Mr. Speaker, in December 2004, the member for Nepean—Carleton told the House that it was “...not politicians, who create jobs”. It is an odd statement, given he is now the jobs minister.
Fewer than four in 10 unemployed Canadians are now getting benefits, and now he has been given this new responsibility. What will the minister do to fix EI so that it actually works for unemployed Canadians, or is that somebody else's job?
Mr. Speaker, if the member would like to talk about guilty robocalls, maybe he should turn around and speak to the member for Wild Rose behind him, who was fined $14,000.
Perhaps the member would like to look all around himself in the Conservative Party, which was fined $78,000.
Perhaps the member for Nepean—Carleton would like to look in the mirror. He will not like what he sees, because the scandals and affairs of the government keep building up: the F-35 affair, the in and out scandal, the Jaffer affair, the Penashue scandal, the Carson affair, the Peterborough illegal donations scandal, the Bev Oda affair, the Chuck Cadman scandal.
Mr. Speaker, I would like it to be also noted that this is an attempt to walk the clock down and I think that every time the government interferes with our right to speak, the clock should be stopped, because this is an attempt to intimidate members of the House.
I will go back to the issue. The issue here is not the bill, because those members do not want to debate the bill. The issue here is their decision for the 37th or 38th time to shut down debate in the House of Commons. The Conservative government does not believe in accountability. The Conservative government will use the tools of power to undermine basic democratic processes. The government will take convicted fraud artists and put them right into the heart of the Prime Minister's Office and use them for advice.
The government is again shutting down the democratic right of the House. The government spies on people like Cindy Blackstock. The government has shut down numerous independent bodies. Whatever happened to the party that promised accountability, that told us that people like Stockwell Day and Deborah Grey represented accountability? Now we have the member for Nepean—Carleton; that is the government's idea of accountability. Now we have Patrick Brazeau; that is their idea of accountability. Now we have Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy. The government promised to Canadians that it would bring a standard back to government. The government made a promise to Canadians and it broke it.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for the concern he is expressing, particularly for the seniors in Newfoundland.
The member for Nepean—Carleton spoke here a few minutes ago about respect: his respect in this place and his respect for Canadians. However, I was troubled because that is the same member who voted repeatedly to shut down debate in this House, and shut down people's opportunity to learn about the various bills and legislation, more times than any other government in the history of our country or of this Parliament.
The member for Nepean—Carleton also talked about defending the public purse. I know my friend from Newfoundland has the same kind of concern about the public purse. I wonder if he has heard any indication at all as to where the missing $3.1 billion from the public purse has gone.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand and speak on Bill C-424, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (contestation of election and punishment).
Since the last election on May 2, 2011, a lot of information has come to light about some of the actions that took place during that election. It shows the serious need for this bill.
This bill's proposed purpose, as explained in the summary, is to amend the Canada Elections Act to increase the fines for certain offences under the act. It also permits the Chief Electoral Officer to contest the election of a candidate. In other words, it gives the Chief Electoral Officer standing to take action where he or she sees fit.
Why is there a need for such a bill? Let us look at some of the examples. Daily in the House we see the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs failing to answer questions on events that happened in his riding. He sits on his hands. He claims he is going to outline those concerns and address them next Tuesday in his riding. We will have to wait and see. That is one example.
Another example is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, the member for Peterborough, who finds his spending actions in turmoil.
The third point I would make is that the former parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister, the member for Nepean—Carleton, stands in his place daily to defend the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. Every time that member stands up, I am reminded of the in-and-out scandal of the previous election. That member never talks about the results of the in-and-out scandal and what happened, including the fact that the Conservative Party was fined $50,000 and had to pay back $260,000 for overspending.
The fourth example I would use is that quite a number of the results in a number of Conservative ridings are being challenged before the courts by the Council of Canadians. Actually, there are too many for me to name in my remarks; I would end up not being able to talk about the bill. There are quite a number of challenges now before the courts.
As these examples show, there is a need for some mechanism, a known mechanism, to clearly show candidates running in an election—and that is every candidate, because I do not just want to pick on the Conservatives here—that funny business during an election will not be tolerated, and that there are serious fines in place if such behaviour is proven.
What this bill really does is to put a mechanism in place to give some legislative teeth for action to be taken if there is a problem on the part of a candidate during an election. That would clearly be known prior to elections, and so it certainly should hold candidates more to account.
I will now turn to what those actions are in Bill C-424.
Although I think it is far superior to the American system where so much money was spent in the election, even in our system money still makes a difference. A prime example of that, for the Conservatives who are here in the House, is that the reason for the overspending by the Conservatives by way of the in and out scandal was to use more national advertising to attack and undermine the leadership of the other parties, mainly the leadership of our party. That is why the in and out scandal was invented. It was so they could overspend. While our system is superior, money still does talk.
When we think there is a problem at the national level, certainly the national parties have more means with which to challenge it. However, when there is overspending in a riding or skulduggery happens during an election at the riding level, many candidates do not have the means to challenge that overspending. They just do not have the money to do it.
I will use a recent example just to pinpoint how serious this is.
We are all aware that there was a challenge to the results and the activities in the riding of Etobicoke Centre. Those election results were upheld by the Supreme Court. However, I am not talking about the complaint as such, but the amount of money it took to challenge that in the Supreme Court. The individual who challenged, in that case, had the means with which to do so, but it was in the range of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Therefore, it is easy to see that a number of candidates running would not have the financial means to challenge election results before the courts.
