Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for LaSalle—Émard.
We all remember those ubiquitous Conservative commercials when the then leader of the opposition, now the Prime Minister, was shown in a mock interview. It is remarkable because it is one of the last times he would ever speak openly to the media, but also because of what was said. In the commercial, a scripted actress questioned the Prime Minister. She said, “It's like you get to Ottawa and no one can touch you. How will you change that?” The reply, “You change the people in charge, but you also change the system. The first thing I will do is pass the Federal Accountability Act. It is a real plan to clean up government”. We know how that turned out.
Those commercials seemed to run day in and day out. There they were, they played over and over again, blasting away at the government of the day, much like we see the commercials blasting today, a misuse of public money, may I add. The Conservatives told Canadians, “We're the good guys. We're whistle clean. We ooze honesty. Vote us in and not a single penny of public money will go offside”. We know how that turned out too.
There is a reason why those commercials ran day in and day out. It is because the Conservatives cheated. They spent $1 million more than they were legally permitted to do. There is no other way of looking at it than calling it what it is; it is cheating.
The Conservatives do not see it that way. They call it an administrative disagreement. That may have held water if the Federal Court of Appeal had not unanimously ruled against their argument. Their excuses may be believable if the Office of the Federal Director of Public Prosecution had not charged the architects of the plot and called their actions illegal activity.
While the Conservatives were cheating the system, they ran on a message and on a platform of accountability, transparency, all those great words they use. From the Conservative election platform book called “Stand up for Canada”, the Prime Minister stated, “Only one party can deliver the change of government that is needed to bring political accountability to Ottawa”.
At the very same time that document was being printed, Conservative officials in Ottawa were shaking down candidates and their official agents all across the country.
Liberato Martelli, a 2006 Conservative candidate for Bourassa, stated, “I was told it would be deposited and quickly withdrawn”. It sounds like in and out to me. He said:
I was told there would be invoices but I never saw them...When I joined that party, I believed its vision at the time...I came to the realization they don’t have as much integrity as they claim”.
Joe Goudie, a 2006 Conservative candidate for Labrador was one of those called. He stated:
It most certainly did smell to me… for a national party, or any kind of a political party to benefit in what I perceived to be an underhanded manner, using not just my campaign but many others across the country, left me with a feeling of being used.
Now let us not lose sight of the timeline. This scheme to overspend and effectively cheat is going on at the precise time that the Conservatives are running a campaign on the theme of accountability, transparency and integrity. How incredulous is that?
This is important, not just for its perfect irony, but for the fact that their entire argument for power was a sham. It was a scam and a scandal, and it is a scandal today.
Remember the Prime Minister's own words, “The first thing I will do is pass the Federal Accountability Act. It is a real plan to clean up government”. Here we are, five years later, scandal after scandal with the Conservatives.
Ministers have refused to provide Parliament and its officers with documents and information needed to perform our jobs properly, to function within our jobs. An international cooperation minister admitted to altering documents, but refused to stand and be accountable to Parliament and to answer questions in Parliament.
An integrity commissioner sat on her hands. She colluded with the Prime Minister's Office and then was given a half-million dollar golden parachute, a golden handshake. She was then called out after reviewing only seven cases. Now there is a gag order on her as well.
Also, the Prime Minister's Office has exercised unprecedented control over the non-partisan and professional bureaucracy.
The Prime Minister believes he is the modern-day Sun King, declaring that the Government of Canada must be referenced in his name, “the Harper government”.
Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on government advertising—