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Results: 1 - 15 of 120
View Carole Freeman Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, today I am presenting petitions that were circulated by the FADOQ network and signed by more than 2,000 Quebeckers. They are calling for an increase to the guaranteed income supplement monthly benefits, which the budget did not provide. The government offered mere crumbs.
I am presenting this petition because the Bloc has been calling for these measures for nearly 10 years and we believe that this is the only way to allow the most vulnerable people in our society to live in dignity. It is a question of dignity and social justice.
View Carole Freeman Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, with budget 2011, the Conservatives have failed in their duty to ensure a better life for our vulnerable seniors. The funding announced is only half of what seniors need to reach the low income threshold.
The Conservatives are proposing a guaranteed income supplement top-up benefit of up to $600 a year for singles with an income under $4,400 and up to $840 for couples with an income under $7,360 a year. That is woefully inadequate.
Only one in three GIS recipients will benefit from this measure. Thus, the government has rejected the demands of the Bloc Québécois and seniors' advocacy groups, including FADOQ, which are still calling for the GIS to be increased by $110 a month. Furthermore, the budget does not include any retroactive GIS payments or automatic registration for the estimated 40,000 eligible seniors in Quebec.
The Conservatives have some nerve, trying to save a few pennies at the expense of our most vulnerable seniors. How shameful.
View Carole Freeman Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, in a damning report, the Information Commissioner has found the office of the former public works minister guilty of political obstruction and interference under the Access to Information Act. Her finding was unequivocal: the minister's political office tried to block the disclosure of an embarrassing document. The file has been referred to the RCMP.
How does the current Minister of Natural Resources expect us to believe that he did not sanction this illegal activity, when obstruction and political interference were common within his office?
View Carole Freeman Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, on another issue, the Information Commissioner found that the Privy Council Office violated the Access to Information Act by obstructing a Canadian Press journalist who was trying to obtain documents on the listeriosis crisis.
If the Prime Minister will let his own department show such contempt for the law, why should we be surprised that obstruction, political interference and secrecy are so rampant within the Conservative government?
View Carole Freeman Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, a long-time aide to the Prime Minister, Bruce Carson, is under investigation by the RCMP because he allegedly engaged in illegal lobbying activities. In return for a 20% commission for his girlfriend, an escort, he promised to provide full access to the Conservatives. The Prime Minister said that he was surprised. Nevertheless, his aide was sentenced to 18 months in prison for fraud.
How can the Prime Minister be surprised by Bruce Carson's illegal practices when he tolerated this individual with a shady past as a member of his entourage for so long?
View Carole Freeman Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, on the heels of the Jaffer affair, here is another instance of illegal lobbying by one of the Conservatives' close associates. The Prime Minister promised that he would not allow individuals to use their time in government as a stepping stone to private lobbying. Nevertheless, that is what his former caucus chair and his advisor did.
Do these two examples not show that the Prime Minister has proven that he is incapable of controlling the greed of friends of the Conservative regime?
View Carole Freeman Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, the current Conservative government is hands down the most undemocratic government we have ever seen in Ottawa. Personally, I have been a member of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics since 2008, and I have lost track of how many files have been submitted to this committee concerning undemocratic behaviour by Conservative government members.
The Bloc Québécois felt it was important to present the motion we are discussing in the House today because the Bloc is the vigilant party here in Ottawa. Since it arrived on the federal scene, the Bloc has never looked back and it has been committed to keeping watch over the federal government, no matter which party is in power.
In its day, the sponsorship scandal was the most significant breach of the rules of democracy that the Bloc had ever uncovered on Parliament Hill. Today the Liberals may be outraged and cry foul about the Conservative Party's undemocratic behaviour, but no one has forgotten that the Gomery commission proved that for years the Liberal Party of Canada also successfully trampled the basic rules of democracy to ensure that it remained in power in Ottawa.
The day after their minority government was elected in January 2006, the Conservatives wrapped themselves in a cloak of integrity and transparency. We had hoped that they had learned a lesson and would keep their promises, but it was all just smoke and mirrors. In fact, over the past five years, this minority government has continued to develop slick schemes, each more unacceptable than the last, to ensure that it would keep control of power and act as though it were a majority. This government rivals the Liberals in the art of misleading parliamentarians and the people they represent.
The Bloc Québécois is presenting this motion today simply because it believes there is an urgent need to unmask the Conservatives' undemocratic behaviour and denounce them loud and clear in this Parliament, which is the most tangible symbol of democracy in our society.