As was said by our leader in his remarks earlier, the cost should not limit the rights of citizens to ensure that the democratic process was conducted fairly. By adding the Chief Electoral Officer to the list of people who can contest an election, we are making it possible for Canadians who cannot afford this process to have another outlet for due process. It is a simple change to the act that says, in instances where election fraud is suspected, the Chief Electoral Officer can pursue it through the courts. The onus should not be on everyday Canadians to come up with vast amounts of money to protect democracy.
In this country, we want to see ordinary Canadians running for office to represent constituents in this place. It should not only be money and those who are backed with money that talk. We put limits on riding spending. We put limits on candidate spending. However, if there is election fraud, or a strong suspicion of election fraud, those citizens need the right and ability to challenge those decisions without facing bankruptcy for having challenged them.
By providing the Chief Electoral Officer with the standing to contest an election, we are putting in place a further safeguard to our democracy. That is what is important. We need to safeguard our democracy. The bill is quite simple in terms of its wording and the changes to be made, but it is quite dramatic in terms of the impact it could have on ordinary Canadians who stand for election. If there is election fraud, they would be able to challenge it.
My last point is that the penalties are there to be seen and could be imposed on those who would get involved in election fraud. I ask the House to support the bill. It is needed for our democracy.
Mr. Speaker, I love the political musings of the hon. member for Nepean—Carleton. I really do. I think he would make a great Republican blogger.
Unfortunately, he makes a pretty lousy defence attorney because he needs to get his story straight with his client. Yesterday and today he said that all of the documents have been provided. Yesterday the hon. member for Peterborough came forward and said that the $21,000 bill from Holinshed was not a real bill, just an invoice.
We are dealing with serious allegations. Will the hon. member stand up, fire his defence attorney and tell this House that he has been compromised? He needs to step down until this investigation is complete.
Mr. Speaker, the nations of Canada and Israel, and, indeed, the Jewish community in Hamilton and around the world, lost a remarkable friend at the end of April with the sudden passing of Rose Lax.
Remarkable because she was born in a displaced persons camp to survivors of the Holocaust and yet grew to become an individual lauded for having changed the Jewish political landscape of North America.
Remarkable because of her tireless work to empower university students against the scourge of anti-Semitism on campuses.
Remarkable because Israeli member of the Knesset, Bennie Begin, son of the sixth Israeli prime minister, spoke of the very special connection he felt with Rose and the Lax family since the time of his parents.
We lost a woman of outstanding character and heart in Rose Lax. I, along with my colleagues, the Hon. Stockwell Day and the member for Nepean—Carleton, offer our sincere condolences to Rose's family.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Nepean—Carleton.
I rise today to respond to the motion put forth by the member for London—Fanshawe. We oppose this motion.
It is imperative to reiterate some facts and be clear about them.
No current recipients of old age security will see any reduction in their benefits because of these proposed changes. These changes will gradually increase the age of eligibility for OAS from 65 to 67 years starting in 2023 with full implementation by 2029. This means our government is giving Canadians up to 17 years to plan and adjust accordingly.
Unfortunately, it appears that members opposite continue to take a head in the sand approach to the whole issue of OAS sustainability.
Our Conservative government is acting now to ensure the sustainability of OAS for future generations, for our children and our grandchildren. That is why we have come up with a reasonable plan to ensure all Canadians can continue to count on OAS for a more secure retirement future.
I do not believe anyone can dispute that our government is committed to ensuring seniors have the highest possible quality of life. I am proud of the work we have done to strengthen Canada's retirement income system, and more broadly to help address issues that matter to seniors.
As a result of actions taken by our government, seniors and pensioners will receive $2.5 billion in additional targeted tax relief this fiscal year. We have introduced pension income splitting and have increased the age limit for maturing pensions and RRSPs. As a result of these actions, 380,000 seniors have been removed completely from the tax rolls. What does this really mean to the seniors I have met across this country? It means that more money will go directly into their own pockets to spend or save as they see fit.
Sadly, if it were up to the opposition parties, they would have raised taxes on all seniors, not reduced them. Whether it was a job-killing carbon tax, an increase in the GST or any number of other tax increase proposals put forward by the opposition parties, one thing is clear: if either the NDP or the Liberal Party were in power, the cost of living for Canada's seniors would be higher.
Enough of pointing out the obvious, negative, damaging effects the opposition would inflict on Canada's seniors if they were in power; rather, I would like to continue the discussion on how our government has delivered, and will continue to deliver, for seniors.
We have strengthened the support of the retirement income system and invested in a GIS top-up benefit for Canada's most vulnerable seniors. In fact, it was the single largest increase to the GIS in over 25 years. What did the opposition do? Once again both parties voted against it. In total, this top-up provided additional annual benefits for more than 680,000 low income seniors.
Going back a little further, in budget 2008 we increased the amount that can be earned before the GIS is reduced to $3,500, so that recipients can keep more of their hard-earned money without any reduction in GIS benefits. Once again, as they have been known to do, almost as if they were in a coalition, both parties voted against this measure.
The CPP was modernized in 2009 to make it more flexible for those transitioning out of the workforce and to better reflect the way Canadians currently live, work and retire.
We built a better framework for federally regulated registered pension plans, including ensuring that an employer fully funds benefits, even if the pension plan is terminated. We expanded pension options with the introduction of pooled registered pension plans for millions of Canadians who have not previously had access to a large-scale, low-cost, professionally administered company pension plan.
