March 10, 2011

LIB

Kevin Lamoureux

Liberal

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the second petition deals with the guaranteed annual supplement for our seniors.

Our seniors built our country and they are very concerned in terms of affordability. they do not necessarily have the money to buy some of the essentials, whether it is medicare or being able to buy their grandchildren a McDonald's happy meal on their birthday or whatever it might be.

There is a time in which we need to come to the table for our seniors and I would suggest that the time is now. We need to increase that annual supplement, which is what the petition is ultimately asking.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Petitions
Sub-subtopic:   Pensions
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CPC

Ed Fast

Conservative

Mr. Ed Fast (Abbotsford, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present today.

First, I have the honour to present a petition signed by thousands of Canadians across our great country. They draw the attention of the House of Commons to the fact that the Internet is unregulated and that it is a pipeline for child pornography and child exploitation.

The petitioners refer to statistics that show that 39% of those who possess child sex abuse materials have images of children between three and five years old and 83% have images of children between six and twelve years old being sexually assaulted.

The petitioners also aver that section 163 of the Criminal Code currently allows sentences of as little as 90 days for making criminal child sex material and 14 days for the possession of criminal sex materials.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to speedily enact legislation that would change the legal terminology in section 163 from “child pornography” to “child sex abuse materials” and enact strong and mandatory minimum sentences that would protect children, provide justice and deter pedophilia.

In the interest of time, Mr. Speaker, my second petition essentially does the same thing. It calls upon the government to enact those changes.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Petitions
Sub-subtopic:   Child Pornography
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CPC

Deepak Obhrai

Conservative

Mr. Deepak Obhrai (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC)

I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions on the Order Paper
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LIB
?

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions on the Order Paper
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LIB

Peter Milliken

Liberal

The Speaker

The Chair has received a request for an emergency debate from the hon. member for Scarborough—Agincourt. I will hear the hon. member's submissions on this point now.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Request for Emergency Debate
Sub-subtopic:   Middle East
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LIB

Jim Karygiannis

Liberal

Hon. Jim Karygiannis (Scarborough—Agincourt, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, my request is that we hold an emergency debate on what is happening in the Arab world. Libya is in a civil war; madman Gadhafi is killing his own people. Egypt was just liberated from Hosni Mubarak and last night in the news we saw what is happening with religious strife. The Canadian government is sending a frigate to Libya.

Our constituents want us to engage in a debate. As we are helping to build democracies, we are watching what is happening over there and it is directly having an effect here. The price of gas and the cost of goods have been driven up.

I am asking for an emergency debate in order for all members of Parliament to participate and voice their concerns as to what is happening in the Arab world and the Middle East.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Request for Emergency Debate
Sub-subtopic:   Middle East
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LIB

Peter Milliken

Liberal

The Speaker

I thank the hon. member for Scarborough—Agincourt for his interest in this matter and his persistence in seeking a debate on this matter. Certainly, there is a continuing situation that is serious in the Middle East, as mentioned in his letter and as he has asserted today in his arguments, but I am not satisfied that the situation has changed enough or warrants, at this point, an emergency debate. Accordingly, I am going to refuse his request today.

I note that we will not be sitting next week. Obviously, if the situation changes over that time, there may be a different situation when we resume. For the time being, I do not think the situation has changed enough to warrant an emergency debate within the provisions of the Standing Orders and I will refuse this request.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Request for Emergency Debate
Sub-subtopic:   Middle East
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CPC

James Moore

Conservative

Hon. James Moore

moved that Bill C-61, An Act to provide for the taking of restrictive measures in respect of the property of officials and former officials of foreign states and of their family members, be read the third time and passed.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act
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CPC

Deepak Obhrai

Conservative

Mr. Deepak Obhrai (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, the short title of this bill is now “Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act”. I want to take this opportunity to thank all of my colleagues, most importantly those in the foreign affairs committee, who have worked diligently to ensure this bill has a quick passage in the House and becomes law in the shortest possible time.

Collectively, members in the House have sent a message that a dictator and his family, including officials associated with the regime, will not find a safe haven in Canada for stealing money or assets from their citizens. This bill has all the safeguards required to ensure compliance with all Canadian laws.

I take this opportunity to thank specifically Bloc members who have allowed the quick passage of this bill.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act
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LIB

Bob Rae

Liberal

Hon. Bob Rae (Toronto Centre, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I simply want to indicate the support of the Liberal Party for this measure, with the proviso that the legislation, together with its companion legislation, SEMA, the Special Economic Measures Act, will be reviewed by the House and the Senate over the next five years.

