The House resumed consideration of the motion.
Mr. Speaker, I had reached the fifth point in my list of government breaches of parliamentary privilege. We were talking in particular about a “very ethnic” fundraising letter from the .
The minister was caught red-handed using public resources to market a Conservative advertising campaign targeting what he called “very ethnic” ridings. The minister has been denounced for the serious conflict of interest between his responsibility to develop fair policies as the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and his political job of delivering the votes of new Canadians. In addition to the conflict of interest, his description of ridings as “very ethnic” raises much doubt about the Conservatives’ respect for new Canadians.
I want to turn now to the departure of Christiane Ouimet and the gag order on her. After the independent Public Service Integrity Commissioner resigned in disgrace for sweeping aside 228 whistleblower complaints, this Conservative regime gave her more than $500,000 in severance pay and made her sign a gag order. Canadians deserve to know what role the Office and the Privy Council Office played in rejecting embarrassing whistleblower cases without an investigation.
Moving along to the dishonesty of the , over 24,000 people have signed a petition calling for her to resign after she misled Parliament about falsifying a ministerial document. Even though she faces censure for breaching parliamentary privilege, the minister refuses to step down or answer very specific questions about her conduct. Instead of saying this dishonesty has no place in Parliament, the Prime Minister continues to shield and even applaud her.
The Minister of International Cooperation breached a basic principle of our democratic system by straight-out misleading Canadians about the falsified documents. In any other line of work, she would have been fired. The Prime Minister should immediately relieve her of her position. Continuing to protect her is totally unacceptable.
My colleague, the hon. member for , has referred the question to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs so that it can recommend an appropriate sanction and report to the House on the question before March 25.
“Own the Podium”, in the most literal sense: after the prime minister’s speech at the celebration of the Year of India event, the Prime Minister’s Office tried to muzzle the leader of the opposition by removing the podium and ushering the journalists present out of the room before his speech. In the end, it was the Prime Minister who was embarrassed for misusing government resources and treating Canada’s ethnic communities like mere pawns on the political chessboard.
Now let us talk about the obscurantism of government documents relating to the arena in Quebec City. The Conservative regime is so afraid of negative political fallout over the Quebec City arena proposal that it is treating the debate on this issue like a matter of national security. It has censored the background information on its position on funding an NHL-calibre arena in Quebec City.
The hon. member for has also breached the code of ethics. Before she was questioned on this specific subject in the House of Commons, the Conservative minister from Calgary—Nose Hill did not know that she had been fined by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner for “failure to disclose a material change” and she was cited for failing to pay the fine. The member is the third minister of this government and the tenth Conservative public office holder to be fined by the commissioner, joining previous wrongdoers such as the defence minister.
Now let us move to the attack on public servants over the F-35s. The recent attack by the Conservative member for on the highly respected former deputy minister of defence, Mr. Alan Williams, shows that the Conservatives can only resort to name calling when it comes to justifying their $29 billion untendered fighter jet purchase.
The facts speak for themselves. On the weekend the media reported that the Conservatives have no legitimate argument to support their claims about the purchase and maintenance costs of the F-35s.
Canadians are seeing this government in its true light. The Conservatives have abused their power and damaged our democracy. They have demonstrated nothing but contempt for Parliament and for Canadians. They are out of touch with the priorities of middle-class families.
In the interest of clarity, here are just the facts in the other official language, including 10 instances of Conservative regime recent abuses of power. The Conservative regime's culture of secrecy and deceit is adding up and as official opposition, it is our duty to bring light to these issues.
With respect to hiding corporate taxes, megaprison and F-35 costs, the Conservative regime failed to comply with the motion demanding that by March 7 it provide the House of Commons with details concerning its plans to spend billions of tax dollars on corporate tax cuts, prison expansions and untendered stealth fighters.
Hiding these costs undermines the credibility of the entire budget. We need answers on these matters before the budget is tabled. The member for has referred to the matter to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and is demanding that it report back to the House by March 21.
With respect to the in and out election fraud, the 's inner circle stands accused of a $1.2 million scam to break election spending limits and buy more attack ads than those permitted. Senior Conservatives wired money in to local campaigns and transferred the money right back out to the national campaign. Now they face serious charges involving potential jail time.
When candidates claimed the transfers to get $800,000 more than allowed by Elections Canada, it stepped in.