In our parliamentary system, Parliament is the ultimate representation of democracy, freely expressed during an official election. The government that takes office must serve Parliament and the public and ensure that all elected members can fully represent their constituents. We are dealing with a minority government that, since taking office in January 2006, has been playing hide-and-seek with Parliament and constantly tries to obstruct Parliament's rules. This attitude weakens democracy, provokes crises that breed cynicism and destroys the average citizen's trust in politicians.
The Bloc Québécois has always been committed to fighting against any attacks on democratic institutions, any abuse of power by the government, any affront to the autonomy of independent institutions, any undue restrictions on access to information, and any hindrance preventing elected representatives of the people from fully representing their constituents.
Since January 2006, there has been overwhelming evidence to show that the Conservative Party does not want to abide by democratic rules. Allow me to name just a few instances of that: prorogation of Parliament on two occasions despite the wishes of the majority of the elected representatives; control over information delivered to the media on the decisions and activities of Parliament; the in and out process used during the 2005-06 election campaign to establish a national ad campaign paid for by local candidates, a process deemed illegal by Elections Canada; boycotting of certain parliamentary committees, specifically the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, on which I sit, through multiple absences, refusals to provide required documents and filibusters to block the work of the committee; the control by the Privy Council Office over sensitive access to information requests addressed to the government, an attitude we also see in the departments. For example, an employee at the Department of Public Works ordered officials to unduly delay publication of documents that were comprising to the government.
Let us not forget the scandalous imposition, by the Prime Minister, of a directive to his employees and employees of all ministers prohibiting them from appearing before parliamentary committees, specifically the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, which was investigating the control exerted by the offices of Conservative ministers over access to information requests.
With regard to controlling access to information requests, the Information Commissioner is currently conducting a formal investigation of three ministers, and we are still waiting for the results.
All these facts clearly show that the people can no longer trust the Conservatives to restore access to information. The Conservative government demonstrated the extent of its culture of secrecy during the last parliamentary session, when the Speaker of the House had to demand that it produce the documents on allegations of torture in Afghanistan.
The most recent misstep in terms of respect for democratic rules was made by the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, who showed a clear lack of judgment as the person responsible for immigration in Canada. As a number of my colleagues have already pointed out, he participated in a partisan activity involving cultural communities and newcomers, even though he is responsible for ensuring that everyone is treated equally. He acted more like a Conservative minister of propaganda for ethnocultural communities. That is the true nature of this Conservative government, which claims to be transparent and responsible. It is a government of propaganda that has proven to be very good at manipulating information and voters.
Being ethical and transparent is a question of will. No rule can take the place of political will and vigilance. The best example to date of the excesses of Conservative propaganda is the unbelievable directive that was sent to public servants late last year stating that, in federal communications, the words “Government of Canada” should be replaced by the Prime Minister's name followed by Government. The directive was from the Prime Minister's office.
We checked and found that, since December, the expression “Name That Cannot Be Said In The House Government” has spread like wildfire in public departmental communications. You practically do not see “Government of Canada” any more. But the “Name-that cannot be said-in-the-House Government” now oversees us. Must we all be transformed into Harry Potter to defeat He Who Must Not Be Named? Stay tuned.
This directive turns out to be the best piece of political propaganda from the Conservative Government of Canada. Today, the Bloc Québécois wishes to warn citizens and have them truly understand the dangerous drift that has threatened our democracy since the Conservatives came to power in Ottawa.
Imagine if this Conservative government won a majority in the next election. I cannot envisage it without shuddering. Action is urgently needed. Our democracy is in jeopardy.
Come next election time, Quebeckers will know that they can no longer count on the government of the person who I cannot name in the House if I wish to abide by the essential rules of any effective democracy.
View Carole Freeman Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question and for the information he provided. Before answering, I would like to also thank the NDP members here today who spoke so loudly during my speech that I had a hard time hearing myself. I would like to thank them for listening; it was very kind. Madam Speaker, it would have been kind of you to call the members to order.
I will now respond to the very interesting question about in and out schemes and the fact that the Bloc Québécois was the creator of such schemes. I would like to remind the hon. member of the Conservative Party that, had the Bloc Québécois been guilty of wrongdoing of this sort, the Conservatives would have been the first to complain and to send the RCMP to investigate and check all of our ridings' books. That did not happen. The only party that was investigated, that had its books checked and that was charged in a case that was brought before the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal is the Conservative Party and no other.
The bottom line is that, despite the fact that they have been abusing democracy for many years, they are no longer even capable of admitting their mistakes, which are now recognized by the courts.
