Bill C-24 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act
This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in May 2004.
Jacques Saada Liberal
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
Canada Elections Act
June 12th, 2008 / 4:20 p.m.
Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON
Mr. Speaker, I pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-29. I think I echo the sentiment of all members that the House desires, very emphatically, to have an election system that is more open, transparent and clear. That is why the Liberals supported the general principle of the bill, which was brought forward to improve accountability for candidates to report loans taken during election campaigns.
Unfortunately, that is not what we get with the bill as it is presently amended. We will end up with severe limitations on the number and types of people who can run due to the fact that, believe it or not, the banks will essentially have the greatest decision-making power on the amount of financial support any given candidate can receive for his or her campaign. This is on the basis that different people have different income levels, equity levels and capacities to borrow money from banks. It is a fact.
The government continues to repeat that Bill C-29 would finally stop the undue influence of wealthy contributors who were supposedly skirting Elections Act donation limits through the use of personal loans. The bill would disadvantage potential candidates not only of the Liberal Party but of all parties. It would limit access to participation in political leadership for many Canadians.
As I have said once before when I spoke on this, we all want an electoral system that is more accountable, but what is really important is that this system of electoral accountability not limit access to different candidates who want to participate but have lower income status. The kind of accountability proposed by the government's amendments to the bill simply does not bridge accountability with equitable, fair and democratic accessibility.
Let us review the amendments proposed by the government and their impact.
First, the government wants to prohibit the possibility for individuals to make annual contributions to a leadership candidate. For a government that claims it wants Canadians to have more freedom in when and how they spend their money, this prohibition seems not to be consistent.
Second, the government proposes that all loans be repaid annually rather than at the point when the loan becomes due. Again, that does not seem to make sense since what we will end up with is an artificial limit on repayment. So much for the concept of freedom of contract.
Considering the fact that elections can be called at different times during the year and that leadership campaigns can last more than a year, it does not make sense to have someone pay off a loan before the time limit established by the loan contract. I am not sure if the government is aware that the amendments are inconsistent with the stated objectives of the legislation and will be viewed by many as narrowly inclusive, rigid and elitist.
Let us consider how much energy it would take for a successful candidate to work on repaying a loan at the end of the year rather than work on more broadly based repayment timeframes. It is totally unnecessary for anyone to have to focus on repaying by the end of a fiscal year if that was not the arrangement contracted with the lender.
Incidentally, the government wants to delete, as my colleague has said, the Bloc amendment that removed liability from registered political parties for loans taken by candidates. Again, I ask the House if it really makes sense to set up a system of responsibility for registered political parties and riding associations regardless of whether they are aware that the candidate has taken out a loan at the bank. I emphasize that making one entity answerable for the personal debt of an individual does not sound reasonable.
Let us review what we on this side have done to improve the electoral laws and what the Conservative Party has done by contrast.
Our party has shown good faith in bridging those principles that I mentioned. We have demonstrated that we want to improve electoral laws. After all, the Liberal Party was the party that passed a bill aimed at limiting the role of businesses and unions in the financing of elections, Bill C-24, in 2003.
In addition, during the last leadership campaign of the Liberal Party, all candidates stated publicly all loans received by their campaigns and they went beyond the requirements set by Elections Canada in this regard.
Recent difficulties faced by the government should dictate greater sensitivity as opposed to the kind of influence that seems to be drawn into the bill. The Prime Minister, for example, has found it difficult to report his leadership campaign contributions, going back to 2002, and there must be some legitimate reason for that.
While we are talking about the Conservative Party's record and following elections laws, let us not forget to mention the efforts of the MP for Nepean—Carleton to denounce Liberal leadership candidates. He has demonstrated, in my opinion, a really inconsistent understanding of the legislation that he is purporting and that the government is bringing forward. For example, he has been declaring that Elections Canada is not impartial.
The member said that the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville and other Liberal Party members were acting illegally by actually following Elections Canada regulations with respect to loan repayment extension requests.
With all this grandstanding, one would think the government would have proposed limits on repayment that would reflect its convictions. Despite what the member for Nepean—Carleton might claim, members of his own party have been in hot water over loan repayments. That is why I am focusing on this, because there must be a problem with the loan repayment regime.
Elections Canada has records of five Conservative candidates with loans that remained unpaid 18 months after the 2006 election. I am not saying that because I am dumping on those candidates. I feel for them. There must be reasons why they cannot repay those loans within that period of time, and this legislation will not help. In three of those cases, the donations exceed the legal maximum of the $5,400.
The government solution to its electoral rule breaking problems is to try to come up with new rules that are inconsistent with reasonable practice. The only thing that is clear is the government appears to be taking a “do as I say, not as I do” approach. How can Canadians believe in the legislation if it does not match and bridge its principles with the objectives to which I alluded?
The Liberal Party supports legislation that would make all candidates more accountable. Unfortunately Bill C-29 will limit campaign funding conditions so severely that many people, considering participating in the political process and representing their communities, will be excluded from this option.