It seems to me that we are living in times when measures such as this one need to be available to the government. The powers that are given to the government need to be exercised carefully and in strict accordance with the wording of the act. However, we are satisfied that the international situation and the fluidity of the movement of capital are such that it is important for us to take certain measures.

We know that there are changes going on in the world. At the same time, we are seeing greater fluidity in the movement of capital throughout the world. There is also the fact that, in corrupt regimes, some people have used their political power to take money. Therefore, we must give our governments the ability to respond. The Liberal Party will support this measure.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act
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BQ

Pierre Paquette

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Pierre Paquette (Joliette, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, we were very pleased to delay our opposition day in order to fast-track Bill C-61. As you know, the Bloc Québécois has been asking for weeks, during question period and in committee, that the government freeze the assets of Ben Ali and his family, who live in Quebec, notably in the Montreal area. Just recently, Ben Ali's brother-in-law was conducting transactions without repercussion.

We believe that the government has for several weeks now had the means to freeze these assets under the Criminal Code of Canada and the UN Convention against Corruption, but passing Bill C-61 means that the government will have to act and freeze the assets of this dictator and his family as well as any others who find themselves in a similar situation in the future.

Let us hope that the Senate moves quickly on Bill C-61. I am anxious to speak to the Minister of Foreign Affairs or the hon. member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher in a few days and see what has been done. The Bloc Québécois is pleased to be supporting Bill C-61.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act
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NDP

Paul Dewar

New Democratic Party

Mr. Paul Dewar (Ottawa Centre, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I join with my colleagues in supporting the fast-tracking of this bill. I also want to mention the importance of having this review. From the beginning, it was our party's position that this needed a review. We are talking about significant changes, albeit ones that are needed. When we are moving rapidly to make changes like these, it is important that Parliament have an opportunity for review.

I also want to recognize the public servants who worked on this matter. Often they are not given the accolades they deserve. When these things happen, we all know who does the detailed work. I want to thank the officials at the Department of Justice and the Department of Foreign Affairs, those who were willing and able to brief us and appear at committee.

There is no doubt this is a phenomenon we will have to deal with in a different way in terms of legislative tools. This is important. We also have to acknowledge that assets exist here from questionable regimes. In particular, we are seeing a kind of strong-arm phenomenon, in that individuals who are using the profits from ill-gotten gains are often supported by companies from the west. These have to be scrutinized more closely. FINTRAC is one means, but we need something that is a lot more precise.

I would note that the government did bring in measures on arms restrictions banning exports to Libya. It is important to note that to date, the government has not brought forward to Parliament, and therefore Canadians, a report on our arms exports as a country. That has to happen.

I would also mention that this bill has to go through the Senate quickly. I would hope that would be done with Bill C-393 as well.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act
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LIB

Peter Milliken

Liberal

The Speaker

Order. Pursuant to an order made earlier today, Bill C-61, An Act to provide for the taking of restrictive measures in respect of the property of officials and former officials of foreign states and of their family members, is deemed read a third time and passed.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act
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BQ

Pierre Paquette

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Pierre Paquette (Joliette, BQ)

moved:

That this House denounce the conduct of the government, its disregard for democracy and its determination to go to any lengths to advance its partisan interests and impose its regressive ideology, as it did by justifying the Conservative Party's circumvention of the rules on election spending in the 2005-2006 election campaign, when the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism used public funds to solicit donations to the Conservative Party, when the Party used taxpayers’ money to finance a pre-election campaign under the guise of promoting Canada’s Economic Action Plan, when it changed the wording in government communications to promote itself, when it showed that it is acceptable for a minister to alter a document and make misleading statements to the House, when it refused to provide a parliamentary committee with the costs of its proposals, and when it improperly prorogued Parliament.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by saying that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Québec.

It would be impossible to go over all of the abuses listed in this motion in just 10 minutes. I will not bother rereading the motion, since you just did such a good job.

First of all, I would simply like to remind the House that we think it is very clear that the Conservative government's ideology is harmful to democracy. We see this every day.

Second, it is also very clear that the Conservative Party does not like to abide by democratic rules and that it sees Parliament as an obstacle to be circumvented. In fact, we saw this twice when the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament and once when an election was called, all just so the Conservatives could not be held accountable to the opposition, to parliamentarians.

