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View Kelly McCauley Profile
View Kelly McCauley Profile
2019-05-31 14:11 [p.28373]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Motion No. 230. I would like to thank my colleague, the member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, for the motion. I know my colleague is a very committed to his constituents. On this side of the House, he is famous for his annual tour throughout his riding, when he puts tens of thousands of kilometres on his van, his bike and even his canoe, getting out to know his constituents. I am very happy that he has brought this motion forward, representing the desires of his constituents to live more affordable lives and save money on essentials.
I would also like to recognize that this motion was also put forward in a private member's bill by the hon. member for Regina—Qu'Appelle a short while ago. Again, the intent was to provide more affordable lives and lifestyles for Canadians. Roy Rogers is famous for saying he never met a man he did not like. The current government is the same, in that it never met a tax it did not like, and its desire to keep taxing home energy seems to be part of that.
Home heating is a necessity; it is not a luxury. I have had the pleasure of living across the country, from Victoria to St. John's and a lot of places in between. Even in Victoria, where I have lived three separate times, I have seen severe winters. In the winter of 1996, I was living in Newfoundland, where winter is year round. In 2001, the year of the big snow, there was 22 feet of snow in Newfoundland. I remember shovelling my driveway after a snowstorm in June, but never in my life had I seen as much snow overnight as I did in Victoria in 1996. We got about three feet of snow overnight. A lot of houses in Victoria are not set up like houses in the rest of the country to deal with cold, so the heating is on non-stop when it turns cold, which, in Victoria, is usually at about 15°C.
The fact is that Canada is a winter country. I have lived in Fort McMurray, in Edmonton three times, in Toronto a couple of times, as well as Ottawa and St. John's.
An hon. member: Winnipeg.
Mr. Kelly McCauley: I have not lived in Winnipeg, though my family is from Winnipeg. I have lived in Huntsville, Scarborough and Lake Louise and I have seen the effects of winter. As I said, heating our homes is a necessity and not a luxury.
I will note that in Edmonton, not this winter but the winter before, there was a record 176 consecutive days when the temperature dropped below 0°C and we had to heat our homes. Putting GST on top of home heating punishes Canadians. I would also note that on the last day of those 176 days, even as the temperature dropped below zero, I opened my front door and there was a spider hanging there, so my nightmares continue even in the winter.
Essentials are not taxed in this country. Groceries are not taxed, medical supplies are not taxed, sanitary products are not taxed, so home energy should be no exception. We asked the people of Ontario after years of provincial Liberal governments what it is like paying the GST on catastrophically high energy bills. People are getting punished.
Alberta has a carbon tax, which thankfully was just repealed by new premier Jason Kenney. Albertans were paying more in carbon tax than for energy, and then they were paying GST on the energy, as well as on the carbon tax. It puts a lie to the Liberal line that the carbon tax would be revenue neutral. In B.C. and Alberta alone, there was over a quarter of a billion dollars collected in GST alone. The PBO report, which Liberals like to reference so much, neglects to mention that there is GST on their imposed carbon tax, which goes straight into the coffers of the government.
I want to applaud my colleague from Langley—Aldergrove, who is fighting cancer right now. I want to let him know that we are thinking of him and that he is my prayers every night. He put through a private member's bill to remove the GST on the carbon tax, not to allow a tax on a tax.
What happened? Well, people on this side voted to eliminate the GST to help everyday Canadians, but of course, our Liberal colleagues voted against it, because again, there is never a tax they do not like.
Every dollar saved under this motion would be a dollar in the pockets of Canadians. I want to go over how much people would save on this. By 2022, people living in Newfoundland would be saving $151 a year; in P.E.I., $155; in Nova Scotia, $135; in New Brunswick, $142; in Quebec, $93; in Ontario, $116; in Manitoba, $95; in Saskatoon, $127; in Alberta, $121; and in British Columbia, $92. Therefore, the average Canadian would save over $100.
Why is this important? We heard recently in a report that 50% of Canadians are only $200 a month away from insolvency. They are just $200 away from not being able to pay their bills for food or whatever. That $200 is not very much, and so every little bit, every extra dollar in Canadians' pockets, is going to help them.
What would be covered under this rebate? All home energy, including electricity, natural gas, heating oil, propane, wood pellets, other heating sources for primary residences, would be exempt from the GST, and the CRA would get the utilities to rebate directly.
Earlier in my speech, I spoke about putting an Order Paper question to the government asking how much taxpayers' money it actually wasted sending out postcards. The Liberals submitted that it was $1 million. However, we just found out today that the total was actually $3.5 million the government wasted on postcards to send out to Canadians to let them know that they were going to get a GST rebate.
We heard a Liberal member earlier stand up and say that he is against the motion, that it is not good for the economy and that we need every penny we can get. Under this member's plan, we could have helped 31,000 families, or we could send out a postcard and waste $3.5 million, and that is a priority for the government. It had a chance to help 31,000 families or send a partisan, politically driven post card. What did they choose? They chose the partisan, politically driven postcard instead of helping 31,000 families. Every action the Liberals take has an effect on Canadians. They could have helped 31,000 Canadian families and chose not to.
I will go back to some of the comments from my constituents who are having difficult times right now in Edmonton and why it is important that we push this through to save them the GST on their home heating.
I got a note from Karen, who said, “l'm a senior with a fixed income and everything going up, it gets tighter every year.” Do members not think she would like to have the GST off her home heating? Maybe she could be one of those 31,000 families we could have helped instead of sending a postcard in the mail.
Bruce writes, “A lot worse off! I am 62 years old. I was forced into early retirement.... I take money out of my RRSP and Canada Revenue hammers me with taxes”. At 62, it is difficult to get back into the workforce, especially in Alberta after the government punished it with a tax on its energy industry. Do members not think we could help that person by rebating his GST on his home heating in Edmonton, when we have winter, God bless us, six or seven months a year?
Another said that he is worse off with higher taxes, including the carbon tax, and that there are fewer opportunities at work. Do members not think that we could help him with this instead of standing here and virtue signalling on a carbon tax? Of course not.
We have Sam, who says that he is worse off as prices are going up and up, and he is on a fixed income.
I would like to help seniors in our riding. We put through a motion on helping to protect them from fraud. They are on fixed incomes. Again, these are people we could help every single day across the entire country by taking the GST off home heating.
Conservatives support it. Canadians support it. I hope the government will get in line and support it as well.
View David de Burgh Graham Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to announce that the most recent edition of my newsletter was sent to over 69,000 households in Laurentides—Labelle last week. When the House announced that we would soon be able to have our householders printed in colour, I immediately signed up for the pilot project. The newsletter is a way to initiate conversations with constituents, acknowledge the contributions of those who make a difference in the riding, and build a better partnership between my region and the federal government.
I humbly acknowledge the work of my team and the Hill's Printing and Mailing Services. I would particularly like to recognize Samuel St-Amand, Kim Lanctot, and Sara Drouin. Thanks to them, my riding is once again leading the way. The people of Laurentides—Labelle are the first in Canada to receive an improved householder printed in colour. I have already received very positive feedback about this.
View Candice Bergen Profile
View Candice Bergen Profile
2018-02-06 10:23 [p.16794]
Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to be able to rise today to speak to our opposition day motion. I want to thank our leader, the leader of the official opposition, for sharing his time with me today.
Let us begin with a simple question. What is this motion about? I appreciate the comments that came from my hon. colleague, the member for Elmwood—Transcona. He asked a question about why we introduced this motion and why it appears to be narrowly focused.
I am a big believer that if one is not faithful and honourable in the small things in life, one will not be faithful and honourable in the big things in life. I believe that same principle applies to us here in the House of Commons. Character is what one does when no one is watching. Character is what one does when one knows one can get away with it. We are calling this specific issue to light. We have been talking about it during last week and this week, because we believe that Canadians deserve a prime minister who will be faithful and honourable, an integrist, in those things that look small. It is not so much about the $200,000, although that is a big amount; it is about a prime minister who, if he is truly sorry, will follow through on what might look like a small thing and pay back the money to the taxpayer. We will then be able to see what kind of character he and his government have when it comes to the big things.
In a nutshell, this motion establishes what we as members of Parliament all adhere to, and should be adhering to, in our behaviour. It is what Canadians would expect from us. This motion establishes and reaffirms our commitment as members of Parliament to be accountable and transparent.
Sometimes as we are doing our duties, we break the rules. We do not do it maliciously. However, sometimes it is done knowingly. I will give two examples where we, as members of Parliament, should be responsible if we break those rules.
Letters sent to the general public are covered under our franking privileges. We are allowed to send letters out to our constituents. There had been some changes in the rules around whether we could send letters to people outside of our constituency. There was a certain point during that transition when members of Parliament sent letters to people outside of their constituency and then found out afterwards that they were breaking the rules. Those members of Parliament could not just say they were sorry for breaking the rules and did not know those were the rules; rather, they had to make it right. They had to personally write a cheque to the Receiver General to cover the taxpayers' costs for when they broke the rules. It may or may not have been malicious, but the rules were broken and amends had to be made. That is the right thing to do.
Here is another example. Let us say that a member of Parliament was given five tickets for him or her and their family to attend an Elton John concert. That member of Parliament then tells the House of Commons that he or she will be going on parliamentary business and claims a plane trip, hotel, and per diems. However, the House of Commons then comes back and asks if that was parliamentary business. It is discovered that it was not and that he or she had taken an illegal gift, thereby doubly breaking the rules. Obviously that member of Parliament would be asked to pay back the cost of the trip, hotels, and per diems. That is also the right thing to do. That is probably an example of knowingly breaking the rules.
Those are two examples where members of Parliament broke the rules, and in breaking the rules used taxpayer dollars and were asked to pay those dollars back. Dare I say that if they did not pay those dollars back, their wages would be garnisheed. The House of Commons would not give them a choice; they would have to pay back those expenses. This motion establishes that we all agree with that. On this side of the House, we all agree with that. I certainly hope that the Liberal members of Parliament would agree with that as well.
This leads me to the biggest example that we have thus far, and what I would say is the biggest breach. That is the one we have been talking about for the last couple of weeks, which is the Prime Minister's illegal holiday.
This is the second time in less than 24 hours that I have risen to speak about it. It seems like more and more often, all we are talking about in this place is the Liberals' conflict of interest. Whether it is the Minister of Finance or the Prime Minister breaking the rules, being investigated, or not recusing themselves from discussions, this is a Liberal pattern that does not seem to end.
Last evening during the debate on Bill C-50, the Liberals' cash for access legislation, I pointed out to the House that the Liberals' very own bill has a requirement to pay the money back when fundraisers stray outside of the rules. It is a sound principle, and one that is mirrored in all kinds of regulatory and legal structures. Why is there a common requirement to pay it back, whether to us as members of Parliament, the general public, in society, or even in Bill C-50, if they fundraise illegally? Why does it exist? It is so that there is a meaningful incentive to encourage people to follow the law. It is that simple.
That is exactly what today's motion calls for. However, regrettably, we are not simply talking about an abstract principle. We have a very real and serious case before us. It is the former ethics commissioner's report on the Prime Minister's winter trip to the Aga Khan's island, better known as billionaire island. In her report, Mary Dawson said that the Prime Minister broke not one, not two, not even three, but four separate requirements of the Conflict of Interest Act.
I want to thank the quick-thinking member, our Leader of the Opposition, as he was the one who submitted the original request for an investigation once the news broke. We were asking the Prime Minister about the trip, and he constantly said it was a legal vacation and he was with someone who was a close friend. We have now found out that he had not talked to the Aga Khan in over 30 years. They are not close friends, and it was blatantly misleading Canadians. The Prime Minister knew very well that he had not seen or talked to the Aga Khan in over 30 years, but he got up day after day in the House, and he forced the House leader to defend his illegal behaviour. In doing so, and this brings it back to the motion, he incurred expenses of over $200,000 of taxpayers' dollars.
This is not a question of him having incurred those expenses anyway. If that were the question, no one would have to pay restitution. Everyone would say, “I would have received a car anyway. Even if I stole a car and did not give it back, I would have needed a car anyway. I would have used some money anyway, so I took someone else's money, but I would have found a way to get money anyway.” That is the most illogical defence I have ever heard, and I am surprised that we are still hearing it from the Liberals.
The fact is that the Prime Minister broke the law, and in doing so he forced the RCMP to be complicit in his breaking the law. I would be incredibly interested to know if anyone in the Prime Minister's Office or who was part of his security team told him, “We are all now breaking the rules by taking this illegal holiday and going on this helicopter.” If he was told, did he say to them “Oh, don't worry. The rules don't apply to me. I can do whatever I want because I am the Prime Minister.” He likes to refer to himself in the third person, even when he is outside of this place. It is quite remarkable to watch.
Instead of answering questions about this, instead of paying back the money, the Prime Minister was signing autographs during question period yesterday. The House leader had to answer for his irresponsible illegal behaviour, and he sat there signing autographs. Not only is it shameful, it is embarrassing to watch. If the Prime Minister cannot be accountable, honourable, and transparent in what is considered something small, then what do we have? Let us be honest, he has a family fortune. We are not talking about someone in poverty who cannot afford to pay for something they shoplifted. We are talking about someone who brags about his family fortune. He can afford to pay the taxpayer back.
There is so much connected to this breach, including, as our leader talked about, when we have a government that is disrespectful, cold hearted to our veterans, to our men and women in uniform. Would the Prime Minister please show leadership, be accountable, pay this back, and let us get on with doing something good for Canadians and stop taking from them?
View Elizabeth May Profile
View Elizabeth May Profile
2016-06-02 13:44 [p.3948]
Mr. Speaker, I think today's debate will go down in history, as the motion really did strike a blow for democracy, where parties were prepared to put Canada first and partisan interests second. As we go forward, I want to ask the parliamentary secretary if she agrees that it would be a good thing to encourage every member of Parliament to use the mechanism of our householder to share information with Canadians about why first past the post is a perverse voting system and to share with them a range of options and ask for their feedback in that way.
View Karina Gould Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karina Gould Profile
2016-06-02 13:44 [p.3948]
Mr. Speaker, while I would not say that we should prejudge Canadians' reflections on different electoral systems, I think it is an absolutely terrific idea to use our householders and the tools we have at our disposal to share what different options are available to Canadians and to invite them to submit their feedback. At the end of the day, we want to hear from as many different people as possible.
Throughout the election campaign and over the past number of months, I have asked a number of people in my riding for their thoughts. I am indeed considering doing that exact thing, putting this information into my householder, inviting feedback, and using that to guide me in my own decision and my own thinking on this matter.
I thank the member very much for an excellent suggestion.
View Paul Dewar Profile
View Paul Dewar Profile
2015-04-29 15:11 [p.13192]
Mr. Speaker, while I am glad the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister read my householder, during question period he said that in it there was information about income splitting, which of course has not been passed by Parliament and is not in the document.
I give him the opportunity to actually clarify the record, because I do not put in things that are not accurate in what I put out to constituents, unlike the government that puts out advertising about things that actually have not been passed in Parliament yet.
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
2015-04-29 15:12 [p.13192]
Mr. Speaker, on this point of order, in fact, among the many Conservative tax cuts that the NDP member did highlight was income splitting. It is right here on page 12, pension splits. Pension income splitting is a form of income splitting, and he did trumpet it as a positive policy. We agree with him. He was right. He is wrong now, though.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
View Andrew Scheer Profile
2015-04-29 15:12 [p.13192]
I know members are not asking the Speaker to make decisions on terminology. The hon. member for Ottawa Centre is rising. but I am very concerned we are getting into an area of debate, and we are well past the end of question period.
View Paul Dewar Profile
View Paul Dewar Profile
2015-04-29 15:13 [p.13192]
Mr. Speaker, I respect my friend, of course, same city and all, but was directing my comment at the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister. He used to have the job, but he no longer does, which is unfortunate, I guess. The point was income splitting.
View Peter Van Loan Profile
View Peter Van Loan Profile
2015-04-29 15:13 [p.13192]
Mr. Speaker, I simply want to defend the member for Ottawa Centre and correct him.
He actually has, on two occasions, already voted on the income-splitting measures. They have been before this Parliament in two ways and means motions. It would be appropriate for him to promote the new measures in his householder. Having voted against them, it might not be appropriate politically for him to promote it. However, the House has deliberated on the matter, and he voted against them.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
View Andrew Scheer Profile
2015-04-29 15:13 [p.13193]
I would encourage members that if there are any other points they want to raise on this question, they do so tomorrow at the same time, in question period.
