Mr. Speaker, that is pretty remarkable coming from a member on that side of the House, when every time we try to bring forward legislation that supports law enforcement, as is evident today, members vote against it and do not support it.
The fact is that we have increased front-line officers at the border by 26%. However, it is no surprise that when the NDP members do not have a valid argument for their shallow dismissiveness of a very serious threat, they spew inaccurate talking points. It is this government that has time and time again given more resources to law enforcement, whether it is at the border or it is the RCMP, with Bill C-42. There have been legislative changes, whether we are talking about legislative changes to support victims, or in this case, where we are bringing forward legislation that has been asked for by law enforcement across the country who know terrorism is a real threat. They have asked for this legislation, and the members opposite have voted against it.
If NDP members want to argue against the legislation, go ahead. I would be happy to debate any one of them head-to-head on this legislation. Instead, what are we hearing from them? We are hearing that we do not need to do it right now.
Last October, the NDP member for Brome—Missisquoi expressed his reservations for this legislation by saying, “since 2007, nothing has happened in Canada. The country has not been subject to terrorist attacks”. Frankly, that kind of irresponsible head-in-the-sand attitude is not only disappointing, but it is very troubling. I think Canadians will look at the NDP members and look at their reaction.
When they have a chance to support important legislation, they could do one of two things. They could support the legislation or they could stand up and give an informed and intelligent response. However, what we are hearing so far today is pretty shallow, and I would say intellectually bankrupt.
Mr. Speaker, I am not sure where the 40% came from either.
I would say to the member that the temporary foreign worker program, as we have said time and time again, is not to displace Canadian workers. Where there are egregious examples—and that is what we are really talking about; we should just call a spade a spade and say there have been some egregious abuses of the system—the government has indicated that we are going to review it and we are going to respond.
However, members of the member's caucus have in fact gone to the minister and requested temporary foreign workers be allowed to come into Canada to fill unfilled vacant jobs; for example, the members for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, Halifax, Ottawa Centre, Churchill, British Columbia Southern Interior, Sackville—Eastern Shore, Trois-Rivières, and Brome—Missisquoi. These are members of your own caucus who understand that sometimes it is appropriate to bring in temporary foreign workers.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise today. I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi. I know the member well because I serve on two committees with him.
I am very pleased to speak again in the House on the NDP's views on this piece of legislation, Bill C-55. It would amend the Criminal Code in response to the Supreme Court ruling referenced several times here this morning in previous speeches.
The point that has to be reiterated is that this is all coming about with a very few days remaining to meet the deadline that was provided to the House by the Supreme Court. It stayed a decision for a year to give the government the opportunity to bring forward an improvement to legislation that is much needed. We have supported this legislation throughout the process, although we found the process daunting because of the delay that took place in getting it here. We supported the government because it is an important tool for our police services in this country.
However, on the counter side of that, it is very important for the official opposition to look cautiously at any legislation that authorizes people to look into people's lives in the manner that this would. This enactment seeks to amend Canada's Criminal Code, and the Supreme Court ruling talked about the need for safeguards for Canadians, because this allows for authorized, and I want to stress the word “authorized”, interception of private communications, done prior to judicial authorization as foreseen in section 184.4 of the act.
It is worth noting that the enactment states that it:
requires the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Attorney General of each province to report on the interceptions of private communications made under section 184.4;
provides that a person who has been the object of such interception must be notified...within a specified period;...
The assumption is that those persons have not been found to be taking part in any criminal activity, and thus they have every right to be informed; and if they were involved with criminal activity and are part of an ongoing investigation, there could be an extension.
It narrowed the class of individuals who could actually make such interceptions, and those limited interceptions to particular offences are listed.
I was speaking a few moments ago about the fact that we are within three weeks of a deadline supplied to us by the Supreme Court. There was the benefit of a year from the Supreme Court to act on this, and the government has not done so until the very last minute. I have to question what the delay is. Why did it take close to a year for the government to respond to this? This was not a great difficulty, from the standpoint that the Supreme Court identified the areas in which the government had to make changes.
