He said: Mr. Speaker, I would first like to say that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Toronto—Danforth, who will deliver the second part of my speech.
This is an unprecedented situation in our history. Before I present my arguments in support of our motion, I would like to take a few minutes to talk about what happened on October 31.
Since we are talking about something that is rare in the House, unprecedented, I think it is useful to start off the important debate on this issue by citing the various violations of which the member for Peterborough was convicted last Friday.
First off, the member for Peterborough was found guilty of personally paying an election expense, thereby willfully exceeding his contribution limit, contrary to subsections 405(1), 497(3), and 500(5) of the Canada Elections Act. Just to reference those important subsections, 405(1) says, very clearly:
No individual shall make contributions that exceed
(a) $1,000 in total in any calendar year...;
(a.1) $1,000 in total in any calendar year to the registered associations, nomination contestants and candidates...,
Every person guilty of that offence, knowingly contravening these subsections, is guilty of an offence under sections 481 and 482.
Second, the member for Peterborough and his official agent were found guilty of willfully incurring election expenses in excess of the campaign expense limit, contrary to subsections 443(1), 497(3), and 500(5) of the Canada Elections Act. Subsection 443(1) stipulates:
No candidate, official agent of a candidate or person authorized under paragraph 446(c) to enter into contracts shall incur election expenses in an amount that is more than the election expenses limit calculated under section 440.
This is an important part of the Canada Elections Act and is an extremely important violation the member has been found guilty of.
Third, the member for Peterborough was found guilty of providing an electoral campaign return containing a false or misleading material statement in omitting to report a campaign contribution, an election expense, contrary to paragraphs 463(1)(a) and 497(3)(v) and subsection 500(5). Again, 463(1) stipulates very clearly:
No candidate and no official agent of a candidate shall provide the Chief Electoral Officer with a document referred to in subsection 451(1) or 455(1) that (a) the candidate or the official agent, as the case may be, knows or ought reasonably to know contains a material statement that is false or misleading;...
Finally, the member for Peterborough has been found guilty of providing a campaign return that did not substantially set out the required information by omitting to report a campaign contribution and election expense, contrary to paragraphs 463(1)(b) and 497(3)(v) and subsection 500(5).
Among the convictions on three counts, the final count was stayed, at the crown's request, following the finding of guilt.
Each of the three counts of which the member for Peterborough was found guilty carries a maximum penalty of $2,000, one year in prison, or both.
This is not a little event in the life of the House of Commons. There is a serious criminal conviction, in three cases, under the Canada Elections Act. The judge stated that the evidence provided by the member for Peterborough was incredible and full of inconsistencies and improbabilities and that the member for Peterborough frequently obfuscated.
Justice Lisa Cameron was very clear in terms of the guilty verdict she rendered on three counts for the member for Peterborough. What was the response from the member for Peterborough? I heard it myself on the radio. The member for Peterborough said that it was just her opinion.
This is not a matter of opinion. This is a matter of the law of the land not being respected by the member for Peterborough. The House is now seized with this question and has to make a decision about what comes next. There is no doubt that this is a serious violation of the Canada Elections Act, and it should be treated seriously.
Yesterday we had, from the government, its initial response on how it is going to respond to the important issue of convictions on three counts of violating the Canada Elections Act. I am certainly not going to reproach the government House leader for being very clear on where the government wants to go, but I think it is important to note that the government said very clearly that it wanted to do nothing. The Conservatives want to tuck it under a carpet and refer the whole matter to the procedure and House affairs committee.
On this side of the House, we believe that the serious violations of which this member has been convicted require serious measures. That is why we are putting forward a motion today that says very clearly, given the serious violations of the Canada Elections Act, that this House should immediately suspend the member.
That is our approach. The government has seemingly not wanted to take this approach. Seemingly, the government has said, no, it just wants to tuck it over to the procedure and House affairs committee. We disagree profoundly with that approach. We believe that these serious violations demand a serious response from this House of Commons.
Given the current government's track record, it is not surprising that the Conservatives would want to, in effect, by putting it over to the procedure and House affairs committee, try to sweep this under the carpet. However, when we couple this with what we have seen as a systematic pattern of behaviour by the Conservative government, members can begin to understand why we are concerned that the government's approach is to tuck this away in a committee rather than deal with a very serious series of violations and a guilty verdict that is very clear on three counts. Rather than tucking it under the carpet, we believe that serious measures are required.
On the Conservative government's history, when we look at the last three federal elections, I think, to a certain extent, there is diminished public trust in how the government approaches violations of the Canada Elections Act.
In 2006, the first election in which the current Conservative government was elected, we had the in-and-out scandal. What we saw following that were a number of Conservative Party operatives found guilty of breaking Elections Canada rules. They had to pay more than $52,000 in fines. Taxpayers spent more than $2.3 million for the investigation, which led to a five-year legal battle.
For the 2008 election campaign, we have the conviction we have just seen. The member for Peterborough has been convicted on three counts.
In 2011, we saw the robocall scandal. A former Conservative staffer has been found guilty. We have also seen the former member of Parliament, the former minister from Labrador, very clearly overspending and seeing that the Canada Elections Act did not apply.
There has been a systematic pattern of breaking the Canada Elections Act.
The Canada Elections Act is a fundamental Canadian value. It sets a level playing field for all candidates. It sets the rules for our democracy. Given these systematic violations we have seen over the course of the last few years, we say that on this case now coming before the House, it is important for the House of Commons to say that it is a serious violation. These three counts are serious in nature, and as a result, the House of Commons should be moving to immediately suspend the member from the right to sit or vote in this place, the right to sit on any committee in this place, and the right to collect his sessional allowance.
I have two final points I would like to make.
First, the procedure and House affairs committee is now nine months behind on its consideration of Motion No. 428.
Second, as we saw today, and as the leader of the official opposition mentioned, on Bill C-518, what we have seen is the government moving to extract from the Canada Elections Act a series of violations that would lead to the end of the sessional allowance. We do not stand for that on this side of the House, and the member for Toronto—Danforth will comment further.