Shifting gears for a moment, I would also like to discuss what many consider to be the greatest policy innovation in a generation to help Canadians save for their retirement, the tax-free savings account, TFSA, which we introduced in budget 2008. I do not think I need to tell members which way the NDP voted, but I will anyway. That is right. Again, the NDP voted against it. That is shameful because the TFSA is particularly beneficial to Canada's seniors, as withdrawals from a TFSA do not affect income supports such as the age credit or OAS and GIS benefits. The TFSA also benefits seniors by giving them a savings vehicle to meet their ongoing savings needs.
As well, there have been several other initiatives that have demonstrated our support for seniors. We have eliminated the mandatory retirement age for federally regulated workers unless there is a bona fide occupational requirement. This allows the choice for Canadians to decide how long they wish to remain active in the workforce. We have also provided $400 million over two years for the construction of new housing units for low-income seniors. Since 2006, we have provided $220 million into the targeted initiative for older workers. This program is a federal-provincial-territorial employment program that provides a range of employment services for unemployed older workers in vulnerable communities. I am proud to report that about 75% of older workers who participate in the TIOW go on to find new employment. That is something we can be proud of.
I have just listed the unprecedented support our government has given to seniors since 2006. Let me highlight some other positive changes that were announced in our most recent budget. We announced our government will be working with a third-quarter project to assist seniors who are looking for jobs. For example, our government has for the first time introduced proactive enrolment for OAS benefits. These changes, which will start in 2013, will reduce the obligation of many seniors to apply for benefits and help ensure seniors receive the benefits they deserve.
Unfortunately, we have heard the same fearmongering and misinformation from the opposition about the sustainability of the OAS. Whether it be through misleading and confusing op-eds sent to local newspapers or partisan mail-outs and petitions that misrepresent the facts, the opposition parties have engaged in a reckless campaign of misinformation aimed at scoring cheap political points. We have heard a lot of questions about the savings associated with the proposal. Such questions miss the point entirely. We are taking these actions to ensure the survival of this benefit for future generations. We are implementing these measures to give predictability and certainty to those preparing for their retirement.
It is particularly hypocritical of the Liberal Party to be grandstanding on such an issue. This was the same matter that Paul Martin attempted to change in the mid-1990s to ensure the sustainability of this benefit. Unfortunately, the Liberals lacked the conviction to show real leadership and decided to pass the buck to a future generation and a future government to make the tough choices in the long-term interests of our nation. It is no surprise that Canadians elected a strong, stable, national Conservative majority government.
I would ask my hon. colleagues across the way to put aside their partisan blinders and to think of the long-term sustainability of this program. There is a greater interest than their perceived short-term political gain in considering this issue.
We need to act now to provide Canadians the certainty they need to plan for their retirements. We have heard from many private sector economists and the chief actuary, as well as pension and financial experts alike. They agree that the increased demand of a rapidly aging population is going to threaten the sustainability of the old age security program.
I would ask opposition parties to get their heads out of the sand and to stop their wilful ignorance of the very real challenges that face our nation because of an aging population and to join with the government in voting against the motion.
Mr. Speaker, a tough question, but fair. I am very pleased to report to the House that Canada-Israel relations are strong and are getting even stronger. We were very pleased to welcome Prime Minister Netanyahu to Canada early today. He was especially pleased that the member for Nepean—Carleton could be there at a very early hour for that. He will be here meeting with the Prime Minister and others to discuss international security issues, the Arab Spring and the global economy. Israel, like Canada, is one of the few industrialized countries where the economy is growing and creating jobs. We want to work with the international community to create even more jobs to have more hope, opportunity and prosperity in this country.
Mr. Speaker, we as a government continue to listen to Canadians.
I find it interesting that my colleague actually has not heard this concern about the issue of being under-represented in her own constituency. That may be the case. I do not doubt her.
I am sure our colleagues from Brampton West, Oak Ridges—Markham, Vaughan, Halton, Mississauga, Whitby—Oshawa, and Nepean—Carleton have heard these concerns. People in those ridings are in fact under-represented in this House of Commons.
When the member speaks about why the Conservative government has not taken on the Liberal position, it is because we do not believe that provinces should be penalized. We do not believe that everyone should lose. We believe there is a balanced position that could be brought forward in this bill where everybody would get fairer representation without massive losses for some provinces.
Mr. Speaker, as I begin, I note that the previous speaker from the Liberal side stated that he was happy to continue to pay taxes in order to live in the best country in the world. He provoked enthusiastic applause from his opposition colleagues, which indicates to Canadians that those members on the other side believe that what makes our country the best in the world is taxes.
We understand that it is not taxation, but the hard work of workers, small businesses, entrepreneurs and the Canadian people who make us the best country in the world.
Those members have illustrated the clear difference between the two sides of the House of Commons. I dedicate part of this speech to those on the other side who believe, for example, that the solution to the debt crisis in Europe is to have more debt in Canada, who think we can create jobs by taxing those who hire and who say that the individual cannot be trusted with his own money, but a collection of individuals can be trusted with the money of others.
Those people on the other side say that the individual is too flawed to make his or her own decisions, but that those same flawed individuals, when they combine their flaws in the collective, can make decisions for everyone else.
We on this side understand that it is the basic tenets of freedom, as laid out, for example, in the Bill of Rights of the Right Hon. Prime Minister Diefenbaker. Those freedoms are what make Canada great: freedom of speech; freedom of religion; freedom of association; and also freedom of enterprise and freedom of trade.
