“It is time to change Canada’s direction” – Ignatieff

Canadian PoliticsOTTAWA – Mr. Speaker,

Before starting, I would like to talk about you.

You are coming up on the end of your role as Speaker, and I’d like to recall, with affection and respect, all you have done for us.

You have taught us all — sometimes with modest rebuke, sometimes with stern force of argument — to understand, to respect, and to cherish the rules of Canadian democracy, and for that alone, all Canadians will be grateful to you.

This is a historic day in the life of the democracy you have served so well.

I have to inform the House that the Official Opposition has lost confidence in the government.

Our motion asks the House to agree with the finding in the 27th report of the Standing

Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, presented on March 21st.

This was a historic finding, Mr. Speaker. It was the first time that a parliamentary committee has found the government in contempt.

Today, with this motion, we ask the House to do the same – to find the government in contempt, and to withdraw the confidence of the House.

The principle at stake in this debate goes to the heart of parliamentary democracy: the obligation of a government to provide members of this House with the information they need in order to hold the government accountable to the people of Canada.

We are the people’s representatives. When the government spends money, the people have a right to know what it is to be spent on. This Parliament does not write blank cheques.

For four months, the opposition asked the government to tell the Canadian people the true cost of their budget plans.

For four months, we demanded to know how much Canadian taxpayers were being asked to pay for fighter jets, for prisons, and for corporate tax breaks.

For four months, this House – and the Canadian people – were stonewalled by this government.

In the case of the Afghan documents, the government’s excuse for withholding the truth was national security.

In the case of the budget documents, they did not even bother to come up with an excuse.

You held that the rules of our democracy require the government to answer the questions that Parliament wants answered. You sent the matter back to a committee for action and they came back with a finding of contempt.

So this is why we are here now. The House must decide whether the government has broken a basic rule of our democracy and therefore whether it can remain in office.

For our part, there is no doubt. You have spoken, Mr. Speaker. The committee has spoken. And now the House must speak with a clear voice: a government that breaks the rules and conceals facts from the Canadian people does not deserve to remain in office.

To those who say an election is “unnecessary,” I reply: we did not seek an election, but if we need one to replace a government that doesn’t respect democracy with one that does, I can’t think of no more necessary an election!

It is not just democracy that this House must affirm this afternoon; it should also affirm Canadians’ hunger for change.

It is time to change Canada’s direction. Time to get us on the right path.

After five years of Conservative government, it is time to say enough is enough. Enough of the politics of fear. Enough of the politics of division. Enough of the politics of personal destruction.

The priorities of this government, laid bare in its budget, reveal a government out of touch and out of control.

No credible plan to tackle the deficit. No numbers we can believe in. No vision of how to sustain our health care system. Not a word about affordable housing, or childcare, or the pressing needs of Canadian families in poverty.

Instead: jets, jails, and giveaways to oil companies, insurance companies, and banks, who are doing just fine, thank you.

So we need a change. We need to focus scarce resources where they really matter: early learning and childcare; college and university education for all, especially aboriginal and immigrant Canadians; energy efficiency and green jobs; family care for our loved ones in the home; and security and dignity in retirement.

All of this, plus a clear plan to clean up our country’s finances and get us back to balance, without adding to the tax burden on Canadian families.

These are the priorities of our people. These are the needs we must serve.

These are the priorities at home. We have so much ground to catch up abroad.

We have a government that lost our place in the world, lost our place at the Security Council of the United Nations.

We need a government that restores our honour on the international stage, a government that understands the deep and committed internationalism in the hearts of our citizens.

I return to where I started, to democracy and the abuse of power.

We have a government whose most senior members stand accused of electoral fraud.

We have a Prime Minister who appointed as his top adviser someone who served prison time for stealing money from his clients, someone who now faces accusations of influence peddling.

Canadians have had enough. This House has had enough.

Abuse of power. . . . Bad choices for our families and our economy.

The largest deficit in Canadian history. The highest-spending government in Canadian history. The most wasteful government in Canadian history. And, finally, the first government in Canadian history to face a vote of contempt in the Canadian Parliament.

A government out of touch and out of control.

It is time for a change.

I call on all members of this House to support our motion.

Merci.