I do not know if they will have the gall to take this as far as the Supreme Court at the public's expense, but it is shameful to circumvent the most fundamental democratic rules of a parliamentary system in such a manner. Circumventing the electoral laws to divert money for unnecessary advertising is a crime. If another party had behaved in such a manner, rest assured that it would have already been subject to a search. The Conservatives are the only guilty ones and they must take the blame.
View Carole Freeman Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, the expression “I am the State” says it all. We are no longer in the British parliamentary system as we know it. We have become a kind of royalty. Someone suddenly decided here that he would be a king. We must call to order all elected members, and particularly Conservative members, and remind them that we are in a democratic parliamentary system. All elected members have the right to speak, particularly in a minority government. The Conservatives should recognize their status and they should work with their fellow members in a diligent and proactive fashion.
View Carole Freeman Profile
BQ (QC)
I would like to point out once again that my distinguished colleague, with whom I sit on the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, is completely off topic today because he is discussing the economy instead of clearly addressing today's motion. He is in the habit of going off on tangents, dodging the issues and leading us in all directions. However, I would like us to discuss this motion that deals specifically with the election fraud committed by the Conservative Party in 2006.
View Carole Freeman Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member a question. I moved a motion in the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics to study the Conservative government's in and out scheme, but there was an election. The committee, which was chaired by my distinguished colleague across the way, was therefore unable to thoroughly review this motion.
Each time he goes on about how this was common practice among all the parties, including the Bloc Québécois, I have to wonder why the Chief Electoral Officer did not then investigate the other parties but, rather, only yours. Why did the investigation target only your party? Does the hon. member feel that his party is being singled out? Let me finish my question.
View Carole Freeman Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, I would like the member to respond to the fact that the Chief Electoral Officer directed his investigation and the fact that the results of this investigation prove that the Conservatives committed offences. I would like to hear what he has to say about that.
View Carole Freeman Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, not only did the office of the minister of immigration solicit money for the Conservative Party using House of Commons resources and was involved in a pre-electoral communication plan targeting certain ethnocultural groups, but we also learn that his office is resorting to partisan attacks against the Bloc Québécois. A letter issued by the minister's office uses, word for word, the Conservative Party's partisan ads.
Will the minister of immigration be relieved of his duties since he does not seem to know the difference between his role as minister and the partisan interests of the Conservative Party?
View Carole Freeman Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, today, the Liberal members are proposing debate on a motion that I believe, as I am sure you do, deals with a fundamental issue, namely, respect for the democratic rules that govern our society. It is even more important to ensure respect for these rules given the election rumours that are going around and that seem to be growing every day as March 22, the date for the tabling of the next Conservative budget, approaches.
The Bloc Québécois supports the Liberal motion before the House today and believes it is of the utmost importance that the Conservatives pay back the money they spent illegally during the 2005-06 election campaign. The Bloc Québécois believes that, not only must they repay the money they stole from the citizens of this country, but they must also, as quickly as possible, remove all individuals facing charges for this violation of the Canada Elections Act from any position of responsibility within government or the Conservative Party of Canada. In addition, these individuals must not be allowed to participate in future elections.
Year after year, as we have seen scandals of all kinds since the Conservatives came to power in Ottawa in January 2006, we have no choice but to recognize that the Conservative Party simply cannot and will not abide by democratic rules, and that it sees the Canada Elections Act as an obstacle that it may circumvent as it wishes. It can do anything it wants, anything that helps keep the party in power. Much like the majority of Canadians who care about respecting democratic rules, I believe that the Conservative government's ideology makes it truly incapable of respecting the most basic electoral rules that are common to modern democratic societies.
It is a good thing we have institutions like Elections Canada. This independent, non-partisan organization reports directly to Parliament. It is responsible for organizing elections and administering the political financing provisions of the Canada Elections Act. Furthermore, its mandate includes monitoring compliance and enforcing electoral legislation, to the great displeasure of those who try to circumvent it. We are truly privileged to live in a society that has such an organization to guarantee a truly healthy democracy. It is thanks to the work of that institution, which is responsible for defending our democratic rules, that the House has become aware of a scandal that dates back to the 2005-06 election campaign, which brought the Conservatives into power following a long Liberal reign, which also ended in a nasty scandal.