View Randy Hoback Profile
View Randy Hoback Profile
2015-03-31 14:16 [p.12607]
Mr. Speaker, the rules have always been clear. It is not acceptable to use taxpayer-funded constituency offices for partisan purposes, yet the NDP has been caught doing just that as it continues its pattern of abuse on the taxpayers' dime.
We already know that the NDP is refusing to pay back the nearly $4 million it owes to the hard-working taxpayers for the illegal use of parliamentary offices outside of Ottawa and illegal mailouts. Today is the deadline for the NDP to repay that money, but all we get from it is excuses.
This is simply unacceptable. When will the leader of the NDP take some accountability, stop breaking the rules and finally pay back the taxpayers of Canada the money that they are owed?
View Erin O'Toole Profile
View Erin O'Toole Profile
2014-11-04 16:38 [p.9189]
Mr. Speaker, I have listened keenly to this debate, including the debate of my friend from Toronto—Danforth who talked about the debate being important to ensure proper accountability of members of Parliament. Then today he supported his House leader's move to immediate action. Despite the fact there remain routes of appeal, they want immediate consequences.
In light of that, there has been a determination with respect to $1.2 million in mailings and salaries for improper staff. I understand the New Democratic Party is looking to appeal to the Federal Court of Appeal because it does not agree with the decision with respect to the money that is owed the House of Commons.
My question for the government House leader is this. Since the New Democrats want an immediate response, perhaps it would be possible for these monies to be paid in trust to the House of Commons pending the appeals the NDP are launching.
View Peter Van Loan Profile
View Peter Van Loan Profile
2014-11-04 16:39 [p.9190]
Mr. Speaker, there is perhaps some relevance on the principle of when justice should be rendered, and I will simply restate our position. In this case, we believe that suspension is appropriate until any avenue for appeal is exhausted or the appeal period runs out, whatever the case may be, and to act before that would be premature.
However, there is a big difference between a matter like that, which involves his rights that are very fundamental to sit in the House and the issues related there, and a simple question of a debt owed in a judgment that has been found. If I were the official opposition, I would pay my debts quickly.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to join today's debate on the opposition motion to make reforms to question period by changing the Standing Orders. As is my custom, as I am sure most members in the House are well aware, I never read from a written speech. I do not believe, frankly, in that. I particularly do not like the practice that seems to have become common in this place whereby members come into this place and read a speech, which someone else has written, not even knowing the content of the speech. They are just reading words. It is almost like white noise.
I can appreciate the fact that some members, in order to collect their thoughts and give them a coherent stream, do write their own speeches, as did my colleague the Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification today, and a good speech it was. I have no real objection to that. However, I take a different view. If members have knowledge of a particular subject, they should be able to speak here for 10 to 20 minutes, at least, and converse with their colleagues to impart their views and opinions on the subject at hand.
While my thoughts today may be somewhat random, I hope I can connect them in a way that will be somewhat understandable to my colleagues opposite.
I have been listening to the debate throughout the day. That is why it has taken until now for me to formulate my thoughts. I will start by saying that I will be opposing the motion, as opposed to my colleague and good friend from Wellington—Halton Hills, who will be supporting it. I am going to be opposing it for a couple of reasons.
First and foremost, I do not believe that Parliament should be changing the Standing Orders in a one-off manner, as the NDP is trying to do here.
I have been involved for the last two and a half years, believe it or not, at the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, in examining potential changes to the Standing Orders. I have been absolutely frustrated, not because we have not had goodwill on all sides of the House to try to make changes that would fundamentally improve the functioning of Parliament, and that is the objective we all had, but because we keep getting interrupted. Much of this is outside of our control. There are pieces of legislation that come to our committee that take precedence. There are private member's bills or matters of privilege and those types of things. We have always been interrupted.
I point that out because I believe that if we finally get to a point where we have members from all sides of the House on a committee dealing with reviewing the Standing Orders to see if there are things we could do to improve the functioning of Parliament and the House, whether it be in question period, at committee, or otherwise, it would benefit us all.
As I mentioned to a few of my colleagues today, when we were meeting again about the Standing Order review, when I leave this place, whether willingly or because of ill health, that being, of course, because my voters get sick of me, and someone asks me years from now what difference I made in Parliament, I would like to be able to answer with something substantive. If I could say that I was part of a committee that changed the Standing Orders in Parliament and improved the way Parliament works, I would be one happy individual. I hope we can actually do that. That is primarily why I have opposition to this one-off approach the NDP takes.
I have a few other problems with it. I feel that question period as identified and as illuminated by some of my colleagues on the opposition benches is primarily an opportunity for the opposition to question the government of the day. I have no issues with that whatsoever. However, I also feel that opposition members must also follow the principles and guidelines as established in O'Brien and Bosc. I do not even know if most members here realize that there are principles and guidelines governing questions asked of the government, but there are. There are clear guidelines.
We have heard before that we cannot be repetitive. Today one of my colleagues told me he thought there were 12 questions in a row on ISIL. They were all the same question. The Minister of Foreign Affairs was giving a proper response, saying that there will be a vote in Parliament and a debate in Parliament if it is the government's view that we should be entering into a combat mission.
One question, when answered, should have sufficed, yet we had the same question 12 different times. There were 12 different variations, but of the same question and receiving the same answer. Does that benefit anyone? Of course not.
We have to look at not only how the government responds to questions but how questions are posed. Rather than this one-off on the relevancy of questions or answers, I would like to see a more comprehensive review of Parliament as a whole. That is something I am still going to try to spearhead over the course of the next few months. Perhaps it might even go into the next Parliament.
All of us need to be accountable to Parliament, and it is not just question period. Most of the members of the opposition when debating the motion today have focused in on question period. I understand that. It is their 45-minute opportunity each and every day to try to question the government, to try to score partisan points for themselves and to get public opinion on their side. I understand that. Similarly, a lot of the answers we give are obviously going to try to make the government look in its best light. That is the nature of adversarial politics. That is the nature of Parliament. However, we cannot view that in isolation. We have to look at a larger picture.
I have also heard members of the opposition say it is the role, and only role, for opposition members to be questioning government. I disagree. As expressed by my colleague, the minister of western economic diversification, every single member here needs to be accountable.
For example, while members of the opposition question the government on its future plans to deal with ISIL and other terrorist threats, I have yet to hear in Parliament an articulated view from members of the opposition parties, both Liberal and NDP, of what their plans would be. Do they, or would they, support combat missions to join with the United States and allies, if that in fact was what the request was? I have not heard that, not in this place at least.
I have heard outside of Parliament some news reports saying that the NDP has said it does not agree to any mission, combat or non-combat. I have heard outside Parliament members of the Liberal Party saying they would not support a “boots on the ground” movement but would perhaps support limited air strikes. I have not heard them say that in here. Therefore, there is a need for accountability by even members of the opposition in dealing with issues that affect Canadians.
I know my next few comments will not be viewed with any delight by members of the opposition, but I do want to point this out because my House leader mentioned it in his intervention this morning. An issue that is before Canadians is the issue of illegal mailings and satellite offices by the NDP. What I do not think most Canadians are aware of, however, is the background to that. I want to spend just a few moments on that because, frankly, there is a need for accountability from the NDP when it comes to these very issues, because we are talking about a lot of taxpayers' dollars here.
Most Canadians who may be watching this are aware that most members of Parliament, hopefully all members of Parliament, send out communiqués to their constituents on a regular basis. They are usually in the form of ten percenters or householders. Ten percenters is an inside baseball, inside politics term. Basically, for those Canadians who many be watching this debate, it is a small brochure that one could fit inside a coat pocket. They are sent out by members of Parliament at various times throughout the year, sometimes half a dozen times or more. Householders are a larger format, more like a newsprint. They are sent out usually four times a year. I say this as background.
The issue at hand is that the board of internal economy stated that the mailings the NDP sent out last fall during a time there were three by-elections being held in Canada, one in Bourassa, one in Provencher and one in Brandon—Souris, were illegal. Why is that? It is because the rules quite clearly state that these communiqués that members of Parliament send out should not be political in nature. They should not be there to promote elections or anything like that.
In the case of the mailings in question, the NDP did a couple of things, which on the surface would appear to be extremely strange.
As members know, and as most Canadians know, all of the ten percenters and householders that I was referring to are normally printed by House printers and they are paid for by the good taxpayers of Canada. They allow us to communicate with our constituents, to give information to our constituents about what is happening.
I found it extremely odd that the tens of thousands of brochures that were sent out by the NDP during the time of these three by-elections were not paid for by the House and were not printed by the House. The New Democratic Party went to an outside printer, paid for them itself, and then mailed them out in franked envelopes, franked envelopes meaning taxpayer paid-for envelopes. The NDP did not have to incur the cost of postage.
Why would those members do that? The answer is quite simple. They knew if they put the content of those brochures before House administration, House administration would say they could not be mailed out because the content of the brochures did not fit the guidelines we have to follow. Why? Because they were campaign documents. They were documents meant to promote the candidacy of the NDP candidates in those three by-elections.
The NDP went to an outside printer to get them printed, and there is nothing wrong with that. The New Democratic Party paid for those brochures itself, and there is nothing wrong with that. The New Democratic Party should have paid for those brochures because they were campaign documents. Then that party used—
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
Mr. Speaker, I would just explain the background of what I feel to be the need for accountability in this place, and that was my whole point.
To date the NDP has not spoken on that issue. It has not been accountable to taxpayers. That is my purpose in bringing up those examples. I will leave it at that. Suffice to say that I wish the NDP would speak of it. I do believe there is a need for accountability from the opposition benches, as well as the government. We have heard the term “one-way street”. I agree that it cannot simply be a one-way street.
In question period, yes, without question, the role of the opposition is to question the government. The role of the government is to respond to questions. However, the questions have to be phrased properly, and the responses from the government have to be on topic.
Let me give an example. I spoke earlier about the fact that there are principles and guidelines for questions to be posed in this place. I am not sure how many members know there are such guidelines in place, but there are. I want to give an example to members opposite, who feel they have free rein to ask a question on any topic in any fashion they wish, of how they have failed.
If in fact members want to change the Standing Orders, if they want to take a look at conduct in question period, let us look at conduct in question period not only from the government side but the opposition side.
There are many guidelines in place. One of them is that a question should not be on a matter that is sub judice. Again, for Canadians who may be watching, that basically means questions cannot be posed in Parliament on a matter that is before the courts, because it might unduly influence an outcome. We have privilege. We have immunity in this place. A question cannot be asked that is sub judice.
However, if we go back in Hansard, particularly over the last eight to 10 months, these questions have been asked literally hundreds of times, whether it be on the Duffy affair or others. The Leader of the Opposition has posed them himself. Those are questions that should not be posed.
The opposition is stating that it wants to see the Speaker be the arbiter only to force the government to answer questions that opposition members think should be answered in a manner in which they think should be answered. How would that be administered?
How does any Speaker say that they think it is relevant? Does that mean the Speaker would have inside knowledge of the government's policy decisions? Or is it merely that the Speaker would say that based on what he or she heard that it may be relevant? However, the opposition members would probably clamour to their feet at that point saying that it is not relevant at all and that it is not giving the information they demanded.
It puts the Chair in an impossible situation. Conversely, if the Speaker were to be that kind of an arbiter, to enforce what the Chair believed to be relevant, then I believe the Speaker would have an equal opportunity, or at least obligation, to question whether or not the opposition members are posing their questions in a manner that is proper.
I would also point out that many times—and I will not offer motivation on behalf of the opposition on this—I believe questions are asked from the opposition to the government on matters that should not be questioned because it deals with security matters, whether it be national security or cabinet privacy. Opposition members, or at least this official opposition, seem to think they have the absolute right to ask questions on any issue whatsoever and demand an answer.
For a prime example of why that should not be allowed and why there should be more respect by all members who are posing questions, I would simply go back to the issue in 1979 when we had the Iranian hostage crisis. At that time the opposition, led by former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, kept hammering the government of the day, former prime minister Joe Clark and then foreign affairs minister, Flora MacDonald, on what Canadians were doing to help the Americans in hostage situations.
Our government was not prepared to say anything about that. We all know the story. They were hiding in the Canadian embassy. Eventually former prime minister Clark took opposition leader Trudeau into his confidence and told him what was going on. He told him that we had hostages hiding in the embassy, and asked him to lay off because lives were at risk. It did not help. If anything, it increased the opposition's desire to ask questions to try to embarrass the government.
Those are situations in which we all bear responsibility. For the opposition members simply to say that it is a matter for government to respond in a manner in which they wish to hear responses made is not good enough. There is equal responsibility that should be taken by both sides. I hope we all can agree on at least that.
View Jeff Watson Profile
View Jeff Watson Profile
2014-06-16 14:17 [p.6876]
Mr. Speaker, the NDP insists that it will not pay back money that it misspent to send out inappropriate and partisan mail-outs. This is unacceptable to us and the taxpayers. The rules have always been clear. It is not acceptable to use House of Commons resources to fund party offices or send party mail-outs.
Last week, the all-party Board of Internal Economy received and accepted the non-partisan House official's recommendations, showing that the total cost of the NDP's partisan mail-outs was $1.17 million. Of that, $36,000 is owed to the House and $1.13 million is associated with the use of franking privileges through Canada Post.
The verdict is clear. The NDP broke the rules, and Canadians now expect that it will pay it back. Should the NDP continue its campaign to evade accountability, we fully support House administration and Canada Post taking every step necessary to recoup every penny for Canadian taxpayers.
We say, “Pay it back.”
View Steven Fletcher Profile
Mr. Speaker, I hate to bring it up, but when it comes to ethical issues, the NDP has a lot to answer for. There is the over $1 million in mailings. We have a situation where the NDP has used parliamentary office space for political purposes. We all know that this is a big no-no.
I am not sure if Mary Dawson has the jurisdiction to check those items out, but certainly those who do have the jurisdiction have condemned the NDP for doing something that every member of the House knows not to do. We do not use third-party printers. We do not do clandestine mailings. We do not use parliamentary resources for political purposes.
I wonder if the member could reflect on all the ethical breaches the NDP has undertaken in the last little while.
View Charlie Angus Profile
View Charlie Angus Profile
2014-06-16 15:56 [p.6893]
Why not say that, Mr. Speaker? This has become the circus they run, where they get everyone running after some false thing, while they are ignoring the fact that they are stripping the basic obligation to hold government to account.
My hon. colleague will no doubt come out next and say that the NDP sank the lost continent of Atlantis and should have to pay it back. I am sure they will say that. The fact is, we are dealing with a report that is undermining the basic legitimacy of this parliamentary tradition, yet we see Bozo the clowns on the back bench jumping up and down and cheering whenever the government throws red meat at them.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2014-06-16 15:56 [p.6893]
Mr. Speaker, it was the House administration that ruled that the NDP was breaking the rules in regard to the satellite office and the mailings. Canadians need to be concerned about the unethical behaviour of the NDP leader and members of its caucus on this issue.
That said, when we think of wasting time, the member knows full well that we have been looking toward debating legislation as we wind down to what will likely be the end of the session by Friday. He has chosen to present this motion, which will no doubt precipitate yet another half hour of bell ringing. We have lost the opportunity to bring forward petitions today. For example, I was wanting to bring forward my petition on the OAS and CPP, which our pensioners treat as very important. Then we would get on to government bills and working hard, as opposed to what we see with the New Democrats, which on three separate occasions has moved for adjournment.
Why is the NDP and its leader choosing to be lazy and to not do the work Canadians expect us to do here in the House of Commons?
View Chris Warkentin Profile
View Chris Warkentin Profile
2014-06-16 16:01 [p.6894]
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite talked about different things that undermine this Parliament. There are a number of things, and he happens to be one of them. He has criticized every party and anyone who has not agreed with him. He has refused to answer any questions that have been put to him in this entire debate.
