Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to very important issue. In my opinion, the motion moved by the House leader of the official opposition is of utmost importance. I want to emphasize that the amendments proposed by my colleague from Toronto—Danforth are also very important. I am truly pleased that most of the members of this House will be supporting this motion, because it will send a clear message to the Canadian people. As my colleague said several times during his speech, we cannot let this kind of thing go on, and assume that, as parliamentarians, we are armour-plated and protected and nothing can touch us.
Last week's charges against the member for Peterborough are very serious. There is no argument that the elected members sitting in the House of Commons must not have been convicted of charges as serious as violating the Canada Elections Act. It seems so simple, that I find it all deplorable.
I would like to speak more specifically about one point. In fact, it is a strange coincidence that this happened today of all days. I want to remind the House that in the amendment presented by the hon. member for Toronto—Danforth, in (ii), he specifically mentions the steps to be taken with regard to a member's benefits, including his or her retirement pension.
Today, as it happens, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs was conducting a clause-by-clause study of Bill C-518, introduced by my colleague fromNew Brunswick Southwest. This bill very clearly states that a member of Parliament or a senator cannot, by resigning, escape the consequences that his or her expulsion from the House or Senate would entail. This speaks directly to this motion and the situation we are facing today.
The hon. member for New Brunswick Southwest has repeated over and over that what he was ultimately trying to do with this bill was to close a loophole. The loophole resulted from the fact that when a senator or member was found guilty of breaking a law or having otherwise done something that would lead to his expulsion from the House or Senate, instead of waiting for the House or Senate to take the appropriate measures and decide to expel him, the person concerned could simply say that he had had enough and was resigning.
And what would happen? Such persons would be entitled to their pensions, as if nothing had happened. Life would go on, happily. They could get their money, and neither the House of Commons nor the Senate could do anything about it. This has never happened in the House, but it has happened several times in the Senate. That is the problem my colleague from New Brunswick Southwest has tried to solve with his bill.
And what happened then? The question is fundamentally rather complicated, because there are many aspects involved. It was necessary to be as inclusive as possible, but without including too much, of course. Thus, there were several options open to us. Was it necessary to draw up a list of infractions that could lead to this result?
In the end, I think that my colleague, the hon. member for Toronto—Danforth, has found the best solution. He introduced an amendment this morning, during the clause-by-clause study of the bill. I repeat, this only happened this morning. The hon. member simply proposed to amend the act to provide for cases where the House or the Senate are involved in the process leading up to an expulsion. We could insert wording in the act providing that if the House or Senate passed a motion recognizing that an individual had resigned, but was still a member or senator, his or her pension would be revoked.
Therefore, all we need to do is give ourselves the power to use the same process as that followed for expulsion. That way, we would cover all cases where a person has been found guilty of violating the Canada Elections Act, for example. The House would find it unacceptable that such a person was entitled to his pension simply because he resigned before being held accountable to the House or the Senate, because that is not relevant. That person should not be entitled to a pension.
That was by far the best solution, but in the end another amendment was passed earlier, probably by the committee's majority, as we can all surmise. That amendment lists a number of infractions, but only those under the Criminal Code. If a person is found guilty of any one of them, the law will apply.
All of this will apply only after the law is passed, which is very specific to their amendment. There is no retroactive provision, although several experts told us in committee that it would not be a problem to make it retroactive.
When the NDP amendment was rejected and we knew that the majority amendment was going to be adopted, we introduced amendments to the amendment to try to add certain specific aspects regarding the Canada Elections Act.
We are elected members of Parliament and we must stand for election every four years—or less often, if there is a minority government. As elected members, we must go back to the people and ask them to vote for us. And now I am told that a member can remain in place here without suffering any consequences, despite having broken our country's election law.
Last spring, when we were debating Bill C-23, we saw how little respect the Conservatives have for the Canada Elections Act and how ready they were to change it all to gain an advantage.
Regarding what happened this morning, it is worthwhile to read the short title of the bill introduced by the hon. member for New Brunswick Southwest: “Protecting Taxpayers and Revoking Pensions of Convicted Politicians Act”. It is quite strange that a bill with such a fine title and such an interesting principle does not apply in any way to a person who violates the Canada Elections Act.
That is why I think the amendments proposed by my colleague from Toronto—Danforth to the motion on which we are about to vote are very important. Even though this bill has gone through today's clause-by-clause study, it is even more important than ever to return to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and ask the members to look into the strategy concerning the member's benefits, particularly his pension.
Today we saw that there is a lack of consistency and the results will not be what my colleague from New Brunswick Southwest had hoped for. He talked about similar situations, even though at the time he obviously did not know that a member of his own party would be convicted of a crime. Nonetheless, the fact remains that it is the same principle and such principles should apply to all members and senators.
I encourage all my colleagues to support this motion. I will vote in favour of this motion because I like to think that by doing so there will be a little more justice in this world.