Third, the government likes to take an autocratic approach. We have seen several examples of its utter disrespect for parliamentarians and democratic institutions. Such examples include its recent refusal to hand over documents needed by the Standing Committee on Finance to carry out its work, its refusal to hand over uncensored documents concerning allegations of torture in Afghanistan, until the Speaker issued a ruling on this in April 2010, and its refusal to allow ministerial staff to testify before committees. These all show a clear lack of respect for parliamentarians and democracy.

Again yesterday, Mr. Speaker, you issued two rulings concerning events listed in the motion. I hope I have time to come back to them later. If I do not have time to revisit them, I am sure my hon. colleague from Québec will have the opportunity to discuss them further.

And fourth, that entire regressive ideology can be seen not only in this contempt for democracy, but also in the government’s desire to advance a hidden agenda. We can sometimes see aspects of that hidden agenda peeking over the horizon, for example when backbench MPs are used to try to reopen the debate about pregnancy choice and when they use backbench MPs to promote the government’s desire to dismantle the firearms registry.

Instead of holding open debates, they prefer to bring changes in through the back door. Here is another example: bills dealing with changes to the Senate, changes that are totally unconstitutional, as virtually all our experts have told us. Because the Conservative government is not able to do what it wants to do directly, it does it indirectly, constantly using half-truths and approximations and never hesitating to misrepresent the facts. Unfortunately, we often see examples of this during question period and statements by members.

What is pretty unbelievable is that during the 2005-2006 election campaign the Conservatives and the Prime Minister portrayed themselves as the ones who wanted to distance themselves from the obfuscation and lack of transparency of the Liberals. They wanted to make themselves the champions of transparency, integrity and accountability.

After the sponsorship scandal, the Conservatives wanted to show that they were an honest alternative to a party that had agreed, for no reason other than to try to buy off Quebeckers after the 1995 referendum, to divert public funds not only for partisan purposes, but also to enhance the federal government’s visibility, in addition to greasing the palms of a number of advertising agencies.

The Conservatives portrayed themselves as the ones who were going to wash whiter than white. The fact is that the Conservative washing machine has been broken for several years, since 2006. Not only is the machine broken and no longer getting things so white, the opposite is in fact true; the works have come apart and there is oil on the clothes. The longer it goes on, the dirtier the clothes in the Conservative washing machine look, and the dirtier they will keep getting. It all started with the 2005-2006 election, when a scheme was put in place to exceed the national limits on advertising spending by using the space left over by 67 candidates who all, to my knowledge, come from Quebec.

So we have transfers made from Conservative Party headquarters to ridings, which in turn paid bills, because of decisions made at the national level. There are no problems transferring funds from the national level to the ridings, or vice versa. We do it all the time. But the law says that those transfers must be made in accordance with the Elections Canada rules. That was not the case in this 2005-2006 situation. So we hope the Conservative Party will pay back the $200,000 it got itself, fraudulently, from Canadian taxpayers, and that it will also drop its legal actions. This is not an administrative dispute, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons say. We are talking about fraud here, I would remind you. The director of public prosecutions has called it fraud and producing fake invoices, and on that point, former Conservative candidates have testified to illegal acts committed to obtain illegal refunds, as I said just now.

There was another misleading statement made, in particular, by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister. He said that if the Chief Electoral Officer was aware of the Conservatives' scheme, it was because the Conservative Party gave him the information. What does he take us for? We all remember watching the news and seeing the RCMP raid on the Conservative Party's headquarters—clearly at Elections Canada's request—to retrieve the papers and emails necessary to expand upon existing evidence.

The Conservative Party never co-operated with Elections Canada. It did everything it could to try to delay the final decision, particularly through court action. The Conservative Party's failure to co-operate is the most obvious evidence of its guilt. Sooner or later, the Conservatives must be accountable for their actions.

I would like to read several excerpts from the Federal Court of Appeal's recent ruling, which dismissed one of the Conservative Party's cases against Elections Canada. Paragraph 93 reads as follows:

A key concern of the CEOC was the failure of the candidates to submit documentary evidence of the existence or terms of a contract with RMI [Retail Media Inc.] under which the advertisements were purchased by the candidates directly, or by the Party as the agent of the participating candidates. Indeed, the Party conceded that no contractual document between RMI and the candidates or the Party existed.