The is using public resources for partisan purposes by forcing federal public servants to replace the words “Government of Canada” with the “H Government”. Canadians know it is not the 's government. It belongs to all citizens.
With respect to the 's very ethic fundraising letter, the insulting nature of the very ethnic definition by and of itself is a matter for concern. Furthermore, the citizenship and immigration minister was caught using public resources for polling and marketing a Conservative advertising campaign aimed at what he called “very ethic ridings”. The minister has been exposed for serious conflict of interest between his responsibility to make fair policies as the citizenship and immigration minister and his political role of delivering the votes of new Canadians.
With respect to Christiane Ouimet's gag order and severance pay, after the independent public service integrity commissioner resigned in disgrace for sweeping aside 228 whistleblower complaints, the Conservative regime paid her more than $500,000 and made her sign a gag order. Canadians deserve to know what role the Prime Minister Office's and the Privy Council Office's had in influencing the dismissal of embarrassing whistleblower cases, involving all sorts of misuse of government resources.
With respect to the 's dishonesty, over 24,000 people signed a petition calling for the international cooperation minister to resign after she misled Parliament about ordering a ministerial document to be falsified. Even though she faces censure for breaching parliamentary privilege, the minister refuses to step down or answer questions about her conduct. Instead of saying this dishonesty has no place in Parliament, the continues to shield her and even applauds his minister.
The has breached the privileges of our democratic system by blatantly misleading Canadians about forging documents. In any other job, this would get someone fired. The should immediately fire her from cabinet. This is unacceptable.
My colleague, the MP for , has referred the matter to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to recommend the appropriate punishment and is demanding that they report back to the House by March 25.
With respect to “own the podium”, after the spoke at the celebration of the year of India event, the Prime Minister's office tried to muzzle the by removing the podium and ushering the media out of the room before his speech. In the end, it was the Prime Minister who was embarrassed for misusing government resources and treating Canada's ethnic communities like mere political pawns.
With respect to the Quebec City arena documents, the Conservative regime is so afraid of political fallout over the Quebec City arena proposal that it is treating the debate like a national security threat, after blacking out background documents that would have made our position clear on the funding, or not, of this NHL-calibre arena in Quebec City.
Regarding the member for 's ethics breach, until she was questioned about it in the House of Commons, she had no idea that she had been fined by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner and cited for failing to pay the fine. The member is the third Conservative minister and the 10th Conservative public office holder overall to be fined by the commissioner, joining previous wrongdoers like the .
With respect to lashing out at public servants on F-35s, the Conservative MP for 's recent attack on the respected former assistant deputy minister of defence, Alan Williams, shows that the Conservatives can only resort to name calling when it comes to justifying their $16 billion, or should I say $29 billion, untendered fighter jet purchase. A media report over the weekend also indicated that the Conservatives did not have a leg to stand on when it came to backing up their claims on the purchase or maintenance costs of the F-35s.
Furthermore, the Parliamentary Budget Officer confirmed this morning that all estimates so far provided by the Conservative government were totally out of synch with reality.
Canadians are seeing the government for what it really is. The Conservatives have abused their power, attacked our democracy and have showed nothing but contempt for Parliament and the Canadian people. They have lost touch with the priorities of middle-class families, which is why I will vote in support of the motion from the Bloc Québécois.
Mr. Speaker, I inform you straightaway that I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the hon. member for . It is an honour for me. She is a member I hold in great esteem. Not only does she do marvellous work here on Parliament Hill, but I know how devoted she is to her constituents, the people of her riding. I have had the opportunity to share responsibilities in human resources and social development with her for more than four or five years. I am mentioning this file first of all because it is most interesting to realize that the Conservatives are using this file, this responsibility, to engage in propaganda.
There are two things at issue today on this Bloc opposition day: the Conservatives’ hijacking of democracy and the propaganda they are spreading with the resources that the House makes available to the government and to ministers.
I shall not repeat the examples given by my colleagues, but I will use one very particular example, that of the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development. On February 26, 2011, the Canadian electoral authority formally charged the 's Conservative Party with fraud, along with two senators from the party in power, namely the Conservatives. They allegedly concealed cost overruns during the 2006 election in an amount in excess of a million dollars. Two individuals have been targeted as respondents in this case: Mr. Irving Gerstein and Mr. Douglas Finley. The latter is not only a senator, but also the spouse of the .
