Madam Speaker, the current Conservative government is hands down the most undemocratic government we have ever seen in Ottawa. Personally, I have been a member of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics since 2008, and I have lost track of how many files have been submitted to this committee concerning undemocratic behaviour by Conservative government members.
The Bloc Québécois felt it was important to present the motion we are discussing in the House today because the Bloc is the vigilant party here in Ottawa. Since it arrived on the federal scene, the Bloc has never looked back and it has been committed to keeping watch over the federal government, no matter which party is in power.
In its day, the sponsorship scandal was the most significant breach of the rules of democracy that the Bloc had ever uncovered on Parliament Hill. Today the Liberals may be outraged and cry foul about the Conservative Party's undemocratic behaviour, but no one has forgotten that the Gomery commission proved that for years the Liberal Party of Canada also successfully trampled the basic rules of democracy to ensure that it remained in power in Ottawa.
The day after their minority government was elected in January 2006, the Conservatives wrapped themselves in a cloak of integrity and transparency. We had hoped that they had learned a lesson and would keep their promises, but it was all just smoke and mirrors. In fact, over the past five years, this minority government has continued to develop slick schemes, each more unacceptable than the last, to ensure that it would keep control of power and act as though it were a majority. This government rivals the Liberals in the art of misleading parliamentarians and the people they represent.
The Bloc Québécois is presenting this motion today simply because it believes there is an urgent need to unmask the Conservatives' undemocratic behaviour and denounce them loud and clear in this Parliament, which is the most tangible symbol of democracy in our society.
In our parliamentary system, Parliament is the ultimate representation of democracy, freely expressed during an official election. The government that takes office must serve Parliament and the public and ensure that all elected members can fully represent their constituents. We are dealing with a minority government that, since taking office in January 2006, has been playing hide-and-seek with Parliament and constantly tries to obstruct Parliament's rules. This attitude weakens democracy, provokes crises that breed cynicism and destroys the average citizen's trust in politicians.
The Bloc Québécois has always been committed to fighting against any attacks on democratic institutions, any abuse of power by the government, any affront to the autonomy of independent institutions, any undue restrictions on access to information, and any hindrance preventing elected representatives of the people from fully representing their constituents.
Since January 2006, there has been overwhelming evidence to show that the Conservative Party does not want to abide by democratic rules. Allow me to name just a few instances of that: prorogation of Parliament on two occasions despite the wishes of the majority of the elected representatives; control over information delivered to the media on the decisions and activities of Parliament; the in and out process used during the 2005-06 election campaign to establish a national ad campaign paid for by local candidates, a process deemed illegal by Elections Canada; boycotting of certain parliamentary committees, specifically the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, on which I sit, through multiple absences, refusals to provide required documents and filibusters to block the work of the committee; the control by the Privy Council Office over sensitive access to information requests addressed to the government, an attitude we also see in the departments. For example, an employee at the Department of Public Works ordered officials to unduly delay publication of documents that were comprising to the government.
Let us not forget the scandalous imposition, by the Prime Minister, of a directive to his employees and employees of all ministers prohibiting them from appearing before parliamentary committees, specifically the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, which was investigating the control exerted by the offices of Conservative ministers over access to information requests.
With regard to controlling access to information requests, the Information Commissioner is currently conducting a formal investigation of three ministers, and we are still waiting for the results.
All these facts clearly show that the people can no longer trust the Conservatives to restore access to information. The Conservative government demonstrated the extent of its culture of secrecy during the last parliamentary session, when the Speaker of the House had to demand that it produce the documents on allegations of torture in Afghanistan.
The most recent misstep in terms of respect for democratic rules was made by the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, who showed a clear lack of judgment as the person responsible for immigration in Canada. As a number of my colleagues have already pointed out, he participated in a partisan activity involving cultural communities and newcomers, even though he is responsible for ensuring that everyone is treated equally. He acted more like a Conservative minister of propaganda for ethnocultural communities. That is the true nature of this Conservative government, which claims to be transparent and responsible. It is a government of propaganda that has proven to be very good at manipulating information and voters.
Being ethical and transparent is a question of will. No rule can take the place of political will and vigilance. The best example to date of the excesses of Conservative propaganda is the unbelievable directive that was sent to public servants late last year stating that, in federal communications, the words “Government of Canada” should be replaced by the Prime Minister's name followed by Government. The directive was from the Prime Minister's office.
We checked and found that, since December, the expression “Name That Cannot Be Said In The House Government” has spread like wildfire in public departmental communications. You practically do not see “Government of Canada” any more. But the “Name-that cannot be said-in-the-House Government” now oversees us. Must we all be transformed into Harry Potter to defeat He Who Must Not Be Named? Stay tuned.
This directive turns out to be the best piece of political propaganda from the Conservative Government of Canada. Today, the Bloc Québécois wishes to warn citizens and have them truly understand the dangerous drift that has threatened our democracy since the Conservatives came to power in Ottawa.
Imagine if this Conservative government won a majority in the next election. I cannot envisage it without shuddering. Action is urgently needed. Our democracy is in jeopardy.
Come next election time, Quebeckers will know that they can no longer count on the government of the person who I cannot name in the House if I wish to abide by the essential rules of any effective democracy.