I would go so far as to say that when any government or any party in government looks to put forward legislation, a significant part of the process is debate in this place. Another significant part is the opportunity for all parties to come together, which we did in the instance of Bill C-55 at committee, to look at it, to hear witness testimony, to do those things necessary to offer any piece of legislation the due diligence necessary to make it as good as we possibly could. That is the concern over the timeframe, the concern over the fact that we had a couple of days to try to do things that could have well extended beyond, had we brought in more witnesses. It is troubling because that impedes the due diligence we have to administer on behalf of those people who sent us to this place.
I tend to repeat myself in my remarks, because that troubled me to the degree that I felt it was worth repeating.
There have been other times in this place that the opportunity to debate and to consider various bills has been impeded. I would ask how many times the Conservative government has moved time allocation on bills. It is not the delay just in this particular bill, but in other bills. We must be closing in on 30 times that it has occurred in this Parliament. It has to be close to that by now. I hear other members agreeing.
We have seen budget bills and other legislation affecting services, which Canadians rely on, shut down or extremely limited by the Conservatives, at what appears to be almost every opportunity. It stifles the opportunity for us to make those bills better. It stifles the opportunity we have as members to point out what they have done well and what they have done not up to the standards Canadians expect. We get to do that in this public forum. That has been curtailed too many times.
Once again, that is part of my concern with this bill, Bill C-55, and how it got to committee after such a delay. It has the potential of impacting ordinary Canadians in a very negative way if the protections of which the Supreme Court has spoken to us were not put into place.
Bill C-55 is simply an updated version of wiretapping provisions the Supreme Court previously deemed unconstitutional. That is quite a statement when we think about it. Fortunately again for the House, the Supreme Court set the parameters of what it saw as the need to protect Canadians' rights.
I have to say that Canadians have good reason to be concerned about privacy legislation that comes out of the government. To date the government has not had what I see as a good record in that area. It is not encouraging at all.
There is an obligation on the official opposition to work for the public good in upholding the rule of law, our Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It was in February 2012 that the Conservative government tabled Bill C-30. Members will recall that gave authorities the power to access personal information in a way to which the Supreme Court responded.
It raised very serious concerns across the country, as I recall, about personal privacy and fundamental rights. That was due to the manner in which it was constructed and the powers it was seeking to give out. I will add that it was kind of a compilation of previous bills that have been before this House, Bill C-50, Bill C-51 and Bill C-52 from a previous parliamentary session. The Conservatives were attempting to build on the original legislation from 1999 to provide public safety authorities with extensive surveillance powers over digital information. As I said a moment ago, there was a significant backlash from the people of Canada in regard to this.
Now we have the government with these much-needed changes, I will commend the government. It reached across to us in the committee. We did work better on that bill than we did on some others in the past. If we did not meet the deadline or the provisions required by the Supreme Court, then these emergency powers would be thrown out.
I began my remarks talking about the need for police officials of our country to apply these. In this particular case, these provisions are intended to happen at the worst possible time, when somebody is under physical threat of injury or harm. It was important for us to go a little deeper into it.
I am looking for what really needs to be summarized here, and that is the fact that our role is to ensure that the privacy rights of Canadians are balanced with the police officials' needs to investigate, particularly in a time where someone is under the threat of physical harm. I have to say that, working together, I believe we accomplished that. Thus, we will be supporting this bill.
Questions and comments.
The hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi.
Order, please. The time for questions and comments has expired.
Resuming debate, the member for Brome—Missisquoi.
Mr. Speaker, recent events from around the world confirm that the threat of terrorism is very real. We need to provide law enforcement and national security agencies with the means to anticipate and to respond effectively to terrorism.
This is why our government introduced the combating terrorism act. We are taking action to reinstate two provisions to help law enforcement investigate past terrorism activity and prevent future attacks. We are also creating a new offence that specifically targets those who would leave Canada to participate in terrorist training camps abroad.
While we are taking action to address a very real threat, the NDP has its head in the sand. Throughout debate on our legislation, the members opposite continuously downplayed the terrorist threat. The NDP member for Brome—Missisquoi even said, with regard to terrorism, “Nothing has happened in the past four years. There has been nothing and things have been quiet”.