On the subject of trade, I will just share a bit of an excerpt from one of the finest economists of the last century, Milton Friedman. He says:
Look at this...pencil, there is not a single person in the world who could make this pencil. Remarkable statement? Not at all. The wood from which it's made, for all I know, comes from a tree that was cut down in the State of Washington. To cut down that tree, it took a saw. To make the saw, it took steel. To make the steel, it took iron ore.
This black center, we call it lead but it's really compressed graphite, I am not sure where it comes from but I think it comes from some mines in South America. This red top up here, the eraser, a bit of rubber, probably comes from Malaya, where the rubber tree isn't even native. It was imported from South America by some businessman with the help of the British government. This brass feral - I haven't the slightest idea where it came from or the yellow paint or the paint that made the black lines - or the glue that holds it together.
Literally thousands of people cooperated to make this pencil. People who don't speak the same language; who practice different religions; who might hate one another if they ever met. When you go down to the store and buy this pencil, you are, in effect, trading a few minutes of your time for a few seconds of the time of all of those thousands of people. What brought them together and induced them to cooperate to make this pencil? There was no Commissar sending out orders from some central office. It was the magic of the price system - the impersonal operation of prices that brought them together and got them to cooperate to make this pencil so that you could have it for a trifling sum.
That is why the operation of the free market is so essential. Not only to promote productive efficiency, but even more, to foster harmony and peace among the peoples of the world.
That is where we disagree with our opposition colleagues, who believe that they can control the economy from the centre. They can issue dictates out to people far and wide, tell them how to run their lives and how to run their family budgets.
Our government on this side has expanded on that international enterprise by bringing in free trade agreements with Panama, Jordan, Colombia, Peru, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland. We are working a trade agreement with the largest market in the world, the European Union. The second most populous country on earth, India. This will allow us to expand the prosperity, creating new markets for our businesses and new products available to our consumers at lower prices, all of these measures opposed by our official opposition, which would build a wall around Canada's system of enterprise.
This is an opposition that speaks often about the pensions of, for example, unionized workers. I give it credit because we should all be concerned with that subject. Defined benefit pension plans are under pressure. What to do? Some say to scale back the entitlements and others say to increase the employer contribution. Neither of these options are very favourable, but there is a third option, and that is to lower business taxes. Virtually every defined benefit plan in the country owns shares in the country's largest and most profitable enterprises. If these businesses make good after tax money, they can pay better dividends to the pension funds that own their shares.
Take the Canada Post pension plan for postal workers. During the recent debate over their strike, members of the NDP simultaneously demanded that the existing pension plan be bolstered while proposing to increase business taxes on the holdings in that very same pension fund. The irony of the two demands is as follows. The top five holdings of the Canada Post pension plan are: the Toronto-Dominion Bank, Royal Bank of Canada, Bank of Nova Scotia, Suncor and Canadian natural resources. They are banks and oil companies, the twin villains in every left-wing storyline.
These are the same enterprises that pay dividends directly to the unionized workers who deliver our mail through Canada Post. These dividends come from after tax profits. If the business tax rises, the after tax profit remaining in the pension fund drops. The Canada Post fund has $202 million invested in the Toronto-Dominion Bank, roughly. As of a couple of weeks ago when I checked, that was the market value of those holdings. When TD profits, it reinvests the money in the growth of the company or it pays dividends to the shareholders. Either way, the pension funds and the pensioners, therefore, benefit.
When we lower taxes for entrepreneurs and businesses, large and small, the beneficiaries in many instances are pensioners, people who are part of defined benefit plans. Businesses are comprised of people. That is something the official opposition refuses to acknowledge. They are employees, shareholders and consumers.
When the NDP proposes to raise taxes on those businesses, it must choose on whom it would raise those taxes, the shareholders, like pensioners, the consumers through higher prices, or the workers through cut wages or lost jobs, because one of those three consequences or a combination of them will surely result when taxes are increased on the nation's enterprises.
The reason why Forbes magazine recently said Canada is the best place to do business is because we are removing the obstacles to success in overregulation and overtaxation, so that enterprises can hire and create more opportunity for Canadians.
The old utopian dream was for workers to become owners of the means of production through a process of forced collectivization. In an ironic twist of fate, it was the capitalistic stock market and not the state that transformed workers into business owners. It was inventions like the RRSP and now the tax free savings account or defined benefit pension plans which hold equities that have allowed everyday blue collar workers, who only a half century ago would have never considered share ownership to even be a distant dream, to now become owners of businesses.
The workers are the owners because in this system of free enterprise that has made our country so strong and made us succeed so vastly, even in this difficult economic time, we have unleashed the ability of workers to achieve the maximum opportunity for themselves and their families, to lift themselves up and succeed in this country.
In order for us to hold these beliefs and realize these successes, we must continue to have faith in Canadians who work hard every day to provide for their families, to share the blessings of this land with their neighbours and loved ones, and to do so without the shackles of the government holding them down and blocking their success.
I am very proud that the people of Nepean—Carleton elected me to carry on this great Canadian tradition of free enterprise and free trade.
Mr. Speaker, our job in this House is not to make sure that the Conservative members of Parliament feel comfortable. Our role in this House is to defend the letter carriers and mail sorters, who are ordinary, middle-class Canadians. Sometimes that is going to make some members uncomfortable. We make no apologies for that. We are here to do a job, and we will continue to debate and stand up for the working people of this country.