The question that needs to be asked and continually will not be answered by the member is when the NDP will repay what they took from taxpayers that was against the rules. It has been ruled by the non-partisan staff of this place that the NDP broke the rules, took the $1.7 million, and took off with it. We are talking also about the revelations of the scandal that saw the House of Commons staff, taxpayer-paid staff, now housed in partisan--
Mr. Don Davies: What about your mailings? Look at the Liberal mailings. Come on. Hypocrite.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
View Phil McColeman Profile
View Phil McColeman Profile
2014-06-13 11:53 [p.6832]
Mr. Speaker, as Canadian taxpayers found out this week, 1.8 million first-class stamps do add up. The NDP found out that it was responsible to repay $1.17 million to Canada Post for abusing and misusing its MP mailing privileges.
Canadians want to know that MPs are respecting taxpayer money. Could the Chief Government Whip tell us what steps are being taken to ensure there is accountability in the House?
View John Duncan Profile
Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives have led the way in ensuring transparency and accountability. We are the only party that has been posting our MP travel and hospitality expenses fully and voluntarily since last October. We will continue to be transparent and respect taxpayers.
On the other hand, the New Democrats have refused to post their travel and hospitality expenses from the beginning. They have refused to be transparent and they have refused to be accountable. Now they are refusing to pay Canadians back for what they owe the—
View Larry Miller Profile
Mr. Speaker, the rules have always been clear: it is not acceptable to use House of Commons resources to fund party offices or political parties or to send party mail-outs, yet the NDP has been caught mailing over two million partisan flyers on the taxpayers' dime.
Yesterday the Board of Internal Economy ruled that the NDP spent $1.17 million on illegal party propaganda.
Our government understands that the purpose of franking privileges is to support an open dialogue between members of Parliament and their constituencies, but this privilege is not to be abused.
Today the Minister of Transport personally called the CEO of Canada Post to discuss its plan to recover these misspent funds from the NDP. Rest assured, every single penny that was misspent by the NDP will be paid back to hard-working Canadian taxpayers. It is clear that the NDP broke the rules, and we expect it to repay Canadians immediately.
View Larry Miller Profile
Mr. Speaker, Canadians expect their parliamentarians and political parties to follow the rules. Yesterday the Board of Internal Economy ruled that the NDP broke House of Commons rules by using parliamentary resources for partisan mail-outs.
Could the Minister of Transport tell the House how the government will ensure that the NDP pays back the $1.3 million it misspent and that it owes Canada Post?
View Lisa Raitt Profile
View Lisa Raitt Profile
2014-06-12 14:50 [p.6743]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the chair of the transport committee for this important question.
It is true that the rules have been very clear. It is not acceptable to use House of Commons resources to fund a party office or to send out party mail-outs. The NDP knows this. As a result, I expect that the party is going to pay back Canada Post.
However, I also expect that those members will refuse to pay back Canada Post, and that is why today I spoke to the CEO of Canada Post to ensure that he understood what was happening. He does. He takes it very seriously. Canada Post will be developing a plan to deal with the situation.
View Jacques Gourde Profile
Mr. Speaker, once again, the NDP is abusing the resources of the House of Commons to do partisan work.
It is the party that is supposedly working to a build a better Canada, but here we have more evidence of opportunism. Using the ten percenter program during a pre-election period or an election period is unethical, and the NDP knows it. It is an insult to Canadians, especially if those who authorized this expense were aware of the consequences.
Now that it has been caught red-handed, let us hope that the NDP will have the decency to repay this shameful and unjustified expense.
This goes to show that the NDP has no respect for the rules established by the House of Commons and that it is worse than other opposition parties that cross the line by disrespecting taxpayers' money to serve their own interests.
View Emmanuel Dubourg Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Emmanuel Dubourg Profile
2014-05-13 14:40 [p.5325]
Mr. Speaker, my question is for the chair of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
He passed a motion asking the House administration to send him any documents related to mass mailings by the NDP.
Mailings were delivered in my riding of Bourassa. My constituents deserve answers, because House resources were used.
Has the committee received those documents? If not, when will it receive them and will it make them public?
View Joe Preston Profile
Mr. Speaker, first of all, it is a special occurrence to be asked a question in question period.
In preparation for the visit this Thursday from the Leader of the Opposition at committee on the issue of using House resources for political benefit, we have been trying to gather a number of documents together, and even this morning at committee we discussed the documents that still were not delivered, including the ones on the mailings. I will endeavour with my hard-working committee clerk to ensure that we receive them today or by Thursday.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2014-04-01 17:14 [p.4155]
Mr. Speaker, the member made reference to the search and rescue helicopter that ultimately picked up the minister. It is a great issue in showing where the government has really made a mess of a situation. I concur 100% with the member on that and think he will find the record showing that both Liberals and New Democrats were one in opposition to that issue because it was an abuse.
The member referred to the New Democrat caucus as a model of integrity. In this regard, could he reflect on what the leader of his party has done about the abuse of mail allegations regarding his satellite office, and does he believe that is proper for the leader of the official opposition to do? How does he justify using public tax dollars for that massive $2 million mailing to 30 ridings, which, from what I understand, the NDP does not even hold?
View Blake Richards Profile
View Blake Richards Profile
2014-03-25 15:00 [p.3843]
Mr. Speaker, the NDP has been caught abusing MP mailing privileges during by-elections and using its House of Commons budget to run offices for partisan activities. Not only is this disrespectful of taxpayers, it is also a direct violation of the rules.
Can the Minister of State for Democratic Reform—
View Rick Dykstra Profile
View Rick Dykstra Profile
2012-11-02 11:03 [p.11851]
Mr. Speaker, a $21 billion carbon tax can be found on page 4 of the NDP platform costing tables. While NDP members complain about mention of this fact, the NDP has been sending a completely false message to Canadian seniors.
David Boese, a local senior on an NDP mailing list in my community, wrote me about a disturbing email signed by the NDP House leader, which led him to believe he would lose $12,000 in OAS payments. Understandably, he expressed anxiety about his personal finances and was relieved to find the truth. Like all Canadians 55 and over, David Boese could live to be a thousand years old and not lose a single penny of OAS money.
It is irresponsible for NDP members to spread falsehoods about government programs to the Canadian seniors who rely on them. Seniors trust messages from elected members of Parliament and by trying to add a zero and then another zero to get to $12,000, the NDP is simply abusing that trust.
View John Williamson Profile
Mr. Speaker, it has come to my attention that what appear to be ten percenters have been mailed into various ridings in New Brunswick, including my own.
On many of these ten percenters, the return mailing address is to the Liberal member for Toronto Centre. One such mailing to my own riding of New Brunswick Southwest came in a franked envelope from the Liberal member for Cardigan.
I have submitted this evidence to you, Mr. Speaker, along with notice of this question of privilege. I ask you to consider the following points.
On November 3, 2009, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore raised a question of privilege, claiming his position on the long gun registry was misrepresented in a mailing from another member.
In the subsequent decision by Speaker Milliken on November 19, 2009, it was found that the privileges of the member for Sackville--Eastern Shore were breached for these very reasons, and that it had the effect of “...unjustly damaging his reputation and his credibility with the voters of his riding...”.
Also, on November 19, 2009, a question of privilege was raised by the member for Mount Royal on grounds that his privilege was infringed by the actions of another member who sent a ten percenter into his riding. This resulted in Speaker Milliken stating that “...the mailing constitutes interference with his ability to perform his parliamentary functions in that its content is damaging to his reputation and his credibility”. This can be found in Hansard, November 26, 2009.
On March 15, 2010, the Liberal member for Malpeque moved a motion calling for the Board of Internal Economy to “take all necessary steps to end immediately the wasteful practice of members sending mass mailings, known as 'ten-percenters', into ridings other than their own...”. Again, this is from Hansard, March 15, 2010.
This motion passed, and the Liberal member for Malpeque issued a press release on March 29, 2010, stating that “The Conservatives abused this privilege--both in quantity and content--by sending excessive partisan attacks into unheld ridings and wasting millions of taxpayers' dollars. The Liberal motion ended these partisan out-of-riding mailings and won a victory for Canadian taxpayers”.
So much for that.
I remind the House that according to the April 19, 2010, decision by the Board of Internal Economy, ten percenters are only to be distributed as bulk mail from the House postal services, effective May 1, 2010. The April 1, 2012 version of the manual on members' allowance and services states, “Ten percenters may only be distributed within the member's own constituency and may not be distributed as addressed mail”, yet the material sent into my riding and others by Liberal members is generic in nature. Inside the franked and addressed envelope there is nothing that addresses the individual whose name is on the outside of the envelope.
In the mailing from the member for Toronto Centre into the riding of Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, the letter begins with a generic “Dear Friend”. In the mailing into my own riding by the member for Cardigan, there is not even a salutation line.
Regardless of whether these materials were produced by the House of Commons printing services, in the offices of the member in question or in the research offices, these mailings are bulk in nature. They are not specifically addressed to the individuals whose names appear on the outside envelope and they are printed using taxpayer-supplied resources.
As you will see, Mr. Speaker, from the paper I supplied to you, they are partisan in nature, generic in content and should not be sent using franked envelopes into other members' ridings.
If the Liberal Party of Canada wishes to launch bulk partisan mail into Conservative—or, for that matter, New Democratic-held ridings—it should do so with its own funds, not House of Commons resources.
Mr. Speaker, I believe that there is a breach of privilege in this matter and I am prepared to move an appropriate motion should you agree. That motion would involve sending this question to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
The actions of the members for Toronto Centre, Cardigan and possibly others are in direct contradiction of the spirit of the rules governing House of Commons mailings and, I believe, in contradiction of the letter of the law, which of course was to not only not direct such mailings into a riding held by another member but to do so with taxpayers' dollars.
It is clear that Parliament previously sought to end the practice of bulk partisan mailings being sent by one member into another member's riding. The Liberals seem to believe that they have found a way around this rule by stuffing bulk partisan materials into addressed and franked envelopes.
It is important that the House have the opportunity to examine this matter in the appropriate committee. It is necessary to determine whether the actions of some members are in breach of House of Commons rules. In addition to this, I think it would be prudent for the members of the Liberal Party who are participating in this practice, which they have previously publicly denounced, to apologize to this House and to Canadian taxpayers for their misuse of the resources entrusted to them.
If these mailings were paid for by the Liberal Party of Canada—meaning both the cost of printing and of postage—I would be the first to claim this matter was outside the purview of Parliament. That, however, is not the case.
Mr. Speaker, thank you for reviewing this important matter that I am sure you, like me, had believed was resolved.
View Nathan Cullen Profile
View Nathan Cullen Profile
2012-05-28 15:25 [p.8410]
Mr. Speaker, once we take a look at the blues from my hon. colleague's notes, we reserve the right to address his point of privilege, unless you are ready to rule on it right now.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
View Andrew Scheer Profile
2012-05-28 15:26 [p.8411]
I am ready to rule now.
I thank the hon. member for New Brunswick Southwest for bringing this matter to my attention. I have had a chance to read his letter and look at the items in question.
I do feel that it is not a situation exactly analogous to the two previous rulings that he cited, given that it seems here to be more a complaint about whether the House rules were followed than about the content of the items he questioned.
Therefore, I find it is not a question of privilege, but it certainly could be something that the Board of Internal Economy should look at. I can assure the hon. member that I will ensure its appearance on the agenda for the next board meeting in order for the board to determine whether these particular mailings followed the House of Commons' own internal rules for these types of publications.
View Pat Martin Profile
View Pat Martin Profile
2012-04-24 16:30 [p.7112]
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Surrey North for agreeing to share his time with me as we debate Bill C-26. I asked specifically for an opportunity to join the debate today on behalf of the constituents I represent in the riding of Winnipeg Centre.
Every time I poll the constituents in my riding as to what their top of mind issue might be, consistently for the last 15 years the number one issue has been safety, crime and criminal justice issues, safe streets and the right to walk the streets free of molestation and with a sense of comfort and safety. That has been the prevailing issue of about 34% or 36% of those people answering my surveys. Things like tax cuts are down around 8%, and perhaps that is a function of the socio-economic demographics of my riding as it is one of the poorest postal code areas in the country. Low income people are more likely to be affected by and have their lives touched by crime, violence and even the criminal justice system.
I am particularly interested in this legislation and how it would affect ordinary Canadians.
I also want to compliment and pay tribute to my colleague from Gatineau for representing the party on this sometimes controversial issue with integrity and a sense of balance that such a sensitive issue calls for. I also recognize the comments that were made by other members of the NDP and the origin of this particular bill.
The member for Trinity—Spadina can claim responsibility for us having this debate today as Mr. David Chen, the owner of the Lucky Moose Food Mart, resides in her riding. It was the very high profile issue associated with Mr. Chen's frustration at so often being the target of shoplifting at his small business that he was compelled to take what we would consider to be dangerous and extraordinary action but which most Canadians would agree was justified and necessary at the time.
However, we are dealing with a bunch of competing rights. As with many pieces of legislation that properly fall before the chamber, it is an issue on which reasonable people can reasonably disagree and therefore we do not want to take this issue lightly.
In the few moments that I have I will start from the premise that the benchmark of a civil society is the quality of its criminal justice system and that the criminal justice system should be measured by its fairness and its application instead of the concern that there is sometimes an arbitrary application of criminal justice issues. Also, in the element of fairness, we must take into account some of the driving forces underlying the problem as it is presented to us.
I am a former labour leader. I have negotiated dozens if not hundreds of collective agreements. Every time we sought to change a clause in a collective agreement, two questions were put to us by the management side: First, why do we want to make this clause change? Second, has this clause been a problem during the life of the collective agreement?
I think we can safely say in this example that there is justification for opening section 494 of the Criminal Code that deals with a citizen's arrest based on the extraordinary case of Mr. Chen and the Lucky Moose Food Market that brought the public's attention to this compelling issue.
The reason I began in the context of trying to describe the socio-economic demographics of my riding is that the opposite of poverty is not wealth. The opposite of poverty is justice. When we look at the high incidents of crime and in fact violence and contact with the criminal justice system in low income areas I think the argument makes itself.
When I look at the circumstances surrounding Mr. David Chen and the case that was put forward so compellingly by my colleague from Trinity—Spadina, I am gratified to know that all parties in the House of Commons acknowledge the necessity but, at the same time, we are confounded by the Conservatives' approach to criminal justice issues in the 41st Parliament and, in fact, even in the 40th Parliament when they were in a minority situation.
We have seen issues used as an excuse to raise the spectre of crime and violence in the streets as justification for putting forward legislation that cannot be easily justified. I am thinking of Bill C-10 where the Province of Manitoba, my home province, actually came to the government asking for certain changes with the detention, for example, in the auto theft situation when Manitoba was experiencing a great rash of auto thefts, often by young offenders. The police and the courts were frustrated by the limitations of holding a young offender who may have been apprehended that evening in the act of auto theft, being released the same night and then sometimes getting picked up by the same police in yet another vehicle, all in the context of a 12-hour period.
The Province of Manitoba came to the federal government urging it to make changes to where young offenders could be detained overnight until such time as they could make their first court appearance. That found its way into this new bill that has been quite controversial, but talk about baby and the bathwater. The ultimate legislation that we wound up with went far beyond any reasonable justification.
As I illustrated, the first question we need to ask when we open legislation to amend a clause is whether there is justification for it. We need to know whether the clause has been a compelling problem? In many of these cases, the only thing we were trying to address was a straw man built up by the Conservatives to strike fear in the hearts of Canadians and then they tried to paint themselves as the great saviour, the only ones who could protect the people from this manufactured fear. However, all the empirical evidence shows us that the rate of crime, especially crimes of personal violence, et cetera, is way down statistically.
However, that did not stop the Conservatives from mailing ten percenters into my riding trying to whip up a frenzy of fear. I saw one of the ten percenters, back when MPs could actually mail ten percenters into other people's ridings, and it had a picture of a guy breaking through a window with his face shielded and with a knife raised above his shoulders as if he were going to break into our house and murder us in the night with a knife if we did not vote for the Conservatives to stop him from breaking in and killing us. That was the message, for all intents and purposes.
Even at a time when we are trying to calm people down and show them the actual statistics that the streets are safer than ever before, even in an area that experiences a great deal of property crime, et cetera, no one is at particular threat of being murdered in the night by this junky with a knife.
There is a dishonesty, a disingenuous aspect to this. The Conservatives are like a duck on a June bug when it comes to any issue associated with criminal justice issues, and their reaction is far disproportionate to the actual cause, need and demand.
In the context of Bill C-26, our party supports it with concerns that have been expressed by many of my colleagues.