Although the Liberals are vehemently condemning the governing party's undemocratic behaviour today, we must not forget that, when it was in power, the Liberal Party of Canada created government programs with the primary but unspoken agenda to buy votes. The sponsorship program and the transitional jobs fund at Human Resources Development Canada enabled the Liberals to invest funds in ridings held by their political adversaries to buy the sympathy of voters. The Gomery inquiry uncovered an elaborate kickback scheme that enabled our Liberal friends to accumulate hundreds of thousands of dollars in their election fund.
But let us get back to our Conservative friends who, at the time, wrapped themselves in a cloak of integrity and transparency, but who have since found other equally reprehensible schemes to cheat democracy and abuse the electoral system. It bears saying and repeating that the Conservatives will stop at nothing to gain power, and that is why, in 2007, the Conservative Party had the audacity to sue Elections Canada in Federal Court because it refused to reimburse the election expenses of 67 candidates, including 27 in Quebec.
The dispute was over what we commonly refer to as an in and out system, which the Conservatives implemented and which enabled them, in 2006, to conceal national expenses by passing them off as local election expenses. Strangely, the Federal Court of Canada ruled in favour of the Conservative Party, but Elections Canada had the good sense to appeal, and a ruling was issued on March 1, 2011, by the Federal Court of Appeal, which overruled the earlier decision of the Federal Court. The ruling handed down on March 1 confirms Elections Canada's interpretation that the Conservatives violated the Canada Elections Act by using in and out financing.
The Conservative Party had almost reached its spending limits, so it spread $1.3 million that it spent on national ads among Conservative candidates who had not reached their personal spending limits.
According to Elections Canada, this money, which was purportedly used to fund local Conservative Party ads, was actually used for national ads. In its ruling, the Federal Court of Appeal said that if the Conservative Party were allowed to use that strategy, which the party still claims is legitimate, it would:
--weaken compliance with the limits set by Parliament on the amount of money that candidates may spend on their election and can recover by way of reimbursement from public funds. Abuses could well proliferate, and the statutory objective of promoting a healthy democracy through levelling the electoral playing field undermined.
It should be made clear that, in addition to this ruling, the Conservatives will be in Ontario Provincial Court on March 18, to defend charges laid by William Corbett, the Commissioner of Elections Canada, who began a parallel inquiry into the same transactions that the Chief Electoral Officer was so concerned about.
Mr. Corbett decided to lay charges against the Conservative Party and four high-ranking officials from the party, including two senators. Elections Canada has accused them of election fraud for supposedly having hidden overspending during the 2006 federal elections.
The Conservatives are even saying that everything was done legally. They are claiming to be the victims and they are even claiming that Elections Canada is taking revenge on the Conservative Party for its 2007 lawsuit against Elections Canada for refusing to refund dozens of candidates' election expenses.
But none of that holds water. The documents included in the Elections Canada affidavit and its annexes prove that.
During the 2005-06 election campaign, when they realized that the party was about to exceed its authorized spending limit, high-ranking Conservative Party officials developed a national advertising campaign scheme paid for by local candidates.
There were 67 Conservative candidates involved, and a number of them are cabinet members in the government of the Prime Minister, whose name I cannot say in the House, but whose name the Conservative government uses shamelessly, instead of the “Government of Canada”. I was saying that a good number of the candidates involved in this in and out scheme, deemed illegal by Elections Canada, today are ministers or hold senior positions in the Prime Minister's office. Alarm bells went off at Elections Canada in October 2006 and it has been investigating the Conservative government ever since.
In short, we will not be fooled under the circumstances: the Conservatives' version and their explanations do not hold water. The Prime Minister himself criticized Mr. Jean-Pierre Kingsley, after the 2007 court case seeking reimbursement from Elections Canada. When he was the president of the National Citizens Coalition, he called him the “perfect politician” capable of “providing the wrong answers to questions that no one asks”, and above all “having a public agenda”. These are criticisms that the Conservatives are again trotting out even though Mr. Kingsley is no longer there.
It is obvious that the Conservative leader prefers to blame the messenger rather than dealing with the source of the problem, which is the party itself.
View Carole Freeman Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his comments, especially since he was the chair of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics for a number of years. He carried out his duties in an exemplary fashion. We have had our ups and downs with the Conservative Party. I moved a motion at the committee to examine the in and out scheme in detail, but there was an election and we were unable to do it.
The Conservative Party has this constant tendency to try to circumvent the law or to do everything to not admit the obvious. My colleague, who was chair of this committee, could also tell you this. When a committee serves a summons to a witness, as was the case last spring, and the law and most basic rules of democracy are not respected, something is not right. The Conservative Party is ignoring the Elections Act and all other Canadian laws.
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