Mr. Speaker, I previously asked a question about election expenses in this House during question period. I was very disappointed with the stonewalling that I was still getting from the Conservative government.
I would point out that in the last election the Conservative Party defined itself as a party that would champion transparency and accountability in government, yet since the Conservatives have come to government, we have seen anything but.
I happen to be a member of the procedure and House affairs committee. We sat for seven months and listened to government members stonewall and filibuster very legitimate work that needed to get done. There was legislation that needed to go through, but the government members on the procedure and House affairs committee were so worried about Elections Canada's challenge of their in and out scheme during the last election that they did not want it to be scrutinized by the committee.
I would point out that it is the legitimate purview of several committees to look at aspects of this in and out scheme. As a matter of fact, today the ethics committee passed a motion and it will examine this.
Quite clearly it fell within the purview, among other committees, of the procedure and House affairs committee to look at this. This is a scheme to pay for national advertising by transferring the funds to individual ridings.
It is very important to point out that in the Canadian electoral system there is an attempt to make a very level playing field by having campaign limits for every member in each riding. The limit is based on the number of electors in that riding. There are also limits on how much can be spent for advertising nationally by individual parties.
It was the view of the Chief Electoral Officer that the Conservative Party alone--I would point out it was not the NDP, not our Bloc colleagues and not the Liberal Party, but the Conservative Party alone--had inappropriately flowed $1.2 million of spending in a scheme that was labelled in and out. The reason it has that label is it was called that by individual candidates, former candidates. As a matter of fact, 67 ridings were involved in this scheme. Candidates themselves and official agents said that they objected to the fact that they had received a phone call saying that a certain amount of money--and the amounts varied; it could be $5,000 or $28,000--was going to be transfer into their account and they would be sent a bill which they had to pay and transfer the money out, sometimes within a few hours within the same calendar day.
This scheme appears to have been centrally orchestrated. As a matter of fact it is even talked about in a book that was written by a former Conservative organizer. By using this scheme, they circumvented the advertising limit by $1.2 million.
My question is really quite simple. If this government truly believes in transparency, if it truly believes in accountability, what is it hiding? Why will the Conservatives not allow a parliamentary committee to scrutinize this?
I look forward to the ethics committee looking at this and hearing some witnesses. Then we can find out what really happened and make sure that it does not happen again.