View Harold Albrecht Profile
View Harold Albrecht Profile
2011-12-05 23:04 [p.4043]
Mr. Chair, once a person goes through a situation like this, he or she becomes aware that there is so much more that could have been done. From here on, there is so much more that we can do.
Members of the House all have access to a regular communication piece that they can send out to their constituents. What would be wrong with raising that issue in a corner of a householder, maybe a quarter of a page, to point out that there is an urgent need and a long waiting list of potential recipients?
In these last weeks as we approach the Christmas season, I have partnered with the Trillium Gift of Life Network in some of the Christmas parades. This is an Ontario organization that does an excellent job of coordinating tissue and organ donations and organ transplants. It did an incredible job of working with us through those gruelling hours of grief. We have partnered with them in spreading the word. In our Christmas parades we handed out little cards with a Life Saver stapled to them. I do not know how many hundreds of people will have received that little card with a Life Saver stapled to it with the website address: beadonor.ca.
I think these are simple yet potentially very effective ways to spread the word and raise awareness. All one has to do is find the website and click on it. Once one is in that registry, it lists the different groups across Canada that are doing this kind of work.
I think if we started to brainstorm for a few minutes, even at committee level, we could come up with many more creative ideas as to how we, as members, could begin that discussion and then perhaps work with community partners at different levels of government to spread the word.
View Ben Lobb Profile
View Ben Lobb Profile
2011-03-10 11:55 [p.8885]
Mr. Speaker, again, if I go back to the motion where it mentions “advance its partisan interests and oppose its regressive ideology”, perhaps the member may want to get off her high horse. She may remember a ten percenter which she would have signed off on and which she sent into a riding in northern Saskatchewan. There were pictures of body bags on the ten percenter. Perhaps when she is thinking about her speech about truth and ideology and all these highbrow concepts, she may think back to her own actions. Maybe she would have a response to that. We need to see both sides here.
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
2011-03-10 11:56 [p.8885]
Mr. Speaker, I do not think that ten percenter was right. I have already apologized to the aboriginal people.
At that time I was equally passionate about the lack of action on our aboriginal people, the fact that there were 10 to 12 people living in one house with no running water in those communities I went to in northern Manitoba. That situation has not improved at all. I feel as passionate about that now as I did when the ten percenter went out. I agree that was wrong. That is why we, on this side of the House, moved to abolish ten percenters going into other ridings.
View Peter Stoffer Profile
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for being in the House of Commons today because he would have had to fly here, obviously with the permission of someone in the United States. I would like to thank the United States administration.
Recently we had a debate about senators being able to trash members of Parliament through their ten-percenters across the country. Conservative members are famous for sending a tremendous amount of mail-outs to their ridings.
I would like to ask my hon. colleague from Winnipeg Centre if he knows of any Conservative member in the House or the Senate who has sent a ten-percenter to his or her constituents telling them that the government is going to give their credit card information, health information, hotel information, everything about them to the United States of America and through a secret firm the United States will transfer that information to who knows where? I am wondering how many Conservatives in the House or the Senate have actually sent that information to their constituents.
View Pat Martin Profile
View Pat Martin Profile
2011-02-03 10:39 [p.7654]
Mr. Speaker, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore has raised a very interesting question.
I wonder how proud the Conservative members of Parliament in this chamber or the other chamber are of this intrusion into and erosion of the privacy rights of Canadians. I wonder if they will be using their extraordinary mailing privileges to brag and advertise what they did when they went down to that trading session. Somebody mentioned what terrible negotiators they are. It is like Jack and the Beanstalk; they went down and traded their cow for three beans or something. The Conservative members did not come back with something to the advantage of Canada. They came back with this appalling policy, much to the detriment of Canadian rights and freedoms.
It is an appalling situation that the Conservatives were carpet bombing other ridings with their political propaganda. Now that they have actually overdone it to the point where they have been prohibited from doing so, they are allowing their colleagues in the Senate to mail propaganda to ridings such as Winnipeg South Centre using the Senate mailing privileges. That is one example I know of.
My Liberal colleague is getting hate mail essentially from the Conservative members in the Senate regarding her voting record on issues before the House of Commons, and that is funded by taxpayer dollars. The Conservatives should be ashamed of that communication strategy. As well, they should be ashamed of Bill C-42.
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
2010-11-15 14:55 [p.5942]
Mr. Speaker, despite the best efforts of the House to clean up the practice, the Conservatives continue to circumvent the roles of MP mail-outs and waste thousands of taxpayers' dollars. The member for New Brunswick Southwest used his franking privileges to ask Conservatives to vote for his hand-picked successor. That successor just happens to be the Prime Minister's former communications director.
How can the Conservatives not see that this is cheating?
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
2010-11-15 14:55 [p.5942]
Mr. Speaker, there are rules in place and those rules should be followed. In addition to eliminating out-of-riding ten percenters, our party and this government are prepared to go further to save taxpayers' dollars in this regard, and we call upon all parties to support our long-standing proposal to eliminate political subsidies to the parties in the House.
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
2010-11-15 14:59 [p.5943]
Mr. Speaker, my question is about cheating, and the cheating does not stop with the member from New Brunswick Southwest. First a Conservative senator gets direction from the PMO to send out flyers attacking opposition MPs. This is a flagrant abuse of the new House rules. Now the member of Parliament for Barrie is caught using taxpayer dollars to promote a Conservative councillor. Will the government order its members and its senator to repay these wasted funds?
When will the cheating stop?
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
2010-11-15 15:00 [p.5943]
Mr. Speaker, there are rules in place, and we expect all of the rules to be followed.
That being said, I encourage the member, given the degree of enthusiasm that she has shown on this subject, to come with us even further and save $25 million for all Canadians by cancelling the subsidy that political parties receive.
View Alex Atamanenko Profile
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-589, An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act and the Canada Post Corporation Act (use of resources by members).
He said: Mr. Speaker, with my private member's bill, I propose to amend the Parliament of Canada Act to prohibit the members of the House of Commons from using funds, goods, services or premises made available to them, in other words taxpayer money, to carry out parliamentary functions in support of or in opposition to the appointment of the election of a person to the board of directors of the Canadian Wheat Board or any other federal body.
The bill would also amend the Canada Post Corporation Act to prohibit those members from transmitting mail free of postage for the same purpose.
As we know, the Conservative members recklessly spent a large amount of taxpayer money on the 2008 board elections. They showered the Prairies with fliers that promoted candidates who opposed the board. Taxpayers should not have to foot the bill again if the Conservatives decide to use the same strategy for the current elections.
In other words, this bill hopefully would prevent abuses of our democratic process in the future by not allowing any member of Parliament to use his or her funds to either oppose or support the elections of directors for the Canadian Wheat Board or similar organizations.
View David Anderson Profile
Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a point of order with regard to the question of privilege raised by the NDP member for Sackville—Eastern Shore on November 3, 2009, during the second session of the 40th Parliament and the subsequent finding of a prima facie case of privilege by you.
The case revolved around a ten percenter that was sent into the member's riding, which talked about the long gun registry. It has a picture of a duck hunter on it and it says, “The failed long-gun registry. Hard on farmers and hunters. Useless against real criminals”. It talked about how the local MP had worked to support the registry. It asked the question, “Is that the support you expect you’re your local MP?”.
The House may recall that on November 3, 2009, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore rose in the House with a great deal of indignation. On page 6568 of Debates , the member loudly protested the ten percenter that was sent into his riding that suggested, heaven forbid, that he might support keeping the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry. He called such a suggestion “outright fabrication of the facts”, and—
View Peter Milliken Profile
Lib. (ON)
Order, please. I need to hear—
An hon. member: It was a question of privilege.
The Speaker: It was not a question of privilege. It was a point of order. I want to hear what this has to do with the rules of the House. I have heard absolutely nothing on that subject yet. This is a point of order that we are hearing. It has to have something to do with procedure. Householders may have been a question of privilege, but they are not procedure. I would like to hear what the procedural point is.
View David Anderson Profile
Mr. Speaker, I would like to lay out a bit of introduction and then I will certainly get to that.
The member positively stated that he had worked to get rid of the long gun registry for twelve and a half years. He claimed his reputation had been deliberately impugned and that the situation was intolerable. Based on his statements, Mr. Speaker, you found there was a prima facie case of privilege in regard to his question of privilege and referred the matter to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
At committee the member testified, and once again—
View Peter Milliken Profile
Lib. (ON)
Order, please. The member is reviewing the history of a case that may have gone to a committee and may have made a decision. I have no recollection. It does not appear to me to be a point of order affecting the proceedings of the House. Accordingly, I do not think there is a point of order here. I will proceed with tabling of documents.
View Massimo Pacetti Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, once again, I am pleased to speak to the budget bill today.
Since my last intervention on the budget bill in which I only spoke on the first group of amendments, I would like to make a few comments on the second group of amendments that were defeated yesterday in the House that I did not get a chance to comment on.
I, for one, find it completely unacceptable that this bill seeks to give the government unilateral authority to sell off part or all of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited to any national, foreign, private or public entity. “Anything goes, no restrictions, let us give it all away and get rid of all traces of government”. That seems to be the philosophy of the government.
The bill would remove parliamentary oversight from any prospective sales of AECL. We have Parliament for a reason: to oversee the government. Canadians elected a minority Parliament for the specific purpose that they do not want the government to be unaccountable on issues like this.
If it makes sense to sell off AECL, let us have it in a separate piece of legislation, not the budget bill, and have the proper committee study the issue. One never knows; one might be surprised. Stakeholders and other individuals who are knowledgeable on this issue may actually provide the government with some positive suggestions.
AECL is currently a government-controlled entity for a precise reason, which is for Canada to maintain its ability to control its domestic atomic energy. As it stands now, Canadians decide what type of atomic research will be done, especially in the area of nuclear medicine.
Canadians determine what to do with discoveries vital to our national interest and the government wants to give up that control to the highest bidder, but in a trend we are seeing all too often, since the government cannot seem to stop spending money we do not have, it is desperately grasping at straws trying to sell everything and anything.
Again, the parts of this bill that relate to AECL would basically give carte blanche to the government to throw away this vital resource. By removing parliamentary oversight, the bill does not guarantee that existing reactors will be refurbished once sold and it does not guarantee that existing or potential new jobs will remain in Canada.
Ten thousand Canadian jobs are currently linked to AECL directly or indirectly. The fate of AECL should not be decided by the government behind closed doors. It is the same trend that is continuously re-occurring with the government, where it is trying to sneak in a divisive piece of legislation through the back door with no public input, no parliamentary oversight, and all decisions being made under a shroud of secrecy to advance, of course, the Conservatives' secret or hidden agenda.
During a debate, we share ideas, and I understand that some issues are complex and can be emotional. But this government is making a habit out of constantly introducing divisive bills.
Because of its inflexible right-wing ideology, it does not want to bring forward its ideas in separate pieces of legislation.
Another divisive item in this bill that should be handled in separate legislation is the formal legalization of the entities known as remailers who handle letters bound for foreign destinations. Several courts have ruled against the practice of remailing, so a change is definitely required.
During finance committee hearings on this bill, we heard compelling arguments for and against private remailers from all three sides, being labour, private business and Canada Post. My issue with this part of the bill is again that it should be in a separate piece of legislation so that the appropriate committee can study the issue. One never knows what good suggestions may come about as a result.
The way this issue is being presented is meant to divide Canadians. In this case, the government is pitting rural Canadians against urban Canadians. During committee hearings, we heard that Canada Post is losing revenues to international companies because international mail that is normally sorted in Canada is now starting to be printed and mailed from international sites.
Canada Post has stated that the revenues lost from remailers are an insignificant portion of their overall business, but what we hear from the government is that 42 rural post offices and 55,000 rural roadside mailboxes have been shut down since 2006 due to these lost revenues. There is a conflict in testimony.
The government has and will continue to cut rural postal services based on its justification that revenues from remailers have been lost. If Canada Post has stated that these lost revenues are insignificant, I would like to know why they would necessitate the closure of rural postal service sites. The only place to get to the bottom of these conflicting assessments is for the proper committee to study the merits of this proposed change.
Sneaking legislation through the back door only serves to make rural Canadians assume that their services have been cut in lieu of urban services. This is just another example of the government trying to ram through legislation without public input, parliamentary oversight, and all decisions being again made under a shroud of secrecy to advance the Conservatives' hidden agenda.
To really know what is going on though we need to look at the numbers. This is after all the budget bill and the thing about numbers is they do not lie. The budget will cost Canadians over $238 billion this year alone and add over $25 billion to our national debt. That is providing this finance minister can add. It is $238 billion and counting. That is a lot of money and Canadians have a right to know how it is being spent.
Based on the government's performance over the past few years I have no confidence that this will be money well spent.
Here are some examples of where money should not have been spent. First, although the government announced a freeze on departmental spending in this year's estimates, the Prime Minister's own department, the Privy Council Office, obtained a $13 million boost in spending for support and advice to the PMO. That 22% increase was in advance of the freeze. The Privy Council Office already saw its budget increase by $31 million in 2005-06 and 2008-09.
Public opinion research spending has gone up by $5 million. The increase in the size of the cabinet has cost taxpayers over $4 million. Spending on advertisements for the economic action plan skyrocketed, surpassing $100 million. An increase in communication consulting services in the Prime Minister's office has cost nearly $2 million. Excessive spending on ten percenters reached well over $10 million.
These six examples show that the Conservatives spend money for themselves and not for the benefit of the community or of Canadians. These costs add up to over $130 million.
The government has become so undisciplined and wasteful that it has become reaching into the pockets of Canadian taxpayers to fund its own agrandissement and propaganda. Is this accountability? Is this prudence? Is this good governance? I think not.
Instead of spending $10 million to send junk mail across the country perhaps that money could have been used for research in multiple sclerosis and its potential causes, as my Liberal colleagues asked the government to do in an open letter on May 6, 2010.
Instead of spending $4 million to compensate Conservative members with useless Cabinet appointments, it could invest this money in increasing Internet access in rural or northern communities.
Instead of spending $5 million on public polling to help the Conservative government's political operations, perhaps the Prime Minister could have saved that money by simply letting Canadians interact with him instead of making them ask him scripted questions.
Instead of spending an extra $31 million so that the Privy Council Office can devote more time and energy to protecting the Prime Minister's image, perhaps that money could have been spent developing green technology that would make Canada's economy cleaner and more competitive today.
Instead of spending almost $2 million on communication support services to help the Prime Minister's Office spin facts to suit its purposes, perhaps that money could have been spent to keep a rural post office open.
Instead of spending over $100 million to post billboards and screen commercials to help the government take credit for economic stimulus spending, which after all is our money, your money, Mr. Speaker, and Canadians' money, perhaps that money could have been used to get more shovels in the ground and more people back to work as it was intended.
Given the amount of waste the government has been guilty of to date, it comes as no surprise that the budget will add approximately over $100 billion to our national debt over the next five years.
We have gone down this road before and Canadians know it is a painful one. Between 1984 and 1993 the Conservative government spent Canada into near bankruptcy. We were being compared to third world nations.
As they say, history has a way of repeating itself and here we are again, with a Conservative government that has put us in a situation that has caused Canadians to lose their jobs, lose their services, and today has caused household debt to rise.
Just recently, it was reported by the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada that after four years of the Prime Minister's Conservative government Canadian household debt has skyrocketed to a record $1.41 trillion. That is $41,740 per person. That is $41,740 for you, Mr. Speaker, $41,740 for me. It is two and a half times greater than in 1989.
The government has managed to squander our finances and squeeze Canadians to the point that the former Mulroney government looks prudent by comparison.
The economy is the cornerstone of any country, and that is why, when the Liberal Party of Canada came back into power in 1993, it worked to make the Canadian economy strong and dynamic once it was back on track thanks to years of good management. As well, the Liberal Party made many difficult decisions that allowed it to balance the budget and create surpluses. We cannot forget that the coffers were empty after Brian Mulroney's Conservatives left.
Thanks to consecutive budget surpluses, the Liberal government was able to reduce taxes, finance our social programs such as health care, education, research and development, and pay down the national debt.