Unlike the NDP, we will not hesitate to protect Canadians--
Order. The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper. The hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi will have three minutes to finish his speech next time.
Mr. Speaker, as my hon. colleague is well aware, there are approximately 7,300 uniformed officers who clear over 90 million travellers and process over 13 million commercial releases each year in Canada. I can assure the member that our government is focused on ensuring our border is secure while easing the flow of legitimate travel and trade.
We are doing this through initiatives such as the action plan on perimeter security and economic competitiveness and the action plan on regulatory co-operation. These were both announced by our Prime Minister and President Obama in December of last year. As the Prime Minister said:
We are pursuing an ambitious global trade agenda while at the same time ensuring enhanced access to the United States, our largest and most important trading partner. Together, these agreements represent the most significant step forward in Canada–U.S. cooperation since the North American Free Trade Agreement.
These action plans are a step in the right direction.
Let me assure the member opposite that we have not stopped there. We are also investing in border infrastructure including new lanes at the busiest crossings. We cannot forget that the CBSA must ensure that people and goods are cleared as quickly as possible, without compromising the safety and security of Canadians. I also would like to remind the House that we are accountable to taxpayers. We must ensure that operations are carried out in a cost-effective and responsible manner. That is why it is important for my hon. colleague to understand the actions taken by the CBSA.
With that in mind, I would like to set the record straight about the statement made by the hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi about the reduction of hours at three border crossings in his riding. At East Pinnacle, for example, border operations were reduced by eight hours. This port of entry now closes at 4 p.m. instead of midnight. There is a 24/7 port of entry only 10 kilometres away. With only 58 travellers per day, reducing the hours made good sense. The second port of entry in question is Glen Sutton. This port of entry processed 37 people a day. I am sure even my hon. colleague would have a hard time justifying a 24/7 port of entry for only 37 people per day. Since the port of entry down the road, 11.5 kilometres away, also has 24/7 service, it was clear that reducing the hours to 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. was more realistic and operationally sound. The last port of entry that reduced its hours is Morses Line. This port of entry is now open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the 84 travellers who use it daily. After 4 p.m., travellers proceed to Saint Armand–Phillipsburg 13 kilometres away where service is provided 24/7.
The rationale for the decisions to reduce hours at ports of entry is to ensure that operations are not only cost effective but also as efficient as possible. These are difficult decisions, but they make sense. The CBSA was able to do this while keeping its mandate intact and still providing excellent service by dedicated professionals. This is good border management which the government expects and Canadians deserve.
It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Winnipeg North, aboriginal affairs; the hon. member for Montcalm, persons with disabilities; and the hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi, the firearms registry.
Mr. Speaker, I have had the honour of representing the people of Brome—Missisquoi in the House. I am proud of being a sovereignist and proud of being a Quebecker and a member of the Bloc Québécois. On behalf of the Bloc Québécois, I have had the honour and pleasure of being responsible for the social housing and homelessness files, as well as natural resources and the environment. I have derived great satisfaction from my debates with all the hon. members, and I thank them for it. I also appreciated your way of presiding over the House, Mr. Speaker.
I leave very content with my time here and with having worked with a leader, the hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie, who is both so exacting and so nice. I thank him for having made a place for me on his team. I would like as well to thank all my colleagues for their support and solidarity.
I also want to take advantage of this opportunity to thank the voters for their confidence in me. Finally, my greatest thanks go to my wife, Estelle, for her support, her help and her love. I will now have the great pleasure of returning to live by her side.
Thanks to all and sundry, and farewell, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, my other petition calls for the border crossings in Brome—Missisquoi to remain open. Some 900 people living near the border have signed a petition calling for public hearings at the very least.
These petitions are in both of Canada's official languages. Indeed, we have two official languages. A number of Americans speak French when they attend our meetings. It is very important that these crossings remain open. Our life with our American friends is at stake.
The hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi has the floor for a very quick question or comment.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Brome—Missisquoi on his speech.
Certain points stood out for me. For instance, Bill C-12 makes no sense and does not recognize the Quebec nation.
