Bill C-63 (Historical)
An Act to amend An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act
This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.
Mauril Bélanger Liberal
Not active, as of Nov. 18, 2005
(This bill did not become law.)
This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.
This enactment amends An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act by replacing its sunset provision with a requirement for a mandatory review, within two years, by a committee of the Senate and a committee of the House of Commons.
Canada Elections Act
October 17th, 2005 / 12:05 p.m.
Mauril Bélanger Minister for Internal Trade
moved that BillC-63, An Act to amend An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to begin the debate at second reading of Bill C-63, which is entitled an act to amend An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act.
We are referring here to a change to the act providing new rules for the registration of political parties, passed by this House in 2004 under the name Bill C-3. I will provide an overview today of the context in which the new rules were adopted in 2004 and will speak to the need to act quickly in order to preserve the system for registering political parties.
Bill C-63 proposes to do this by abrogating the sunset clause included in Bill C-3. It would be replaced by a provision requiring mandatory review of the new registration rules by a committee of this House.
The party registration rules adopted in 1970 required a party to endorse 50 candidates at a general election. It was believed that this would ensure that opportunistic groups masquerading as political parties did not gain access to the public funding that flowed from being a registered party.
The adoption of new rules was made necessary after the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the 50 candidate threshold in the Figueroa decision. The threshold was found to be contrary to the right to vote and to be a candidate as guaranteed by section 3 of the charter. The Supreme Court suspended its decision for one year to provide an opportunity for Parliament to amend the Canada Elections Act and it was in this context that Parliament considered Bill C-3.
Bill C-3 was introduced on February 10, 2004 to lower the threshold to just one candidate and make other changes to prevent abuse of the public funding of political parties.
In particular, there is a new definition of “political party”. It states that one of the fundamental purposes of a party must be to participate in public affairs by endorsing one or more candidates in an election. To determine the eligibility of a party that applies, the Chief Electoral Officer will require a valid declaration from the party leader that his or her party meets this definition and he or she must be satisfied that it does.
During the various steps in the study of this bill, many people raised concerns about the new rules under consideration. Some wondered whether setting the threshold at a single candidate would not allow opportunistic groups to get public funding. Others were concerned that as a result of the one-year suspension of the Supreme Court decision, no complete examination had been made of the Canada Elections Act to identify other provisions that might be challenged like Figueroa. Finally, the Chief Electoral Officer was opposed to this new job of evaluating whether applicants meet the definition of a political party.
In view of all these concerns, all parties agreed to add a two-year sunset provision to Bill C-3.
Since the former Bill C-3 came into force on May 15, 2004, the two year sunset will operate on May 15 of next year, if it is not repealed beforehand. The sunset of the former Bill C-3 would mean that there would no longer be rules for the registration and deregistration of federal political parties. Such a closed system would be contrary to the charter and would be contrary to the democratic standards of Canada.
Some may question why a review of the new rules was not carried out previously within the period of time of two years provided in the sunset clause.
In response, it is important to remember that the adoption of Bill C-3 was closely followed by the dissolution of Parliament nine days later. The minority Parliament that resulted from this election was opened on October 5, 2004.
Soon after, and at the request of the chair of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, I wrote to the committee to suggest that the government's preference would be to review the new registration rules at the same time as the statutorily mandated review of the political financing regime adopted in 2003 with Bill C-24. Indeed, since these issues are intricately linked, such a joint process still makes sense.
The review of the new political financing rules will be carried out by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs once the Chief Electoral Officer issues his recommendations on political financing.
When I wrote to the chair of the standing committee in November 2004, the Chief Electoral Officer's report was expected in the spring of 2005. However, due to the need for his office to focus resources on election preparedness, because of the minority Parliament, the Chief Electoral Officer has since indicated that his report would only be submitted this fall, in two volumes.
In the first volume submitted in September, a few days after the opening of this session of Parliament, dealing with non-financial matters, the Chief Electoral Officer recommended that the sunset clause in Bill C-3 be removed. His second volume of recommendations, dealing with political financing, will be submitted later this session and a joint review of Bill C-3 and Bill C-24 would then be possible.