In addition, as I mentioned in my earlier speech, during second reading we cannot forget that just before being defeated, Paul Martin's Liberal government had reached an agreement with the provinces to give them child care services similar to the Quebec system, that it had negotiated the Kelowna accord with Canada's first nations, that it had reached an agreement to extend the implementation of the Kyoto protocol beyond 2012, and that it had convinced the UN to adopt the Canadian concept of “responsibility to protect” during international crises.
Those are some of the great things that the current Conservative government has done away with.
Since 2008, 410,000 Canadian jobs have disappeared and few of those jobs have been recovered. Most of the jobs that have been created are temporary, low skilled, low pay, part-time jobs. This is not a foundation on which we can build a prosperous country. In the meantime, the government is bragging about needing fiscal restraint, but it is on record as being the highest spending government in Canadian history.
In fact, since 2006, it took the Conservative government only one year to spend the largest surplus ever accumulated in the history of Canada.
It has created an enormous deficit on top of having the dubious distinction of the being the biggest spending government in the history of Canada year after year.
According to this budget's projections, the Conservatives plan to spend close to $250 billion in 2014-15. That is $20 billion more than what they intend to spend this year. How they plan on paying down the deficit in this budget cycle is beyond me. That is why I find it hypocritical that the government constantly claims that we cannot afford to make investments now in areas that would position Canada to emerge from this recession ready to compete on the world stage.
Investing now in green technologies, our labour force, our companies and our students will pay off down the road and keep Canada strong.
The Conservative government has ignored making investments of this nature and has instead spent and spent because a photo op means more to the government than sound policies. It seems that members on the other side of the aisle are constantly spending Canadians' money and posing with ceremonial cheques but no one is seeing tangible results that will strengthen our economy.
Since there is no national child care system, no agreement with first nations, no money for research, no money for innovation, no money for the environment and no money for education, what happened to that money and what did they spend it on? In hospitals, sick people are still waiting. Seniors are still waiting for their pensions to increase and universities are still waiting for help from the Conservative government.
Meanwhile, veterans are not being helped with post-traumatic stress disorder. Immigrants are not being helped in order to integrate into our society and succeed in their new lives.
There is no plan in this budget to deal with the strain on our health care system. There is no plan to deal with the challenges of having an aging population. Pensions are not being protected.
These are the most vital topics in Canada right now and the government has proposed nothing to deal with these major issues.
In order to promote saving, we in the Liberal Party are asking the Prime Minister's government to consider our three proposals for reforming pensions: establish a supplementary Canada pension plan to help Canadians save more; give employees with stranded pensions following corporate bankruptcies the option of growing their pensions through the assets of the Canada pension plan; and protect vulnerable Canadians on long-term disability by giving them status as preferred creditors in cases of bankruptcy.
In order to allow Canadians to invest more in a national pension system they can count on, the Conservative government should work with the provinces, retired people, unions and the private sector to establish and implement a supplementary Canada pension plan.
To give Canadians an easy way to save even more for their retirement, a supplementary Canada pension plan seems like an easy solution and should be considered a reform of the income security system, and of old age security and the guaranteed income supplement in particular. This reform would guarantee the pension capital and would ensure that retired people are not left out when companies go bankrupt or in certain economic situations, thus protecting them from future recessions.
The government must encourage citizens to save because we know that one-third of Canadians have no retirement savings other than the Quebec pension plan or the Canada pension plan, old age security and the guaranteed income supplement. As for the other two-thirds, they do not have enough savings to maintain their standard of living.
The Canada pension plan covers 93% of workers, but that alone is not enough because more than half of Canadian families do not contribute to an employer-sponsored pension plan. Almost $500 billion in RRSP room remains unused and, according to Statistics Canada, the $32.4 billion in contributions to RRSPs in 2006 represented only 7% of the maximum eligible contribution. The premiers of Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan threatened to create their own plan if the federal government did not establish a supplementary Canada pension plan.
Once again, the Liberals are asking the government to work with the provinces, seniors, unions and the private sector to establish a supplementary Canada pension plan, which would be one possible solution to the low rate of retirement savings.
Based on the points I have outlined, it is clear that this budget neglects many areas of importance to Canadians. The sheer number of key issues ignored by the Conservatives in this budget is shocking, considering the size of the bill.
What is even worse is that, while the Conservative government unfairly raises Canadians' taxes, it is also spending hard-earned money on frivolous projects and reducing services that Canadians expect to receive to get by in daily life.
This government is a disgrace. It is irresponsible and unpardonable. For these reasons I must vote against this budget.
View Marcel Proulx Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Marcel Proulx Profile
2010-04-16 12:04 [p.1609]
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding the question of privilege relating to mailings sent to the riding of Mount Royal.
If the House gives its consent, I intend to move concurrence in the sixth report later this day.
View Michel Guimond Profile
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding the question of privilege relating to mailings sent to the riding of Sackville—Eastern Shore.
If the House gives its consent, I intend to move concurrence in the seventh report later this day.
View Marcel Proulx Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Marcel Proulx Profile
2010-04-16 12:06 [p.1609]
Mr. Speaker, if the House gives its consent, I move that the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs presented to the House earlier today be concurred in.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
View Andrew Scheer Profile
2010-04-16 12:06 [p.1609]
Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Deputy Speaker: The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
View Andrew Scheer Profile
2010-04-16 12:06 [p.1609]
Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Deputy Speaker: The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
Mr. Speaker, I am rising on the same point of order.
While I applaud our hon. friend, the member for Kings—Hants, for offering an apology, I should point out that I do not think that resolves the situation.
I would point out a most recent ruling that you made, Mr. Speaker, on a question of privilege brought forward by the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, at which time he indicated that a ten percenter had been sent into his riding under the name of the member for Saskatoon—Wanuskewin.
When the member for Saskatoon—Wanuskewin made a heartfelt apology in this House, he indicated that while a ten percenter did indeed go into the member's riding and contained inaccurate information, the content of that ten percenter had in fact been written by a staff member, not by the member himself.
In your ruling, Mr. Speaker, you still found a prima facie case on a breach of privilege, even though it was admitted, both by the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore and by the member for Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, that the member for Saskatoon--Wanuskewin was not responsible for the literature itself. It was written by someone else. I believe, Mr. Speaker, you would find in your ruling, even though this was perhaps implied rather than stated verbally, that members are responsible for their staff.
Mr. Speaker, I would just ask that you apply the same reasoning in your determination of the breach of privilege brought forward by the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore to this case, because, quite clearly, the reputation of my colleague from Saskatoon—Humboldt has been tarnished. This Facebook posting is definitely injurious to my colleague's reputation. It implies to his constituents that he was not working on their behalf and that he was asleep during a committee meeting. While I can appreciate the fact that the member for Kings—Hants may not have taken the photograph himself, his staff member did and he is responsible for his staff member.
I would urge you, Mr. Speaker, to find, as you did in the case of the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, that there is a prima facie case for breach of privilege in this instance.
View Ralph Goodale Profile
Lib. (SK)
View Ralph Goodale Profile
2010-03-18 14:17 [p.642]
Mr. Speaker, the public clearly detests the practice of mass mailing millions of nasty pamphlets known as ten percenters to voters outside an MP's own riding. There is no way we can paint a moustache on that pig and call it Brad Pitt.
The House voted Tuesday to end the practice. The Conservatives voted to keep it, but yesterday, the Prime Minister seemed to indicate that he too was ready to get rid of out-of-riding ten percenters.
Would the Prime Minister confirm this point today, and are we all now on the same page for the Board of Internal Economy?
View Stephen Harper Profile
Mr. Speaker, this is an odd question coming from the Liberal Party. I am told that just in the last few days our members have received mailings from the members for Etobicoke—Lakeshore, Toronto Centre, Eglinton—Lawrence, York Centre, Winnipeg South Centre, Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, and Etobicoke Centre.
The position of our government is clear. If all of the parties wish to abolish this particular subsidy for mailings outside of an MP's own riding, of course this party would be delighted to do that. Of course, we would also like to see the $30 million direct tax subsidy to political parties abolished.
View Stephen Harper Profile
Mr. Speaker, the government's position is clear. I believe the minister answered this question. The government is looking to work with G8 countries to save lives, to save mothers and children throughout the world. We are not closing the door on any option, including contraception. However, we do not wish to debate abortion in this place or elsewhere.
Once again, I ask the leader of the NDP to join with the other parties and endorse the end of the ten percenter program outside our ridings.
View Stephen Harper Profile
Mr. Speaker, I think I have pretty clearly answered the question. I do not think I could be clearer.
On the other hand, the leader of the NDP talks about respecting the will of the House. My question is this. Does he respect the votes that his own party casts in the House of Commons? His own party voted a couple of days ago to abolish the ten percenter program for mailings outside of our own ridings. The other three parties apparently support that. Does the leader of the NDP still support that or not?
View John McCallum Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, yesterday this House voted to end the practice of allowing members to send free propaganda outside their ridings. We voted to save taxpayers $20 million by eliminating this partisan junk mail.
If the government is serious about reducing waste, it will surely leap at this opportunity to save $20 million.
My question is for the Prime Minister. The Liberals have already stopped their participation in this program. When will the government also comply with the will of the House of Commons?
View Stephen Harper Profile
Mr. Speaker, first of all I would like to congratulate the hon. member on his promotion through what appears to be the rapidly dwindling leadership ranks.
Mr. Speaker, as you would know, this matter is under the Board of Internal Economy which you chair. I will just say this, having viewed a few of these Liberal ten percenters, I think the cancellation of the program was a good idea.
View Thomas Mulcair Profile
View Thomas Mulcair Profile
2010-03-16 11:35 [p.504]
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak about the important issue of the federal government's treatment of Quebec in recent years.
I would like to start by saying that we have carefully studied the motion. We initially contacted the Bloc to discuss a possible change in the wording. I wish to apologize to our extraordinary translators as I will be stumbling back and forth between the two versions of the motion. The French version states:
Que, de l’avis de la Chambre, le gouvernement a fait la démonstration dans son discours du Trône et dans son budget que le fédéralisme ne répond pas aux aspirations et aux besoins du Québec en ne s’engageant pas [...]
I would have automatically translated the French terms aspirations et besoins by “hopes and needs”. Thus, we were very surprised to see that they were rendered by fairly different terms, “goals and requirements”. It was as though the reader would be required to espouse the ultimate goal of the Parti québécois, Quebec's sovereignty. The English does not render the sense of the French term “besoins” but instead chooses to use the term “requirements”, in the sense of something that has to be done.
We are all aware of past differences in translation in Canada. A Quebec government, in referring to equality or independence, once drafted a list of what Quebec wanted, which was unfortunately translated by “Quebec demands”.
We know what happened; it caused quite a controversy. Having taught translation for a number of years, I can tell you that this example is used in first year translation courses to show the importance of word choice.
We contacted the Bloc to determine if it would be possible to change the translation. The Bloc refused outright, which was an indication that this was about playing a political game rather than pointing out that Quebec had not been given its fair share. With the Bloc, it is all about strategy and tactics.
It is often said that the Conservative government and the Prime Minister are always looking for an angle. When the Bloc refused such a simple request, we began to worry.
Never giving up hope, however, the leader of the New Democratic Party, the member for Toronto—Danforth, contacted the leader of the Bloc Québécois to propose an amendment. He told the leader of the Bloc that, if his real aim was to blame the government for its behaviour with regard to Quebec and not to say that the problems set out here are the product of federalism pure and simple, he agreed with him. I am not proposing an amendment at the moment, but will do so later.
He suggested the following minor change. After the word “federalism”, the words “as practised by the Conservatives, among others” would be added. The words, “among others”, refer to the bits of hypocrisy heard today from the Liberals. I give you the example of the Liberal finance critic, who rose earlier to express long and loud his disagreement with the Conservatives' refusal to give Quebec $2.2 billion in compensation for harmonizing its sales tax and the GST.
When I appeared on Larocque Lapierre with the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, I had the opportunity to point out that it was the Liberals who first refused to compensate Quebec for harmonization.
Quebec was the first province to harmonize its sales tax with the federal government's. When the Maritimes, just by chance on the eve of a federal election, were compensated hugely, Bernard Landry rightly hit the roof saying there was a problem. He wondered why these provinces had been compensated but not Quebec. That was when he established Quebec's share.
The Liberals wanted nothing to do with it. No doubt about it. Nothing.
The hon. member for Markham-Unionville, the Liberal finance critic, rose earlier in the House to criticize the fact that the federal government is not compensating Quebec for harmonization, while, for years and years, the Liberals refused to do so.
We said that, with this change and the wording proposed, the text would allow for the inclusion of such behaviour. We were talking about federalism as practised by the Conservatives, among others.
With this amendment, it would have been very easy to agree with the Bloc's proposal, because this is divisive federalism. Federalism of exclusion, as practised by the Conservatives today and the Liberals before them, is at the source of the problem.
The NDP advocates federalism of inclusion, which recognizes differences, since, in fact, only one province—Quebec—has a francophone majority. This is why it has a bill on the table focusing on better protection of the French fact in order, for example, to broaden the concept of the right to a collective agreement in French and to communication with the employer in French in workplaces under federal jurisdiction.
If, for example, someone works for a cellphone company, that person comes under federal jurisdiction. This means that, as things stand, this individual's linguistic labour rights are not protected. We want to extend this protection. The Bloc Quebecois has supported our child care legislation. There is a very explicit clause regarding Quebec's exclusion. The Bloc supported this bill. Therefore, it is possible, if there is a will to do so, to build a country that takes this difference into consideration and that nourishes it, instead of constantly ostracizing people and making them feel excluded.
When the Bloc rejected this amicable change proposed by the NDP leader, we realized what was happening. We realized that, as usual, the Bloc was choosing to withdraw and stick to its ideology, because it was all too pleased to be able to play the same game as the Liberals. I will always remember the member for Beaches—East York who, two years ago, introduced a motion in the House in which, at the beginning, she was referring to women's rights. Let us not forget that it is this same Liberal Party which, last year, voted with the Conservatives to deprive women of their right to equal pay for work of equal value.
So, the member made a short speech on the rights of women and, at the end of her motion, she lashed out at the other opposition parties. To no one's surprise, people voted against her motion. So what did she do? She took the original text and she deleted the end. She then included it in an infamous ten percenter, these despicable mailouts that are distributed in a dishonest fashion by people like her. The member sent this mailout, in which she said: “You see, the other parties voted against women's rights.”
We see the same pattern with the Conservatives. I remember a situation involving the Bloc. It was a matter of principle. I did not share the Bloc's view. I thought that the legislation was sending a clear message that we were firmly opposed to the whole issue of child abduction. For legal and ideological reasons, Bloc members voted against the bill. I fully respect their point of view, even though I do not share it.
The Conservatives attacked them with ten percenters, which is what we call those little pamphlets that are sent out. The word “pamphlet” is used deliberately. They almost accused the Bloc members of being pedophiles and child abusers. This is unacceptable. I was the first to criticize the Conservatives and defend the Bloc even if I did not agree with the way the Bloc was voting in this case.
However, we are now seeing the Bloc at its worst, not willing to work with anyone to try and get results. We do not have to look far, Mr. Speaker. In La Presse today, Vincent Brousseau-Pouliot wrote about how Quebec and Ontario are both losing out in the federal economic recovery plan. That was in today's La Presse. It answers the question of whether or not Quebec is receiving its fair share of the infrastructure spending that is part of federal government's economic recovery plan.
The answer is that Quebec is being underfunded by 2% relative to its population. There is a gap of two percentage points, since we received 21.2% of the funding although we represent 23.2% of the population. We are losing out on what represents approximately 10% of our total expenditures because 2% of 20% is 10%. So, two percentage points out of 20% is equal to 10%.
That is the problem with the Bloc. Instead of making an honest and clear effort to get favourable results for Quebec, the Bloc members are like children in an elementary school play with their wooden swords and hats made from folded newspaper, trying to say that they are real warriors. It is pure fantasy, nothing but make-believe.
When we hear the Liberals say things like what came out of the mouth of the member for Hull—Aylmer, we are at a loss for words and realize that the New Democratic Party and its leader are the only real alternative to the years of squabbling in Canada, just as often the fault of the Conservatives as the Liberals.
His statement is one for the record. The member for Lévis—Bellechasse questioned him about one of his remarks regarding expenses. It will be in the transcripts, also known as Hansard, and will be easy to check. The Liberal addressed the Conservative and said the following: “I can hear some federalists opposite voicing their objections even though they are supposed to be with us against the Bloc.” I am quoting verbatim the member for Hull—Aylmer, who just spoke. That is mind-boggling.
