John Rafferty – Holding the Government Accountable

John Rafferty
John Rafferty MP

House of Commons Parliament OttawaOTTAWA – Politics – This week New Democrats took on the Conservatives in the House of Commons in a bid to force the government to hold public consultations on the (Un)Fair Elections Act that the government is trying to ram through parliament as fast as possible.

John Rafferty fired up the crowd and raised several thousand dollars for the campaign.
John Rafferty fired up a crowd in Thunder Bay on Sunday before heading to Ottawa

As this week began it was obvious that it would be dominated by the Conservative Government’s insistence upon reforming our election laws to their own advantage.  In a bizarre twist a Conservative Member of Parliament, Brad Butt (Mississauga-Streetsville), was caught lying in parliament during a February 6th debate on this proposed election bill.

Here are Mr. Butt’s exact words during that debate;

“I will relate to him something I have actually seen. On mail delivery day when the voter cards are delivered to community mailboxes in apartment buildings, many of them are discarded in the garbage can or the blue box. I have actually witnessed other people picking up the voter cards, going to the campaign office of whatever candidate they support and handing out these voter cards to other individuals, who then walk into voting stations with friends who vouch for them with no ID.”

Mr. Butt was “caught” lying because following his Feb. 6th speech in the House a member of the public apparently contacted Elections Canada and asked them to investigate the rather significant act of voter fraud that Mr. Butt claimed he saw, but failed to report to the police or to Elections Canada.  Once he was confronted by investigators, Mr. Butt came clean last week by rising on a Point of Order on Monday;

“Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order with respect to debate that took place on February 6 in this House regarding the fair elections act. I made a statement in the House during the debate that is not accurate, and I just want to reflect the fact that I have not personally witnessed individuals retrieving voter notification cards from the garbage cans or from the mailbox areas of apartment buildings. I have not personally witnessed that activity and want the record to properly show that.”

You would think this lie like most other lies (from who stole the cookie to who perjured themselves on the stand) would carry some sort of consequence.  Unfortunately, you would be wrong.   Following Mr. Butt’s admission New Democrats tabled a motion to have Mr. Butt “clear the air” and explain how this all happened in front of a committee of MPs.  This is quite a routine procedure whenever an MP breaks the rules in the House.  When our motion came to a vote the majority Conservative government simply voted it down.  So now, not only does Mr. Butt not have to explain what happened, he faces absolutely no penalties, sanctions, or evening a warning for having –admittedly – lied in the House of Commons.

The rest of the week in Ottawa was dominated by the examination of the (Un) Fair Elections Act in Committee.  In response to the Conservative government’s efforts to quickly pass this unfair bill watch my NDP colleague David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre) engaged in an incredible 8 hour filibuster in the Procedure and House Affairs Committee that is examining the bill.  During this 8 hour speech David was unable to eat, use the washroom, or leave his chair because if he stopped talking the meeting would end and the (Un)Fair Elections Act would return to the House for a vote.  In the end, David won some concessions.  In exchange for ending his marathon speech the Conservatives agreed to allow the Chief Electoral Officer to testify at committee about the bill, which the Conservatives had previously refused to allow.

That’s how bad it has gotten in Stephen Harper’s Ottawa folks.  His MPs deliberately lie and mislead Canadians, his caucus then sweeps it under the rug and refuses to consider any punishment, and the opposition has to engage in ancient parliamentary tactics like filibustering – just so Canadians can hear from the Chief Electoral Officer about a bill that fundamentally changes the way democratic elections are conducted in our “free” country.  What a sad state it is.

In closing this week, I would like to let you know of two more planned town hall meetings I’ll be holding this month. Sudbury MP and the NDP Critic for Consumer Protection and Small Business has agreed to co-host two meetings – 3:00pm Friday March 21st in Fort Frances, and 3:00pm Saturday March 22nd in Thunder Bay  – to hear about how the federal government can help make life more affordable.  We’ve yet to confirm the venues, but we’ll have them nailed down by next week’s column.

John Rafferty MP

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John Rafferty is the current Member of Parliament for Thunder Bay – Rainy River and a member of the New Democratic Party caucus in the House of Commons in Ottawa, Ontario. John was first elected to serve as MP in the 2008 federal election and was subsequently re-elected on May 2, 2011 with 48.1% of the vote.