he thought about it being one of Canada's dumbest charges.

Opposition Motion—Financial Code of ConductBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I completely agree. It is not only dumb; it is unfair and it is wrong.

We have to set this situation in context, and the context is the government's refusal to act and its refusal to tighten up the rules.

The Conservatives expect Canadians to play by the rules. Why do they not expect the same thing from the big banks?

Opposition Motion—Financial Code of ConductBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Davenport for sharing his precious speaking time with me, because our time is very limited. This is an opposition day and we are dedicating our entire day to this topic. I am sure that he could have shared a number of thoughts from his constituents regarding the problems with these pay-to-pay fees. I want to start by reading the motion, because it is very short and clear:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should ban all pay-to-pay practices by banks operating in Canada, through the enactment of a mandatory financial code of conduct to protect consumers.

I want to reflect on my 10 years of public life. It has already been 10 years, and I can hardly believe it myself. This fall will mark my fourth election campaign. I have met all kinds of people in these 10 years. Every single day in the past four years specifically, I have taken time to hear from the people of Beauport—Limoilou.

What I find really striking, and I am sure my colleagues have seen this too, is that people are proud of their accomplishments, whether they have raised a family, found a job, bought their first house or owned a house for 20 or 30 years. However, one constant is becoming increasingly obvious: people are complaining more and more about the rising cost of living in general and especially the countless fees they have to pay.

They also talk to us about taxes, but their main issue is the fees they have to pay left, right and centre, fees on all kinds of simple transactions, fees that businesses charge to compensate for declining revenues in highly competitive markets. However, the most offensive fees are no doubt those that make up the enormous profits of huge Canadian companies, particularly our big banks.

I am a long-time observer of the Canadian economy. I have been interested in it for 30 years, and I have seen how admirably stable our chartered banks are. However, I have also witnessed them taking advantage of people over and over, and I believe that governments are complicit because they have not done anything about it for years. That is so disappointing.

My colleague from Davenport chose to target pay-to-pay fees for paper bills. That is certainly the most offensive example of abuse on the part of the big Canadian banks. It is an outright insult to the millions of Canadians who, unfortunately, depend on paper bills. I think it is unfortunate because changes made by big businesses such as chartered banks hold people hostage and force them to change their habits or try to adapt somehow.

I currently have the great pleasure of being a member of the Standing Committee on Finance. However, for all of 2014, I was a member of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. I am very proud of having had a front-row seat to and an active role in passing legislation to prohibit these pay-to-pay fees for getting paper copies of telephone, cellphone, or cable television bills, among others.

It was a great victory and we are very proud. We led the charge for a very long time. My colleague from Davenport spoke of our late leader, Jack Layton. I very much remember our campaign all those years ago. Our beloved Jack got in front of an automated teller machine and denounced the ever-increasing fees and the fact that people had to pay to withdraw their own money.

Before I go on, I will provide some very interesting and very important statistics to inform this debate. According to a poll by the PIAC, 33% of respondents said they were not comfortable with the idea of receiving a bill electronically. That is one in three Canadians, which is a rather significant part of the population. According to Statistics Canada, one in five Canadian households do not have Internet, but more importantly, 46% of homes with a household income of less than $30,000 a year do not have Internet. That is almost half of all the lowest-income households. Some 40% of senior Canadians do not use the Internet.

When I went door-to-door, especially as part of our campaign against eliminating door-to-door mail delivery, many people told me they supported the NDP campaign not because they felt uncomfortable or deprived at the loss of home mail delivery, but because they were thinking about their neighbours, namely seniors, households with very young children, people with reduced mobility, or people who do not use the Internet and who will end up paying a heavy price when mail is no longer delivered to their door.

It is the same in this case. Someone like me, a young 48-year old who is comfortable using the Internet, can easily make the transition. That being said, my mother does not even have a cell phone and has never used the Internet in her life. Why should she be charged for a paper invoice? That is outright robbery. My mother is far from being alone; on the contrary, many of her friends of the same or similar age are also entirely dependent on paper. With that in mind, how can a responsible government that respects all Canadians allow people to be cheated in this way, forced to pay $2 for every invoice? It might not seem like a lot, but it is huge. My mother worked for part of her life, but her retirement income is pretty modest. For her, every cent counts. How can we tolerate a government that allows this kind of outright theft? It is stealing.

I am not even talking about other charges that also seem to go up every year, or even twice a year, in the case of transaction fees. Even people who have very little income have to make a few withdrawals or a few transactions from their account. For someone like my mother, having to pay $1 or $1.50 for each transaction and $2 for a paper copy of her statement to see what is happening with her account is, quite frankly, scandalous. Any responsible government should really look at the situation and protect people from this kind of abuse.

That being said, I am very pleased to be able to speak to this issue on behalf of all Canadians, and especially my constituents in Beauport—Limoilou. This is yet another subject that we will be debating in the weeks to come and over the summer.

Opposition Motion—Financial Code of ConductBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to bring up an example that recently happened in my constituency. This is where government has an issue with respect to photo radar. When a constituent receives a ticket, the back of the ticket notes that the person can phone in and make payment or mail it in. The interesting thing is that if the individual chooses to mail in the payment, it costs more money. I think this is becoming even more prevalent. We need to watch this in the private sector, but other agencies look at roundabout ways to collect additional fees. One would have thought, for instance, that if we were to pay over the telephone, it would be cheaper than having to pay by mail.

Could the member comment on that?