Therefore, by definition, no matter what the Bloc Québécois says, the Liberal Party of Canada will oppose it because the Liberals are federalists and Bloc Québécois members are sovereignists. It was quite something. It is not something that can be made up and it will be in black and white. Furthermore, even if they try to change the words, at least the audio recording will be available so that people can verify that what I just said is true.
I cannot believe the point we have reached. But the Bloc will continue to claim that it represents Quebec's interests while forgetting that a good number of its positions are not good for Quebec.
The environment is one of the subjects brought up by the Bloc in the House today. I am in a position to talk about this issue because I was the Quebec environment minister when the federal member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, who was the leader of the Liberal Party until recently, was my federal counterpart.
I can say, and that is in the record as well, that it was not fun. Members will recall that Eddie Goldenberg, the former chief of staff to Jean Chrétien, admitted that the Liberals had signed the Kyoto protocol “to galvanize public opinion”.
Signing the Kyoto protocol was a public relations stunt for the Liberals. That is why Canada had the worst record of all the signatories to the Kyoto protocol when the Liberals were in power. There has been no change under the Conservatives. However, the largest increase in greenhouse gases of all the countries that signed the Kyoto protocol was recorded under the Liberal watch. That is understandable. Mr. Goldenberg admitted that there was no plan to meet the Kyoto objectives, no real intention of respecting them. That is always the way with the Liberals: theatrics, diversions, a tendency to tell people what they think they want to hear in order to be elected. That is the record of the Liberal Party of Canada.
NDP proposes to be more constructive. Interested people can go to our website and read the Sherbrooke declaration adopted by our party, which offers a new vision of our great country, a vision where Quebec would be allowed to manage its own affairs within Canada.
People should take interest in that declaration.
But let us go back to today's motion and see whether the Bloc members are sincere. On the environment front, there is no greater mistake than oil sands development as it stands. If we do not internalize the environmental costs of the oil sands, we are importing an artificially high number of American dollars. Environmental costs must be taken into account, whatever the item produced. Thus, market prices must reflect the internalization of these costs.
Since they have been there, they have developed Keystone, Southern Lights, Alberta Clipper, Keystone II and another pipeline for exports to China. According to an independent analysis, Keystone alone represents the export of 18,000 jobs. That also represents the bulk export of a Canadian resource, just as we used to export untreated logs to the United States were value was added before the finished product, furniture, would be exported to Canada. It was a brilliant strategy. Canada has always acted that way and continues to do so.
The Bloc cannot fight for Canada's future energy security since it does not believe in Canada. As regards the environment, Bloc members believe that sovereignty is the solution, as if pollution stops at the border. Actually, there is a movie on this subject that has just started to run. Quebec was one of the first jurisdictions to ban the use of some pesticides for cosmetic purposes. Ontario followed suit. We wanted to extend this to all of Canada, but the Bloc voted against our proposal, saying that pollution is a provincial matter, as if they could stop pollution by putting a fence around Quebec. After six years, the Bloc has still not taken a stand against the Rabaska project. All of the environmentalists in Quebec have called upon the Bloc to stand against this project, but it still refuses to do so.
The Parti Québécois was in favour of reconstructing the Gentilly-2 nuclear power station, but it has now revised its position. We expected the Bloc to follow suit. However, this is out of the question. According to the leader of the Bloc Québécois, nuclear matters are a provincial concern. So the Bloc will not join ranks with progressive Canadians who are fighting against nuclear power because it is not sustainable and not a solution for the future. The Bloc refuses to take a stand against the reconstruction of the Gentilly-2 nuclear plant. This is what it means to have an ideology that prevents you from contributing to progress.
Today, the NDP got all the answers it needed. We could have worked with the Bloc had it been willing to amend its motion to say that the goal is constructive criticism for the future. Conservatives are being blamed, which does not preclude possible criticism of the Liberals, mainly for their stand on harmonization, but the Bloc would not listen.
In order for this to remain in the public domain, I wish to move an amendment.
I move, seconded by the hon. member for British Columbia Southern Interior, that the motion be amended by adding, after the word “federalism”, the following: “as practised mainly by the Conservatives”.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
View Andrew Scheer Profile
2010-03-16 17:14 [p.550]
Pursuant to an order made earlier today the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion of the hon. member for Malpeque relating to the business of supply.
Call in the members.
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Wayne Easter Profile
2010-03-15 12:10 [p.428]
That, in the opinion of this House, the government should show leadership in reducing government waste by rolling-back its own expenditures on massive amounts of partisan, taxpayer-paid government advertising, ministerial use of government aircraft, the hiring of external “consultants”, and the size of the Cabinet, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Privy Council Office, which together could represent a saving to taxpayers of more than a billion dollars; and to show its own leadership in this regard, the House directs its Board of Internal Economy to take all necessary steps to end immediately the wasteful practice of Members sending mass mailings, known as “ten-percenters”, into ridings other than their own, which could represent another saving to taxpayers of more than $10 million.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am most pleased to move this motion. I will be splitting my time with the seconder of the motion, the member for Winnipeg South Centre.
I am most pleased to move this motion as it gives both the government and the House direction in a realistic way in a number of areas where substantial savings could be made. The first part of the motion deals with government waste and rolling back a lot of government expenditures that are paid for by taxpayers, everything from advertising and the size of the cabinet to the size of the Privy Council Office. The second part of the motion deals with what we call ten percenters. I will get to that in a moment.
Adoption of this motion and these expenditure reductions would make for better government, less propaganda and maybe even a little more honesty in what goes out to Canadians from this place. Let me start with the part of the motion that deals with reduced government waste by rolling back massive amounts of taxpayer-paid partisan government advertising.
I know I am not allowed to use props and I will not, but I have in my hand a full-page ad that was in Prince Edward Island's Journal Pioneer last Wednesday or Thursday, and Saturday's The Guardian. This ad has been in every paper across the country in the last few weeks.
Never in Canadian history, I believe, have we seen as much propaganda come from a government, no doubt straight out of the PMO, designed not so much to provide information as to leave the impression that the governing party is doing more than it really is but, worse, attempting to leave the impression that it is doing something it really is not.
All Canadians have seen the ad in the papers, on TV and on the Internet. I would love to go through the copy I have to point out the areas of error but I do not have time at the moment. It would be one thing if it were honest fact, but to a great extent this ad and others like it are a work of fiction, with some truths and a lot of half-truths thrown in. Taxpayers' money in the hundreds of millions of dollars has been used I believe to manipulate the public mind.
Let me mention a couple of points to show where this ad is misleading. The full-page ad talks about measures in the budget, such as lowering taxes. Nothing could be further from the truth. What about income trusts being taxed? What about payroll taxes going up an extraordinary amount to a point in 2011 where it is expected that that tax increase alone could cause the loss of 200,000 jobs? The ad leaves the impression that the government is lowering taxes.
My role is agriculture critic for the Liberal Party. The government is leaving the impression it is doing something when it comes to agriculture. Never have we seen such a record of failure. In the hog industry, there is the worst financial crisis ever in Canadian history. The beef industry is not far behind. There has been a $9 billion increase in farm debt in the term of the Conservative government. Safety nets are paying out $1 billion less and there is not one dime in the budget. It is mentioned in the ad to leave the impression that the government is doing something. I would love to go through them one by one, but time does not allow me to do that.
There is more waste with the huge increase in the size of the cabinet, as was mentioned in the motion. Everyone in the cabinet is a full cabinet minister with huge staffs, cars and drivers, research departments and heaven knows what else. One can only ask whether it is to have more people to push photo ops, publish propaganda, raise funds for the party or what? It is the first cabinet in our history in which all cabinet ministers have cars and all the paraphernalia. What a waste.
Mr. Greg Rickford: Is it any different from the way you were, Wayne? Is it different or what's your point?
Hon. Wayne Easter: I will say in the House that I believe it is designed that way so that they can get out there, do the photo ops—
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Wayne Easter Profile
2010-03-15 12:16 [p.429]
Mr. Speaker, they react over there, but the truth hurts. They hate to hear the truth but the truth does hurt indeed.
Let us look at the PCO and the PMO. Wow, the expenditures there; that is where the big spending happens. That is a power centre controlled by the Prime Minister, which is interesting and sad at the same time. In that area spending is going up, a 21% increase, while everywhere else spending is frozen. Again, this is being used to propagandize the Canadian people.
Under the Conservatives, spending on transportation and communication has risen by $820 million or 32% over its 2005-06 level. Spending on management consultants has gone up by $355 million over the same period, an astounding 165% increase over the previous Liberal government. That is atrocious. That is an area where there can be spending control and it could make such a difference.
The second part of the motion deals with an area that this House could direct. I will read this part of the motion again:
...the House directs its Board of Internal Economy to take all necessary steps to end immediately the wasteful practice of Members sending mass mailings, known as “ten-percenters”, into ridings other than their own, which could represent another saving to taxpayers of more than $10 million.
I have here, Mr. Speaker, and I will keep it down so it is out of camera—
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Wayne Easter Profile
2010-03-15 12:18 [p.429]
Mr. Speaker, I could fire these in the air. There is so many of them they would pollute this place with Conservative propaganda. Those are what come into my riding.
As far as I am concerned, it is just propaganda. I cannot say in how many instances when I have gone into a post office that about 50% of them have been thrown into the garbage can because constituents across Canada actually believe those ten percenters are nothing but a waste of money. It is not about providing information. It is about providing propaganda. The original intent was to provide information on government programs to constituents. Ten percenters have evolved into being little more than propaganda pieces for partisan purposes by all parties, but worst of all, the government party.
What comes into my riding is mostly misinformation, personal attacks on me and my leader. In some instances, it is nothing short of hate mail. Let me give an example. One that came in goes after my leader; I know I cannot name him in the House. It states that he has called himself (a) a samurai warrior, (b) a cosmopolitan or (c) horribly arrogant. It is full of lots of pictures.
This literature, this ten percenter, is designed to undermine an individual's credibility. It is certainly not designed to outline government policy. It attempts in subtle and not so subtle ways to demonize the leader of the official opposition or, in my own case, me. It undermines him as an individual. It personalizes the issue. It raises questions in people's minds on character. It raises suspicions. Is that good use of taxpayers' money?
We all came here to debate issues. That is what we came here to do, instead now, it has become personalized and there are attacks on individuals. These ten percenters are part of the problem. They are a huge part of the problem. They are a waste of money. Millions of dollars are being wasted.
I would like to get into the one about me, the one the Conservatives sent about me which basically asks if I am here. It leaves the impression that I was not here for a vote, when actually I was here 100% to vote in the last Parliament.
The bottom line is that this kind of propaganda must stop. I encourage the House to vote against this propaganda, to stand up and stop these attacks.
View Harold Albrecht Profile
Mr. Speaker, I actually had to chuckle a few times during the member's speech because the hypocrisy was overwhelming. His motion refers to reducing government waste. I wonder whether he is able to tell this House and the Canadian people when he expects the $150 million that was diverted to his friends in the Liberal Party will be returned to Canadian taxpayers.
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Wayne Easter Profile
2010-03-15 12:21 [p.430]
Mr. Speaker, this is what we get into with the current government. Rather than accepting their responsibility as a government and dealing with the motion, the Conservatives go back to some of the misinformation that was provided when they were in opposition.
Let us deal with the real issues. Let us deal with these ten percenters going out to the ridings. Let us deal with the government waste.
The member must admit that this is the biggest full-size cabinet and there is waste there. He must admit that the Privy Council Office spending is going up. He must admit that the Conservatives have sent out something like 10 million pieces of literature, called ten percenters, that is nothing more than propaganda, hate mail and misinformation and that it has to stop.
I am asking the member to deal with the real issue and to help us stop this stuff from going out to Canadians and angering Canadians about the political process.
View Libby Davies Profile
View Libby Davies Profile
2010-03-15 12:22 [p.430]
Mr. Speaker, the member has given some detail of the kinds of waste and massive propaganda that we have seen from the Conservative government.
I did want to make a comment about the second part of the motion having to do with what is called the ten percenters. This has been a very hot topic of debate. We often get emails from people saying that they do not like these kinds of mailings. We also get other emails and feedback from the public saying that these ten percenters or other mailings from their members can be very important.
I want to question the member on the way the motion is worded. As I understand it, the way it is put forward, it would basically eliminate all mailings from members other than in their own ridings. I would like him to clarify this point.
For example, at least in our party when one is a critic of a particular issue, perhaps agriculture or housing or foreign affairs, one does mailings legitimately across the country. Is the member suggesting that those mailings be eliminated as part of this motion?
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Wayne Easter Profile
2010-03-15 12:24 [p.430]
Mr. Speaker, this motion just deals with the ten percenter issue. There is other fora to get information out, such as the media.
The motion is talking about immediately ending sending mass mailings into ridings other than a member's own riding. A member is the representative of the people in his or her riding and the member should be able to inform them on government policy and provide feedback to those constituents. Leaders' offices in all parties have other means of getting information out. What we have been seeing is the practice where MPs, controlled to a great extent by their centres, are putting out information from the caucus that is often strictly for partisan purposes and is often misinformation. We all do it; I put out about four a month. However, I believe it has to stop.
View Greg Rickford Profile
View Greg Rickford Profile
2010-03-15 12:25 [p.430]
Mr. Speaker, I have a quick question for the member about something he alluded to a second ago with respect to all ten percenters. I have one term in my head and that is “body bags”. It was on one particularly disturbing ten percenter. I wonder if he is prepared to comment on that, as much as he has tried to impugn the information that other parties in this House have put out.
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Wayne Easter Profile
2010-03-15 12:26 [p.430]
Mr. Speaker, if I were allowed to use as props the dozens that have come into my riding, I could show some pictures that are as bad as the body bags, such as farmers in handcuffs, their hands behind their backs. The pictures send a message. You have made my point, sir, in that that ten percenter should not have gone out. That is not a good use of taxpayers' money. It has to stop.
View Anita Neville Profile
Lib. (MB)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to following up on my colleague's comments and I am pleased to speak to this opposition day motion.
With a record $56 billion deficit on the books, the Conservative government has indeed begun to preach restraint. We heard on February 17 the President of the Treasury Board set the stage for cuts, stating, “Just as Canadians have made significant sacrifices to maintain their own finances they expect their government to do the same”.
On March 4 the Conservatives released their budget in which they announced that starting in 2011 the operating budgets of all departments would be frozen, except for National Defence, where spending growth will be slowed down. No indication was given as to how the freeze would affect programs and services that Canadians rely on. I want to note that there was no exemption made in this case for INAC, which has always been done in previous instances, and as we know, the demographics of the aboriginal population is increasing by leaps and bounds. We need to see a plan on how cuts would be made.
As my colleague has said, there are several areas of government spending that have increased dramatically under this government that would be more appropriate for cuts than the civil service and the valuable programs it delivers. We have heard that under the Conservatives, spending on transportation and communication increased by $820 million, or 32% over the 2005-06 levels. Spending on management consultants is up by $355 million over the same period, an astounding 165% increase.
Although the government has announced a freeze on departmental spending, the Prime Minister's own department, the Privy Council Office, is getting a $13 million boost for spending on “support and advise to the PMO”, a 22% increase in advance of the freeze; public opinion research, up by $5 million; and spending on the economic action plan advertising has skyrocketed to over $100 million, money that might well have been spent on the stimulus funding, and I would say, it would have been better served in this country, benefiting women who have not been benefited by the stimulus plan. The expansion of the communication support services in the Prime Minister's Office has cost $1.7 million and, as we have heard earlier, excessive spending on ten percenters is well over $10 million. This is where I, too, want to focus my comments.
To my mind there are two issues around the use of ten percenters, one of principle and one of cost. Let me speak first to the matter itself. The use of ten percenters is one of those classic cases of what was once a good idea at one time gone totally awry. Intended originally for the members of Parliament to communicate with their constituents, the process has been corrupted and, I would say, it must be ended.
Members opposite frequently use them to provide information that does not affect the workings of government, but they are a deliberate effort to discredit opposition members holding the seat or discredit the leadership. They are also cynically used to collect data from that member's riding to thereby target further information through other means.
