Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on this opposition day as my party's democratic reform critic. This motion was made necessary because of the actions the Conservatives have taken since they came into power in 2006.
My colleague from Joliette spoke a lot about the saga involving the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and also the actions of the Conservative Party, in particular the government, with respect to financing for that party, which established a scheme to obtain more money to pay for their advertising. I will come back to this later.
I would like to go over a few examples, because these are not just recent examples. Since they were elected in 2006, the Conservatives have interfered with democracy by manipulating principles as they see fit or even completely disregarding them. This is very worrisome because it creates precedents and we can dare not imagine would what happen with a majority government.
I would like to quote columnist Manon Cornellier, who wrote in the newspaper Le Devoir on September 29, 2010:
[Citizens] are kept in the dark and deprived of fundamental information, which means they are no longer as capable of exercising their primary democratic right of judging the government.
Democracy is always exercised better and more intelligently in a context of transparency, rigour and credible information.
I quoted this columnist because I want to remind the government why it is not currently a majority government and why there is an opposition. The opposition is here to shed light on government decisions and to hold the government accountable to the public.
For example, when I go back to the Quebec City area, many people who voted for me or my colleague in Louis-Hébert say they elected us because they do not want this to be a majority government and do not want its ideology imposed on Quebeckers. That is why the Bloc Québécois is so strong all over Quebec. The government is especially abusive in how it treats democracy here in the House. Today we are debating the reasons why the Conservatives are criticized so much, so often provoke stormy debates, and make a mockery of the opposition’s right to express its views and hold the government to account.
The Conservatives do not want to be accountable to anyone and do not hesitate to resorts to all kinds of tricks, even going so far as to break the most elementary rules by which they should abide in respectable country that is supposed to be democratic. They do not care a fig about democracy and shrink from nothing when it comes to promoting their partisan interests and imposing their reactionary ideology. There are many recent examples, and our motion mentions some of them.
I would like to refresh the memories of certain colleagues, and also of the people watching us, by reviewing a few more examples that are not mentioned in the motion put forward by my colleague from Joliette. For several years now, the Shannon citizens’ coalition and its lawyers have tried repeatedly to obtain documents from the Department of National Defence on the contamination of ground water. However, the government has been delaying the release of documents sought under the Access to Information Act, has been obstructive,and has simply failed to disclose the documents in question.
Last November 25, we managed—because opposition members are in the majority here in the House—to adopt an order to produce the documents. The documents deal with reports analyzing the water supply system at the Valcartier base since 1970. I asked the minister a question because he had promised to table the documents. He said right here in the House, before all the members, that he would table them. So what did he do? Nothing. The government and the Department of National Defence are still hiding behind the class action suit that is now before the courts. But when I asked him,he said it was already headed for the courts. Did he show good faith? No, he misled the House and all citizens about his real intentions.
A similar situation arose regarding the disclosure of documents about the transfer of prisoners in Afghanistan. The government was refusing to release the documents and that is why it prorogued Parliament in December 2009. You had given a ruling, Mr. Speaker, in April 2010 that ordered the government to release the documents, which were not a threat to national security. So what happened?
One year later, a committee has examined the issue but no documents have been made public. If that is not obstruction, I wonder what it is. The government is delaying telling the truth to citizens. It is also delaying bills. It deemed it appropriate to have a majority of senators in the other place to block bills passed by the House. The Senate absolutely refuses to look at all the bills and come to a decision.
The Conservatives seem to have a hard time understanding and applying the basic principles of democracy. One of these principles calls for a separation of powers between the public and political administrations. Yet, how many times have the Conservatives interfered in the public administration since they took office? How many times have they muzzled senior public servants who did not share their views, or did not want to implement a partisan decision? KAIROS, to which the hon. member for Trois-Rivières referred earlier, is one example. The list of victims is a long one, but I will mention a few.
Linda Keen, former head of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, was fired during the scandal related to the downtime of the Chalk River reactors. Munir Sheikh, the Chief Statistician of Statistics Canada, resigned because he did not support abolishing the mandatory long form census. Rémy Beauregard, whose management of Rights and Democracy was criticized, died of a heart attack after a stormy and tumultuous meeting. Marty Cheliak, former head of the Canadian firearms program, was let go because he was about to table a report supporting gun control. There is also Patrick Stogran, the former Veterans Ombudsman, whose mandate was not renewed because he dared criticize the government's treatment of veterans.
All these individuals were fired or their mandate was not renewed because the government was not pleased. The Senate has blocked legislation such as Bill C-311, which was supported by the Bloc Québécois and a majority of elected members in this House. This bill, dealing with our responsibility regarding global climate change, was contrary to the government's vision on the environment. They rejected it without even looking at it. The Conservatives set a precedent that had not been seen since 1930. They show a blatant disrespect for democratic institutions.
I could list numerous other bills that have been blocked, including the one requiring that Supreme Court judges be bilingual. The Conservatives bought time by constantly stalling the study of the bill until they had a majority in the Senate. The Prime Minister promised to change the rules of the game so that government would be more transparent. But what he has done is worse than what the Liberals did and, in some ways, he has gone even further than they did. The Conservatives' actions of late, coupled with the fact that Conservative senators are getting away with spending money from the Senate budget to promote their partisan ideology, lead us to believe that there is some confusion between the resources of a political party and the resources of the government or the House of Commons.
Taxpayers' money was used for partisan purposes and electioneering. They are always telling the House that public money needs to be respected and that the government is careful about how it spends public money. But what did they do? They used a scam to pay for ads and took $200,000 from taxpayers. They exceeded their election campaign spending limit.
Today we are going to “highlight” everything they have done since they came to power. We will demonstrate that this government is not transparent and that the Prime Minister has not kept his election promises. People wanted to see the Conservatives in power so that there would be more transparency. But that is not what we are seeing these days.