The point I am making is that even though we are sitting at 6:05 in the morning, there are about five million Canadians, on any given night, who are working either graveyard shifts or swing shifts. The kind of working hours we have had over the last 48 hours are the normal working hours for five million Canadians. They are the ones who are raising their families, going to school, and working hard all night. By day they are contributing to the country. We pay tribute to them this morning. That is their ordinary working environment. For us to work throughout the evening pays tribute to them as well.
Since this debate began, a number of facts have clearly been established. Some Conservative MPs at the beginning of this debate were saying that it was a strike. We know clearly, and the facts have been established, that this was a lockout by the management of Canada Post. I am happy to say that many Conservative MPs have become better informed, and that is something we welcome. They now understand. Many of them have been speaking about the lockout. That is very important.
We have also established, and this is a very important element, that this sledgehammer the government is imposing on the letter carriers and the mail sorters of Canada is, in real terms, a wage reduction. It is not a wage increase; it is a wage reduction. Members of the Conservative Party are now better informed about that, as well.
One cannot say that it is a wage increase when what the government wants to impose is actually less than the inflation rate. This means that over the course of the next few years, the letter carriers and the mail sorters, those who work to keep the nation's mail going, will be earning less and less because of the sledgehammer imposed by the government.
We have established as well that this is a very real threat to pensions. Working through one's working life and not being provided with an adequate pension, and having to work below the poverty line, is something most Canadians do not accept.
We have also established that this draconian sledgehammer legislation permanently disadvantages the youth of our nation, who want to get involved, want to provide service, and want to work for Canada Post.
We have established a number of facts. What has been fascinating about the evolution of this debate over the last 24 hours is the reaction we are seeing from various parts of the country. We have received far too many letters and e-mails to read into the record. However, I would like to read just a few of the e-mails we are receiving from Conservative ridings. These are Conservative constituents, and Conservatives should be listening to them.
A constituent from Richmond, British Columbia wrote, “I'm a letter carrier in Richmond, B.C. I am writing to you because unfortunately, my member of Parliament has her hands tied. I was appalled and embarrassed by her remarks during her speech yesterday”.
A constituent from Surrey, British Columbia wrote, “I hope many Canadians are following this issue. I do not need to go into details. We both know how unjust this bill is. I am not a union worker. However, I see a bigger issue here. The Conservatives need to be set straight”.
A constituent from Lethbridge wrote, “I watched the debates in Parliament yesterday, last night, and this morning. My family has watched it as well. We are all amazed and grateful that you and the New Democrats will stand for us and not be bullied by Canada Post and the government into an unfair contract. Thanks you for standing up for our rights under the law for free bargaining”.
A constituent from Calgary Centre wrote, “Thank you for your defence of the worker and the Canadian way of labour disputes. I do feel the government gave the employer a sledgehammer to solve this issue. Hidden under the guise of serving the public, the government has made sure of Canada Post's continued revenue input into general coffers and the continued bad management practices of its management staff”.
A constituent from Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar wrote, “We want to say thank you and we appreciate your support in our struggle. Keep up the good work”.
A constituent from Saint Boniface wrote, “My sincere and heartfelt gratitude for the support and solidarity you, the New Democrats, are demonstrating for our struggle with the Conservative Party, with the member for Saint Boniface, and with the rest of the government that is arbitrarily interfering with the workers' right to collective bargaining”.
From Winnipeg South a constituent wrote, “I have been watching the debate in the House of Commons with pride and amazement. Surely the House has not heard such a well-informed and eloquent debate on labour issues in many, many years. It is also obvious in many of the fine speeches from opposition MPs that they not only get the issue but have been there themselves and care deeply. Thank you very much”.
A constituent from Peterborough, Ontario, another Conservative riding, wrote, “Thanks for speaking up. I run a small business in Peterborough, Ontario. If we remove the lockout, take the locks off, we get mail delivery and effective bargaining”.
A constituent trom Montreal, Quebec, wrote,
“It is heartwarming to see all of you in the House standing up for principles that are dear to me, like the right to free collective bargaining, the principle of equal pay for equal work, a decent pension plan, and public services for the general public, and fighting against this unfair attack against workers. I am particularly encouraged by the fiery speeches made by all these young New Democrats.”
A constituent from Nepean—Carleton wrote, “I would like to thank you for the great job you are currently doing in the House to stand up for the working class. We back you 100% and sincerely ask that you keep up the fight for us postal workers and all workers”.
I would like to thank my constituents for re-electing me in Nepean—Carleton. I know they are all watching me right now, at 4:20 in the morning, as we debate this important subject.
The member talked about the importance of pensions for Canada Post workers. I have here the portfolio of the Canada Post pension fund. The top 10 holdings of that pension fund are Toronto-Dominion Bank, Royal Bank of Canada, Bank of Nova Scotia, Suncor, Canadian Natural Resources, Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan, Canadian National Railway, and Talisman Energy. All of these companies' profits belong to the shareholders of those companies, in this case the employees of Canada Post.
Now when the NDP talks about raising taxes on these very businesses, they take a bite out of the money that flows from those businesses directly into the pension fund of the workers. Why is it that the NDP wants to raise taxes on the pension fund of the workers at Canada Post?
Mr. Speaker, in a similar vein, I am rising on a point of order regarding a statement made by the member for Nepean—Carleton, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, during question period both yesterday and today.
In his comments, the member attempted to blur the lines between acceptable and unacceptable Elections Canada finance standards using the Don Valley West Federal Liberal Association as an example. This dates back to 2004. I believe he misled the House and I would like unanimous consent to table documents from Elections Canada that would clear up any misunderstanding about what may or may not have taken place in 2004.