Is that what we want to accomplish? Do we want to exclude people from all walks of life the opportunity to run for public office? The legislation, whether it means to or not, in fact will do that. Furthermore, do we want to put the power to determine one person's chance to participate in politics simply on the basis of his or equity positions, on income levels, and let the banks determine that? Do we want to give the banks that kind of power in our political process? I do not think so.
The Liberal Party supports measures to make Canadians more confident in their politicians by seeking to approve the accountability of the electoral process. The government put that forward as a first principle and we supported this going to committee because we agreed. However, we cannot support a bill that will end up limiting the opportunities of so many Canadians who may have and hopefully will have the desire to campaign and participate in our democratic process.
Therefore, I really would hope that the government would reflect on the restrictive nature of the reforms it is advocating and see that they are inconsistent with the objectives the government has put forward in terms of transparency and accountability. They do not guarantee more accessibility for a broader cross-section of Canadians to involve themselves in politics in our great country.
Canada Elections Act
May 9th, 2007 / 3:50 p.m.
Stephen Owen Vancouver Quadra, BC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on behalf of the Liberal opposition and address Bill C-54. I must say at the outset that the government House leader was not able or willing to answer my earlier question about the disclosure of the Prime Minister's leadership funders in 2002.
He did not address that topic, but I think this House needs to know that, particularly in relation to the comments that the government House leader made about the open disclosure of all loans, of all lenders and all amounts by the Liberal leadership contenders last year. Clearly they were acting beyond what the Canada Elections Act required, in good faith and with full disclosure. Everybody knows both what is going on there and the rules that apply to it.
As for the Prime Minister bringing forth this legislation, I think the government House leader suggests that he is somehow on the road to Damascus, leading this House in some epiphany in terms of loans and the way they are treated. Perhaps he was waylaid, misled or turned around and is actually on the road to perdition, because this bill of course has a perverse consequence. It is a non-accountability act. Again, it is Orwellian in many of the impacts that it will have. I will take some time to explain exactly why this will make democracy weaker in many ways in our country if it goes ahead as it is written, without amendment.
The Liberal Party is certainly very much in favour of transparency and accountability and will be looking toward a bill that properly and effectively tightens up the application and the use of loans in political financing in this country wherever it might be necessary. However, we certainly will also want to ensure that as the bill goes forward the proper amendments are made so that it does not, whether consciously or unconsciously, create a barrier to entry to the political process for those who do not have access to funds or friends who have access to funds, or to financial institutions that reflect their willingness to give loans because they realize that these people already have money, or they have people who will sign for them and back them up with money. We have to be very careful that this is not a barrier.
Let me go back to January 2004, when the former Liberal government brought in the most dramatic changes to electoral financing in this country's history with Bill C-24, and indeed perhaps the most dramatic change than had happened in any democratic jurisdiction in the world, which of course reduced the union and corporation donation limits per year to a mere $1,000. That is almost meaningless when we are talking about a nation this size. To suggest that a $1,000 donation by a corporation could buy favour across this country in an electoral process is beyond imagination. In any case, we effectively took that out and left the donations at a $5,000 level for individual members of the public, who are of course the basic building block and the basic unit of democracy. That is where it should be. That was an extremely important step. It was a dramatic step in the political history of this country.
Bill C-24 also did some other things. It introduced an aspect of proportional representation. I know that many members in the House in all parties are interested in seeing us proceed with consultations and consideration of that. However, when the private money was taken out to such a dramatic degree, Bill C-24 provided for public funding of electoral processes by providing $1.75 for every vote that any party received in the general election nationwide.
That allowed for a proportionality that corrected some of the difficulties with the first past the post process, where often the number of seats in this House achieved by parties bears very little relation to the proportion of the vote they get. As an example, the Green Party got 600,000 votes in the last election. Under that provision, it received over $1 million, which allows its members to express the views of the people who voted for them through the financing of their political activity, although not yet representation, across the country. That is a first tentative but important step. It was part of that groundbreaking electoral financing legislation.
Let me correct a perception that the government House leader gave, which was incorrect. He suggested there were no rules now covering loans and the disclosure of loans. In fact, the current statutory provisions require the disclosure of all loans. They require the disclosure of the lenders and the guarantors of those loans.
Another misconception is that there are no consequences if these loans can be written off. In fact, there are consequences. Those loans must be repaid within an 18 month period or they fall under the political contribution rules, which are very strict.
It is not a way to have money given. It is money loaned for a period during an electoral process, either a leadership process, as was involved last year with the Liberal leadership, or perhaps a nomination process where someone does not have access to party funds or riding association funds. If people were unable to take a loan, that might well be a barrier to entry into the political process for people who were not of independent means. There are consequences. Those must be converted and that is an important aspect to it.
Who owns the Prime Minister? The government House leader raised the issue of the Liberal leadership candidates and the influence of big money, but we still have not had an answer about who financed the leadership bid of the Prime Minister in 2002.