Hence, the scheme had absolutely no legal basis. I will read two other paragraphs. Unfortunately, I realize that I am going to run out of time. Paragraph 102 states:

The CEOC could reasonably regard the bases on which the costs of the RMB [regional media buys] were allocated as indicative more of a cost-shifting arrangement than an agreement by the participating candidates to purchase advertisements from RMI, either directly or through the Party.

The last two lines of paragraph 103 state:

...when the Party asked candidates to participate in the RMB, it was close to its permitted spending limit, a consideration that would make attractive a scheme to shift to candidates the cost of additional advertising with national themes.

Clearly, this is very serious. It is just as serious as the use of House resources by the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism to solicit funds in order to target certain ethnocultural communities. I hope that a number of my colleagues will have the opportunity to come back to this over the course of the day.

It is just as serious as the misleading statements by the Minister of International Cooperation, who flip-flopped. On April 23, 2010, in response to a question on the order paper, the minister said that the decision not to fund KAIROS was made by CIDA. On December 9, 2010, in committee, she said the opposite, that it was her decision.

I will conclude with this last point. On December 9, 2010, in committee, she said she did not know who added the word “not” to the document on funding for KAIROS. On February 14, 2011, in this House, she said that the word “not” was added at her direction.

That is the true face of the Conservative Party. The Conservatives have spun a web of deceit just to stay in power. That is unacceptable.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Conduct of Government
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NDP

Claude Gravelle

New Democratic Party

Mr. Claude Gravelle (Nickel Belt, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his speech. I have a question for him. Day after day, we see and hear government MPs accusing opposition MPs of using the same in and out scheme, but not a single MP from any of the three oppositions parties has been charged with doing what the government MPs did.

Could the hon. member from the Bloc Québécois explain to me why only government MPs were charged by Elections Canada?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Conduct of Government
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BQ

Pierre Paquette

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Pierre Paquette

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member from the New Democratic Party for his question.

I think he raised an indisputable fact. The only party whose expenses were rejected by Elections Canada is the Conservative Party. The only party whose headquarters were raided by the RCMP was, again, the Conservative Party. All the other parties are well aware of the rules and followed them to the letter. Again, these are misleading statements, especially by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, who has been coming up with information on the NDP, the Bloc and the Liberals that has nothing to do with the matter.

They are trying to evade the issue. They committed fraud. Let them return the money and stop going after Elections Canada unnecessarily.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Conduct of Government
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NDP

Claude Gravelle

New Democratic Party

Mr. Claude Gravelle

Mr. Speaker, I would like to know whether the hon. member from the Bloc Québécois believes that the two ministers recently involved in controversy, the Minister of Immigration and the Minister of International Cooperation who wrote the word “no” on the KAIROS file, should do the honourable thing and step down.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Conduct of Government
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BQ

Pierre Paquette

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Pierre Paquette

Mr. Speaker, I completely agree with the member. The facts are there. Besides, the ruling the Speaker gave yesterday regarding the Minister of International Cooperation is very clear. This whole affair is enormously vague and opaque. I just read the contradictory statements that she made to the committee and to the House. When people engage in this kind of trickery, there is no choice. The British parliamentary system is based on trust, which is no longer there. She does not have the House's trust and so she should resign. The same is true for the Minister of Immigration, and I would even say that, in his case, it is even worse. As Minister of Immigration, he should take care to be above this partisan battle when it comes to all the cultural communities. But we know that the money he raised using the House's resources was to be used for an advertising campaign that targeted certain ethnocultural communities and disregarded others. What message does this send? It was not the Conservative Party, it was the Minister of Immigration who, as a Conservative organizer, decided to focus on four ethnocultural communities because he thinks they are perhaps more open to the Conservative ideology and ideas. The others, he is going to toss aside.

Does this mean that, as Minister of Immigration, he is going to focus on the four communities that the Conservative Party has identified and toss aside the others? Why create two classes of newcomers to Canada? It is completely unworthy of a Minister of Immigration. He should resign for that reason as well.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Conduct of Government
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BQ

Paule Brunelle

Bloc Québécois

Ms. Paule Brunelle (Trois-Rivières, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I am going to address my House leader. The Minister of International Cooperation changed her story a few times, but what really concerns us is the fact that she denied funding to KAIROS against the advice of her officials. So what did she have against KAIROS? What is this organization?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Conduct of Government
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March 10, 2011