There are some rather troubling things. Since this morning, we have been highlighting all the methods and stratagems that this government is using in order to deprive Parliament of the means it has to oversee, however slightly, what goes on in government, or at least to acquire information, and also in order to engage in propaganda. Here is what I am getting at. For four years, the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development, and the Status of Persons with Disabilities was engaged in a very thorough study. This committee went all around Canada. We went to the provincial capitals, and often as well to villages and towns, to study, on site, the issue of poverty, which was the topic of our study. We held 68 different meetings, I believe. We also heard over 200 organizations. This led us to make 58 recommendations proposing ways of combatting poverty. You will recall that in November 2009, this House unanimously reiterated its desire to see poverty eliminated, or at least reduced, within 10 years.
This report was therefore entirely appropriate and entirely relevant. The only response that the minister was able to give us, which I have here in my hand, is a propaganda document. We have had no response on the 58 recommendations made by the committee.
The minister responded to each of the problems we raised by mentioning existing programs and giving the Conservative government credit for having instituted them. But there is no new program to reduce poverty. What is even more infuriating, and even scandalous, is that the minister simply disregards all the testimony from all over Canada describing the poverty of aboriginal populations and single-parent families, the fate of seniors and of people who lose their jobs, and the plight of children living in poverty. If there are poor children, it is because there are poor parents. Rich families do not decide that some of their children will be poor and live in poverty. Some families simply do not have the means and have to deal with situations that they cannot control or that are forced upon them. Such is the case of native communities, for example.
There are some very specific recommendations highlighting the plight of women living in various places all over the country. This week we marked the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. The minister’s answer coincided with this anniversary, making it all the more outrageous that she did not take the trouble to announce anything at all to reduce poverty.
The House has reiterated its unanimous motion from 1989, which was never implemented. The motion was brought forward again on November 22, 2009. The government and the House took it up, but the minister thumbed her nose at the opportunity given her by the Standing Committee on Human Resources to announce some measures. Her actions showed her contempt for all the work that has been done here.
I encourage my colleagues in the House to study this document sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, page by page. I have re-read it because I thought I must have made a mistake. It is 17 pages of coarse, outrageous remarks and propaganda. We have to connect the dots because there are political families. The senator who supervised the operation that the Conservatives are accused of using to circumvent the Canada Elections Act is the husband of the . People might wonder what the connection is. The answer to this question is just as serious as or even more serious than the misappropriation of funds because it involves all the people who are struggling in our society.
Mr. Speaker, this is not the first time there has been mention of the cynicism that reigns within society. People are disillusioned and are increasingly abandoning politics.
In the last federal election, the voter turnout was only 58.8%, according to the Chief Electoral Officer. Thus, less than one-quarter of all voters elected the government. This is a very sad record, since we would need to go back to the 19th century to find a turnout so low.
This sad situation might be explained by a number of reasons. People may have the impression that politicians believe they are above the law, that politicians show a lot of partisanship and that they make misleading statements. Do you not find that this describes the Conservative government's actions very well?
The Bloc Québécois finds that this government's ideology is an affront to democracy. For the Conservative Party, the House of Commons is the equivalent of a monkey wrench stuck in the gears of the Conservative strategy, which aims only to keep the party in power. This shows its entire lack of respect for the principles that form the basis of our democracy.
Sine the Conservatives came to power in 2006, a number of ministers have found themselves in embarrassing situations. Their exaggerated partisanship and their attempts to control information are the reasons for that.
On March 3, 2011, an employee of the used the public resources of his office. The minister's director of multicultural affairs mistakenly sent a member of the NDP a fundraising letter for a Conservative advertising campaign. The letter provided a detailed outline of the Conservatives' strategy, and we learned that only certain cultural communities were being targeted. The minister's government letterhead was used, which violates the rules.
The minister also adopts a client-centric approach although he is responsible for all newcomers. It is absolutely unacceptable. The Minister of Immigration has been mixed up in a number of cases that highlight this government's questionable strategy. A government certificate bearing the immense logo of the Conservative Party and sending an ultra-partisan email to a refugee defence agency can be added to the list of the minister's ideological actions. But the minister does not even have the courage to assume his responsibilities. He refuses to leave office and places the blame on his former employee.