I rise because this is critical. Everyone knows that this does not have anything to do with me; it has to do with the good people of Don Valley West and the hon. John Godfrey, a man of unimpeachable integrity. He has filed his candidate statement, as well as the returns for 2004. While these are public documents, apparently the parliamentary secretary does not understand how to read them.
Indeed, there was a transfer from the federal party, a legal transfer, that was then placed in the budget of the expenses of the campaign. It was duly reported and was under the limits. It was legal and publicly reported.
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise in the House today and speak to the motion of my colleague, the hon. member for Beauséjour. I also want to share my time with the hon. member for Malpeque. I am looking forward to his comments in regard to the motion as well.
The in and out affair is troubling and illegal. It shows that the Conservatives think the rules do not apply to them. We have to ask where is their law and order agenda now, when they are at the heart of the matter?
It is part of a broader pattern of secrecy and deceit, and of contempt for the rule of law. It is part of a pattern which results in the gutting of access to information laws. It results in attacks on independent agencies and officers of Parliament. It results in attacks on Parliament itself, with Tories now questioning the cost of answering questions. In all of this there is no respect for democracy, for the principles of fairness and for our institutions like Elections Canada.
The Tories, especially people like the hon. member for Nepean—Carleton, like to claim that all parties engage in the in and out process. There are provisions in the Canada Elections Act which allow for honest and legal transfer of funds between local campaigns and the federal party. My own campaign did so honestly and legally in 2005, but we did not do so to avoid national campaign expenditure caps. We did not do so to allow local party organizers to claim rebates from the Canadian taxpayer that they otherwise would not have been entitled to.
Honest and legal versus dishonest and illegal; there is a major distinction. That is why the Conservative Party offices were the subject of an RCMP search. They were raided. It is why the Conservative Party and its officials now face charges.
If this is so innocent, as the Tories claim, why did the member for Simcoe—Grey and the former member for Dauphin—Swan River, Inky Mark, reject taking part? It did not pass the smell test with them and it does not pass the smell test with Canadians.
Unfortunately, in the process many good people, even some good Tories, are being harmed. In my riding of Labrador my opponent in 2006 was Joe Goudie, a long-time politician, activist and craftsman. We fought hard during the campaign and in the end the voters made their decision. Certainly I am humbled and grateful for their support.
However, in the process of that campaign, the national Conservative Party, from its Ottawa headquarters down the street from this chamber, implicated Joe in the in and out scheme. His campaign was invoiced, and it was spelled, “nvoice”, for $2,097. It had the same typo as dozens of other “nvoices” to Conservative campaigns across the country. That strange typo, “nvoice”, is what helped investigators realize something unusual was going on with the Conservative Party finances. They were phony.
I want to quote from an affidavit of the official agent of Mr. Joe Goudie during the campaign. He said, “On January 16, 2006, the sum of $2,097.20 was deposited into Mr. Goudie's campaign account by the Conservative Party of Canada. On January 17, 2006, the Conservative Party of Canada debited Mr. Goudie's campaign account in the amount of $2,118.20. The difference between the two amounts, namely $21, was the bank's transfer fee which was charged to Mr. Goudie's campaign account and to my knowledge this amount has never been refunded by the Conservative Party of Canada”.
In one day, out the next.
He went on to say and swear in his affidavit, “I did not realize what we had been drawn into until I saw the coverage of the in and out transfers in the media. In the end, all I have is my reputation and my integrity. The fact that I and our local campaign team were innocently drawn into this scheme by the Conservative Party of Canada angers me greatly”.
In all, there was over $1.2 million in the shady invoices for supposedly local TV advertising. That is a clever trick in Labrador where we have no local TV stations.
I want to refer to the affidavit of the campaign manager for Joseph Goudie who said, “I was told by Mr. Hudson, a Conservative operative, that the Conservative Party of Canada would be sending us money for advertising but that we would have to send the money right back to the Conservative Party of Canada”.
She went on to say, “Mr. Hudson said that the money would be used for national ads run locally. Our campaign had just started and we had very little money and so I asked Mr. Hudson if I could use some of that money to advertise on local radio and in the local newspaper. Mr. Hudson said no, that this money was for TV advertising and that we would have to pay for radio and newspaper ads ourselves”.
I then asked Mr. Hudson if the TV ads would mention or in any way reference Mr. Goudie’s campaign. He said the TV ads would be generic and there would be no reference to Mr. Goudie.
She then said:
To my knowledge, none of the television ads run by the Conservative Party of Canada during the election mentioned Mr. Goudie or his campaign either by spoken word or in writing.
She then summed up her feelings:
This whole thing really bothers me. When I begged for help from the Conservative Party of Canada, they wouldn’t even reply to my emails. It appears to me that the only interest the Conservative Party of Canada had in our campaign was to use us as part of this scheme. When I begged for help from the Conservative Party of Canada, they wouldn't even reply to my emails. It appears to me that the only interest the Conservative Party of Canada had in our campaign was to use it as part of this scheme.I had absolutely no reason to think or believe that there was anything wrong, or even questionable, about what Mr. Hudson told us to do. I simply followed instructions. I feel awful that we were used in this fashion. If I was the victim of one of those email scams, I wouldn’t feel any more duped than I do now for having been innocently caught up in this matter.