Why do we want to know that? We want to know that for the very reason the government suggests we need the bill. We already have provisions in the Canada Elections Act that cover both disclosure of loans and repayment of loans and consequence if we do not. In any event, why do we want to know? It is an immensely important question. Is it U.S. gun lobby? Is it big oil? Who made those contributions to the Prime Minister's leadership race in 2002? We will come back to that until we get a proper answer, until the Canadian people get a proper answer. These are important issues.
Let me talk about the name of the act, the accountability with respect to loans act. It could be called the new Conservative bank of Canada act. It is big money that would get more influence because of the way the act is written currently. We will seek amendments to ensure it does not simply limit the influence that can be exerted to those with money or have access to big money. Let me tell members why.
Financial institutions are the only ones that can make big loans to individuals. If people are maybe from a disadvantaged group or an under-represented group who have not been in politics before, who seek a nomination in a riding, those people do not have independent wealth, they do not have a riding association yet to loan them funds, as is allowable under this bill, and they do not have, perhaps, credit worthiness to go to a bank. What does that person do? The individual is left out. They simply cannot, effectively. With the limits under this, there is a barrier to entry into the nomination process.
If we look at the Liberal leadership process that went for nine months of fulsome discussion and debate across the country, presenting 11 candidates for scrutiny by the public in a highly open and democratic process, those were expensive. We cannot do that in a country the size of Canada without having some funds to expend for it.
Those should be under rules, and there are rules. There may be some tightening up that the bill can do, and that is fine. However, to say that people taking out loans so they can exercise their right to take part in the democratic electoral process for leadership, for nomination, is going down the wrong road.
In fact, the bill, as written, does not, as Bill C-24 previously did, take out corporate money and put in public money that was properly and evenly distributed according to the proportion of the vote achieved by each party that ran candidates. This cuts out the public and brings in the big money.
Who can get a loan from a bank, from a financial institution? It is someone with a lot of money or property to put up as collateral, or someone to co-sign or support the loan. Those are people of influence and money. This is letting the money in. It is not keeping the money out. That is what we will have to see. I look forward to working with members of the Bloc, the NDP and the government to see if we can get some amendments so we do not create a barrier to entry for people who have no means and are not yet part of the political process. That transparency is immensely important.
We have an organization called Equal Voice. All members of the House will be well aware of and knowledgeable about it. The organization seeks to encourage women to enter the political process so we can rise above the deplorable disproportion of men to women in the House of Commons, with 20% representation by women.
The leader of the official opposition, the leader of the Liberal Party, has pledged that in the next election one-third of the Liberal candidates will be women. We are well on the way in the nomination process to achieving that. This is a demonstrative move to try to get a proper proportion of gender equity into the House.
If this goes to committee, I am sure Equal Voice, representing all parties and all people across the political spectrum, will be very interested to come to talk the committee and to give evidence, as will many other groups who represent disadvantaged or under-represented sectors of this society. They will want to come and give their evidence on it. I hope we will take instruction from them as to how, perhaps unintentionally, the unavoidable consequence of this will be, to exert more power, not less, in those who have access to large amounts of funds.
This new Conservative bank of Canada act is interesting. It may tighten up the rules a little. It is not so that the Canada Elections Act now does not require loans to be repaid or be converted into contributions under the very restrictive rules. It is not so that contributors, lenders or co-signers do not have to be disclosed for political loans. They do have to be.
I am as anxious as anyone else in the House to see that this process is not abused, and if we can tighten it up, all the better. However, we have to ensure there are no unintended consequences of creating barriers to disadvantaged and under-represented groups.
The government House leader took some time to describe a number of what were called democratic reform bills, or statutes, in the House as brought forward by the Conservative government, and it is worth talking about a few of those.
One is Bill C-2, the Federal Accountability Act. Members of the House and the committee of the House spent a great deal of time on this as did members of the Senate. In fact, unencumbered by a set deadline that was forced on the House committee in the House, the Senate put forward dozens of amendments through its careful review of that act, even under the constant shrill criticism of the government that it was slowing things down.
Regarding slowing things down, royal assent was given to the Federal Accountability Act on December 15, 2006. Here we are, almost five months later, and one of the central parts of that act was the appointments commission. Amendments by the NDP sharpened that up. We had two choices. The Liberal opposition put forward amendments. The NDP put forward amendments. All of them would have been effective, and will be effective, as it was finally passed, but all these months later, all of these appointments later, dozens of them, and we still do not have the appointments commission. This was one of the key things that was said by the government to be so important about the Federal Accountability Act. We do not even have a commission.
We continue without the proper controls. We had suggested that the Public Service Commission take over this role, that there be amendments to its mandate to apply the same rules, competitive process and objective criteria used in the public service for any order in council appointments, but we still do not have that.
I would be very interested to hear from the government when it is going to proceed with that important part of Bill C-2. There were so many complaints about it being delayed when in fact there were a very large number of responsible, thoughtful and careful amendments suggested by the Senate, and actually passed into law.
Bill C-16 deals with fixed dates. We supported that on this side of the House. There was no delay. There was careful consideration in the Senate. There was a thoughtful amendment put forward. It was brought back to the House with that amendment. We on this side offered the government, before the Easter recess, to pass the bill through all processes in the House, back to the Senate, hopefully, for royal assent in the day before we broke. That was rejected. We would have needed unanimous consent, but we did not get it from the government.