I would like to know what the consequences for Quebec representation in the House of Commons might be if Bill C-12 is passed.
Mr. Speaker, I hasten to support the hon. member for Beauséjour because, indeed, the electoral financing transfer scheme used by the Conservative Party of Canada constitutes electoral fraud and represents an assault on the democratic principles upon which Parliament and our electoral system are based. At the end of February, the Commissioner of Canada Elections filed four electoral fraud charges against the Conservative Party and four of the senior directors of its electoral fund, Conservative Fund Canada, including two senators. All were charged with knowingly violating the Canada Elections Act during the 2006 election.
The first charge is against Conservative Fund Canada, Senator Finley, Senator Gerstein, Michael Donison and Susan J. Kehoe and reads:
Between November 1st, 2005 and January 23rd, 2006, in the City of Ottawa, in the Province of Ontario and elsewhere in Canada, did wilfully incur election expenses in relation to the 39th federal general election that exceeded the maximum of $18, 278, 278.64 for the Conservative Party of Canada, contrary to Section 423 (1) of the Canada Elections Act and did thereby commit an offence punishable on summary conviction contrary to Sections 497 (3) (g) and 500 (5) (a) of the said Act.
The second charge is against the Conservative Party of Canada and reads:
Between November 1st, 2005 and January 23rd, 2006, in the City of Ottawa, in the Province of Ontario and elsewhere in Canada, being a registered party whose chief agent, the Conservative Fund Canada, did wilfully incur election expenses in relation to the 39th federal general election that exceeded the maximum of $18,278,278.64 for the Conservative Party of Canada, contrary to Sections 423(1) and 497(3)(g) of the Canada Elections Act is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction contrary to Section 507 of the said Act.
The third charge is against Conservative Fund Canada and Irving Gerstein and reads:
Between January 23rd, 2006 and December 18th, 2006, in the City of Ottawa, in the Province of Ontario, did provide the Chief Electoral Officer with a return on the general election expenses of the Conservative Party of Canada, in relation to the 39th federal general election, that they knew or ought reasonably to have known contained a materially false or misleading statement, namely that all election expenses in respect of the 39th federal general election had been properly recorded, contrary to Section 431(a) of the Canada Elections Act and did thereby commit an offence punishable on summary conviction contrary to Sections 497(3)(m)(ii) and 500(5)(a) of the said Act.
I want to point out that the party being named in these charges is the same party that claimed, in 2006, that it wanted to amend the Canada Elections Act in order to improve the integrity of the electoral process and instill complete confidence in the Canadian public. That is not what I call leading by example.
The fourth charge is against the Conservative Party of Canada:
Between January 23rd, 2006 and December 18th, 2006, in the City of Ottawa, in the Province of Ontario, being a registered party whose chief agent, the Conservative Fund Canada, did provide the Chief Electoral Officer with a return on its general election expenses, in relation to the 39th federal general election, that the Conservative Fund Canada knew or ought reasonably to have known contained a materially false or misleading statement, namely that all election expenses in respect of the 39th federal general election had been properly recorded, contrary to sections 431(a) and 497(3)(m)(ii) of the Canada Elections Act is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction contrary to section 507 of the said Act.
How can the Prime Minister claim that this is a difference of opinion? These charges clearly indicate that it is a question of bogus invoices, misleading statements made to Elections Canada and deliberate overspending. These offences could result in a $5,000 fine, five years in prison, or both.
This in and out scheme shows the Conservatives for what they truly are. They can talk all they like about an administrative dispute between their party and Elections Canada, but the Federal Court of Appeal unanimously sided with Elections Canada, which alleges that the Conservative Party deliberately spent more than the national campaign limit by having 67 candidates pay some of the party's advertising costs, to the tune of $1.3 million.
This is how the Conservative scheme worked. After the Conservative Party reached its $18.3 million spending limit, it decided to transfer $1.3 million to 67 ridings that had not reached their $80,000 limit. The ridings returned the same amount, claiming that the money had been used for local ads. The ads, however, were exactly the same as the national ones. The riding associations had no control over these transfers.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister can try to dismiss the facts and maintain that the matter is an administrative dispute, but it will be hard to fight the charges when so many candidates are now coming forward to tell their stories.