Given the need for a comprehensive review, and the government's commitment to hold an election 30 days after the issue of the final Gomery report, the government's proposal in the bill is prudent and responsible. Bill C-63 would provide a two year period during which this review is to take place to account for all contingencies, including election scenarios.
I want to close by saying that the registration and financing rules for political parties are closely linked. Registration gives parties access to public funds, which allows them to take part in the elections and maintain their registration. Bill C-63 will lead to a full examination of these fundamental aspects of the Canada Elections Act.
For all these reasons, I am calling on the hon. members to support Bill C-63 and to refer it to a committee for consideration so that we can pass it as quickly as possible.
Business of the House
October 6th, 2005 / 3:05 p.m.
Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Tony Valeri Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, I understand from the member's question that he was obviously not at the last opposition House leaders' meeting where the entire agenda up to December 15 was laid out, including the seven opposition days to which he has referred.
In terms of background, I might also suggest to the hon. member that back in 1973 when there was a minority Parliament, the House opened on January 4 and all seven opposition days were held between March 5 and March 26. Back in 1979, when the House opened on October 9, opposition days started November 6. Opposition days clearly are the purview of the government to schedule. We have scheduled all of them for the opposition parties.
The House will continue this afternoon with the second reading of Bill C-54, the first nations oil and gas bill, followed by second reading of Bill S-38, respecting trade in spirits, and report stage and third reading of Bill C-28, the food and drugs bill.
Tomorrow we will begin with Bill C-28 and if it is completed, we will proceed with second reading of Bill S-37, respecting the Hague Convention and Bill S-36, respecting diamonds.
Next week is the Thanksgiving break week and I wish all hon. members a very happy Thanksgiving.
When the House returns on October 17, we will consider second reading of Bill C-63, respecting the registration of political parties, followed by report stage and third reading of Bill C-49, the human trafficking bill, second reading of Bill C-65, the street racing bill, Bill C-64, the vehicle registration legislation, and report stage of Bill C-37, the do not call bill.
As the week continues, we will add to the list reference to committee before second reading of Bill C-50, respecting the cruelty to animals, Bill C-44, the transportation legislation, Bill C-47, respecting Air Canada, the reference before second reading of Bill C-46, the correctional services bill, and by the end of the week we hope to begin debate on the energy and surplus bills that are being introduced this week. There is also ongoing discussions about a take note debate that week.
As members can see, there is a heavy agenda and important legislation. As I said and as I laid out to the opposition House leaders at our previous meeting, in the post-Remembrance Day segment of this sitting, we will consider the business of supply and we hope to be in a position to deal with the final stages of many of these very important bills before the end of the year.
Committees of the House
October 6th, 2005 / 10:10 a.m.
Andrew Telegdi Kitchener—Waterloo, ON
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 12th report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration and citizenship issues entitled, “Updating Canada's Citizenship Laws: It's Time”.
In tabling this document, the committee calls on the government to fulfill its commitment in the throne speech to present the House with a citizenship act. We have had three previous attempts at reforming the citizenship laws since 1997 which were Bill C-63, Bill C-16 and Bill C-18.
In concluding, citizenship is the most sacred covenant between the citizen and the state and it is time we had citizenship laws that reflect that reality.
Business of the House
September 29th, 2005 / 3:10 p.m.
Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Tony Valeri Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, I would like to lay out the business for the next week.
We will continue this afternoon with Bill C-55, which is the wage earner protection program. Then we will proceed to the second reading of Bill C-57, the financial institutions bill, followed by second reading of Bill C-54, which is the first nations oil and gas and moneys management act.
Tomorrow we will consider report stage and, if possible, third reading of Bill C-25 respecting Radarsat. I understand as well that there are some ongoing discussions about the disposal of Bill C-63, amending the Canada Elections Act. We would also like to deal with Bill S-38 respecting the spirits trade and Bill S-31 respecting autoroute 30.
On Monday we propose to commence report stage of Bill C-11, which is the whistleblower bill. We would like to give this bill priority all week in the hope of completing all of the remaining stages.