Bill C-43 was mentioned by the government House leader. It is not a Senate elections act; it is a consultation act, with provincial elections. It is being put forward as a great democratic reform. I think all members of the House believe, as do probably all members of the other place, that the Senate needs reform in becoming a fully democratic legislative chamber, and we should all work toward that. This is going at it piecemeal. We get criticisms of trying to block the incremental reform of the Senate, but the fact is it all fits together and it must be dealt with at once.
There are three critical aspects of the Senate that have to be considered together.
One aspect is the selection process, which could include elections or involve terms. The term limit is suggested in Bill S-4.
Another aspect is the mandate. In the future how does the mandate relate to the mandate of the House of Commons? Will it be a mirror legislative body with the same electoral validity that will then lead to gridlock. We have to do to deal with that area of comprehensive reform is to have some kind of dispute resolution mechanism whenever the legislative powers mirror each other in the House and the other place.
Then we have the distribution. We cannot do anything else with the Senate until we work out the distribution. It is amazing that the Prime Minister, and all members of the government, would consider doing something to give a greater validity, greater power to the Senate without fixing the very unfair, inequitable distribution of seats to western Canada, particularly to British Columbia and Alberta.
For all of us from British Columbia and Alberta, it is extraordinary that we might think of increasing the power of that body without fixing the horrible lack of fair distribution to western Canada.
Bert Brown has been mentioned in the House by the Prime Minister as being the senator in waiting, to be appointed sometime this summer. He has played a very important role in the political life of Canada. He did not play that role by plowing one E into his barley field or a wheat field. He plowed three E's into it. To try to deal with just one E at once in a piecemeal incremental way, as the Prime Minister says, is not in the favour of Alberta, from where that fine gentleman comes. Nor is it responsible reform in the comprehensive way to properly bring the Senate into the modern age of a democratic legislative chamber. We have to work together to do that.
We often hear about the ghosts of Meech Lake and the ghosts of Charlottetown. We also hear that we cannot go near the Constitution because, my goodness, we might all get distracted and not be able to do anything else in this country and we will never get anywhere. Thank goodness the Fathers of Confederation were not so shy about dealing with the Constitution. We should take on that responsibility ourselves.
Federal Accountability Act
December 8th, 2006 / 10:10 a.m.
Stephen Owen Vancouver Quadra, BC
Mr. Speaker, I thank the President of the Treasury Board for his hard work and all of those who have worked with him to bring this legislation to this point.
I just want to deal with a few issues. First, I want to add my congratulations and thanks and that of the official opposition to all of those people who worked so hard behind the lines to make this work and, of course, Susan Cartwright and Rob Walsh, the legislative parliamentary counsels, and Joe Wild from the Department of Justice, who were instrumental in dealing with this highly complex legislation.
I will not repeat but only agree with the hon. President of the Treasury Board with respect to the various members of Parliament, both in the other place as well as the House of Commons, who worked so hard in their respective committees to bring back to the respective Houses improved legislation after extensive consideration, analysis, the hearing of witnesses and the thoughtful creation of amendments.
I have always been a little nervous with the word “cusp”, and I am not sure what we are on the cusp of here, but I hope it does not mean that we are looking over from a high point into a dark and dangerous deep hole. However, I think we should all feel confident that this legislation is taking us forward and it is taking us forward from, not a dark time, although mistakes were clearly made and they concerned us that all of our accountability mechanisms would be tightened up, but a continuation of something that happened through previous Liberal governments over a 10 year period on issues such as political financing.
The former Liberal government's Bill C-24, which the House passed about three years ago, was probably the most dramatic change and constraint on political financing in any democratic country in the world and this accountability act takes it even further. I think that is to the credit of both sets of legislation.
The creation of an independent ethics commissioner by the former Liberal government was also another step on the way to greater accountability. Many people on this side of the House and all sides of the House worked hard to ensure that an independent office was created. Again, this legislation takes us a step further in improving, we hope, the effectiveness of that office.
Thirdly, I would just mention, very briefly, the Gomery inquiry itself, which was probably the most extensive inquiry into the workings of government, the nature of accountability and the nature of responsibility in responsible government in the modern history of Canada. The multiple volumes of that report will remain instructive to all members of the House and all subsequent governments as we go forward to increasingly improve this.
I will quote briefly from the first report of Justice Gomery. This is an important quote for all of us to remember and, more important, it speaks to all Canadians and for Canadians to understand. At the beginning of his first report, Mr. Gomery said that all Canadians must understand that the vast majority of public servants and politicians in Canada are honest, diligent in their work and effective, and emerge from this inquiry without blame.
It is immensely important for us to appreciate that while we vigorously identify and deal with that, through changes to mechanisms of government and accountability or to hold people directly to account and actually have people punished for severe wrongdoings, we remember that our democracy depends on the public's faith in the honest workings of our public service and our Parliament, which is an immensely important thing.