Inky Mark, who resigned his Manitoba seat last year, said that his staff was contacted by party officials during the 2006 election campaign. He said that Conservative Party officials asked if they could deposit several thousand dollars into his campaign account and withdraw it later to buy advertising. It did not make sense to him, so he refused.
Mark's former campaign manager said she recalls being asked to receive money and then have the funds withdrawn quickly afterward. She remembers the issue because it sounded similar to a case involving a Conservative cabinet minister from Manitoba who had to plead guilty and was convicted of electoral overspending.
Also, the independent Conservative MP for Simcoe—Grey, who was turfed from the Conservative caucus last year, said her campaign was approached and she rejected the plan.
There is also David Marler, a candidate in the Brome—Missisquoi riding in the Eastern Townships. In an interview with La Presse, he explained why he refused to sign a form in December 2006: the document would have authorized Conservative Party officials to transfer money to his account and then take it right back out again. David Marler declined the offer when an organizer was unable to explain to him the reason and purpose of this transaction. As a lawyer, he understood right away that this scheme was illegal.
The Conservative Party's behaviour during the 2005-06 election campaign, when it claimed to be the champion of public ethics, does not fall into the category of an administrative dispute but, rather, that of hypocrisy and abuse of power. The Conservative Party used a shell game to give the impression that it had complied with the national spending limit. The national organization distributed some $1.3 million to 67 candidates who were below their campaign spending limits.
The Conservatives can try to downplay what they did, but Canadians are well aware of their fraudulent tactics. The Canada Elections Act applies to all political parties. Creating a level playing field for everyone serves to promote a healthy democracy. There is no point in imposing a spending limit on political parties if they can circumvent that limit by moving money around to their local organizations.
The Prime Minister must order the immediate repayment of any and all illegally obtained electoral rebates that were paid out to candidates for the Conservative Party of Canada as a result of the in and out fraud and must remove all individuals facing charges for this fraud from any position of responsibility within government or the Conservative Party of Canada. The issue here is the integrity of the electoral process and thus of Canadian democracy.
Madam Speaker, you have no idea how pleased I am to be speaking during today's opposition day. It will allow me to put the spotlight on some of the lines that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister has been feeding us during question period for the past two weeks. I believe, as does my party, that the Prime Minister, through the parliamentary secretary, is completely misleading the House, and that is serious.
The Conservatives are trying to make the public and members here believe that the case involving the CEOC and the Conservative Party is simply an administrative dispute. They seem to be saying that they are disliked by the CEOC, that all of the other parties did the same thing and that, really, it is unfair that the CEOC is picking on the Conservative Party. They would even have us believe that the CEOC's actions are politically motivated.
Today's issue is very important. The topic that we are discussing today, the topic that the Liberal Party chose to raise on its opposition day, is the final outcome of the case that is currently before the courts. The Conservative Party will launch an appeal. It is a question of guaranteeing independence and following the established rules when running for election.
This is what the Conservatives did. It is clearly laid out in the ruling, which I took the time to read. The Conservatives deliberately transferred funds—in order to pay for a national ad—to ridings and candidates that had not reached their spending limits, as set out in the Canada Elections Act, or to candidates who were not likely to reach their limit. The member for Beauce, who had nearly reached his spending limit, received an invoice that differed from the others, to ensure that he would not exceed his limit.
Listening to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, we are left with the impression that he is completely shocked and that all these insinuations are futile. However, before proceeding with the investigation, the Chief Electoral Officer and the Commissioner of Canada Elections already had their suspicions about the documents they had received to justify those expenses.
For the benefit of people watching, I would like to give a little background and explain what happened, so everyone understands. They took some money. They identified which ridings still had some spending room, namely, ridings in which the Conservative Party was unlikely to win, where less money was being spent. The campaign was almost over, they wanted to win and they did not have enough money to complete the national advertising campaign, so they took $1.5 million from 67 ridings. So those 67 Conservative candidates signed an agreement with their party, whereby the money would be given to the candidates, who would then turn around and give it back in order to pay the company that had been hired to create media placements and national advertising.
