March 1, 2011

LIB

Michael Ignatieff

Liberal

Hon. Michael Ignatieff (Leader of the Opposition, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, we are not getting any answers to clear questions and it is absolutely not true that we did the same thing. Only the Conservative Party is being accused of fraud, not us.

On another note, yesterday the House voted clearly to force the government to provide the necessary documents for assessing its upcoming budget.

Will the Prime Minister obey the House and produce these documents by Monday, or will he continue to show contempt for the House?

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Government Accountability
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CPC

Stephen Harper

Conservative

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, a request for certain information was made a long time ago and the government has already given that information to the opposition.

I hope the Liberal Party and the other parties will read the budget before taking a position on it.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Government Accountability
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LIB

Michael Ignatieff

Liberal

Hon. Michael Ignatieff (Leader of the Opposition, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, we cannot judge the budget without the necessary documents. That is how we show respect for the House of Commons.

The Prime Minister withholds documents. He defends friends charged with illegal activity. He shuts down Parliament when it gets in his way. He keeps a minister in cabinet who does not tell the House the truth and will not even let her get up and defend herself in the House of Commons. All of this is an abuse of power. It is an abuse of democracy.

The Prime Minister goes around the world preaching democracy overseas. When will he defend and practice democracy--

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Government Accountability
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LIB

Peter Milliken

Liberal

The Speaker

Order, please. The right hon. Prime Minister.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Government Accountability
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CPC

Stephen Harper

Conservative

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, in all of that, the leader of the Liberal Party raised the question of the budget. It is the responsibility of all members of Parliament to read a budget before deciding on it. I know the Liberal Party leader seems to have made up his mind on the March budget back some time in September or August.

I would encourage him to take his responsibilities seriously, to look at the budget documents when they are tabled, read them and obviously do what is best for the Canadian economy, which is to continue to focus on that economy and not on an unnecessary and opportunistic election.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Government Accountability
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BQ

Gilles Duceppe

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government's refusal to freeze the assets of the family of Ben Ali, the former Tunisian dictator, remains a complete mystery. We know that Ben Ali's family owns assets in Quebec, including a house in Westmount. The Prime Minister's attitude is rather strange. We want an explanation.

Why is the Prime Minister refusing to freeze the assets of the former Tunisian dictator when he has frozen the assets of the Libyan dictator, Gadhafi?

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Foreign Affairs
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CPC

Stephen Harper

Conservative

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, as we have explained repeatedly, we are seeking justice for the people of Tunisia by freezing the assets of the members of the former regime.

To date, and under the law, we do not have the necessary information to do so. However, we are actively working on freezing the assets, as we have already done in the case of Libya.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Foreign Affairs
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BQ

Gilles Duceppe

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, in Libya's case, they did so on 24 hours' notice. It was certainly not Gadhafi who forwarded the documents detailing the assets of the Gadhafi clan.

Why are they not doing the same for Tunisia? Ben Ali owns a house that we have seen on television. Why become an accomplice? Are there Conservative party members with ties to Ben Ali? Is that the bottom line? We want to know.

He should give us a straight answer and freeze their assets because we will never be able to do so if, in the meantime, the money has been hidden away in tax havens.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Foreign Affairs
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CPC

Stephen Harper

Conservative

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, seriously, this government is not defending the Ben Ali regime. We lack information about the necessary international sanctions, like the information we had in Libya's case. I encourage the Bloc leader to ask for an explanation from our lawyers.

I can say that we are looking for means to increase our authority, and we will ask Parliament to give the government more authority to really freeze the assets of members of former regimes.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Foreign Affairs
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BQ

Claude DeBellefeuille

Bloc Québécois

Mrs. Claude DeBellefeuille (Beauharnois—Salaberry, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, by stating that the serious charges laid by Elections Canada against the Conservative Party are merely administrative issues, the government continues to deny the facts. According to the director of public prosecutions, we are talking about misleading statements and illegal activity.

Is the Prime Minister not just proving his guilt in this situation by hiding behind excuses?

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Political Financing
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CPC

Pierre Poilievre

Conservative

Mr. Pierre Poilievre (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, this is an administrative issue. The Conservative candidates spent Conservative money on Conservative ads. The national party also transferred funds to its candidates, of course.