The Liberal Party called for a restraint on ten percenters last fall, requesting that they be limited to a member's own riding. The practice of ten percenter regroupings should be abolished, the name of the leader of the sending member's party should be included in any ten percenter, and the leader should explicitly endorse the content of the mailout.
I have chosen to focus my comments on the ten percenters because their use has been the object of contention in my riding. Most weeks when I arrive home at the end of a week here in Parliament, there are often two of these government ten percenters waiting for me in my mail, and often four. Many of the government's mailings contain vicious and misleading attacks on their opponents. Among other things they have suggested that the Bloc supports pedophiles, Liberals are anti-Semitic or unpatriotic.
In 2008 and 2009 the Conservatives were responsible for about 62% of the printing costs incurred by MPs, even though their members represented only about 45% of Canadian households.
I have been a target of the Conservative smear machine. As a Jewish MP who represents a large Jewish population, the Conservative Party outrageously attempted to label me as anti-Semitic. I am portrayed as soft on crime, supportive of pedophiles, and not speaking up for the various issues valued by members opposite. Pictures that they have put into my riding have been digitally distorted. There is no apology forthcoming.
Government members operate under the mantra of the Prime Minister's former campaign director, Tom Flanagan, who said, “It doesn't have to be true. It just has to be plausible”.
I would say that this kind of Karl Rove, Republican-style politics is not a Canadian value. Canadians want truth. They do not want spin. They do not want distortions. They want facts and they literally do not want trash in their mail to fill up the recycling bin.
There is smear after smear in these mailings, whether they misrepresent my views and values or that of my leader. Constituents continually call my constituency office, deeply concerned about the flagrant abuse of taxpayers' money precipitated by the Conservative mailings.
Many constituents have replied to members opposite, both by phone and by mail, to protest these mailings, and an outcome of these protests is to subsequently receive a franked letter from the chair of the Conservative caucus, reinforcing the negative message in the ten percenter and justifying it as necessary. As to the costs, why should the taxpayers be called upon, through printing or postage costs for parties, to take their partisan messages to constituencies that they do not represent?
I am told that some of the worst practices come from my home province of Manitoba. The member for Provencher, a former Treasury Board member, spent $85,940 in printing costs in the last fiscal year, and the other cabinet minister from Manitoba, the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, spent $72,934 in printing costs in the last fiscal year. Many of these mailings, I should say, come into my own riding, and this does not even touch the postage costs.
I know that the minister from Charleswood has received many calls from residents in my riding asking, ironically, if he is suddenly representing the riding. In Manitoba, the Conservative members spend on printing, and not postage, over $450,000, approaching half a million dollars, to get this message out in Manitoba and across the country.
The Conservatives have cut programs such as ecoEnergy for renewable power, funding for the Canadian Council on Learning, overseas development assistance and the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. Surely, creating clean energy jobs, supporting high quality education, showing leadership around the world and supporting shelters for aboriginal women have a higher spending priority than ten percenters, partisan advertisements and management consultants.
The Liberal Party will protect the vital public services that Canadians depend upon. We do not believe that the Conservative record-setting deficit should be reduced on the backs of public servants or those more vulnerable Canadians. The government should lead by example, cut its own partisan, wasteful spending before it takes aim at important services for Canadians and the people who provide them.
View Linda Duncan Profile
View Linda Duncan Profile
2010-03-15 12:36 [p.432]
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's comments, but it occurs to me that there are two different issues.
There is the waste of money by the Government of Canada on advertising its programs, with its logo all over them, when those millions of dollars could actually be spent on real programs, including energy retrofitting, providing affordable housing and child care. I am 100% in favour of stopping the wastage in the spending on partisan advertising, but in the matter of the ten percenters, surely the member recognizes that it is possible to actually use that budget in a positive way, which I have endeavoured to do since I was elected.
Surely the member agrees that, at least in the case of the leaders of the parties, particularly the opposition, when they want to reach out to a much broader public than those in their constituencies on major policy issues, including the budget, it should be possible for the leaders to be using ten percenters to communicate to the broader public.
View Anita Neville Profile
Lib. (MB)
Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member's comments on the flagrant abuse of advertising. However, I do take exception with her view that leaders should use the ten percenters. There are many other avenues for leaders to make information available, whether it is advertising, franking or public processes. I do not believe they should be using it and sending it in to ridings other than their own for the information of constituents.
View Rodger Cuzner Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Rodger Cuzner Profile
2010-03-15 12:38 [p.432]
Mr. Speaker, I appreciated the comments of my colleague from Winnipeg.
If anybody needs any more proof of the waste of this practice, they should walk into the post offices of Boylston and Louisburg in my riding. If they look in the corner, they will see a three-inch pile of ten percenters shipped from one of the government members into that riding. They are taken out of the mailbox in a rural area and just thrown.
I am sure that is what has taken place in many households across this country. So that the people at home know, it is not a drop in the bucket. It is $20 million a year that could be diverted to other worthwhile programs. As far as Canadians' perception of elected officials is concerned, this contributes to that race to the basement. If we are looking at the personal, vicious attacks on one another, we see what is going on through these ten percenters.
Points of privilege have arisen from this practice one after another in the House. The member has identified other members of Parliament who have been attacked by these ten percenters. Could she give us some examples of herself? I understand that the government flooded her riding with them as well.
View Anita Neville Profile
Lib. (MB)
Mr. Speaker, indeed, many of my colleagues have been the targets of these ten percenters. As I speak, I am looking at my colleague from Mount Royal, whose case is well known in the House as a target of ten percenters.
However, I also want to pick up on my colleague's remarks about the postal workers. I have heard, as have many of my colleagues, the views of postal workers directly about these ten percenters and the impact they have on their work. Granted, it is their job. I do not know whether we have even calculated into the costs the additional costs of the House of Commons drivers and trucks that cart this stuff out for distribution. I have heard about this time and time again from the drivers in terms of the overtime that they accrue.
Nobody likes it. It is well recognized as a flagrant abuse. Well, somebody over there likes it, that speaks more to those members than it does to the issue here. As I said, it is a flagrant abuse of the privileges of members of the House and it should be stopped.
View Stockwell Day Profile
Mr. Speaker, we always appreciate suggestions on how to effectively control spending, ensure that taxpayer dollars are being utilized to their fullest standard of efficiency and look at how we can especially maintain a situation where the government stays out of deficit and moves toward a balanced budget.
The items mentioned by my friend who introduced the motion are certainly areas among a number of things that should be considered in terms of looking at restraint and at how we can maximize the spending of taxpayer dollars. In fairness, there seems to be some focus or, as some would say, possibly an inordinate amount of focus, on one tiny area of budgetary restraint.
I want to say from the outset that if somebody has a suggestion that even saves $1,000, that is worth pursuing because every dollar that comes into the coffers of government is there as a result of a taxpayer somewhere working hard and having part of her or his paycheque taken away to support the government. We all understand that taxes are necessary but taxes can hit a level at which they become stifling and in which they service as a disincentive.
Last week I made an announcement about eliminating 245 government appointed positions, not public service positions but government appointed ones, and the savings were in the area of $1.2 million. We had opposition members saying that it was just $1.2 million. However, to me and to all of my constituents, $1.2 million is a lot of money. These things add up over time. I am not in any way diminishing a particular initiative because its overall expenditure saving might be in the thousands or hundreds of thousands.
I do not think most Canadians have a lot of focus on the so-called ten percenters. I think they like getting information that is clear and succinct as much as possible. However, I want to make something very clear right from the start. The so-called ten percenter program, which allows MPs to have the cost of a small brochure sent out either to their own riding or to other ridings around the country, is a common process in this country and has been going on for years. I know what it is like in my consistency to see a ten percenter that was not one that emanated from my office but in fact from another MP's office and one which was going after a program or certain policy of our party and going after it in a very vigorous way. I might not have liked or even agreed with the content of that particular ten percenter but it is a commonly accepted process and it emanates from all parties.
I realize I cannot wave items around but I have one here from a member from the Liberal Party showing a picture that looks like a cupboard. One little can of spam is in the cupboard and it reads, “They've spent the cupboard bare”. Now is that a factual presentation of a budgetary item or is it something that is being used by the Liberal Party to cast doubts on a particular aspect of government spending? It does not say how that has happened. It just has the picture and the can. I do not want to be seen as talking about one particular brand of processed meat so I will not say the name, but there is a can there.
Does the Liberal member, who introduced, as part of this motion, that we should eliminate this practice of ten percenters, agree with his colleague sending out a picture of a cupboard with a little can of processed meat inside and saying that this represents the government's budget? If he does not have a problem with his own member doing that, then he cannot in all honesty raise issues about this side of the House doing it.
I believe we should always try to communicate honestly, fairly and transparently. That should always be a leading guidepost for us in our communications. We should use that part of the member's motion to guide us in being better communicators in terms of getting the truth, getting it straightforward, and getting it done in a transparent way and a way in which the element that we have introduced can be verified. Those are all things that our taxpayers would appreciate.
I have to believe that the broader picture of concern, and I have to take it at face value from my friends across the way, is about maintaining budgetary responsibility. I have not heard it articulated clearly but I hope they would agree that we should be moving toward a balanced budget. The essence of the budget tabled by the Minister of Finance is that we now have a road map to get toward a balanced situation. We are not projecting that as some kind of philosophical or ideological position. I will reflect on why we are actually doing that.
Broadly speaking, the budget itself contains three approaches to getting back to a balanced budget by about 2014-15. The broad approach covers three areas. The first area is that at the end of this year we will end what is commonly known as the government's stimulus package, a plan of introducing dollars into the economy, even though we knew we would take on debt to do it and run into a deficit at the beginning of the global downturn.
We looked at the global downturn, as most other countries did, as an unprecedented downturn, a recession the nature of which we have not seen since 1929. We said that we would inject some stimulus into the economy for a short period of time but, as we said at the outset, it would be short-term because there needed to be a limit on how much debt a country should take on. We are in the second and final year of that stimulus package.
There are $19 billion of stimulus spending that will go toward a variety of projects across the country for both infrastructure projects and projects of a nature that deal with programs for people. The $19 billion in this budget will be gone at the end of this budget year. Most of us would agree that the budgetary deficit is at about $53 billion right now but at the end of this year $19 billion will come off that right away. That is the first element of the program. A very large chunk will be reduced.
The second area involved looking at our own spending as government. Classically, two approaches can be taken if we are trying to get rid of a deficit and move toward a balanced budget. We could follow the well-documented path chosen by the federal Liberals in the mid-1990s. One of the most significant things they did, and one of the biggest reductions in the deficit at that time, was slash the transfers to the provinces, especially in the areas of health and education. They do not even argue with the fact that those transfers were slashed significantly overnight.
I was involved in provincial government at the time and it was a horrendous shock to see overnight and virtually without warning, the health and education transfers to provinces slashed by upward of 30%. It was a huge impact on all provinces, many of which are still digging themselves out of the hole trying to recover that. In the subsequent years to the slashing of transfers, came the raising of taxes almost 70 different times in 70 different areas. That is one approach.
If we want to get rid of the deficit, we could cut the programs available to people and crank up taxes, which is an approach that is endorsed by an entire school of economic thought. It is largely Keynesian in its roots and it is a particular course of action that we do not endorse in terms of long-term action.
It is the same within our households where, from time to time, we will take on some debt for various reasons. However, for people trying to run their household finances or a small business, they can only continue to acquire debt for so long. Eventually that nasty little item called compound interest gets us.
I just said compound interest and there was a cry from the gallery. It was instinctive. Even a young child understands that compound interest and taking on debt in a non-stop fashion will eventually cause people to collapse. The same is true of governments.
We have made a determination that we will stop that particular process, that long-term borrowing, and rein in our expenses of government. What we have said is that at the end of this budget year, 2010-11, we will freeze the operational portion of all budgets of all departments. That is an envelope of spending of about $54 billion. We have said that this year, 2010-11, it will increase but that for the next two years after that we will put a freeze on it.
Government hiring and the increase in the public service over the last 10 years has been significant. We made a commitment to increase the size of our military and our public security, the RCMP, which we have done, and there are clerical positions that go with that. However, the public service has increased even beyond that for a lot of well-intended and good reasons.
We are simply saying that we need to put a lid on the growth and slow it down. The interesting part is that we will keep growing. Sometimes when we hear members opposite we think that this is the end of civilization as we know it, that all spending will cease and the bottom will drop out of everything the government does. In fact, we will keep growing but we will moderate that level of growth.
To set a positive example of that, we will be introducing legislation to freeze the salaries of members of Parliament, senators, ministers and the Prime Minister. Some people will say that freezing our salaries is just symbolic. Members should try telling people on the street that their salaries will be frozen and see how symbolic that is.
However, there is symbolism plus there is showing responsibility. We need to put certain things in check and show that we can do it, which is the second element of the plan. The first element is getting rid of the stimulus funding and the second is controlling our finances and not increasing the debt load.
Famously, when John Maynard Keynes, who advocated a process for most of his economic life of governments not worrying about increasing debt and deficit, especially in a time of downturn, was asked a question once, “Mr. Keynes, in the long run, isn't that eventually going to catch up to us if we just keep on piling up debt?”, he famously replied, “In the long run, we'll all be dead”.
That part is true. In the long run, we will all be dead. My grandkids and my kids, however, will not be dead. They will still be here long after I am gone and they should not need to carry, in an unnecessary way or an inappropriate way, the spending commitments that are tied to accumulating debt. We should be reining that in now.
Mr. Keynes did not have kids, which perhaps affected his thinking. I am not saying that at all in a pejorative sense, but maybe that was affecting his long-term thinking. However, we need to think long term in terms of the welfare of our country when we look at the area of just bringing on debt and letting it increase.
The third area that we are putting into play is overall service review, expenditure review and administration review of everything we do. As a matter of fact that has been going on for a few years already. Last year we looked at the spending of 20 different departments and asked them to look at their department and reprioritize. We asked them to take 5% of what they spend and show us what 5% would be the lowest priority. We told them that we wanted to see spending move to a higher priority as we needed to begin to pick and choose because of the fiscal situation.
That particular exercise yielded $287 million. This year we will be doing that with a number of departments, boards and agencies. We expect to yield, and I am saying “expect” in that we hope to yield, at least $1.3 billion out of the exercise this year. It may be a little more than that, or it may be a little less.
Nonetheless, year to year we expect that through this particular time of service review, we will see the cost of government continue to be moderated so that the debt and deficit will not continue to pile up.
Any program that government does, and certainly as a minister I have always put this question to administrations and I know my colleagues think the same way, we should always ask what works or does it work, whatever the program is.
I could stand up for quite a bit longer, and I am sure my colleagues would rejoice in that, and go on at great length about our government's good programs, but what really qualifies this is what other people outside of Canada are saying about the approach we have taken.
We could talk about the International Monetary Fund, the Economist Intelligence Unit, the OECD, and the Conference Board of Canada. All of their remarks indicate that this is the particular way to go. It has been remarked that Canada, among the G7 countries, was in the best position going into this recession and is in the best position coming out of it. That is the view of people who are fixed on government or public budgets around the world. They are pointing to Canada and the approach we are taking as showing leadership.
It is also interesting to note what other markets are doing. There was an article in one of last week's financial papers indicating that Russia as a country, and certainly it is having its own fiscal challenges, is planning to strengthen its own currency reserves. Guess which currency it is planning to buy more of? The Canadian dollar. It sees the strength there. There is strength in the dollar.
The largest bond fund manager in the world, whose fund is located in the United States, manages a fund of over $1 trillion. I am not even going to try to paint what a $1 trillion is because it starts to get over my head. However, that $1 trillion fund is made up of institutional investors, pension funds, workers' funds and individuals who invest in this fund. The person who manages the fund announced that he is directing his large institutional investors and smaller individual investors to invest in Canadian bonds and the Canadian dollar because of the strength of the economy and the approach we are taking.
People know, whether they are sophisticated investment managers as with the person who controls this $1 trillion fund or just workers whose funds are vested in a pension plan and know intuitively, that if debt goes too—
View Jim Maloway Profile
View Jim Maloway Profile
2010-03-15 12:59 [p.434]
Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I wonder if the Speaker would draw the member's attention to the actual motion for debate here and deal with the content of this motion.
View Stockwell Day Profile
Mr. Speaker, I do not know if my friend just entered the assembly or if he just started reading, but we are talking about showing leadership on government spending. That is what the motion is all about.