While we accept, if not the rhetoric, at least the direction in which this is further taking us, I think issues, such as calling this the strongest piece of anti-corruption legislation in Canadian history, may have gone over that cusp and transcends the reality. However, these are important problems on which we have all come together. I have been proud to work with members of all parties in the House and with members in the other place to see us come to this day.
I would like to say something about the other place. It has had dozens of days of hearings and has heard numerous expert witnesses on every aspect of this very complex legislation. The senators did their work diligently and thoroughly and have come forward with further amendments to those that were put forward in the House. There are dozens of substantive amendments, as well as some that are more technical, but they all make this a better bill. The amendments allow us, as the President of the Treasury Board said, to diligently and more effectively implement all aspects of this legislation. We owe a great deal of respect and gratitude to the members of the other place for their hard work in bringing this back to us.
As with any piece of legislation, especially one so vast and so complex as this, which affects so many other pieces of legislation, implementation is not always simple. It may be that in the course of implementing this legislation, either through the experience of implementation itself or the change of context of various aspects, we will need to amend this as we go along.
While we in the official opposition did not receive support for all of the amendments we suggested, we do think there are vitally important aspects of the legislation that must be corrected in the future. We look forward to forming government in the very near future to expedite those improvements.
I will just mention three of them very briefly, one being in the access to information aspects of this bill. I regret to add another quote from the previous information commissioner, John Reid, that aspects of the access to information portions of this bill were “retrograde and dangerous”. While that may seem like quite an extreme statement, it certainly puts us on notice that we need to do further work in this area. In fact, the privacy and ethics House committee is working to do that very thing and we will be taking part very vigorously in that further improvement to the access to information legislation.
The next area is conflict of interest. We think some tightening needs to take place around the definition of conflict of interest. We need to add the concepts of potential and apparent conflict of interest and not simply real conflict of interest. Over the last some 15 years in Canada, in the provinces as well as through the federal government jurisprudence in the application of conflict of interest rules, it has become apparent that apparent, as well as potential, conflicts of interest need serious attention.
We also need to tighten up the issue around gifts to public office holders where friends of public office holders, not just close personal friends, which is a much narrower field, as I think we all appreciate, should be caught for the reporting provisions of conflict of interest, gifts that might affect a conflict of interest.
Finally, the whistleblower section needs continual improvement but we will learn more about how this mechanism works through the experience of implementation. The Auditor General has made mention, quite appropriately, that we need good protection for whistleblowers so the public can be properly informed about the types of wrongdoings that might happen or might otherwise go unnoticed through the public administration. However, we also need to ensure that the systems of government work honestly in the first instance so those cases are kept to an absolute minimum.
In particular, when we get to a situation, which we all recognize happens from time to time, where wrongdoing is not discovered, but, through the actions of a so-called whistleblower, which I would put in the category of a dedicated public servant seeing something wrong and wanting to fix it, that person, in his or her brave actions, is not subject to any reprisal from government. The bill does contain a reverse onus provision but, as we go forward, I think we will want to consider whether it is fair to put the burden on the public servant, who blew the whistle, of proving that some action by government was a reprisal.
In conclusion, I will again congratulate all members of the House and the other place who contributed to this further evolution of accountability in government. It is work well done and it has been done at great speed, although I think the government would have wished it had gone more quickly. However, I offer the observation that the amendments are positive, constructive and will make the bill greater and the implementation of it smoother to the benefit of all Canadians.
Message from the Senate
The Royal Assent
May 14th, 2004 / 10:05 a.m.
I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:
May 13, 2004
I have the honour to inform you that the Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 13th day of May, 2004 at 6:56 p.m.
Secretary to the Governor General
The schedule indicates that royal assent was given to Bill C-24, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act--Chapter No. 18; Bill C-20, an act to change the names of certain electoral districts--Chapter 19; Bill C-28, an act to amend the Canada National Parks Act--Chapter 20; Bill C-15, an act to implement treaties and administrative arrangements on the international transfer of persons found guilty of criminal offences--Chapter 21; Bill C-30, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 23, 2004--Chapter 22; and Bill C-9, an act to amend the Patent Act and the Food and Drugs (The Jean Chrétien Pledge to Africa)--Chapter 23.
I also have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:
May 13, 2004
I have the honour to inform you that the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bill listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 13th day of May, 2004 at 9:10 p.m.
The schedule indicates the bill assented to was Bill C-3, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act--Chapter 24.
May 12th, 2004 / 4:30 p.m.
Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC
Mr. Speaker, I believe it is now known that the Bloc Quebecois is in favour of the principle of this bill. We obviously recognize that any provision in the Criminal Code that facilitates the administration of justice is a positive thing.
This bill will contribute to the administration of justice, because it will provide additional guarantees with respect to sentencing.
Mr. Speaker, I believe you were a member of this House a few years ago when a heinous crime was committed against a young girl named Manning. There were a few difficulties at the trial because the way in which the bodily substances had been collected for establishing guilt was called into question.
If memory serves me correctly, we passed at first, second and third readings, in 48 hours, a bill on the creation of a national DNA databank and the administration of evidence in the case of DNA samples. It was done quite quickly. Public indignation was extremely high. At around the same time, in 1995, 1996, or 1997, we discovered with horror the influential power of organized crime.