How did Elections Canada know about this? We told them. Why not? It is legal. It is ethical and all the parties do it. We will continue to defend our case before the courts.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Political Financing
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BQ

Claude DeBellefeuille

Bloc Québécois

Mrs. Claude DeBellefeuille (Beauharnois—Salaberry, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are masters of hiding behind half-truths so that they do not have to take responsibility for their actions. That is what happened in the case of the misleading statements made by the Minister of International Cooperation on the KAIROS file and that is what is happening with the in and out scheme criticized by Elections Canada.

Will the Prime Minister admit that he violated the Canada Elections Act in the same way he is knowingly bending the truth?

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Political Financing
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CPC

Pierre Poilievre

Conservative

Mr. Pierre Poilievre (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to tell the truth. This is an administrative dispute that we are having with Elections Canada. The Conservative candidates spent Conservative money on Conservative ads. The national party also transferred funds to its candidates. How did Elections Canada know about this? We told them. Why not? It is legal. It is ethical and all the parties do it. We have a very solid case and we will defend it before the courts.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Political Financing
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NDP

Jack Layton

New Democratic Party

Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives can try to spin this as “administrivia” all they like, but the truth is they are being prosecuted on charges for illegal and unlawful election cheating. The Conservative senators are facing potential jail time. Conservatives are facing charges, not allegations.

The Prime Minister fired the member for Simcoe—Grey based on allegations. Why will he not take responsibility here and why will he not clean up his party when it comes to election financing laws?

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Political Financing
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CPC

Stephen Harper

Conservative

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, as I have said, this is an administrative dispute for five years over the question of whether certain election expenses are defined as local or national. This is a difference of opinion.

We will continue to argue these matters before the courts, but we have been very clear that we have always respected the rules as they were understood at the time. When interpretations of those rules were changed later, we changed our practices, and already did so in the 2008 year.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Political Financing
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NDP

Jack Layton

New Democratic Party

Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, taking liberties with the electoral laws that govern our democracy is very serious. The Prime Minister could force an election in the coming weeks. He just promised not to reuse the in and out scheme to exceed spending limits during the next election.

In doing so, did he not admit that he made a mistake in 2006?

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Political Financing
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CPC

Stephen Harper

Conservative

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, as I already said, we always followed the rules as they were interpreted at the time. When the interpretations changed, we changed our practices. Even during the 2008 election we did not use in and out financing, as Elections Canada determined after the 2006 election. We will always follow the rules in place. I hope that all of the parties that used in and out financing will also comply with the new interpretations.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Political Financing
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NDP

Jack Layton

New Democratic Party

Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, with Conservative senators and officials up on election charges and with a cabinet minister facing the scandal of doctoring documents before the House of Commons and misleading Parliament, no wonder so many Canadians feel that something is broken in Ottawa.

The Prime Minister could do something about this by supporting New Democrats' practical plan for making Parliament work better for Canadians. Let us finally ask Canadians about abolishing the Senate and about reforming our electoral system. Will he support our doable proposals on this front?

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Democratic Reform
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CPC

Stephen Harper

Conservative

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I must admit that we do not always associate a practical plan and the NDP in the same sentence, but what the leader of the NDP suggests is the abolition of the Senate. I know there is much sympathy in the country for that. The reality is that would involve reopening the Constitution and getting a unanimous resolution, which is unlikely.

We do have a practical plan to allow for Senate elections and the limitation of senators' terms. I would encourage the NDP and all those others with practical plans to support that practical plan.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Democratic Reform
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LIB

Hedy Fry

Liberal

Hon. Hedy Fry (Vancouver Centre, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, it is now obvious the Prime Minister never believed in the accountability he once preached. In 2008 he told his ministers that they must, “be present in Parliament to answer honestly and accurately about their areas of responsibility”. Yet day after day, question after question, the minister responsible for CIDA sits there, refusing to tell the House and Canadians who told her to cut funding for KAIROS.

How can she remain in her position as minister when, by her silence, she refuses to be accountable to Parliament?

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   International Co-operation
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March 1, 2011