In December 2010, the minister responsible for CIDA was asked a question in committee about who had altered a document coming from the agency. By adding the word “not”, someone had cancelled the decision made by officials to grant financing in the amount of $7 million to the KAIROS organization. However, the minister admitted in February that she herself had altered the document in order to cancel the KAIROS financing.
This action reflects the Conservatives’ lack of sensitivity towards the causes defended by this organization. But, more importantly, the minister lied to the committee and misled the representatives of the people. Since then, she has not been allowed by her one and only big boss, the Prime Minister, to answer any questions from the opposition. When she answers a question relating to this matter, she simply reads a memo from one of her assistants about the situation in another country. So she is just deflecting questions.
The Speaker of the House said yesterday that the minister has violated parliamentary privilege. She may be declared to be in contempt of Parliament. This depends on the actions of the opposition in the coming days.
Regardless of how this case ends, it is the duty of every parliamentarian to denounce this reactionary behaviour. When members of the cabinet violate the rules of the House as she did, it only increases the cynicism felt towards politicians.
Late in 2010, public servants received a directive ordering them to replace “Government of Canada” with “Preparation H Government”. The Prime Minister is thus trying to show that he is the government and that he is the master of Parliament. How can we avoid comparing him to Big Brother, the omnipresent fictional character who rules the state? You might also feel that you are living in a storybook world of wizards, in which the state is run by a Government Who Must Not Be Named.
Some public administration experts make a parallel with King Louis XIV, who said “I am the State”. I should point out that Louis XIV reigned over France during the 17th and 18th centuries. This is what we call a regressive ideology.
While we are on the issue information monitoring and control, I must mention the obstruction by the and his lack of transparency. Back in October, one of the minister's assistants resigned—another one—when the media revealed that he had tried on three occasions to prevent the disclosure of government information. Around the middle of December 2010, we learned that two other assistants of the minister had also tried to block an authorized access to information request. While he was the Minister of Public Works, the minister's office impeded the disclosure of information on the asbestos issue and on the preparations for the U.S. president's visit, in 2009.
With these numerous cases of obstruction and lack of transparency, we can no longer talk about isolated incidents but, rather, a true culture of secrecy. The minister gives a lot of work to the Information Commissioner's investigators. We also have doubts about the minister's defence, who pleaded ignorance. This is yet another cabinet member who refused to resign despite those wrongdoings.
The circumvention of election campaign rules by the Conservatives is certainly the best example of the Conservative government's behaviour. This government will do anything to remain in office and to promote its partisan interests. A few days ago, the Federal Court of Appeal reversed the decision of the Federal Court, which supported the Conservatives' view on their election financing scheme. This issue dates back to 2006. To better understand its impact, I am going to mention the facts surrounding this controversy.
During the 2006 election campaign, the Conservative Party exceeded the spending limit by one million dollars. Four major Conservative organizers were involved in that illegal scheme, including two who are now senators. That is probably a prerequisite. I am referring to the in and out scheme used by the party's strategists. The Conservatives tried to circumvent the rules by involving local organizations in their calculations of election expenses to pay for national ads. In 2007, the Conservative Party took Elections Canada to court. That takes some nerve. The arm's length body refused to pay back the election expenses claimed by 67 candidates, of which more than one third are Quebec candidates.
Last Tuesday's ruling supports Elections Canada's stand. The organization says that the Conservatives divided over $1 million among candidates who had not yet reached their individual spending limit.
When it comes to spending limits, the Canada Elections Act is essential to the health of our democracy. It ensures a level playing field among candidates, so that money is not the overriding factor in an election campaign. However, as we know, the Conservatives are a little too fond of the American model. They would like to see the day when spending limits are abolished. Remember their attempts to abolish public financing for political parties, so as to muzzle opposition parties. In its decision, the Federal Court of Appeal points out on a number of occasions the Conservative Party's wrongdoings.
In conclusion, there is no doubt that this government has no intention of respecting the will of the people's representatives who are gathered in this House. There are a number of reasons to denounce the conduct of the government, namely: the unacceptable actions of several of its ministers; its self-promotion through government communications; the circumvention of the election rules by its party; and its blatant lack of transparency, despite putting its hand on its heart.
For these reasons, I am asking all members of this House to support the Bloc Québécois' motion.