I will turn 42 tomorrow. Imagine that. I must stop saying I am 41, with a birthday coming tomorrow.
I did not grow up hearing as much about organized crime as the member for Mercier, who has clearer memories than I of the commission of inquiry into organized crime. People came to know more about it, or at least people a little older than me, because of the CIOC. Things calmed down for a while, and then by the mid-90s our communities began to realize how much power organized crime again had.
We know that three conditions are required for organized crime to flourish: a relatively rich society, a society with well-developed means of communication, and a society where there are guarantees of rights. As far as communications are concerned, we know that ports, highways, and airports are unfortunately often the focus of those engaged in smuggling.
So where is the link between that and Bill C-35? It used to be possible for a judge to issue a warrant for collecting bodily substances from an inmate or accused. This would provide DNA profiles to be kept in a national data bank under RCMP responsibility.
The way DNA profiles were assessed, and the way they were taken, was governed by the category of offence. There were two categories of offence. The first was primary designated offences, where it was virtually automatic for a judge to order a DNA profile. This category of offence includes generally extremely serious offences under criminal law.
Now section 487.04 of the Criminal Code lists the offences, including those for which a DNA profile may be ordered.
The new bill adds to these sexual exploitation of person with disability, and causing bodilyharm with intent—air gun or pistol.
Also added are: administeringnoxious thing with intention to endangerlife or cause bodily harm; overcoming resistanceto commission of offence; robbery; extortion; breakingand entering a dwelling-house; and finally, intimidation of ajustice system participant or journalist.
Hon. members might recall that we had three bills to fight against organized crime. Bill C-95 was very important. I was the first member of Parliament to introduce an anti-gang bill. On August 9, 1995, in my riding of Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, a car bomb went off on Adam Street, right across from the Très-Saint-Nom-de-Jésus church. A young man, Daniel Desrochers, who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, was killed. That is why we started looking for the best means to dismantle organized crime.
The first piece of legislation we had against organized crime offences was Bill C-95, which was introduced by the then justice minister, Allan Rock. I think I am allowed to name him, since he is no longer a member of Parliament. The main offence that was mentioned in Bill C-95 was the criminal organization offence. If five or more persons were part of a group, or if these five persons had committed five indictable offences in the last five years for which the maximum punishment was imprisonment for five years or more—the three fives rule—we had a criminal organization offence.
Do you know what happened? Major gangs such as the Hells Angels, the Bandidos and the Rock Machines started spinning off satellite criminal groups. They recruited people who did not have a criminal record but who joined gangs in order to get their badge. It became extremely difficult for the Crown to lay charges under Bill C-95.
Bill C-95 was all the more difficult to administer because, a few years previously, the Supreme Court handed down a ruling, the Stinchcombe decision. This extremely important criminal law ruling imposes obligations on the Crown.
As we know, criminal investigations may last three, four, up to seven years. The process is an extremely long one. Under the Stinchcombe ruling, the Crown must disclose all of the evidence it has against the accused. That meant that a police officer involved in shadowing during an investigation, in a bar for example, had to table the notes that allowed the investigation to progress.
The Stinchcombe ruling was extremely controversial. Of course, coming from the Supreme Court, it created new law. The attorney general could not appeal the ruling. It made it very difficult to bring investigations to an end, and it thus became necessary to further refine the administration of evidence and hence the gathering of DNA samples.
So, we got Bill C-95. Then came Bill C-24 and Bill C-36. There was a lot of legislative activity in criminal law. Today the three fives rule has been simplified. An organized crime activity is described as three persons engaged in certain offences.
The new bill refers to journalism. Quebeckers or even people in the gallery might remember the attack on the journalist Michel Auger in the parking lot of the Journal de Montréal .
Mr. Michel Auger, a crime reporter, was victim not only of intimidation but of an attack on his life. As a matter of fact, it is the former member for Berthier—Montcalm, Mr. Michel Bellehumeur, now a Quebec court judge, who had suggested that bill include a reference to the intimidation of not only members of Parliament, police officers, judges and commissioners, but also journalists.
We want to see Bill C-35 go to committee as soon as possible.
Canada Elections Act
March 26th, 2004 / 1:15 p.m.
Ken Epp Elk Island, AB
That is not only a shame, as my colleague says, it is a serious and, I would venture to say, a fatal flaw in our democratic system. If we do not fix that I am afraid our democratic system here will increasingly become eroded and members of the public will have an increasing disillusionment with the need to support, with their tax dollars and with their votes, the democratic process.
I therefore chastise the government for imposing that on its members in committee. If members had been able to debate openly and freely and to vote openly and freely, we would have had amendments that would have prevented the serious consequences that will come about as a result of the passage of Bill C-3.