This is called cheating. The Conservative Party knowingly cheated in order to win. They knew what they were doing. That is serious. We do not encourage the Conservative Party to appeal this case, because it should respect the Federal Court of Appeal decision, acknowledge its offence and pay back what needs to be paid back.
When one is a candidate in a riding with little chance of winning, one might sign a letter because we tend to listen to our parties. It appears that these candidates signed a letter of agreement, but one person refused to sign it: the candidate in Brome—Missisquoi. He sensed that something was not right.
It must be said that this candidate was a knowledgeable lawyer capable of analyzing what he was asked to sign. He refused to sign. He even gave an account that was published in the papers last week, in which he stated that he knew it was a way to circumvent the Elections Act for improper purposes, and to win by cheating.
What is even more alarming is that there are ministers in the House who signed this letter and who went along with the in and out scheme. Today, they are caught up in the scandal. Conservative senators and organizers have also been charged by Elections Canada for breaking the law.
If we find ourselves debating the issue here, it is because, in question period, we are repeatedly given answers that make no sense and, above all, that mislead the House. It is often said the Conservative Party gets bad press abroad. I was really surprised to read what was published in France in Le Figaro about the matter we are examining today. It is worthwhile reading an excerpt to make our audience at home aware of the fact that this article is solely about the Conservative Party and the illegal acts carried out during the 2006 election campaign.
On March 2, 2011, Le Figaro, a major French newspaper, published an article that truly shows the negative image of Canada abroad.
Today the Canadian electoral authority formally charged the Prime Minister's Conservative Party and two senators from the governing party with fraud for allegedly concealing cost overruns during the 2006 election. The charges, laid at a time when many observers expect a spring election to be held, revolve around “a false or misleading statement” about the budget for the campaign that brought [the Conservatives] to power, writes Elections Canada in a press release.
According to this independent agency, the Conservative Party deliberately exceeded election spending limits—set at $18 million—by $1 million through an accounting scheme involving the right-wing party's local committees. The 2006 election is the one that put an end to the Liberal Party's reign and propelled [the Conservatives] into power.
That is what is being written in a newspaper in France. I will stop here because that is enough to see that the opposition parties understand that a scheme was used involving illegal activities. Analysts in France understand that as well. The Chief Electoral Officer understood that, as did the judge of the Federal Court of Appeal. There is only one party that does not understand the seriousness of its actions: the party being accused, in other words, the Conservative Party.
There were a number of indications. The Chief Electoral Officer heads an independent agency. He was selected by the current Prime Minister. The CEOC is serious and recognized for his expertise. This gives Quebeckers and Canadians the assurance that federal elections obey the rules, and it gives people the assurance that our democratic rules are valid and are being followed.
When the Chief Electoral Officer received documents from the Conservative candidates, he began to have his doubts. In the ruling we can see that the local media buys by the candidates were actually made by the national party and the costs transferred to the ridings.
However, he had a nagging suspicion that the interests of the party and those of the candidates engaging in the in and out transfers largely overlapped. Everything was calculated so that no candidate and no riding would exceed their spending limit. Adjustments were even made to ensure that the limits would not be exceeded, and they were such that the Chief Electoral Officer could prove it when he read all of the documents that were handed over.
I say that because the documents were handed over. However, I must point out that, in order for the Chief Electoral Officer to be able to investigate, the RCMP had to search Conservative Party offices and seize documents that the Chief Electoral Officer deemed necessary to carry out his investigation. He had reasonable grounds to suspect that he did not have everything he needed to continue with his investigation. Therefore, he used legal means since the Conservative Party refused to co-operate and answer his questions.
It seems that it was easy to prove from the documents that some very precise adjustments had been made to ensure that candidates were under their spending limit and transferred $1.5 million to pay an invoice for national advertisements.