We would then return to any business left over from this week and, if there is time, begin consideration of Bill C-44, the transport bill; Bill C-28, the food and drug legislation; Bill S-37, respecting the Hague convention; Bill S-36, the diamonds bill; and Bill C-52, the fisheries bill.
With respect to the business of supply during the present period, Mr. Speaker, I will reconfirm that you confirmed to the House that there will be seven allotted days during this period. In response directly to the opposition House leader's question, as per our discussion at the House leader's meeting this past Tuesday, we understood we would schedule the supply days after the Thanksgiving break.
In any event, it will be a topic that I look forward to discussing with House leaders at our meeting this coming Tuesday, so that we can in fact schedule all the required opposition days.
Canada Elections Act
September 28th, 2005 / 3:30 p.m.
Committees of the House
May 12th, 2005 / 10:15 a.m.
Andrew Telegdi Kitchener—Waterloo, ON
Mr. Speaker, I move that the third report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, presented to the House on Thursday, November 30, 2004, be concurred in.
I will be splitting my time with the member for Laval—Les Îles.
On November 30 we tabled this document from the citizenship and immigration committee. Let me say that the issues we at the committee tried to address are issues that have been longstanding concerns in front of this House.
One of the main issues that I was certainly very much interested in was the whole issue of revocation of citizenship for those who were not born in Canada. Under our current Citizenship Act, revocation of citizenship for naturalized Canadians does not conform to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
I was delighted to see in the throne speech what the government laid out in saying that we are going to modernize our Citizenship Act. I was also glad to see that in the throne speech the government laid out that one of the founding principles by which it would govern was based on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The issue we are talking about on revocation of citizenship pertains to all those Canadians who were not born in Canada. We are talking about nearly 6 million Canadians. We have close to 50 members of this House who were not born in Canada. This would apply directly to them.
We have been trying to deal with a new Citizenship Act since 1996. The first Citizenship Act that was considered in debate was Bill C-63, which was followed by Bill C-16, at which point in time I was parliamentary secretary to the minister of citizenship and immigration. As parliamentary secretary to the minister of citizenship and immigration, I could not at that time support the contents of Bill C-16 as it pertained to the revocation of citizenship.
I could not support Bill C-16 because I believe that something as important as citizenship, which strikes at the very identity of the 6 million Canadians who were born elsewhere, is of great importance and should be covered by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
At this time, I am sad to say, citizenship is not covered by the charter. Therefore, I had looked forward to sitting on the citizenship committee, whereby we could correct a longstanding injustice.
Madam Speaker, I may say that this situation applies to you as well, not having been born in Canada, and many other members of this House.
My battle has been to make sure that for something as valuable as citizenship rights, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies and applies also if the government wants to challenge the legitimacy of any naturalized Canadian's citizenship.
It is not often that a parliamentary secretary opposes a government initiative or, as a matter of fact, votes against the government's legislation and resigns over it, but that was one of those occasions, so when I returned in the last Parliament I decided to sit on the citizenship and immigration committee to address this issue in particular.
I am very pleased that the committee, acting in a very non-partisan fashion and with the good of Canadians in mind, went through the Citizenship Act and made a number of recommendations in our report. We recommended that the government table a new Citizenship Act.
First, those recommendations included one that there must be equal treatment of Canadian born and naturalized citizens. We cannot change the fact that some of us were born in Canada and some of us were born elsewhere, but we are all citizens. What we have in common besides our love for this country is the fact that our rights, and a right as important as citizenship, should be protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The committee made that recommendation in the report and it is worth emphasizing again: there must be equal treatment of Canadian born and naturalized citizens.
Second, referring to Bill C-18, there should be no probationary citizenship status.
Third, the legislation should enhance English and French as the official languages of Canada.
Fourth, for those who qualify, citizenship should be seen as right rather than a privilege. I think that is a very important concept, because there were those who said that citizenship is a privilege that can be revoked at a whim of the government. That is wrong. The committee unanimously agreed that it is wrong. I regret that some of the former ministers of citizenship did not see that point.
The next point was that no one should be denied or deprived of Canadian citizenship if doing so would render them stateless. This is important because we are signatories to international conventions in which we fight against statelessness. For us to be signatories to those conventions and then turn around and do this is wrong.