I would venture to say that there must be some Liberals over there as well who must feel badly about their participation in this, as they have gone along with it. As well, now we have a so-called new Prime Minister. During his leadership campaign, the new Prime Minister often used the phrase “democratic deficit”. I do not know where he got that idea from, because all the time the party over there of which he was a part and a member of the cabinet did not really practice democracy. I suppose he detected it. He heard it from us, from this side. He probably got it from some of his own members over there. He knew that it was a hot button--it certainly is for Canadians--and he campaigned on it.
What do we see now when Bill C-3 is introduced in this Parliament? Do we see the removal of the democratic fetters that were shackled around the ankles of all the Liberals and around their hands so that they could not raise their hands to vote at a certain time but had to at a different time?
I seriously chastise this Prime Minister and the government for shutting this down.
As you know, Mr. Speaker, from time to time I have mentioned that I am an amateur mathematician. I took training at university in mathematics and physics and taught math and computing for some 31 years, so I have a bit of a mathematical thing going on here as well.
The committee has eight members from the Liberal Party. It has seven from the opposition. I am not prepared to concede that only the Liberals have a positive IQ and the rest of us have a negative one. I am not prepared to concede that only the Liberals are capable of clear thinking and the rest of us only of muddy thinking. I believe it has to be, statistically speaking, about eight to seven.
I do not know what those fractions are exactly. I could have figured it out, but in eight to seven out of fifteen times, seven times the opposition would have an idea that would be superior to the eight on the other side. We just have to wonder about it when time after time all the opposition ideas, amendments and motions are put and defeated simply because they come from this side. That is a serious flaw.
I happen also in my lifetime to have been, I like to think, a serious student of the scriptures. There is a proverb which states that in the presence of many counsellors is great wisdom. The Liberals make an error when they say, “There are all these people on the opposition side and we will not listen to them at all”. They make an error because we are part of the team that wants to build good laws for this country. They should from time to time--I would say seven out of fifteen times on average--listen to us and they should adopt those ideas.
Enough of that, because next I want to talk about one of the very serious flaws of the bill.
Perhaps before I do that, because I am a guy who likes always to accentuate the positive and diminish the negative, let me say that there is one positive thing in this bill and I sure do support it. In order not to be guilty of the same thing I am accusing the Liberals of, let me say that I wholeheartedly support the removal in this bill of the requirement in the past that if a party went down to fewer than 50 candidates in an election it was required to turn in all its assets.
Let us say that there is a new party that works hard to try to get established with some ideas that a significant number of citizens believe in. It falls short of the 50 mark. What does the government do, this high-handed government? It says that the party started out in the race with the rest of us but did not reach the first quarter mile so it will make that party go back to the start line. That is what it does.
I would like to applaud the government for having removed that. It is totally wrong for a party that has 40 candidates in an election, let us say, to have to give up all its assets. I wish to say thanks to those Liberals over there for removing that very offensive clause from the present Elections Act and for at least providing a way out of it so that this party can re-register and not have to give up everything it has worked for.
In the little time remaining, I want to point out what to me is probably the most serious flaw in this legislation. As my colleague from North Vancouver so ably pointed out earlier today, it is the flaw of having some bureaucrat or politician determine whether or not another member can enter into the race as a political party.
I am not going to repeat all of the stuff that has been said here already about how this problem could have been avoided. Certainly it could have been avoided if the members opposite had not been so bullheaded in their ideas and had listened to some rational counter arguments.
The flaw is that if we do not pass this bill, the Canada Elections Act will fall apart at the next election, whenever that will be. I sincerely hope that it will be in the fall because this needs to be fixed before we go to the next election. To fix it the way the Liberals are proposing is no fix at all. All it will do is put into cement a problem which will perpetually dog us.
The idea that one person constitutes a party is offensive, indeed. That one person could run as an independent in any riding of the country. There is no residential requirement in the Canada Elections Act. He or she could choose to run in any riding in the country and put forward ideas as an independent. There is no discrimination against a person because that individual is not permitted to run as a party. That person could still run. Having only one person opens up a very serious problem in the next election. I can see it happening in many constituencies, having one member in a party.
For example, I know of a lady who is an avid pro animal protectionist. If she catches a mouse, it has to be caught live and released even though it may find its way back to the building before she gets back. She is going to start a party called the PM party. It does not stand for prime minister or member of parliament; it stands for protection of mice. She is going to start that party and she is legally entitled to do so. There are a lot of people who will support her. She will easily get 250 members.
We are going to have in our all candidate debates every one of the individual one issue candidates, maybe 18 or 20 of them. All of them will be entitled to the benefits of the legislation under Bill C-24.
Mr. Speaker is giving me a signal and I acknowledge that it is 1:30 on Friday afternoon. I would ask that I be granted the rest of my time when this issue is debated again.
Canada Elections Act
March 26th, 2004 / 10:50 a.m.
Ted White North Vancouver, BC
Mr. Speaker, I think it was quite apparent in my speech that I feel some compassion for the Chief Electoral Officer who would be faced with the problem of trying to administer a bill that would not only put him in an almost partisan position of making judgments on people who are registering, but would also have him dealing with the very complicated administration of the bill in order to determine whether a person should be registered as a party.