The spending that put the Conservatives over their national campaign limit resulted in improper benefits provided to Conservative riding associations. Let me make it clear that this was orchestrated by the Conservative Party at the national level. I want to return to the fact that Joe Goudie made it clear in his affidavit that he had no knowledge of impropriety. He did not know his campaign had even been involved until three years ago when his name came up on a TV newscast. He said he was used by the Conservative Party of Canada and that he has lost all faith in that party and its leader. Who could blame him?
Throughout this, Joe has done all the right things. He has been open in sharing what he knows and how his campaign was used by federal Conservative operatives. If only the Conservatives here in Ottawa could be as transparent and forthcoming. This illegal scheme illustrates how far the Conservatives will go in their quest for power. It is a shame.
Madam Speaker, it is our intent to support the motion before us today. I say that because some may think it is rather obvious, but I also would be more comfortable with different wording. There were points of order made at the beginning about continuing to ensure that Canadians are innocent until found guilty, the presumption of innocence and so on.
Some of the wording says it was an act of electoral fraud. I am not a lawyer but that is a serious word to use and has implications for legal processes in courts. The motion would order the government to repay, although this is not a binding motion. Because I have spent many years in parliament and have the greatest respect for the place and all members, I want to put on the record that I am not 100% comfortable with the way the motion reads. However, at the end of the day it is an opposition motion. We need to ensure there is as much latitude as possible for opposition. It is the only opportunity for us to put matters before the House and command the time of the House, so we want to keep it very broad. It is a matter of accountability. The primary function of opposition members is to hold the government to account.
The motion is not legally binding. It is our opinion. If the government votes against it and all opposition members vote for it, we will have expressed our opinion on the matter. Since it goes no further than that, I can live with the language and certainly live with the intent. I love the intent, but I can live with the language given the reasons I have mentioned.
Having been in politics for so long, my heart goes out to and I have some sympathy for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. I served on the Standing Committee on Public Accounts with him for a number of years when I first came here and know him well. He is a very intelligent member of Parliament, very feisty and ready to do battle at the drop of a hat, yet he is still a backbench member, although clearly someone who is “18 with a bullet” as was said in the radio business.
He reminds me very much of the current government House leader who in the Ontario legislature was the parliamentary assistant to the minister of labour under the Mike Harris government. Provincially we call them parliamentary assistants and here they are parliamentary secretaries. The first thing the government did and continued to do for the eight years it was in power was go after the labour movement. There was the poor parliamentary assistant, a rookie MPP, having to stand and defend the draconian attack on the labour movement. I remember similar feelings watching the current government House leader perform. I thought he was a sharp, smart fellow who clearly was going somewhere in politics, but was given the impossible job of trying to defend the Harris agenda of attacking the labour movement.
He was the poor MPP who had to go to the labour conventions. I remember one in Windsor where he had to have a police escort to get him into the convention, to get him to the podium so he could speak. As a courtesy at conventions the labour movement traditionally gives the guest speakers one of the convention bags. The government House leader carried that bag around for years because as far as he was concerned he earned it with blood and rightly so. That was a tough moment and a tough gig.
I say that for the member for Nepean—Carleton. Having to defend what is alleged to be illegal criminal activity on the part of a government, whose raison d'être is to go after the bad guys, is not an easy road to walk down no matter who one is. I offer up that sympathy.
On a personal level, if things continue to go that way, this is earning one's spurs, putting in one's time. If the example of the current government House leader is any example, then the member for Nepean—Carleton hopefully will get many more opportunities to reflect on matters that have a lot more positiveness to them than this.
Along the way, the government has been scrambling to grapple with the message box and massaging it as things have changed along the way. I find it interesting that the parliamentary secretary said that all of, what he termed, the in and out transactions on the part of the three opposition parties were entirely legal, that there was no problem. The parliamentary secretary said that the only thing the opposition parties were guilty of was hypocrisy.
If I have been following the bouncing ball correctly, the government has maintained it did nothing different than the rest of us. In other words, the Conservatives have done nothing different than what the Liberals, the Bloc and the NDP did. Yet the parliamentary secretary now says that what they did, and he is trying to say they did not do anything, is leave this one little gap, which is incredible thinking.
The gap is this. Elections Canada has an absolutely stellar reputation, not only with Canadians but all of us involved in politics and, quite frankly, internationally. The way we hold our elections, the rules we have, the non-partisan, professional arm's-length nature of Elections Canada is something we should be very proud of because we are lucky to have that. Ironically, if I understand correctly, the federal prosecutor was a creation of the current government.
What we are left with is Elections Canada, an internationally respected arm's-length parliamentary agency, and the federal prosecutor, who is too new to have that reputation. One would think the government at least believes it is a good idea to have one since it created the position. One would assume it supports the person and the work being done. The gap requires that, at best, Elections Canada and the federal prosecutor are wrong and, at worst, there is a conspiracy going on. There are a bunch of government bureaucrats running around trying to attack the government and bring it down.
The way they will do that is by manipulating the interpretation of the election laws and make it look like the sitting government defrauded the Canadian people. What a stupid plan that would be in this era of “H's” Canada. It goes after bureaucrats who are only doing their jobs. However, if a senior bureaucrat, who has been appointed by the government through and order-in-council, happens to damage the government, or its reputation or suggests it has done wrong, the government will chop off his or her head. That is what it does to bureaucrats who, in its mind, cross it.
Therefore, with all that, does any reasonable Canadian believe Elections Canada and the federal prosecutor have conspired together to create a false charge in the hope that, after all the court proceedings years down the road, would somehow be the undoing of the sitting government because the people at Elections Canada and at the federal prosecutor's office did not like the government? It makes no sense.