I am sorry that my colleague who addressed this comes from a philosophical point of view that does not buy into this type of thing. His philosophical point of view is to raise taxes and not to worry about the crushing weight of debt.
I understand we have a difference of opinion on that, but he should not try to say we are not addressing the motion when in fact I am addressing it specifically here.
In closing, of course we want to look at all of these different ways of reducing government spending, but I would ask my hon. friend from Malpeque, and I am sure he could answer, even just by nodding his head or leaping to his feet to respond to the question, whether he basically agrees with our approach of reducing expenditures and reducing taxes. Or, is he more along the line of my hon. friend who just interjected and does not worry about debt and will let increased borrowing happen and will raise taxes?
We will have a lot of differences of opinion on smaller items, and that is good and we should have them. However, I would like know, broadly speaking, does the member endorse overall the approach we are taking, which has been endorsed by the International Monetary Fund, the OECD, the Conference Board of Canada, the Economist Intelligence Unit and people who manage funds worldwide? Broadly speaking, which approach does he favour?
I thank the Speaker for this opportunity to address this very worthwhile motion.
View David McGuinty Profile
Lib. (ON)
View David McGuinty Profile
2010-03-15 13:01 [p.435]
Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the minister's comments, both in the chamber and outside. In fact, I listened to his entire remarks. It was probably the most interesting episode of revisionist history, certainly of economic history, I have heard in the House in my six short years here. I want to ask the minister a couple of pointed questions.
First, I would like to ask him to explain to the Canadian people why overall expenditures under the federal Conservative government increased by 19% in the government's first 36 months in office. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, a source the minister has cited, that is the largest single increase in federal government spending by any government of any political persuasion in Canadian history, this at a time when the government inherited a $13 billion surplus and drove this country to the verge of a deficit before the economic situation occurred.
Second, could the minister tell us exactly whether it has spent $200 million or $225 million so far on advertising the government's economic action plan?
View Stockwell Day Profile
Those are extensive questions, Mr. Speaker, and I am going to keep talking until you tell me that my time has run out because he has asked for some very broad discussion and I am happy to engage in that.
There were a number of areas in which we said at the beginning of our mandate that we were going to see some increased spending. We looked at how the Department of National Defence had been ravaged through the Liberal years. Men and women were going to other countries in very significant and dangerous situations without equipment that could bolster what they were doing. They were literally embarrassed to be on a campaign in the field with the types of equipment they had, and when the numbers of our military, both regular and reserve, had dropped to precipitously low levels, we said we were going to increase funding significantly to the Department of National Defence, and we have done that.
As a matter of fact, in the years leading out to 2014, even though there is going to be a modification to the growth of defence spending, it is still going to grow. We are admitting that right up front. We do not apologize for that. That is a very significant part of the growth in expenditure that my hon. friend just raised.
We also looked at the public security situation across the country and listened carefully to provinces and municipalities, who were asking for the resources to build up, basically, the number of officers in uniform on the streets in our municipalities and towns across the country. We made a commitment to do that and we did. We make no apologies for that.
When we go to advertise government programs, it takes money to do that. For example, when the H1N1 situation was upon us and people were beginning to panic and wonder what we are doing with our vaccination program, it took money to advertise that type of program. That is one of many examples of the use of government advertising.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
Mr. Speaker, the minister spoke about the sectors where he was considering making cuts. I would like him to talk about the different solutions that the Bloc Québécois has suggested to the government.
Why does he not go after tax evasion by the banks, which represents $2 billion? The government could bring in millions of dollars in taxes, which could be used to fight the deficit.
Why does he refuse to tax people who earn $150,000 and $250,000 and up in taxable income? That would be one way to bring in revenue and to distribute wealth more fairly.
Can he give us one good reason why his government systematically refuses these two proposals from the Bloc Québécois?
View Stockwell Day Profile
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her question.
The facts show that the government agrees with the Bloc on some policies. For example, the government provided money to the forestry industry, which is really struggling. The government provided this money to help forestry companies save jobs, particularly during this recession. The hon. member agrees with this approach.
The member and her colleagues always talk about the banks. They say that the government gives a lot of money to Canadian and provincial banks. But that is not the case. The government does not give a single cent to the banking system. Not to the caisses populaires in Quebec or to the Alberta Treasury Branches.
View Nathan Cullen Profile
Mr. Speaker, I am sure that the government would join Canadians in understanding the irony of a motion put forward by the Liberal Party that talks about government waste. The party that invented and perpetrated the sponsorship scandal on Canadians and who wrote the book on government waste, unfortunately, has had some pupils in the current government who have learned too well and too quickly about the notion of hypocrisy.
On the very day the finance minister stood in this House to ask Canadians to tighten their belts and bear down, he then jumped aboard a private charter flight for perhaps the country's most expensive double-double ever in going down to London, Ontario, when there were commercial flights available. Then the defense minister implored Canadians to spend nearly $100,000 on another private charter to go the Paralympics, which he said was necessary, with no other way to do it until the New Democrats asked him not to do so and embarrassed him publicly. Then he found a commercial flight that was much cheaper for the taxpayer. We also found about out about $1,000 door handles at Public Works that were being perpetrated on Canadians.
My question for the minister is this. When this happens and $1,000 door handles and $500 switches are billed to Canadians, my constituents want to know, does the government have any notion of pursuing in court the contractors who ripped off the taxpayers of this--
View Stockwell Day Profile
Mr. Speaker, first, we hear nothing from the NDP on whether it generally supports the approach we are taking of reducing our own expenses, eliminating the final portions of the stimulus package, and keeping taxes low. As a matter of fact, from the NDP we continue to hear a cry about the necessity of increasing taxes. That is a very different economical approach, one that history shows is tremendously damaging to workers and leads to lost jobs and increased unemployment. So it is possibly using these other items as distractions from that.
However, I will say that the Minister of Public Works, in responding to the report the member had raised, which concerned all of us, and having had some notice about that particular contract had already ordered an audit of it. When I heard about a doorbell costing $1,000 to install, it rang my bell, and it certainly did for the members opposite.
By the way, when we looked at that particular example, we found there was a very long section of wall that was removed from a certain building and among the things that were done was that a doorbell line was stretched along it and put in. Now I am not making excuses for a particular item, but the member should check carefully. However, we are concerned about these types of expenses, and the Minister of Public Works has already ordered a full audit of that particular contract.
View James Bezan Profile
View James Bezan Profile
2010-03-15 13:10 [p.436]
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the President of the Treasury Boards comments about wanting to control government spending.
I just want to comment briefly on the hypocrisy of the motion, which talks about cutting money going to the ten percenter program when all the parties in the opposition also want to continue to keep getting their voter subsidies they voted so strongly against a couple of years ago. So if it is all right to use voter money to fund the political operations of the parties, then why is not all right to use contrast pieces and uphold democracy so that all Canadians can see what we are doing in the House of Commons in contrasting the policies of our parties?
View Stockwell Day Profile
Mr. Speaker, that is an astute question from a hard-working member. I appreciate the manner in which he analyzes issues, especially those that can be related to the tax load on taxpayers becoming lighter. The question is very good. I would be interested in hearing the Liberals respond to that.
I will also close out this question time, as I see you are anxious to do so, Mr. Speaker, by repeating that we have not received an answer to the following question. Even though we have some overall differences between us, do the Liberals basically endorse our approach of keeping taxes low and reducing the deficit and going to a balanced budget? We have not heard them--
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Québec.
This Conservative government's motto seems to be “Do as I say, not as I do.” The Conservatives are asking the middle class and the poorest members of our society to tighten their belts and cope with the ever-present effects of the recession. They themselves do not seem the least bit worried about wasting public money.
The Harper government continues in its arrogance towards—
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
The Conservative government continues in its arrogance towards those less fortunate.
For example, the budget maintained the very generous tax arrangements for banks and the oil industry, but it does nothing to help people. It is shameful that military spending will continue to rise and that there are no measures to put an end to tax breaks for oil companies or the use of tax havens. In addition, there is nothing to tap the wealthy who have an annual taxable income of more than $150,000 or to put an end to excessive bonuses given to top managers.
What is worse, while this government is trying to balance the budget by proposing flashy but ineffective measures, the media have discovered that the Department of Public Works and Government Services awarded a contract worth $6 billion over 11 years to Profac for federal building maintenance.
Among the bills are one for installing a doorbell to the tune of $1,000, another for purchasing two potted plants for nearly $2,000 and one for installing lights for no less than $5,000.
Wasn't it the Minister of Finance who made a show of acting like a good parent when he presented the budget? No family would accept that kind of spending by the government.
While the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister preach fiscal restraint, new revelations keep coming to light about this government's excessive spending.
After the government announced with great fanfare the abolition of positions that were already vacant, which represent a fraction of the money needed to attack the deficit, and after we learned that this government was prepared to pay thousands of dollars to replace lights and doorbells in federal buildings, now we learn that the budget for the Prime Minister's Office will increase by nearly 22% in 2010-11.
No doubt about it, instead of showing true leadership in reducing government waste by cutting its own spending, the Conservative government prefers to tell us to do as it says and not as it does.
As far as all the measures announced for cutting government spending are concerned, the Bloc Québécois believes that the Conservative government must target budgetary items that have a significant impact on the government's finances. A number of proposals were submitted to the Minister of Finance during the prebudget consultations.
With regard to ten percenters, the parliamentary bulletins that MPs can send out, we have to remember that federal elected members can send these pamphlets out quite regularly, and the House of Commons pays for them. This vehicle was implemented in order to allow hon. members to communicate their positions to their constituents.
Hon. members have the right to send up to 365 pamphlets a year, or one a day, to constituents in their riding or other ridings. Every mailing can be sent to a number of homes equalling 10% of the constituents in the member's riding, if the content in the pamphlet sent in each mailing is 50% different than the pamphlets sent out in other mailings.
The House of Commons covers the cost of printing these pamphlets and sending them to the constituents.
Members of a same party can also get together and send a group ten percenter once a month. The administrative rules of the House of Commons prohibit members from using their mailings to invite constituents to re-elect them, ask for funding or promote partisan or commercial activities.
It is up to the Board of Internal Economy of the House of Commons to change the rules.
Over the years, however, the pamphlets have increasingly been sent into ridings represented by a rival party, to undermine its credibility. So this is essentially a misuse of these householders.
Recently, the extent of the spending by Conservative members to send mail into other ridings has caught the attention of the media.
The total bill for members’ mailings has more than doubled in four years, reaching $10 million in 2009. The Conservative Party is responsible for nearly two thirds of the expenses billed to the House of Commons for mailings by members in that year.
But most importantly, government party members sent out mailings during 2008-09 that cost twice as much, on average, as mailings by the other parties’ members.
Other figures show that the Conservative Party certainly went overboard in the use of its privilege of billing the House of Commons for its members’ mailings.
Of the 58 members who had printing expenses of $50,000 or more during the year, 54 are Conservatives. Eight Conservative members spent more than $80,000. In 2004-05, members’ printing expenses totalled $4.8 million. They more than doubled in four years.
In theory, mailings billed to the House of Commons are used to inform constituents about topical issues. For the Conservative Party, however, these mailings often take the form of propaganda, to the extent that the content of the mailings has prompted numerous questions about the appropriateness of messages designed to denigrate opponents.
We need only consider the pamphlets depicting the Liberals as anti-Semites in the riding of Mount Royal in 2009. It was somewhat extreme to think that the member for Mount Royal was engaged in anti-Semitic politics when we know very well that he is actually someone who promotes Israel.
We also think of the NDP member who wants to abolish the firearms registry and who received a householder in his riding stating that he defended the firearms registry.
These two cases have been discussed in the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, of which I am a member. Frankly, they are striking examples that make the debate we are holding today a very useful one so that we can arrive at guidelines for this question.
Another ad paid for out of the House of Commons budget showed a little girl surrounded by slogans in irregular fonts. It looked like a Halloween ad. It suggested that the Bloc Québécois was against protecting children, unlike the Conservatives, who were portrayed as protectors of victims. That ad was regarded as rather hideous, and the people in my riding strongly condemned it. It did not produce any positive results for the government. In fact, I would say it had the opposite effect.
When the NDP member raised a question of privilege concerning the firearms registry and the flyer that was sent to all of his constituents, the deputy government House leader, after hearing the member's testimony, asked him what he was expecting in order to ensure that something like this never happens again. The member replied:
So I need to be assured for my own satisfaction that whoever in party central did the design, did the work...that they are assured this will never happen again. If I get that assurance, I'll be satisfied.
We hope that with today's debate, they will put their money where their mouth is.
To sum up, the Bloc Québécois will support this motion. We also support the motion that prohibits members from sending any mailings to voters in other ridings, with the exception that whips may keep the privilege to send ten percenters into ridings that are not represented by their party, with a monthly quota.
That is the Bloc Québécois' position on the issue of parliamentary householders. We believe that members should be able to send them only to their own constituents, not to other voters. Furthermore, we want party whips to keep the privilege to send group ten percenters.
I will be pleased to respond to questions from my colleagues.
View Jim Maloway Profile
View Jim Maloway Profile
2010-03-15 13:21 [p.438]
Mr. Speaker, in her presentation, the member for Winnipeg South Centre talked about how she arrived home and found two to four ten percenters in her mailbox. I have had the same experience. I have been getting these ten percenters since I was elected.
The fact is the member for Winnipeg South Centre is still an elected member of the House. She has been complaining about these ten percenters over the last two elections and she keeps winning. Clearly, whatever the Conservatives are doing is not working too well.
I do not think that banning the ten percenters sent to other member's ridings outright is the answer. The Liberals should think about this in terms of amending their motion. In Manitoba, we had a set of rules that we had to follow for our provincial mailings. We were not allowed to attack other parties. Perhaps we should look at that as a solution in this case.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
Mr. Speaker, that is true; we agree with the member. I think it is important to keep these ten percenters, which are effective tools when they are used appropriately to inform our constituents.
However, our position is clear: we no longer want members of Parliament from other ridings to be able to send ten percenters to our constituents.
If I took advantage of the fact that I am a female MP to send one out in the riding of a Conservative who claimed to be against abortion because it causes cancer in women, if I sent out a ten percenter criticizing this position or congratulating the member on supporting abortion, I do not think he would find that amusing.
View Geoff Regan Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Geoff Regan Profile
2010-03-15 13:23 [p.438]
Mr. Speaker, I appreciated the hon. member's comments.
Earlier, I listened to the comments of the President of the Treasury Board. He asked how we could be against ten percenters, when we send them out ourselves.
That is like saying that his party is against public funding for political parties and that he does not accept it, but he does. It is clear that although they try to deny it, the Conservatives accept public funding despite claiming to be against it.
I would like to know what the hon. member thinks about that.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question.
Obviously, political party financing is an important issue. I believe that in order to allow for a diverse opposition and in order to ensure that a democracy and its Parliament function well, it is important to maintain this financing.
I would like to come back to the question of ten percenters. As a member of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, this matter is important to me. Please understand that we are not talking about cutting all ten percenters. I have heard from many of the constituents in my riding. While they are happy to know my stance on issues, they complain about the many ten percenters they receive from other parties. And when I say “other parties”, I am talking particularly about the Conservative government. The graphics and wording in its ten percenters are very questionable and, at times, just plain wrong.
I hope that the members of the House of Commons will be in favour of restricting use to members in their own ridings and will allow our whips to make group mailings. That would allow us to maximize the rigorous and professional usage of ten percenters, which are a privilege for members.
View Harold Albrecht Profile
Mr. Speaker, reference has been made many times to the issue of the mass mailings of ten percenters. In fact, that is the way the motion is worded. All of us have received ten percenters from other MPs.
Is it being suggested that not only mass mailings be curtailed? When a ten percenter is placed in a franked envelope and mailed first class, that certainly would increase the costs dramatically. Are we going to target those as well? I personally have received mailings from the NDP that were franked with ten percenter material in the envelope, a much higher cost than if we were to simply do a mass mailing.
Could the member respond to that?
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
Mr. Speaker, I will not often say this in my lifetime, but I agree with my colleague. I believe that we should ban ten percenters in envelopes, which would save 40¢ per envelope. The Bloc Québécois agrees with this suggestion and will support it in the Board of Internal Economy when the time comes.
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