Yes, the committee heard the concern that individuals could try to take advantage of the bill to get themselves into a position where they could become an entity that received political donations, with the very generous tax credits that go along with that, and that in time would be able to build quite a large organization whose purpose would be to get huge donations with nice tax rebates and everything little else. If they managed to run a few token candidates and got a percentage of the vote, then they would also get election rebates, which would help foster even more growth and fill their coffers.
Therefore, it is definitely a nightmare. It makes me think immediately of the other bill, Bill C-24, that we passed recently, under protest, which had to do with the registration of electoral district associations, the reporting of nomination contests and so on.
Just in talking with many of my colleagues around this place who have gone through nomination contests over the last couple of months, many of them are completely ignorant of the new rules and have already broken the law, inadvertently, in terms of what is required for their nominations.
I have discovered that many of my colleagues did not even know that they had to appoint an official agent, that they had to have a financial agent who opened a bank account and deposited all the money for the campaign into that account, that they could not spend without taking money out of that account to then spend it and that it had to be documented, that if any candidate took in more than $1,000 or spent more than $1,000, he or she will be required to file a report with Elections Canada.
I have come across a widespread ignorance of that provision in Bill C-24. Even though everyone on the government side stood and supported it, they obviously did not know what they were supporting. That certainly is an administrative nightmare for Elections Canada as well.
I heard an example today of a nomination contest in British Columbia where one of the candidates had a donor give money to the riding association, which then voted at its board meeting to send the money on to the candidate's financial agent. That cannot be done under Bill C-24. That is an illegal transfer of assets. The bill would require that money to be refunded.
It raises the interesting prospect that the riding association has to refund the money to the donor, but does the candidate have to refund it to the riding association? I do not know. I think once the Chief Electoral Officer or his department officials start to look at those records there will be quite a problem in sorting out that administrative mess.
In terms of the administrative problems in Bill C-3, there is much less of a problem than there is in Bill C-24. I would hate to be administering Bill C-24 right now, especially after 308 nominations for several parties. If we were to multiply that by at least three parties, we would have over 1,000 nomination contests. That will be an absolute mess.
It is supposed to be reported in 90 days. I suspect it will take 90 years to sort it out. Time will tell.
March 22nd, 2004 / 12:25 p.m.
James Rajotte Edmonton Southwest, AB
Madam Speaker, I compliment my colleague on his comments today. Before I comment on one important point in his speech, I would like to congratulate him on his recent selection as our deputy leader. He is going to do a fantastic job in that role.
The Prime Minister said that it is a brand new government that started office on December 12. He also said that he is a policy person bursting with new ideas and that he could not wait to become Prime Minister to implement his ambitious agenda.
As our deputy leader pointed out, there have been 24 bills introduced thus far in the House of Commons. Three of those bills actually have some difference from those in the last session. Bill C-1 is a pro forma bill that implements the throne speech but does not actually contain any legislation. Bill C-24 was a correction to the Parliament of Canada Act regarding benefits to members. There was nothing whatsoever in that bill about policy.
Bill C-18 actually had something different from the bill in the previous session. Half of the bill was from the Chrétien government and extended equalization. The second part contained a one time payment to the provinces regarding the health care accord of 2003.
In 24 bills, what we have from the policy agenda Prime Minister is half a bill, half a piece of legislation. The government called the House back three weeks late and took six days to invoke closure to reintroduce Prime Minister Chrétien's agenda. The government is so bereft of vision, so bereft of a policy agenda that it is implementing Chrétien's agenda. Why did those members throw the last prime minister out if his agenda was what they wanted to implement?
I would like the member to comment on the fact that the government has absolutely no vision. This is shown in the fact that in all the legislation one-half of one bill is all the government can produce. That is all the policy agenda Prime Minister can produce.
Parliament of Canada Act
March 12th, 2004 / 12:20 p.m.
Pursuant to order made on Thursday, March 11, Bill C-24, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act, is deemed read a second time, deemed referred to a committee, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage, deemed read a third time and passed.
(Bill read the second time, considered in committee, reported, concurred in, read the third time and passed)
Parliament of Canada Act
March 12th, 2004 / 12:15 p.m.
Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased on behalf of all of my colleagues in the New Democratic Party caucus to support Bill C-24, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act.
I also want to acknowledge the cooperative spirit in this place that has led to this bill coming before the House today. I appreciate the fact that all members from all parties in this House came together to address a serious flaw in our legislation.
Bill C-24 addresses a gap in the legislation. It addresses the issue if a member of Parliament today, who may have served for up to six years and has not yet reached the age of 55, but must leave this place or make a decision not to run for election because of health reasons, that MP is not able to buy into the health plan which he or she is eligible for at the age of 55.
We are addressing what is an oversight in our current legislation, a flaw that was unintended. It is fair to say that no one in this place believes that this is anything but an oversight. I cannot imagine that the drafters of the legislation intended to penalize members who find themselves unable to continue to work in the House of Commons because of illness yet find themselves, when they need it the most, unable to continue to pay into the health care plan.
This is a loophole that needs to be fixed. I am pleased to see that we are on the path of fixing it today.