It was also clear that there was a small problem with the transmission of the invoice. The Chief Electoral Officer asked a number of questions about the invoices, particularly those from the advertising company, because these invoices did not look like standard advertising invoices. So he asked questions and analyzed the invoices. During his investigation he questioned someone whose name escapes me, who was managing media placement for the company. This person said—I read it—that the invoices had been altered and that his company had not decided what to put in or how to present the invoices. Throughout the process, a number of witnesses indicated that the Conservatives knew that what they were doing was not entirely above board and that they had even made an effort to hide their illegal activities. Various witnesses corroborated that point.
When the Prime Minister appointed the Chief Electoral Officer, he surely had good reason to do so and he recognized his abilities. Today, they seem to be saying that the Chief Electoral Officer is not doing such a good job. Furthermore, they are even questioning the amount of taxpayers' money being spent on prosecuting the Conservative Party. That is what bothers me the most. They are challenging the fact that the head of an independent organization—which has the important mandate of guaranteeing that the process is democratic—is conducting an investigation and going to court to ensure compliance with the Canada Elections Act. That is being questioned and it is very dangerous. They are beginning to criticize the person who has a very important position. They are insinuating that he has a political bias and that he targeted the Conservative Party outright while leaving the other parties alone. It is a very serious matter to plant such seeds of doubt in the minds of Canadians, and especially to call into question the money spent to prosecute the Conservative Party. The fact remains that a ruling has been handed down and it cannot be refuted. Illegal activities took place. The Conservatives should face the facts and agree to repay the amounts received by candidates.
They should admit that they made a mistake rather than continuing to fight the Chief Electoral Officer.
In our opinion, the Liberal Party of Canada set up some government programs to buy votes. There was the sponsorship program and the HRSDC transitional jobs fund, which allowed the Liberals to spend money in ridings held by political opponents and to sway voter sympathies. As we saw in Justice Gomery's report, which brought to light a complex system of kickbacks, the sponsorship program allowed the Liberals to add hundreds of thousands of dollars to its election spending.
The Conservatives have been caught at a different game. They decided to use what is known as the in and out scheme in order to circumvent the Election Act and spend more than the limit, in other words, to buy votes by cheating.
It is not difficult to see why Canadians do not understand why the Conservative Party is challenging the latest ruling and even trying to make us believe that the Chief Electoral Officer and the judge were off the mark and do not understand what transpired.
I would like to add that they went over their legal national campaign limit by $1.5 million. After two rulings, especially the last one, the Conservatives need to realize that the message could not be clearer. They should not take their appeal all the way to the Supreme Court. It is their right to do so, but the evidence is so clear that I truly hope they do not take that route.
To conclude, I would like to read an excerpt from an article by Ms. Cornellier of Le Devoir:
Phew, that was close! A Conservative victory would have meant a free-for-all in election campaigns. And perhaps as soon as this spring. All the parties could have assigned some of their national expenses to ridings where they already know they will not win and that spend far less than the legal limit. That would allow a party to offload some of its expenses and would give it the flexibility, on a national scale, to basically spend more than the legal limit. The only limit would be the party's bank account. National spending limits would become a joke, which would only hurt parties with less funding. And we all know which is the rich party these days.
We are clearly very happy with the Federal Court of Appeal's ruling. If a different ruling had been handed down, we would have had to question both the strength of our Elections Act and the idea that elections follow the rules and respect the institution.
The Bloc Québécois will support the motion that has been moved in the House today.
Mr. Speaker, in Brome—Missisquoi, the hours of operation of three border crossings will be reduced to just eight hours per day, effective April 1. This decision will have a negative impact on public safety and our economy.
How can the government make such a decision without taking into consideration the views of local elected officials and the needs of the public? That is not propaganda.
Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government is strongly opposed to the RRQ, which wants to rehabilitate FLQ terrorists. But the real question is whether the Bloc Québécois leader will finally admit that the member for Brome—Missisquoi and the member for Sherbrooke participated in RRQ activities.
Can he confirm to the House that his chief of staff, François Leblanc, has strong ties to Félix-Antoine Dumais-Michaud, an activist who publicly defends the RRQ?
The electoral district of Brome--Missisquoi (Quebec) has a population of 92,591 with 76,636 registered voters and 220 polling divisions.
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