What does make sense is that all the transactions of the Liberals, the Bloc and the NDP were legal, appropriate, accounted for and signed off by Elections Canada. When Elections Canada looked at the Conservative transactions, they were different.
One of my Liberal colleagues, the member for St. Paul's, spoke about the allegations of forged invoices. Some of this money was in bank accounts in less than an hour.
The truth, it would seem, is the Conservatives are in a lot of serious trouble. That is why I opened my remarks by commenting on the member for Nepean—Carleton, who has this impossible task in question period and here today to try to defend this. If members will notice, there really was not much defence. There were a lot of points of order to try to get the member to speak to the motion, because he wanted to talk about everything but. Why? They do not have an excuse. They do not have a good defence. They got caught.
The other part of the motion speaks to senators, two of whom have been charged, stepping down while the charges are in place.
It is interesting. I think most of us would accept that if there were cabinet ministers, or even parliamentary secretaries, with this kind of cloud hanging over them, there would be pressure and I suspect they would step down. Every instance I have ever experienced, whether here or in the Ontario legislature, when a minister was charged with anything that was at all deemed serious, not a parking ticking but a very serious charge, he or she immediately stepped down to preserve his or her dignity. I have seen where the minister has never came back and I have seen where the minister has been exonerated and brought back to exactly the same position.
Senators, and it hurts me to say this, are members of the upper house. They are all honourable. They all get that title, which only cabinet ministers get. They have incredible power over there. It is highly appropriate that the majority of the House would call on senators, appointed or otherwise, to do the right thing, to do the honourable parliamentary thing, and at least step aside. We are not saying to give up the pay or anything else at this stage, but show the respect that not only the House and that place deserve but the respect that Canadian people deserve.
It speaks to how frustrating it is when we cannot hold senators to account. When we take a look at who is there, let us remember that the two senators who have been charged are both full-time senators, getting all the benefits, the pay and everything else. They have all but full-time jobs as Conservative Party operatives, which are nicely paid for by the Canadian people.
I want to take a moment to also remind members in this debate, and any Canadians who might be watching, just how partisan the Prime Minister and the government are in everything they do, especially when it comes to the supposed independent senators in that other place. I will not name names because that is not my issue. However, I will give the dates and give a little description of some of the people who the Prime Minister has put into what is supposed to be a non-partisan, independent sober second thought chamber.
On February 27, 2006, a Tory organizer was appointed to sit in cabinet as a Quebec representative. We all remember that. Do members remember when nobody would be appointed to the Senate who had not been elected? That was the first.
On January 2, 2009, a red letter day for a lot of lucky Canadians, a former director of the Progressive Conservative Fund, who chaired Tory leadership and policy conventions, was appointed.
On January 2, 2009, and this is one of the people charged, the Conservative national campaign director for the 2006 and 2008 elections was appointed to the Senate.
On January 2, 2009, a fundraiser and former chair of the Conservative Party fund, another person who has been charged, was appointed.
I want to mention a quote that senator said on the floor of the Senate on November 27, 2010. He said, “I want to tell you that I do not admit to being a bagman; I proclaim it”. He also said, “I love politics but never had the time to become a candidate”.
How many people watching this also love politics, but life gets in the way, the job, the kids, taking care of parents, earning money, all those little things that we little people in Canada have to think about? I am sure they would love a chance to be in that other place if all they had to do was show their love of politics but did not have the time to be a candidate. What arrogance.
I will give more on that big red letter day of January 2, 2009. These folks had a great 2009.
A former Conservative MP, who was defeated in the 2008 election, was appointed to the Senate. That MP was elected to this place, the people did not like the job the member did, was fired, but is now back in a law-making seat, having been put in through an appointment. That is independent, sober second thought all right.
On January 2, 2009, another unsuccessful Conservative in the 2008 election was appointed. It appears that an individual gets two shots when a Conservative candidate, one through the legitimate way, through that door, and then the other way, through the back door down the hall.
More were appointed on January 2, 2009. That was a record-setting day. Never have so many senators been appointed on one day. I stand to be corrected, but I do think that was the date. The current Prime Minister has the title. Another individual appointed on that date was a former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister from New Brunswick.
On January 2, 2009, another unsuccessful Conservative candidate in the 2006 election became a senator and won the greatest lottery in the world, where it is not only cash for life but the individual can make the laws of the country. What a deal. All people have to do is know the Prime Minister really well.
I will mention just a couple more because I like to do it.
On January 8, an unsuccessful Canadian Alliance candidate in 2000 made it to the gilded cage.
On January 14, 2009, another former Progressive Conservative MP was appointed.
August 27, 2009, another unsuccessful Conservative in the 2008 election was appointed to the other place. The former president of the Conservative Party was appointed on that day as were the Quebec co-chair of the Prime Minister's leadership campaign and the Prime Minister's former press secretary. The list goes on. It is so depressing.
Let me turn now to this whole issue of—
Mr. Speaker, I would like you to call the member for Nepean—Carleton to order for some of his comments, which were far from the truth. A number of times he said that the Conservative Party had notified Elections Canada about what it was doing.
I tend to differ from his opinion. The Conservatives knew about it because there were 67 false invoices. They waited until the RCMP raided their offices. He should apologize and withdraw his comments about the Conservative Party notifying Elections Canada about what they were doing.
The electoral district of Nepean--Carleton (Ontario) has a population of 133,245 with 103,414 registered voters and 265 polling divisions.
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