Another main point is that all determinations under the act should be made by an independent decision maker in a judicial process free from political interference. This point strikes at the very heart of our judicial system. It means that no politician, even a prime minister, should be able to deprive individuals of their liberties. That can only be done by the due process of law under the legal section of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Another issue we talked about was that while we get rights with citizenship, we also have responsibilities. That is an important concept. We often talk about rights but we do not talk about responsibilities, those responsibilities including people partaking in the democratic process and in the life of their community.
One of the very interesting things about this report is that we toured across Canada. During most of April, the citizenship and immigration committee went from coast to coast. We visited every provincial capital. We also visited Vancouver and Montreal, and for the very first time in its history, we visited the Waterloo region. The outpouring of support for the principles enunciated in this report was overwhelming.
This is a very important document that strikes at the very heart of what it means to be Canadian. I hope we can get legislation to incorporate both this report as well as all presentations to be heard from coast to coast.
Private Members' Business
November 30th, 2004 / 1:50 p.m.
Andrew Telegdi Kitchener—Waterloo, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that the issue of citizenship arouses passion among members of the House. Citizenship is something very emotional. It is not just an intellectual exercise. It is something that is very much a part of our being. Certainly, in my case it has taken me on very interesting journeys.
As was mentioned by the critic for the New Democratic Party, I had the privilege of tabling a bill in the House today on the issue of a new citizenship act. We had great cooperation from members of all parties, the Conservatives, the Bloc, the New Democrats and members of my party.
Some of the comments I made this morning are very pertinent to this debate. One of my comments was that citizenship should be seen as a right for those who qualify rather than a privilege. We are talking about a right.
When it came to the issue of the lost Canadians, the committee was very strong in its recommendation. It recommended that any persons born in Canada who lost their Canadian citizenship as a child because their parent acquired a nationality of another country should be eligible to resume their citizenship without first becoming a permanent resident or without having to meet a residency requirement. The committee said that because what happened in a historical perspective was simply wrong.
It was mentioned before that what we are trying to do is to right a wrong. I am so gratified to see the near unanimous support that this concept has.
The bill was debated in the Senate and was passed twice unanimously by all the senators. The majority of members in the Senate are Liberals and yet the bill passed twice unanimously.
In previous studies of the Citizenship Act a number of proposed citizenship amendments failed: Bill C-63, Bill C-16 and Bill C-18. We heard testimony continually on those three bills and the feeling in committee in all cases was that this issue should be addressed.
I can give a fairly simple example to show how ridiculous the bill was. We have persons who were born in Canada between 1945 and 1977. If they were a minor and their father took out citizenship in another country these people automatically lost their citizenship.
I came to Canada in 1957. My wife had our daughter in 1986. Given the year my daughter was born, had I left the country after having become a Canadian citizen and gone elsewhere, let us say Hungary, she would be a Canadian citizen without having to have set one foot into Canada. Furthermore, my grandchild would also be a Canadian citizen.
Surely we can understand the frustrations of the lost Canadians. Surely we can understand their passion for wanting their citizenship back. Surely we can understand the feeling Canadians have that we want to right a wrong.
It was mentioned that Mr. Don Chapman put his case forward to the committee time and time again. He sought every opportunity to do that because he is very passionately a Canadian, never ceased to be a Canadian and still considers himself a Canadian. What we want to do is right that wrong. Charles Bosdet is in the same kind of situation of having his citizenship unjustly taken away from him and wanting it back.
However something good is on the horizon. The report that we tabled in the House was done at the request of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. It was done so we could produce a new citizenship act that would get through the House of Commons. I commend the minister for asking for the committee's input. The committee was very strong on a number of issues but none stronger than on the issue of lost Canadians. The message is very clear. We want this fixed and we want to fix it quickly.
The minister has said that she will bring the bill back to us some time in February of next year and we as a committee look forward to making sure that the injustices that exist in the current act will be addressed.
I want to salute my colleague from West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast who I saw at the committee many times. Even though we are on different political parties, we are all on the same side of the issue when it comes to Canadian citizenship.